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ReplayTV downplays threat in TiVo patents

The company is nonetheless on guard, spreading the word that its digital video recording products do not infringe on broad technology patents recently won by rival TiVo.

ReplayTV is on guard, spreading the word that its digital video recording products do not infringe on broad technology patents recently won by rival TiVo.

TiVo last month received patents for a "multimedia time warping system" and other designs that allow the recording of one program while another is replayed.

TiVo and others including ReplayTV, Microsoft Ultimate TV and AOLTV make set-top boxes that allow consumers to control the programming on their televisions and record shows to a hard disk instead of a traditional videocassette. Viewers of live sporting events and TV shows can pause, instantly replay, rewind, fast-forward, slow and advance frame those programs.

After the news of TiVo's patent wins, the industry looked for answers about how that turn of events would affect the competition. At the time, most competitors were left scratching their heads, unsure of what to make of their rival's new patents.

On Tuesday, ReplayTV said in an e-mail statement that after reviewing the TiVo outcome with patent attorneys and engineers, it "strongly" believes its products do not infringe on TiVo's patents. ReplayTV, based in Mountain View, Calif., also said that TiVo's "time warping" patent covers software that ReplayTV doesn't use and that a patent for a "video tagging and encoding system" is "entirely outside the scope" of any technology it has developed or intends to develop.

"It is our attorneys' opinion that any lawsuit claiming we infringe TiVo's patents would result in a favorable outcome for ReplayTV," Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for ReplayTV, wrote in the e-mail. The company has several patent applications of its own pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

A TiVo represenative declined to comment Wednesday.

TiVo and ReplayTV were early players to the nascent field of digital video recording. Late last year, ReplayTV altered its strategy to offer digital video recording to cable operators instead of consumers. The company recently signed a five-year licensing agreement with set-top box maker Motorola.

Although the market for digital video recording enjoyed an early buzz, expectations have cooled along with consumers' willingness to spend money on big-ticket items like new entertainment products. Still, the niche sector is likely to grow to 20 million customers by 2005, according to recent research from Yankee Group.

Staff writer Richard Shim contributed to this report.