Macrovision issued press statements this week hinting that a new Patent Interference suit might mean it ends up owning half or all of the Intertrust patents. It is unclear which party pointed out the similarity between the two patents this time around, but previously it was clearly Intertrust that asked for the suit.
An interference issue arises when one patent is issued more or less for the same thing as another. The Patent Office could end up ruling that they are actually the same thing and then end up giving the patent to the company that first invented the work. In Europe it is supposedly the company that first filed the patent.
Macrovision is making assertions about ending up owning all the Intertrust intellectual property simply because its patent was filed a few days before the Intertrust patent.
This has all been construed by some, as a strike action by Microsoft. The implication is that these are the patents that Microsoft is being sued over and its partner and best of friends, Macrovision, would never file a patent abuse suit with Microsoft, so it would be better if Macrovison, not Intertrust owned the patents.
It is unlikely that Microsoft will benefit immediately even if the interference is found in Macrovision's favor. First off, Intertrust has a lot of patents and one or two, no matter how basic they are to digital rights, will not let Microsoft off the hook.
Secondly, it is more likely that the hearing against Microsoft will be heard before the interference suit, given that it was filed in April 2001 and proceedings have begun. So if Microsoft is forced to pay compensation to Intertrust, it should happen before anything can happen to the patents.
If some of them were assigned to Macrovision, it would simply have to take its share of the money. However, these are not inventions of Macrovision. These were patents that it bought, after they had also been offered to Intertrust, which saw no value in them. At least that is the story that Intertrust officials are giving. If this pans out it is unlikely that Intertrust will be losing any intellectual property at all, since it can show all of the original research behind its work.
In fact it will look like Intertrust requested an interference hearing because of a similarity between its and Macrovision's patents. And in response, Macrovision has scoured the market to find something in order to get its own back.
In the meantime the deafening silence continues from both the Sony - Philips camp that now owns Intertrust and the Microsoft camp that it is in suit with: the court is making no statements about why they are not back in court and the partners are not saying anything, either.
In July they were told they had a month to come to an agreement or continue to fight a case which is weighed heavily in Intertust's favor.
© Copyright 2004 Faultline
Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.