Cable, Sat Ops Named in Patent Suit

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A technology company sued seven cable and DBS operators, charging that their use of digital video recorders violates one of its patents. Austin, Tex.-based Forgent Networks contends that certain DVR providers are violating a patent filed by a videoconferencing company Forgent acquired.

The defendants include Comcast, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, CableOne, EchoStar and DirecTV.

The patent -- No. 6,285,746 -- is titled “Computer-controlled video system allowing playback during recording.” It deals with a videoconferencing system’s ability to record video at the same time participants are watching.

In the suit, Forgent did not name any manufacturers of the cable and DBS operators’ gear, such as Scientific-Atlanta, Motorola or TiVo. The suit is aimed only at service providers delivering video to the recording devices. A company spokesman says it may chase other companies later.

Technology licensing is Forgent’s primary business. A small software unit generates 10%-20% of annual sales. It has sold or shut down the video conferencing business acquired over the years, but still holds patents for video compression and other technologies related to the conferencing business.

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