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Rovi Sues Mitsubishi Electric Over TV Program Guide Patents

Rovi Corp., a provider of digital entertainment guides, sued three television makers claiming infringement of patents for its technology and parental-control chips that block television content.

Rovi argues that Mitsubishi Electric Corp., LG Electronics Inc. and Vizio Inc., the first American brand in over a decade to lead in LCD high-definition TV sales in the U.S., misappropriated its on-screen guides that allow users to browse channel listing and upcoming shows, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The companies’ alleged infringement “presents significant and ongoing damages to Rovi’s business,” lawyers for the Santa Clara, California-based company said in court papers. “Rovi’s long-term financial success depends on its ability to establish, maintain, and protect its proprietary technology through enforcement of its patent rights.”

Rovi contends that Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Electric is violating three of its patents, according to court documents. Two patents cover viewing the TV program schedule and “on-demand” content. Another patent involves “V-chip” technology that restricts access to certain shows or networks deemed inappropriate.

ITC Complaint

The company argues that LG, based in Seoul, Korea, is infringing five patents including three of the four asserted against Irvine, California-based Vizio.

Rovi also filed a U.S. International Trade Commission complaint yesterday against the three companies as well as Netflix Inc. and Roku Inc. alleging infringement of as many as seven patents.

The complaint accuses the companies of infringing patents related to the interactive program guides. The complaint seeks an order banning television and media-player makers from entering the U.S. Civil suits involving the same patents challenged in the ITC case will be put on hold until the trade agency completes its investigation.

Mark Scott, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Electric U.S., declined to comment on the lawsuit. Jim Noyd, a spokesman for Vizio, and John Taylor, a spokesman for LG, weren’t immediately available to respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Rovi is asking for jury trials and unspecified damages based on the companies’ importation or sales of television sets, according to court papers. The company said in the complaint that any damages awarded should be tripled, claiming the infringement was “willful and deliberate.”

The cases are Rovi v. Mitsubishi Electric Corp., 12-cv-547); Rovi v. LG Electronics Inc., 12-cv-545; Rovi v. Vizio Inc., 12-cv-546, all U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington). The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Products Containing Interactive Program Guide and Parental Control Technology, Complaint No. 2894, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

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