Who’s the victim: TiVo, AT&T or Microsoft?

TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO), no stranger to filing lawsuits over patent violations, had the tables turned on it when MicTiVorosoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced it is suing the digital-video recording (DVR) pioneer. Microsoft filed suit to defend its largest customer AT&T (NYSE:T), who TiVo sued for infringing on its software. But, AT&T uses Microsoft Mediaroom, so Microsoft is really just defending its own business. Meanwhile TiVo says cablecos are stifling innovation by restricting use of their set-top boxes, but in the same breath, is asking its sometime friends, sometime foes, pay TV providers, to partner with them to offer its DVR service.

It’s a mess, really.

Microsoft is firing back against TiVo because, as the software powering AT&T’s U-Verse IPTV service, AT&T will make it responsible for any losses it incurs as a result of the suit. Microsoft’s claim is that TiVo infringed on its patents for an on-screen TV guide and a technology that lets users order and view shows. TiVo claims that Microsoft is really just hoping to throw a wrench in its lawsuit against AT&T, which it filed for infringing on a TiVo patent on pausing and rewinding live TV.

Even though its won lawsuits, including one against Dish Network, TiVo has been losing a steady stream of subscribers as consumers opt for their pay TV provider’s generic DVR offering instead. It has, however, gone the partnership route with licensing deals with Comcast and DirecTV in the past, and CEO Tom Rogers told SuperCOMM attendees TiVo was interested in teaming up with telcos as well. Suing its potential partners into submission appears to be the route TiVo is taking. We’ll have to wait and see what the courts decide.

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