The interactive program guides (IPGs) used in cable systems are big business. The In-Stat research group estimates that the worldwide IPG market will grow to $1 billion by 2008.
Kirkland-based Digeo has developed its own IPG for use in its set-top box system for cable companies, but Los Angeles-based Gemstar-TV Guide International is the big gorilla in the industry. Microsoft, by the way, has developed its own IPG for its television software products.
The rivalry between Digeo and Gemstar surfaced Thursday in federal court in Seattle, where Digeo filed a lawsuit claiming that Gemstar violated federal and state antitrust laws.
Digeo said that it asked to license a subset of the 249 patents in Gemstar's IPG portfolio, but that Gemstar insisted Digeo license the entire portfolio. That likely would cost quite a bit more than Digeo wanted to pay. If Digeo didn't sign that licensing agreement, the suit said, it would be sued by Gemstar for patent infringement.
Digeo is seeking damages in court and an order that stops Gemstar's licensing practices. Gemstar hasn't responded to the lawsuit yet. When asked about the issue, a Digeo spokeswoman read a company statement saying that Gemstar is hindering innovation and reducing consumer choice.