Gemstar in patent row with Virgin

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The Independent Online

Virgin Media has dismissed a patent infringement case brought against it by the American company Gemstar as "flagrant opportunism" over its use of a standard grid-based electronic programme guide, or EPG.

Gemstar, the US TV listings business part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has filed a complaint against Virgin Media alleging that it owns patents in Europe that have been infringed by the EPG system used by the cable company.

It said it has tried to strike a licensing agreement with Virgin for use of the system, but having failed to secure a deal, has launched proceedings in the UK High Court alleging three counts of patent infringement. Although Rupert Murdoch sits on the Gemstar board, News Corp is selling its 41 per cent stake in the business to MacroVision.

Virgin Media, which has used its EPG since the 1990s, has dismissed the complaint out of hand. "We are confident the courts will see Gemstar's action for what it is: a piece of flagrant opportunism. We have been advised by our external counsel that the case is without merit and we will defend it vigorously," a spokesman said.

Samir Armaly, executive vice president for intellectual property and licensing at Gemstar, said: "While we would have preferred to reach a commercial solution with Virgin Media, we ultimately have a responsibility to our shareholders, licensees, and other stakeholders to protect the value of our intellectual property."

The case is the latest in a series of high-profile spats involving Virgin Media.