OpenTV, Walt Disney Settle ITV Spat


OpenTV Corp. last week settled a long-running patent dispute with The Walt Disney Co. and subsidiaries ABC and ESPN, giving a lift to its stock.

OpenTV’s ACTV Inc. unit sued Disney, ABC and ESPN in December 2000, alleging that the companies violated ACTV patents with an “Enhanced TV” ITV offering, during such ABC programs such as Monday Night Football and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, as well as ESPN’s Sunday Night Football.

OpenTV inherited the litigation when it acquired the struggling ACTV in June 2003.

As part of the settlement that was announced last Wednesday, OpenTV said it granted Disney a “nonexclusive, royalty-bearing license” to use and exploit the ACTV patents involved with the lawsuit.

OpenTV also said that it entered negotiations with Disney’s Walt Disney Internet Group subsidiary for a “nonexclusive, multiyear development agreement with OpenTV for the creation and marketing of enhanced television programming.”

The settlement was announced July 7, after the stock markets had closed.

Last Thursday, the day after the settlement was announced, OpenTV stock had jumped 21% to $2.25 per share by noon. Chairman John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. owns the majority of OpenTV stock.

OpenTV chairman Jim Chiddix lauded the settlement in a prepared statement.

“Disney’s agreement to license these patents and our late stage discussions with Walt Disney Internet Group to work with us to develop enhanced TV programming provides a solid foundation on which we can create exciting television for viewers across the United States,” Chiddix said.