Widevine Looks to License Crypto Patents


Widevine Technologies CEO Brian Baker said the digital-rights management technologies firm is actively looking to license its portfolio of seven patents to cable-industry vendors, including the MSOs that are developing a downloadable-security system for set-top boxes.

Baker claimed that Seattle-based Widevine now owns intellectual-property rights covering three key areas of video encryption: downloadable conditional access, application-level content encryption and post-decryption content protection.

“If our competitors plan to [develop those applications], they should actively consider a license to our technology,” he told Multichannel News. “They need to take a good look at our patent portfolio.”

That would include the Downloadable Conditional Access System (DCAS), which the cable industry is developing to provide a lower-cost method of meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s mandate to provide separable security functions in set-top boxes.

The DCAS technology will not be ready for deployment until mid-2008, according to the cable industry. So, to comply with the July 1 ban on set-tops with integrated security, cable operators will have to use removable CableCARD hardware devices in their set-tops.

The DCAS framework and related protocols are being developed by PolyCipher, a Denver-based joint venture of Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications. Cable Television Laboratories is the licensing body for DCAS.

When DCAS or any other downloadable conditional-access systems are deployed, Widevine is hoping to get paid. “We certainly believe our patents are applicable to any implementation of DCAS,” Baker said.

However, an executive at one of the MSOs involved in the PolyCipher project, who requested anonymity, said the cable industry does not buy Widevine’s patent claims.

“We [PolyCipher and MSOs] are not worried about the Widevine patents/applications,” this executive wrote in an e-mail. “We have filed a series of patent applications and have acquired [intellectual-property rights] that significantly predate anything that Widevine could possess.”

Baker said Widevine has already contacted several conditional-access vendors about licensing arrangements, but he declined to name them. Widevine does not currently have any licensees for its patents, he added.

NDS Group, a supplier of conditional-access technologies, said it had not been contacted by Widevine about licensing patents. Motorola declined to comment because “it is Motorola policy not to comment on claims by any of our competitors,” spokeswoman Amy Valli said.

Widevine is launching the effort to collect royalties on its patents, according to Baker, after the company was granted its seventh patent last month. U.S. Patent No. 7,165,175 -- issued Jan. 16 -- describes an “apparatus, system and method for selectively encrypting different portions of data sent over a network.”

“Now we feel we have a compelling, end-to-end story around intellectual property,” Baker said.

One of Widevine’s backers is Cisco Systems, and Baker said his firm’s patent portfolio was “a significant reason for the Cisco investment. We certainly believe this portfolio is useful to Cisco, especially given its acquisition of Scientific Atlanta.”

In addition to Cisco, Widevine’s investors are Charter Ventures, Constellation Ventures, Dai Nippon Printing, Pacesetter Capital Group, The Phoenix Partners, Canadian telco Telus and VantagePoint Venture Partners.