Every week Stephen Speicher contributes The Clicker, an opinion column
on entertainment and technology:
The zephyr that oft times blows lightly over the plains of Texas carries with it these days a passenger. On that wind rides the subtle smell of desperation. Taking flight in the Federal District Court of the east-Texas town, Marshall, and emanating from TiVo, co-creator of the Digital Video Recorder market, is that unmistakable scent of fear, of panic, that comes when a company has reached the point in its lifecycle where the "Patent Infringement" lawsuit seems like the only way to save the company.
As you read this, a five-man and five-woman jury is digesting testimony and preparing to deliver a verdict that could either deal another, perhaps deadly, blow to the floundering company, or on the flip-side could give the company a much-needed cash infusion.
Not in dispute is the fact that TiVo is and has been, from its birth in that downtown San Jose mid-rise, a money-loser. While TiVo has managed to gain mindshare, secure a place in the English lexicon, and to help revolutionize how people watch TV, what TiVo hasn't done is make money. In fact, over the course of its 9-year existence, TiVo has lost well over half of a billion dollars.
Jury members will instead be asked to determine the cause of this loss. Is it, as TiVo contends, in part due to Echostar's patent infringement, or is it, as Echostar argues, due to TiVo's mismanagement?