ContentGuard Fattens DRM Patent Portfolio

Gretchen Gallen
Bethesda, Md – ContentGuard added another five U.S. patents to its Digital Rights Management patent portfolio this week, bringing the company's total number of patents to 30.

ContentGuard's patents and licensing program covers systems for distributing and controlling digital content or services and the use of digital rights and XrML (Extensible Rights Markup Language) in a wide range of business models.

ContentGuard's newest patent, No. 6,824,051, pertains to a DRM system for managing the use of content by authorized users who are part of an access list and, according to the company, could play a major role in certain anti-piracy measures.

"Authorized access lists are used in many types of digital distribution in the enterprise, as well as for content subscriptions," said Michael Miron, CEO of ContentGuard. "This provides further validation of ContentGuard's pioneering work in creating DRM inventions that can be used globally by content distributors, device manufacturers and consumers to create new business models and expand the digital content market."

A second aspect of the invention is a method for receiving a request for a license associated with content on behalf of a license-requesting user. The company claims that the patent could allow for the distribution of an enterprise document with charts and illustrations, allowing users to extract data without changing the content itself. Another example would be producing a DVD with video promos and music that lets users forward the videos but not the music.

Founded in 2000, ContentGuard has been at the center of an antitrust investigation by the European Union, which is trying to block company investors Microsoft and Time Warner from controlling the worldwide DRM market through ownership of ContentGuard's technology patents.

Originally Xerox had owned a small portion of equity in ContentGuard, but Time Warner and Microsoft bought out Xerox in April with intent to take control of the company. The deal got snagged up by EU's Merger Regulation policy and on Aug. 5, the commission began an antitrust investigation.

"This joint acquisition could also slow down the development of open interoperability standards," the EU stated. "As such, this would allow the DRM solutions market to tip towards the current leading provider, Microsoft."

The EU investigation into the acquisition of ContentGuard originally had a Jan. 6 deadline, but was put on hold earlier this month after France's Thomson Media bought into the acquisition with a 33 percent voting stake. The EU claims that furthering the investigation will require more information.