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TiVo Inc. has market presence that companies 10 times its size can only dream of. The little black box that it sells gives viewers control over when they watch their favorite TV shows, making it the iPod of the digital video recording industry. Like Google, TiVo is now a verb. But the company, founded nine years ago and based in Alviso, has only 400 employees. And just five lawyers, led by general counsel Matthew Zinn. And they probably don’t have a lot of time to watch TV. The company’s invention has rocked the broadcasting and the advertising industries, spawned patent litigation, and even drawn complaints from privacy advocates. Since becoming GC in 2000, Zinn has gone head-to-head with the Motion Picture Association, Major League Baseball and the NFL, and negotiated agreements with cable and satellite TV providers, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. Yet Zinn remains low-key, working out of an 8-by-12 foot cubicle filled with TV tchotchkes, a reflection of the company’s relaxed and collegial culture. “A lot of people think TiVo is a massive media company,” Zinn said. “Everything is smaller about TiVo than one imagines.” And that’s just the way he likes it. Balancing the demands of customers against attacks from broadcasters, advertisers, regulators and other critics, Zinn wields little of the dollar or political power of his opponents. Instead, he relies on cooperation and compromise to steer the company through a thicket of legal obstacles that threaten to bring it down. As the 41-year-old puts it, his greatest accomplishment is that TiVo hasn’t yet “been sued out of existence.” BEATING BACK LAWSUITS Sitting in his cubicle on a recent afternoon, Zinn joked about the “love letters” that collect on his desk. These have little to do with love and lots to do with money, he explains, with each saying in essence, “We would love for you to license this patent.” But intellectual property issues are no laughing matter at TiVo. Patent litigation can easily swallow two-thirds of the company’s annual legal budget, and it’s impossible to predict which of the love letters will turn into a lawsuit. The company receives such a letter every couple of months, largely from what Zinn terms patent trolls, companies that don’t make or sell their own products but instead purchase patents that they then seek to enforce. Zinn said interactive television in particular tends to be a magnet for such litigation. “Companies come out of the woodwork,” he said. “You can’t countersue them because they don’t have a product.” In 2001, Pause Technologies filed a patent suit accusing TiVo of infringing its patent on rewinding, fast-forwarding and pausing live TV programs. TiVo, which holds more than 70 patents of its own, won on summary judgment, a ruling upheld last year by the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Zinn is now gearing up for a trial slated to begin next month in Marshall, Texas. But this time, TiVo is on the offensive, alleging infringement of its multimedia “time warping system” by EchoStar Communications Corp., the country’s No. 2 direct broadcast satellite TV provider for more than 12 million subscribers. To keep costs down, Zinn tries to handle in-house as much legal work as possible. But he doesn’t pinch pennies when hiring outside counsel. Representing TiVo in the EchoStar case is Irell & Manella partner Morgan Chu, who credits Zinn’s ability to direct TiVo’s legal strategy on a big-picture basis while simultaneously understanding the details of a case. “That’s not something that everyone does,” Chu said. “There are times when the devil is in the details, and being able to grasp them on an ongoing basis can be extraordinarily important.” Max Ochoa, an intellectual-property lawyer in TiVo’s legal department, said Zinn’s involvement in the case is significant. “He receives advice from Irell & Manella, but he ultimately decides what strategy and tactics to adopt in any major litigation.” Zinn declined to comment about the specifics of the trial, but said the mood heading into battle was “confident and optimistic.” “We believe we’re in the right,” he said simply. “We believe the jury will see it our way.” ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES Zinn, a New York native, got his start in law while pursuing a career in radio. A music journalist and DJ in college, he interned at the FCC and National Public Radio. But he ultimately decided against life on the airwaves. “Unlike college radio,” he says, “in commercial radio you don’t get to choose what songs you play.” He decided to combine his interest in media with law, earning his J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He later worked as an associate at Cole, Raywid & Braverman, a cable TV law boutique in Washington, D.C., representing cable operators, including TCI, Viacom and Comcast, before the FCC. Prior to joining TiVo, Zinn was corporate counsel for Continental Cablevision’s western region in Los Angeles and senior attorney for MediaOne in Denver, Colo. When AT&T bought MediaOne and made it part of its empire, Zinn said the new environment was “too big” and “too unwieldy.” It was the height of the Internet boom and new opportunities beckoned from the digital world. Zinn started looking around for a place where he could “shake things up.” When Zinn joined in 2000, TiVo’s legal department consisted of one patent attorney reporting directly to the chief technology officer. In 2002, Zinn hired Ochoa, an IP transactions lawyer from Cooley Godward. A couple of years later, Zinn made two more hires: Laurence Denny, a securities counsel from Morrison & Foerster, and David Fligor, a patent attorney plucked from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. This year, Zinn hired Karen Kramer from the Recording Industry Association of America to head negotiations with Google, Yahoo, CNet and other content providers. NAVIGATING AN OBSTACLE COURSE Assisted by this team, Zinn said, his main concern centers on TiVo’s ability to “continue to innovate while negotiating through the seemingly endless obstacles that pop up along the way.” Protecting its patents is just half the battle at TiVo. A few years ago, word that an unmarketed feature would allow viewers to skip commercials entirely, rather than just speed through them, angered broadcast advertisers. As part of a compromise, TiVo made it possible for viewers to seek out and record commercials that might be of interest to them. When TiVo introduced a service allowing viewers to transfer their favorite programs to a PC, copyright holders bristled. Now, with TiVo offering Internet services, it’s getting drawn into the brewing battle among cable, telephone and Internet companies. Privacy forms another legal front. After Janet Jackson’s breast was bared during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, TiVo reported — to the alarm of privacy advocates — that the “wardrobe malfunction” topped its list of most replayed TV moments. While TiVo can track viewer habits, and does provide viewer-specific information to Nielsen Media Research on viewers who’ve agreed to that, it says it typically only gathers anonymous data for audience measurement purposes. Much of the criticism of its privacy policy, Zinn said, is unfounded. “Nobody reads our privacy policy,” he said. “They just want to take pot shots.” So far, Zinn and his team have kept the company out of court on privacy issues. To keep things that way, the topic gets a lot of air time at TiVo. “We go through enormous heartache and heartburn to stave off privacy issues,” Zinn said. Zinn meets with other top executives every two weeks to discuss how each new feature fits under the company’s policy. Zinn also said the FTC’s stamp of approval on TiVo’s privacy practices has helped protect the company. The rest of Zinn’s headaches take the form of lawsuits. About a year after TiVo sued EchoStar, the latter filed its own patent infringement suit against the company in a case slated to go to trial sometime next year. TiVo is also one in a long line of companies sued by Forgent Networks, a Texas-based maker of licensing and scheduling software that has accused TiVo of infringing on its “JPEG patent.” Forgent has additional lawsuits against Google, Yahoo and Xerox Corp., among others. Zinn said the company has come a long way since the early days when television networks and other detractors expressed fear over DVRs. To Zinn, keeping a cutting-edge company out of trouble is as much a game of balancing interests as it is about clearing up misconceptions. “It’s OK for there to be a little mystery,” Zinn said. “People read about things and draw their own conclusions …We’re innovators but we’re also pretty good actors, and at the end of the day I think we have credibility.”

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