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VOD patent infringement suit begins

NORFOLK, Va., July 13 (UPI) -- A suit against Verizon by a Virginia man holding patents for video-on-demand technology used in many cable households has gone to trial in U.S. District Court.

Virginia Beach resident Leo Hoarty founded his company 20 years ago, but never achieved the success he envisioned while other companies, including Verizon Communications, chose related technology, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported. But the company Hoarty developed, now known as ActiveVideo, claims Verizon stole its technology while developing its ultra-modern brand of cable television.

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In the trial that began Tuesday, ActiveVideo seeks at least $200 million from Verizon, alleging patent infringement.

Verizon denies the allegations and is countersuing ActiveVideo.

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After the jury was seated, ActiveVideo attorney Dan Johnson Jr. played an old MTV video featuring the pop artist Bobby Brown. On this 1991 video, a viewer with a remote control could buy Brown's CD or concert tickets -- well before the e-commerce explosion.

"This was before anyone else was doing it," Johnson said of the interactive technology. "This case will hinge on just how much of a visionary was Mr. Hoarty."

In 2005, after Verizon announced it would build its system linking fiber-optic cable from neighborhood to neighborhood across the country, ActiveVideo offered to help.

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Johnson said ActiveVideo agreed to share its technology with Verizon, hoping to establish a long-term relationship. The lawsuit alleges that, essentially, Verizon took ActiveVideo's patents and left, and didn't return the information after requests to do so.

Verizon "went out and built a system that looks exactly like the ActiveVideo system," Johnson said.

Verizon attorneys said the company passed on Verizon's technology because it was determined to be dated.

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