Last week the San Jose, Calif.-based interactive TV company filed a complaint in the Alameda, Calif., Superior Court that charges Tele-Communications Inc.-which once had a 37% stake in Interactive Network-"engaged in a secret and concerted series of actions over many months in order to seize assets, software, patents and proprietary technology from Interactive Network."
Although Zing Systems-another interactive TV company in which TCI invested-was dismissed on July 21 of all patent infringement claims also charged by Interactive Network, Mr. Lockton is now taking suit against one of Zing's investors, TCI, accusing it of sabotaging IN's efforts to be a successful company.
"TCI and its top officers have long known that interactive television, specifically the play-along-for-prizes niche that IN has staked out, will be what TCI has itself called the `killer application,'*" said Mr. Lockton, IN's CEO. Mr. Lockton claims TCI invested in Zing to compete directly with IN and provided the company with access to IN business plans, research and marketing information.
"Clearly, huge companies like TCI have been involved in many start-up investments and ventures," said Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, a Bethesda, Md.-based technology consultancy. "It's normal for big companies to send different teams out to develop technology and approaches to interactivity, and that's what TCI did .*.*. Stolen secrets or patent infringements are pretty tricky to prove."
Executives at both TCI and Zing re-fused to comment on the litigation. However, Stuart Clark, a lawyer from the firm Carr, DeFilippo & Ferrell, Palo Alto, Calif., representing Zing Systems, said the charges were "unsupported."
IN in June virtually shut down, laying off most staffers and stopping programming until new funding-yet to materialize-was found.
While still operating, IN had accumulated just 5,000 subscribers in four markets: San Francisco; Sacramento, Calif.; Chicago/South Bend, Ind.; and Indianapolis.