Sony Corporation has entered into a non-exclusive licence with KY Data Systems, a subsidiary of the Acadia Technologies Group, covering a portfolio of patents that apply to interactive TV. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

According to the Californian parent company, Acacia Research Corporation, “The patents cover receivers such as set-top boxes and certain televisions used in digital satellite and digital cable systems that permit television viewers to access interactive television features”.

The announcement continues to describe the scope of the patents in these terms: “Data, which is [sic] associated with the interactive television features and is [sic] broadcast along with the video signal, is [sic] extracted and processed by components within the receivers, and is [sic] then made available to viewers who choose to access the interactive television features through their remote control.”

On the face of it, this would seem to cover a broad range of interactive television services.

The patents are among the 27 patent portfolios recently acquired by Acacia from Global Patent Holdings at the end of January. Acacia paid $5 million in cash, together with 3.9 million shares in Acacia Technologies stock, and will pay an additional $2 million over two years.

Two days after the acquisition was announced, KY Data Systems entered into a non-exclusive licence with Thomson, also covering interactive television features in digital television receivers.

Acacia also holds patents to what it terms digital media transmission technology, which it claims cover transmission and receiving systems including video-on-demand, audio and video streaming, and the distribution of digital content by other means including internet, cable, satellite and wireless systems. The key patent, US 5,132,992, was issued in 1992.

The company has entered into licensing agreements with numerous cable television operators, online services, notably providers of adult content, and video-on-demand providers.

Last November, Paul Ryan, the chairman and chief executive of Acacia said: “We continue to make great progress with our DMT licensing program. What is most exciting is the accelerating growth in the use of our DMT technology. Cable TV companies are continuing the transition to receiving content in digital form, are reporting rapid adoption of video-on-demand by their subscribers, and are rolling out digital ad insertion services for targeted television advertising.”

“Telephone companies have recently announced plans to deliver video to over 21 million homes via fiber-optics, and wireless companies have announced they will be offering full motion video-on-demand with the new 3G technology,” he continued. “These new markets are creating additional opportunities to derive revenues from our DMT patent portfolio.”

In the first three months of this year, Acacia Technologies Group revenues amounted to $1.8 million, consisting of licensing revenues for digital media transmission, credit card fraud protection, digital video production and interactive television technologies. This included just over a million dollars in one-off payments for past infringement and future use of patented technologies.