This is as good a theory as any I’ve heard today for TiVo‘s startling and mysterious decision to settle two patent-infringement cases for far less than anyone expected, which resulted in a 19% drop in its stock price. It seems that last month the European Patent Office revoked TiVo’s patent for the process that enables a DVR to record one show while you watch another, Susquehanna Financial Group’s Thomas Clapps discovered. That “appears to be the same … patent that was at issue” in TiVo’s disputes with Motorola and Cisco. The ruling was made May 17 and posted on the European Patent Register website on May 29 — which was “in the middle of pretrial preparations for the Motorola case” originally scheduled to begin June 10. TiVo said this morning that it accepted $490M to settle its disputes with the two rival DVR manufacturers in cases that also involved Time Warner Cable. The news led Barclays’ Kannan Venkat to lower his stock recommendation for TiVo to “equal weight” from “overweight,” noting that the settlement “implies that TiVo received much less per subscriber than any of its past settlements” with EchoStar/Dish Network, AT&T, and Verizon.Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible also dropped TiVo to “neutral,” observing that the settlement “may reduce the probability” that TiVo will be able to license its interface to additional cable operators for their DVRs. But Barrington Research’s James Goss continues to believe that TiVo shares will outperform the market, contending that the company now can focus on rounding up additional customers for its software and ad services.

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