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Judging DVRs: TiVo Beats Dish in Court Again

tivo dish courtDo the Justices of the Supreme Court use TiVo or record programs on a DVR? And if they do, what do they watch? Gossip columnists stand by. There could be a story coming, probably not, almost definitely not, but it’s possible. Today, the DC based U.S. Court of Appeals denied Dish Network’s appeal for a new hearing in the Satellite provider’s long running battle with TiVo over digital video recorder (DVR)  patents.  The next stop for the case could be the Supreme Court.

The dispute underlying the appeal began in 2004 when TiVo charged DVR’s offered by Dish Network (EchoStar) violated their patents.  The case progressed through spring 2006, at which point the Texas jury found in TiVo’s favor.  Months later, in August, an injunction was issued by a federal judge and the penalties, estimated at about $90m, were affirmed.  Appeals were promptly filed. 

This past January, the Federal Appeals Court again affirmed the result and ruled unanimously in TiVo’s favor.  The request for a new hearing had sought to have the case presented to the entire panel of Appeals Court justices.  The Court said no.

In a statement, TiVo said the company was “extremely pleased” with the result. Dish Network, needless to say, expressed the opposite and said they were “disappointed.”  

Dish Network assured customers and shareholders that it is still business as usual.  The ruling “will have no effect on current or future customers because EchoStar’s engineers have developed and deployed “next-generation’ DVR software” that is not infringing, they said.

But with close to $100m (plus legal fees) on the line Dish Network is promising to give it one more go anyway.  They will take their case to the Supreme Court (if the court will have them).  There’s no guarantee the Supreme Court will agree to listen.  

 If the case does make the Court’s docket, don’t expect the TV habits of the justices to cause any real conflicts of interest.  Justice Souter isn’t going to recuse himself because he might have recorded Boston Legal last night nor will Chief Justice Roberts be out of he’s been time-shifting Law and Order.

Still, the case will continue to be a small thorn in Tivo’s side until Dish Network’s last available option is exhausted but that isn’t likely to be a date too far off.  It looks like TiVo can almost start spending that jury award. 


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