DISH Network and TiVo Get Medieval on the Consumer

August 21, 2006

TiVoSorry, the only thing I could picture while trying to think of a name for this post, was Ving Rhames getting ready to go-to-work on his violators. I didn’t even touch this one last week because every time I refreshed the news I got a new story, I wanted it to cool a bit lest I burn my hands on it.

So last Friday U.S. District Judge David Folsom, ordered DISH to disable any DVR found to contain software that infringes on TiVo’s time-shifting patents. The original ruling goes back many months, this ruling was just a culmination of everything that preceded it and while shocking DISH had to be fully aware the order to disable the DVR’s was a distinct possibility.

And of course just a few hours later a federal appeals court blocked the earlier district court decision, granting DISH more time to.. that’s the real question, more time to what?

If and when that last appeal is rescinded DISH will be faced with the daunting task of disabling the time-shifting functions in question, replacing the DVR’s with units that don’t contain any TiVo intellectual properties or scramble to push a software update that puts the DVR’s in compliance with the courts ruling.

Either way DISH is facing some tough decisions and even tougher angry customers but DISH isn’t without fault in all of this. Almost every large corporation employs a gaggle of IP lawyers charged with ensuring the products manufactured and sold by said corporation aren’t subject to patent infringements. Well It seems as if they missed one, because TiVo repeatedly warned DISH several of their DVR’s contained TiVo patented time-shifting functions.

Oh but lest you think this is a damn you DISH post and TiVo is without fault in all of this, worry not I have criticism for them as well. Yes TiVo tried (in vein) to get DISH to listen to reason and pony up the dough they had coming but announcements like this one, aren’t likely to win over many hearts and minds in TiVo’s favor either. At least not from DISH subscribers.

Disabling those DVR’s isn’t in the consumer’s best interest and that’s what’s blowing my mind about this decision. How can a judge possibly see this is in the consumer’s best interest? Not being proficient in corporate law I have to plead (pun) ignorance on this one but it seems to me monetary damages and future licensing fees would be a win for the plaintiff and consumer here.

Why does TiVo insist on the removal of their software patents and in turn functionality of the DISH DVR’s themselves? One things for sure, if this ruling stands and TiVo can cite precedence, every cable system and DVD recorder manufacturer that has implemented time-shifting functions into their products might want to put some fresh coffee on.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Dish Network News, DVR's