In a much-anticipated decision involving contested interactive program guide technology, an International Trade Commission judge in June ruled against Gemstar-TV Guide International, claiming that EchoStar Communications, Pioneer New Media Technologies, Scientific-Atlanta and SCI Systems did not infringe on Gemstar's IPG patents. The judge also ruled that Gemstar misused one of its patents.
"It is the administrative law judge's final initial determination that there has been no violation by any of the respondents," ITC Administrative Law Judge Paul Luckern wrote. That decision still must gain approval from the ITC commissioners.
DBS giant EchoStar offers its own IPG, while Pioneer and S-A have marketed and deployed their own respective cable IPG products: Pioneer Passport and SARA (Scientific-Atlanta Resident Application).
"We feel vindicated by the judge's ruling in our favor," said Paul Dempsey, president of Pioneer's business solutions division.
With the ruling out of the way, it's expected that the competitive IPG cable arena could blossom as MSOs are now free to sign Passport and SARA deals without worrying about potential litigation. Dempsey warned, however, that the war over IPG patents could be far from over, as Gemstar is likely to appeal "any unfavorable rulings."
Indeed, Gemstar said it has requested the ITC to review Judge Luckern's decision, calling the final determination "erroneous."
In other IPG developments and in another blow to Gemstar, EchoStar in early July won a separate patent case against Gemstar concerning some features tied to the satellite provider's IPG. Specifically, Judge Lacy H. Thornburg ruled that none of EchoStar's current products infringe any of the asserted patents in a case that Gemstar and SuperGuide Corp. filed against EchoStar in the Western District of North Carolina.