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Judge orders Echostar to disable set-top DVR

Awards Tivo $103m in patent suit

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Satellite TV provider EchoStar has been ordered to disable DVR functionality in their set-top boxes and pay Tivo $103 million for allegedly infringing on the company's digital video recorder patent.

US District Court in Texas on Wednesday ruled Echostar, a spin-off of Dish Network, is in contempt of an injunction on DVR tech that lets users store and playback live television.

Echo had originally lost a 2004 patent infringement case filed by Tivo, and while appealing the case, it reprogrammed the set-top-box software to work around the contentious patents. Tivo claimed the DVR tech still infringes on its intellectual property, and today, it was granted a new injunction by the court.

The $103m plus interest payment goes on top of $105m awarded in the original judgment.

"The harm caused to Tivo by Echostar's contempt is substantial. Echostar has gained millions of customers since this Court's injunction issued, customers that are now potentially unreachable by Tivo," US District Judge David Folsom wrote in the court opinion.

Folsom ordered Echostar to disable DVR functionality within 30 days for "all but 192,708 units of the Infringing Products that have been placed with an end-user or subscriber."

Echostar has already re-appealed the decision and injunction. The company has not responded to El Reg's request for comment and clarification on the implications of Folsom's ruling, but issued a public statement claiming existing Dish Network customers with DVRs are "not immediately impacted by these recent developments."

"We believe a stay is warranted and that we have strong grounds for appeal," Echostar stated. "Our engineers spent close to a year designing-around Tivo's patent and removed the very features that Tivo said infringed at trial."

Tivo issued a statement saying, "Echostar may attempt to further delay this case but we are very pleased the Court has made it clear that there are major ramifications for continued infringement." ®

Update

A US appeals court on Wednesday temporarily halted the Texas court's order that Echostar must disable DVR capabilities in its set-top boxes within 30 days. Tivo must respond by June 10 to the motion for a stay pending Echostar's appeal.

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