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Dish hit with $469 million judgment in patent dispute

A federal jury said Dish's commercial-skipping technology infringed on a Utah firm's patents.

A federal jury said Dish's commercial-skipping technology infringed on a Utah firm's patents.

A Dish Network satellite dish.
A Dish Network satellite dish. (Photo by Cody Logan via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Satellite broadcaster Dish Network has been ordered to pay $469 million to a technology company that patented a technique to filter certain materials from streaming video services.

The judgment was awarded by a federal jury in a patent infringement lawsuit brought by ClearPlay, which offers parental controls on streaming video services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus that allows viewers to skip over content that includes violence, nudity and other adult situations.

The lawsuit claimed Dish Network’s commercial skip technology associated with its Hopper set-top boxes infringed on two patents that were held by ClearPlay. The feature, called AutoHop, allowed Dish’s satellite subscribers to fast-forward through commercial breaks during certain television programs on specific channels.

Throughout the case, Dish argued that ClearPlay’s patents were not valid because the skipping technique was covered by technology invented by others. Dish also said the AutoHop feature was different from ClearPlay’s parental controls because it involved skipping over commercials, not adult content, and involved linear channels, not streaming services.

A federal jury ultimately concluded Dish did violate ClearPlay’s patents, but rejected a claim by ClearPlay that the violation was intentional. A spokesperson for Dish Network said the company was disappointed by the verdict.

The jury also flatly rejected Dish’s claims that the two patents at the center of the case — Patent 970 and Patent 799 — were not valid, upholding ClearPlay’s argument that the patents were not only valid, but applicable to the case.

The final judgment amount could be lowered or increased during a later hearing, and any judgment could be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal.

The verdict compounds Dish’s woes as of late, which includes a major cybersecurity incident that disrupted Dish’s internal systems and customer-facing websites for the satellite service, wireless provider Boost Mobile and streaming service Sling TV. The Desk was the first to report the issue in late February.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).