Worldwide satellite services provider EchoStar owns Sling Media, a company that makes the Slingbox – devices that allow consumers to operate and view home televisions through the Internet from any location. EchoStar provides technological expertise for giant broadcast satellite provider Dish Network.
Dish recently announced an upgrade to its Hopper HD whole-home DVR, incorporating the Slingbox video place-shifting device. The timing of the announcement coincided with a Sling Media intellectual property lawsuit against two competing California companies – Belkin International and Monsoon Media – accused of five Slingbox patent violations.
The rival companies have nipped at the heels of Sling Media by offering similar consumer products at substantially lower costs. The Slingbox basic model was priced at $179.99 at the same time Belkin’s @TV was selling for $30 less. Monsoon’s Vulcano also costs less than a Slingbox.
The Sling Media suit alleges Belkin and Monsoon overstepped their bounds on multiple patents for the Slingbox remote display and personal media broadcasting systems. Slingbox officials claim the company’s technological inventions are integral to its product.
At one time, critics believed that Slingbox devices would bloom and fade quickly. Cable television providers and broadcasters promised to offer extensive availability of shows online – promises that so far have not been realized on a large scale.
None of these device makers might be readying for a patent battle if cable TV operators had lived up to commitments to make television shows easily available on the Internet. Dish Network wants to take advantage of the cable companies’ slow response with Slingboxes, which have the potential to let cable television fans see and control programs no matter where they are.
The patent suit may have more than one purpose. Consumer awareness of the Slingbox may increase through media exposure of the trial. The litigation could also tamp down competition to clear the way for a strong Slingbox surge among Dish Network and other cable customers.
Source: news.cnet.com, “Sling Media sues Belkin, Monsoon for patent infringement,” Casey Newton and Greg Sandoval, Jan. 7, 2013