Echostar’s Sling Media Seeks to Block Imports of Web TV DevicesSusan Decker and Alex Sherman
EchoStar Corp.’s Sling Media, whose gadgets lets users watch live television shows on their mobile devices, filed a U.S. trade complaint seeking to keep its competitors out of the burgeoning market.
Sling Media claims Belkin International Inc.’s @TV Plus and @TV Premium and Monsoon Multimedia Inc.’s Vulkano and HAVA devices are using a technology it invented called place-shifting technology, which allows media stored on one device to be accessed on another. The company contends its rivals infringe six patents.
The EchoStar unit makes the Slingbox, a device that lets customers get their pay-TV channels “slung” to laptops, smartphones and tablet computers. The patented inventions are incorporated in the company’s new Slingbox 350 and Slingbox 500, as well as Dish Network Corp.’s Hopper With Sling set-top box.
“Sling Media has invested tens of millions of dollars in research and development,” the company said in the complaint filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission. “Sling Media’s continued success depends in substantial part on its ability to establish, maintain and protect its proprietary technology through enforcement of its patent rights.”
Rachel Jones-Pittier, a spokeswoman for Playa Vista, California-based Belkin, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment. A phone message left with FortyThree PR, an agency that handles press inquiries for Monsoon according to the technology company’s website, also wasn’t immediately returned.
The ITC complaint, filed March 12 in Washington, also targets chips made by San Jose, California-based C2 Microsystems Inc. for the Belkin and Monsoon products. The company couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The devices allow consumers to watch their favorite show when it airs without being tied to the television or waiting for it to become available on cable companies’ on-demand services. Charlie Ergen, chairman of Englewood, Colorado-based EchoStar, bought Sling Media in 2007 and has used it as part of a strategy to push the satellite-technology company and Dish, which he also runs, into Internet and on-demand services.
Sling Media also filed a civil suit against closely held Belkin and Monsoon in January over some of the same patents. That case is pending.
Made in China
In addition to its Vulkano devices, San Mateo, California-based Monsoon makes circuit boards that are used in Belkin products, according to the complaint. Sling Media said the Monsoon and Belkin products are made in China.
The ITC is a quasi-judicial agency that investigates allegations of unfair trade practices, including patent infringement, and has the power to block products from entering the U.S. It typically completes investigations in 15 to 18 months.
The case is In the Matter of Certain Electronic Devices Having Placeshifting or Display Replication Functionality and Products Containing Same, Complaint No. 2943, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).