Press Release

Two-Win Week: Kirkland Litigators Prevail in Tough Litigation Battles

Bob Krupka and a team of IP litigators--Linda Resh, Alexander MacKinnon, Eric Lamison, Corey Watson, Laura TenBroeck, Lillian Lai, Alexandra DeNeve, Tina Hernandez, Eugene Chay, Drew Diamond, Jamie McDole, and Philip Chen--prevailed in a much-publicized showdown over cable and satellite television set-top boxes and on-screen program guide software. On-screen program guides, referred to as "interactive programming guides" or "IPGs," permit cable or satellite dish users with dozens or hundreds of channels to use their TV remote controls to interact with and manipulate a TV program schedule displayed on the user's TV screen.

In a long-awaited decision Friday, June 21, an administrative law judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that the patents of Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. have not been infringed by rival guides made by several companies including Kirkland client Pioneer Corporation and its affiliates. Press reports in The Wall Street Journal and other papers covering the case made it plain that the result is seen as instrumental to the future of the various players in the industry.

Gemstar has maintained that its patents on the technology are unassailable, and it has repeatedly used lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits to force cable TV operators and other companies into licensing technology for on-screen program guides.

ITC Administrative Law Judge Paul Luckern, in his "final initial determination," concluded that the program guides contained in set-top boxes imported by Pioneer Corporation's U.S. subsidiary and other litigants did not infringe Gemstar's patents for TV guide technology. The judge also found that, contrary to Gemstar’s assertions, our opponent had not established its own "domestic industry" and, moreover, had "misused" its patent for a navigation system.

The decision could have a profound effect on Gemstar, undermining its ability to coerce cable operators. The decision may impact important licensing deals Gemstar has been trying to reach with Kirkland client AOL Time Warner Inc., the country's second-largest cable-TV operator, and Cox Communications Inc.


In a Chicago-based matter, Walter Lancaster led a team also composed of Hariklia Karis and John Mehochko in a difficult defense win for General Motors. The case developed from a fatal auto accident in Idaho five years ago that killed a family of four.

A drunk driver who crossed the middle line and crashed into the family’s rented General Motors car--instantly killing the driver--was primarily responsible, all agreed. But the survivors argued (and found expert witnesses to testify) that a fuel-fed fire caused by an alleged design defect in the car led to the deaths of the three passengers.

The survivors, seeking $100 million, said the GM car should have had a fuel anti-siphoning device (as certain other manufacturers do) and argued this would have prevented the fire. NBC News ran a two-part series focused on the crash, sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ view, and this was GM’s first win in a so-called "siphoning" case.

The jury absolved GM of all responsibility in a verdict on Thursday, June 20, despite the best efforts of Texas plaintiffs’ lawyer Mikal Watts, who had won similar cases before and whose winning streak had been featured in The National Law Journal. Walter told the Chicago Tribune, which wrote about the outcome, "The answer from the jury was very strong and very clear that they didn't think General Motors bore responsibility for what happened on that highway on that day….They made it clear that they felt the blame rested with (the drunk driver) and not General Motors."