The first dent in Gemstar-TV Guide International's wall of patents sent the company's shares reeling last week as the company sought to fight off doubts about its dominance of the interactive–programming-guide business.
Administrative law judge Paul Luckern at the United States International Trade Commission ruled that EchoStar Communications, Pioneer, Sanmina-SCI Systems and Scientific-Atlanta did not infringe Gemstar patents in selling digital cable and DBS set-tops incorporating other guides.
Luckern ruled that the three patents for guide content and user interface were valid but Gemstar had abused one of them in an effort to thwart competition.
Gemstar Chairman Henry Yuen blasted the decision: "If left unchallenged and unchanged, it could deliver a blow to intellectual-property rights holders everywhere." At the same time, he and other Gemstar executives were laboring to minimize the effect it would have on Gemstar's business.