Univision Sues Dish Network for False Advertising, Trademark Infringement

Univision Communications CEO Vincent Sadusky
Courtesy of Univision Communications

Univision Communications CEO Vincent Sadusky

When programmers and distributors reach the end of a licensing contract for television content and it comes time to negotiate a renewal, there tends to be a lot of public posturing, a healthy dose of brinksmanship and even, sometimes, litigation. Then, there's usually peace. But the standoff between Univision and Dish Network shows no signs of any breakthrough. It's been more than three months since the Spanish channel went dark on Dish's satellite and streaming services, and the legal claims are multiplying.

The latest is a cross-complaint filed on Friday by Univision alleging that Dish still owes millions of dollars in license fees under the old deal plus is falsely advertising the availability of Univision on the satcaster's services.

Dish has been on offense until now.  

More than a year ago, Dish sued Univision for allegedly breaching contract by streaming soccer matches played in Mexico's top league on Facebook. Last month, a New York federal judge allowed Dish to move forward on its claim that the Spanish television giant had effectively undercut the value of its licensing deal.

In that same litigation, Univision now asserts that it's Dish flouting the terms of contract.

Dish was notified by letter on Oct. 8 of the breach, according to the suit.

According to the court papers, "[O]nly after Univision raised the possibility of needing to sue Dish for the money, Dish sent an email late in the evening... which stated that '[w]e have found the checks' and would be sending them (after months of non-payment), but provided no assurances as to the amount it would be paying..."

Even if the money is in the mail, that won't end it.

"Dish has falsely advertised on its website, in flyers distributed by an authorized Dish retailer, and on the website of an authorized Dish retailer that Dish still distributed the Univision Services when it plainly did not, and it has thus violated Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act," continues the suit. "These deceptive tactics were clearly intended to minimize the effects of its business decision not to renew the Agreement with Univision by attempting to attract new Hispanic customers with the illusory promise of the popular Univision Services."

Univision adds that as recently as Sept. 4 — more than two months after its Univision rights expired — Dish was using Univision trademarks and logos for the "Latino Bonus Pack," add-on channels that were supposedly available for an extra surcharge. Univision, represented by attorneys at Weil Gotschal, asserts this amounts to trademark infringement.