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TiVo sues EchoStar for Patent Infringement 476

Posted by michael
from the there-can-be-only-one dept.
jhkoh writes "TiVo has filed a lawsuit against satellite TV provider EchoStar for infringing on its 'Time Warp' patent for DVR time-shifting. TiVo CEO Mike Ramsay adds: 'Our aim here is not to litigate everybody ... but to further advance and seek commercial relationships so that people recognize the value of our intellectual property, and give us fair compensation.'"
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TiVo sues EchoStar for Patent Infringement

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  • by tarquin_fim_bim (649994) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:52PM (#7897626)
    Adolph Hitler sues Osama Bin Laden for infringements to his xenophobia patents.
    • Re:In other news... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by eyegor (148503) * on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:30PM (#7898015)
      Sorry... The Japanese have prior art on that one.

      Seriously though, Tivo was out in front on this technology and whether or not we like it, the only way that tech companies can innovate and still survive is to defend their intellectual property. They put a lot of work into their system and it's not fair for someone else to come along and steal their ideas.

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I'm a Tivo stockholder and a Tivo user for the couple of years. I'm biased!
      • by randyest (589159) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:35PM (#7898060) Homepage
        Tivo was out in front on this technology and whether or not we like it, the only way that tech companies can innovate and still survive is to defend their intellectual property. They put a lot of work into their system and it's not fair for someone else to come along and steal their ideas.

        So, you think that this is a valid patent? TiVo implements a mechanical tape VCR using digital storage and processing, and suddenly an old idea with loads of prior are is patent-worthy?

        I like TiVo too, but I think your bias is clouding your reason. Whoever made the first VCR should own this patent, if anyone. Moving an old idea to a new implementation is not patent-worthy, IMHO.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:41PM (#7898122)
          Yeah, it's valid. The fact that they can play and record simultaniously breaks your tape-based VCR analogy. It's a pretty slick idea. Plus, you don't have to convince me or the other slashdotters, you need to convince the patent office.
        • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dgrgich (179442) * <drew.grgich@org> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:49PM (#7898657) Homepage
          Please - not another 'Tivo is just a VCR' Luddite. :) Tivo's patents (specifically 6,233,389 [uspto.gov]) uniquely describe a process that they were first to bring to market. For example, the patent I cite describes pretty much the entire Tivo experience. It describes using MPEG2 technology to replace the tape mechanism in a VCR. They were the first to patent this and the first to truly bring it to market. They beat Replay devices to the mainstream market and put a friendly face on what is a slightly tricky technology to describe to non-Tivo experienced folks who don't "get it". My wife was incensed when I bought our first Tivo because she thought it was "just a fancy VCR" - now you'd have to pry it out of her cold dead hands!
        • by SewersOfRivendell (646620) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @11:54PM (#7899743)
          Read the damn patents already. Someone linked to them above. They're extremely specific, as good patents should be. If EchoStar so chose, it could get around at least one of the patents by using an encoding scheme other than MPEG-2 to store the data.
        • by tgibbs (83782)

          So, you think that this is a valid patent? TiVo implements a mechanical tape VCR using digital storage and processing, and suddenly an old idea with loads of prior are is patent-worthy?

          As a matter of fact, you could implement an actual mechanical VCR, with exactly the same capabilities as existing VCRs, and it would be patent-worthy if you came up with a novel method of accomplishing those same functions. JVC did exactly this when they patented VHS, even though Sony already had a VCR patent. This was pos

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        TiVO wasn't "way out in front" with their technology. They were granted a patent in 1998. Those of us who had video capture cards before then were able to do the exact same things TiVO now claims to have "invented".

        All TiVO did was repackage existing technology. Anyone could (and some of us did) timeshift with PCs, and yes, we could capture the stream to disk, and simultaneously play it back several minutes later so we could skip the commercials. Or rewind it. Or pause it. All while the computer continued

        • by tgibbs (83782)
          TiVO wasn't "way out in front" with their technology. They were granted a patent in 1998. Those of us who had video capture cards before then were able to do the exact same things TiVO now claims to have "invented".

          So back in 1995 or '96, when TiVo presumably filed for the patent, anybody with a videocard and a relatively low-powered PC could digitize TV while simultaneously playing back? Keep in mind that TiVo's patent presumably covers not merely the concept of digitizing TVs, but the software methods

        • by nvrrobx (71970)
          Yes, but the way patent law works, you can be granted a patent for finding a new way to use existing technology.

          Had anyone made a package, with a remote control, that allowed you to sit on your couch while your PC handled all the timeshifting stuff with the press of a remote control?

          If the answer is no, then this patent is valid.
      • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dfung (68701)
        This thread is making me retch (no, not just this post, but the followups as well).

        Back in the 1980's I worked at Apple when Apple spent a lot of money on all the shiny new professional toys to figure out inspirations for consumer products. This included stuff like a $120,000 Silicon Graphics workstation (the very first model!) and a complete first-generation digital video setup that took D1 cartridges that seemed to be as big as a lunch tray.

        One of the really fun toys was something that actually got a l
  • Uh oh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrPerfekt (414248) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:54PM (#7897644) Homepage Journal
    So does this mean they'll be taking a SCO approach and be going after whomever inherited ReplayTV and other companies with DVR's on the market? Or even those OSS apps that make your Linux box into a DVR?

    It's a shame because I like Tivo alot but saying you're not wanting to litigate people while suing them seems kinda silly.
    • Re:Uh oh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cb8100 (682693) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:05PM (#7897758)
      "So does this mean they'll be taking a SCO approach and be going after whomever inherited ReplayTV and other companies with DVR's on the market?" Big difference here: TiVo has a patent proving its ownership of the technology. SCO is blowing smoke up everyone's ass with no proof of anything (cause it ain't true).
      • Re:Uh oh? (Score:5, Informative)

        by WNight (23683) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:32PM (#7898038) Homepage
        A patent on a bloody idea. Pausing live TV. What's involved in that? A storage device with a write head for recording incoming data and an independently targettable read head. Wow. I'm sure glad they patented that, with ninety three claims of course and a bunch of technobabble, but essentially that.

        Does anyone remember when there was at least the polite pretense of patents having to describe a new and non-obvious METHOD?

        When I covered a bit of patent law in Electronics we were taught that for a patent to not be overturned, you'd need to be able to take reasonably skilled professionals in the industry and state the same problem and requirements. If they could easily independently invent the device described in the patent, the patent was too obvious.

        Tivo is just trying to patent their feature list - making it impossible for anyone to create any device which provides the same functions.

        Not SCO like. More RAMBUS like - flagrant abuse of the patent system.
    • Reactionary FUD. Everyone who sues another company is not SCO-like. People who sue based on nothing are SCO-like, people who sue based on their patents being ripped off wholesale are just responsible.
    • Not really SCO (Score:4, Insightful)

      by k98sven (324383) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:38PM (#7898099) Journal
      This is not really an "SCO approach" type thing, because unlike SCO, they do have a leg to stand on.
      (Given the validity and applicability of their patent)

      To begin with, unlike SCO, we know what the supposed infringement IS.

      The SCO case is about breach of contract. Although the "going after end-users" the managment keeps spouting out is about copyright.
      That is ludicrous.. end users have no liability in such a case, since they did not commit the infringement.
      (much like a magazine subscriber is not liable if the magazine prints a plagarized story)

      In patent cases, this is different. Noone has the right to use patented technology without licence. There is such a thing as contributory infringement concerning patents, which means that you can be liable even if you didn't commit the actual patent infringement.

      On the other hand, going after consumers is a bad idea. Not only PR-wise, but there are also laws in place to protect the consumer. So that's very unlikely.
      Also, there's no money in sueing private OSS developers.

      Anyway, there are a few options here:

      They back down and pay for a license

      They get lawyers and try to get the the patent invalidated in court

      If 2 fails, you can either:

      Pay for a license

      'Break' the patent, find a workaround with the same functionality which isn't covered by the patent.

    • Re:Uh oh? (Score:3, Informative)

      by CrankyFool (680025)
      That'd be awefully tough for them to do -- ReplayTV was doing DVR/PVRs before Tivo was. In fact, the existence of ReplayTV is a good example of prior art in this field and, unlike the examples others brought up of home-made solutions using PCs, is exactly like a Tivo in being a set-top box built for this one dedicated purpose.
    • They already did... (Score:3, Informative)

      by balamw (552275) *

      Tivo and SonicBlue Settle Dispute [slashdot.org]. According to this article at the Stereophile Guide to Home Theatre, Tivo and SonicBlue have decided to dismiss all patent-infringement claims 'without prejudice' and instead focus their energies on energizing the DVR market. 'We believe our energies are better spent expanding the market for DVRs rather than fighting each other,' the former adversaries said in a joint statement. The article also discusses their plans for marketing and also how they plan to respond to criti

  • by jazman_777 (44742) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:54PM (#7897648) Homepage
    What? TiVo has Intellectual Property? All together now, slashdotters (kneejerkers): "TiVo must die!"
    • I have invented a method to skip TiVo's IP, therefore I do not have to be exposed to it.
    • Nothings wrong with intellectual property.
      However, I fail to see why this is new.
      Computers have been able to gather data, while showing different data for years. The fact that tv changes 'data' to 'TV' does not make it different. The TV is just data.
  • "TimeWarp" Patent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Osrin (599427) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:56PM (#7897673) Homepage
    For those who can't be bothered reading the article; "The suit, filed in federal district court in Texas, alleges that EchoStar's DVR infringes TiVo's ``Time Warp'' patent, which includes the method used to allow viewers to record one program while watching another and the storage format that supports advanced ``TrickPlay'' capabilities such as pausing live television, rewinding and slow motion." This does not mean that they'll be going after every DVR producer, only those who copied TiVo without adding any thought of their own.
    • All it is doing is caching data. How long have we been able to utilize a computer while it's writing to the hard drive?

      Unless they found a way to read and write from a hard drive, at the exact same time without a cache of some sort, this is not new. The fact that the data it is using is from TV shouldn't really matter.
    • This does not mean that they'll be going after every DVR producer, only those who copied TiVo without adding any thought of their own.

      Seems to me they'll go after any DVR producer who implements their fairly obvious time shifting features.

      Will they drop the suit if Replay 'adds some thought of their own?'

    • Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dachshund (300733) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:22PM (#7897940)
      This does not mean that they'll be going after every DVR producer, only those who copied TiVo without adding any thought of their own.

      So Tivo has patented the idea of recording television using a) a bunch of video codecs they didn't invent, b) a bunch of commodity hardware they didn't invent, and c) the brilliant invention of rewind, fast-forward and get this... pause.

      There are many original and non-obvious aspects to the Tivo design. The ability to record television, and (!!!) play it back at the same time, do not count. Give Tivo this one, within five years they'll be claiming patent infringement against anyone who records TV onto a hard-disk.

      Incidentally, I remember back when Tivo obtained this patent. A bunch of Slashdot commenters-- with a "RTF(Patent)" attitude similar to yours-- made no effort to conceal their contempt for those of us who thought the patent might affect similar (but non-identical) implementations. IIRC, they made a big deal over the precise details in the claims, and how you would have to infringe upon all of those things to merit a lawsuit. Looks like things aren't quite so rosy.

    • CS has been teaching about seeking in and writing to a file at the same time for years. The PTO finds it innovative that they're applied it to a video or audio file? Or that you might elect to buffer a live video stream on disk to allow such operations?

      Don't get me wrong, I'm a disgruntled Echostar Ex-employee and would love to see them suffer in court. In fact I may schedule a vacation, head down to texas, microwave some popcorn and enjoy a fun couple of weeks in court. I'm also a happy tivo owner and wi

    • Right, but just because you have a cleverly titled patent, does not mean that the technology should merit a patent. Honestly...pausing live television?

      Its been done previously....its called BUFFERING. RealPlayer should sue too.

      "any thought of their own". What else would you want on a Tivo? Were VCR making clones sued over such common features as Pause/Stop/Rewind/Play/Fast Forward?

      Tivo is getting their market share swiped from their feet, and now is trying to claim "patent" infringment from their "in
    • by Quarters (18322)
      This does not mean that they'll be going after every DVR producer, only those who copied TiVo without adding any thought of their own.

      It doesn't even mean that. One more time, class: "Trademarks have to be protected & defended. Patents are selectively enforceable by the patent holder"

      TiVO can sue the bejeezus out of Echostar and then just shut up and never bother to use the patent against anyone else ever again.

  • Tivo- the new SCO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tomhudson (43916)
    Time shifting is both obvious and trivial, and hence any patent issued is invalid. Score another clunker for the USPTO.

    So, I guess we'll be seeing more stories about TiVO going down the tubes ... as if it weren't there already (oh, another parallel to SCO).

    • by segmond (34052) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:59PM (#7897696)
      Yeah

      Everything that makes it to the public domain is always both obvious and trivial. Everytime we hear about a new invention/method, we always go, dang, why didn't we think of that! why? cuz it seems so obvious and trivial.
      • Check out the rules for a patent to be enforceable: It has to be both non-obvious, and non-trivial. This isn't my opinion - it's the USPTOs, and the law. :-) That's why TiVO is fucked. Patents are supposed to only be granted for non-trivial, non-obvious, innovative designs.

        So, to repeat: A patent granted for a trivial modification is invalid and non-enforceable. A patent granted for an obvious implementation is invalid and non-enforceable. A patent granted for something that is not innovative is invalid an

        • This will not be considered obvious or trivial. which is fine, because its not.

          Trivial does not mean 'trivial to experts in the field' and obvious means your average Joe would have thought it up.

          There screwed because there not doing anything different then computers have been doing for a great many years.
          • Considering that they got their patent in 1998, and anyone with a video capture card was able to time-shift years before (and yes, even play a file while it's still being written to), the patent isn't valid. It is obvious to any Joe 6pack with a video capture card, it's a trivial thing to do (start the capture, then open up a player in another window and start playing while you're capturing, skipping the commercials - no expertise needed there). So what's the patent for? Something that's both obvious and tr
      • It IS obvious and trivial. Quick quiz, how many people tried to do the following before TiVo came along:

        o You have 50 years of stock data on disk. You want to calculate a 5-year moving average as efficiently as possible (particularly, minimizing disk IO).

        o You have a security camera. You have a fixed number of video tapes. If you discover at some point that someone has stolen expensive electronics from your store, you want to go back as far as possible to try see who stole it.

        o You want to write /

        • Just to clarify: all four examples use a fixed buffer that's constantly recycled to "go back in time". Yes, it's kind of cool. No, it's not worth wasting a judge's time over.
      • Many of these are obvious and trivial if you simply ask the question. "How do we do X over the Internet?" "Umm basicly just like in the real world?" "Yes, but noone has done it before, let's patent it" should not be patentable.

        Which is not to say that there aren't quite a few patents that are neither obvious nor trivial, even after you read them. And quite many that are obvious *after* you read them. But the patent office seems to be approving them all anyway, obvious before, after or never.

        If there was a
      • Re:Tivo- the new SCO (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WNight (23683)
        It's not about the idea. The idea could be old and tired. It's all about the implementation.

        I could come up with a patentable way to catch mice, despite thousands of years of mice catching. Or, I could fail to patent a device for destroying alien invaders, because the "device" is a gun, despite the new use.

        But, what's the chance that Tivo's method pausing live video was so non-obvious that it deserved a patent, yet another company just happened onto it? Given that the first way I'd go about it involves ei
      • Everytime we hear about a new invention/method, we always go, dang, why didn't we think of that! why? cuz it seems so obvious and trivial.

        Heard a story about that. (i.e. I haven't fact-checked this myself...)

        The core of a flashlight battery is a zinc cup full of caustic paste capped by some asphalt-like material, with a carbon rod (wrapped in a bit of hydrogen scavenger if you don't want it to go soft on you under load) stuck down the middle. The cup is the negative electrode and the carbon rod the pos
    • "Time shifting is both obvious and trivial, and hence any patent issued is invalid. Score another clunker for the USPTO."

      You are absolutely right.

      I'm wondering if the day will ever arrive that possessing a patent will actually become a liability.

      Last I read, 50% of the patent claims "defended" in court are lost.

      --Richard

      PS: I'm a satisfied Tivo owner.
    • The difference being that Tivo has a product that KICKS ASS, while SCO... well....
    • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@yahoo.STRAWcom minus berry> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:15PM (#7897855)
      Time shifting is both obvious and trivial, and hence any patent issued is invalid.

      It is neither obvious nor trivial. Tell me who did real-time time shifting of TV shows (including watching the beginning of a show while the end of that same show is still recording) prior to TiVo. You couldn't do that with a VCR, and nobody was using PC's to time-shift at that time (and if they were, they didn't patent that feature - TiVo did).

      The fact that it seems obvious and trivial now is a testament to how DVR's have changed our lives. There was nothing obvious or trivial about what they did when they were first invented, and that's the whole point of patents. DVR's are a major advance, an incredible invention, and one of the things that makes them so unique is the very feature TiVo is trying to protect.

      All TiVo is asking for is a proper licensing deal, which it seems they're due, and which many other companies have with them already. This is not an SCO-like case. TiVo is not trying to claim something like they invented the hard drive and any device that uses a hard drive violates their copyright. They're saying their business is largely based on a particular feature of a particular device that they did patent before anybody else, and they're just trying to protect that patent and get Echostar to sign a licensing agreement with them, which Echostar should have done in the first place if their legal dept. was paying attention (it's very easy to look up a patent ahead of time). They're not claiming a generic feature of PC's as their own, or of any particular OS, and they're not claiming a patent on something that existed before they did. And they've owned this patent for a long time.

      This is the sort of thing patent law was designed for. If you don't like patents in general, then you can argue against it on that position, though TiVo would likely be out of business without it. You can't argue, as I see it, against this specific patent, though. It's a perfectly reasonable sounding patent. Of course, IANAL.
      • Tell me who did real-time time shifting of TV shows (including watching the beginning of a show while the end of that same show is still recording) prior to TiVo

        Networks have used a five-second delay for live broadcasts to be able to bleep swearing for years. That's time-shifting. Does it make it suddenly patentable because someone used that idea in a home PVR?

      • No, I think you're wrong. It is trivial. It wasn't done because the physical media (VCRs) didn't support it. Once the physical media supported it, it was completely trivial.
      • I think that in this case the patent is perfectly fair, and that TiVo are right to do that they do. But keeping up a recent habit of mine, you say:

        The fact that it seems obvious and trivial now is a testament to how DVR's have changed our lives

        which makes me ask - what is TiVo take-up like in other countries besides the US? (I'm guessing by your comment its hot stuff over there). Here in the UK TiVo is not used particularly much and as far as I know Sky's equivalent isn't either (yet, anyway). Anyon

      • It is neither obvious nor trivial. Tell me who did real-time time shifting of TV shows (including watching the beginning of a show while the end of that same show is still recording) prior to TiVo.

        I did it.

        I used an MPEG capture card and software to record my home-made videos onto my computer. Just out of curiosity, I opend the MPEG file with a player at the same time the capture card was writing to the file.

        It woked just fine (except that the CPU was VERY active)- I was timeshifting just like TIVO does
        • Yup, I did the same thing. I got my first ATI all-in-wonder in '97 and my first server in '99, I think. Started capturing a show, then copied the partial file to my server and watched it on another machine so as not to disrupt the capturing.
      • by AbbyNormal (216235)
        First, I believe the technology had been around before Tivo's time. (Virage/Autonomy/ research at MIT...anyone else in the field car to comment?)

        I agree with your argument, BUT then you argue...
        " and if they were, they didn't patent that feature - TiVo did"

        and "This is the sort of thing patent law was designed for".

        Sure, but if (if if if) Tivo knew about the prior art, filed the patent anyway and is now suing competitors because their current marketshare is dimminishing, then YES they are like SCO. Pat
      • Re:Tivo- the new SCO (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tomhudson (43916)
        As I said in another post - they got their patent in 1998, and I was able to timeshift using my pc in January of 1996, and I know others who were able to do that even before - and that includes the ability to watch a show while recording it. As long as the file-sharing semantics were WRITE_SHARE_COMPATIBLE, there was no problem under win31 or win95.

        They're not claiming to have invented the DVR. They're claiming time-shifting, which I'm pretty sure everyone who got one of the early framegrabber cards did so

    • I'm not big on patents, but I think that the tivo features in discussion here are non-obvious. To get an idea of how non-obvious it is, go to a lay person who is unfamiliar with tivo and try to explain what's so cool about it. They will most likely go, "so it's just like a VCR", and you'll run in mental circles explaining what is cool about Tivo.

      Then you sit them down in front of Tivo, hit pause, fast forward through the commercial, etc, and then it dawns on them. Sounds like non-obvious to me. As for
        1. commercial-skip is available on vcrs as well.
        2. TiVOs patent is from 1998. I was able to record, time-shift, simultaneously record/play back the same show, pause playback, skip commercials, or rewind while recording, etc., in January of 1996, and others friends were able to do it before me (bought an ati PC2TV after seeing a friends back in 1995). So people were doing this at least 3 years before TiVO got its' patent - and they were doing it with off-the-shelf components and software. Sounds trivial to me.
        3. T
  • *sigh* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by irokitt (663593) <archimandrites-i ... m ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @07:57PM (#7897677)
    It's about time Slashdot picked up on this. So does this make Tivo a bad guy now? Probably more important though is the effect this might have on the open source time-shifting software out there.
  • with the competitors, Litigate!

    • This is nonsense. TiVo is a market defining brand, up there with Xerox and Kleenex. They innovated the technology, they have pushed to help the public understand what it is. Tivo all in all has been very good about letting people explore the technology in a non infringing way.

      They have a right and a responsibility to their stockholders to defend their IP. If this was a open source project trying to defend itself from a company stealing its code you wouldn't be attacking them...

  • Go Patent Office! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vaevictis666 (680137) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:02PM (#7897718)
    It alleges that EchoStar violated a patent related to features including a method for recording one program while playing back another.

    So as prior art did they list the PC?

    I'm sure I've managed to rip CDs to the hard drive as the same time I'm playing music. Sure it's audio vs video, but it amounts to the same thing don't it?

    Plus, I'm not entirely sure it's valid on the non-obvious point. Not having looked at the details I would say to implement it one could just ensure that the input and output subsections are separated, and then treat them individually. Each end has enough of a memory cache to hold a few (10?) seconds of video, and the hard drive takes turns emptying the input buffer and filling the output buffer from different sections (files) on the disk.

    • by happystink (204158)
      Audio and video are not that close, read the actual patent, you might as well be saying "well i can look at an orange in my left hand while my right hand picks up another orange", your analogy is about that strong. The patent office may suck, but this one is valid, stop being so reactionary to any patent whatsoever.
      • Well then, Mr. Genius, why don't you educate all of us on the finer points of the patent. What keeps it from being either a trivial exercise in caching, or a dual-head HD?

        They can throw in a bunch of buzz words, like every patent in the late nineties said "... over a digital network", but the plain fact is that doing two things at once, to two files, is pretty simple. I remember reading files as I was downloading them, in the early 80s. How is this anything other than a video application of the same princi
    • I think the Go Video dual VHS decks would have to qualify as prior art. You could record to one tape while playing from the other.
      There are many other combinations possible with multiple external video sources/tuners.
      I don't recall the exact capabilites of them, but I know GO had dual deck VCRs in the mid 80s, certainly that would qualify as prior art against the TiVo patent.
      • I don't have a TiVo or this VCR, but could one record and playback the same show at the same time and just skip the commercials? Using this VCR can one record live TV, rewind what was just recorded, playback an instant replay, and all the while keep recording so that the show can be rejoined at the point the user chose to replay the live action?

        Again, I don't have either product, but if it can't do those things as described in the complaint, its not quite prior art.
  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:02PM (#7897727)

    ... by Dr. Frankenfurter:
    "It's just a step to the left..."

    Let's do the time warp again!

  • ...and this story worries me. Anybody with some legitamate knowledge have any opinions on this one?

    - fozzy
  • And then... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bongholio (609944)
    when they win this one who might they sue next? hmmm... [ultimatetv.com] Probably a good plan on their part to start with the 'little' guys first. ;)
  • by TXG1112 (456055) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:07PM (#7897783) Homepage Journal
    The article doesn't list the patents, so out of curiosity I looked them up.

    Trick Play Patent No. 6,327,418 [uspto.gov]

    Time Warp Patent No. 6,233,389 [uspto.gov]

  • by gid13 (620803) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:08PM (#7897792)
    'Our aim here is not to litigate everybody ... but to further advance and seek commercial relationships so that people recognize the value of our intellectual property, and give us fair compensation.'

    In other words, "We'll only sue you if you don't pay us lots first. We don't WANT to litigate everybody. But we will."

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Copyright and patent laws suck. I swear, if they're going to have IP laws like this, they should teach us NOT to share in Kindergarten.
    • That Ramsey quote just sounds like doublespeak, doesn't it? WTF does he think that it means to "litigate everybody", if not to use lawsuits to force commercial relationships to happen the way you want them to happen?

      Sure, he's not suing *everybody*. Like, duh. Barring South Park, his statement is a truism (how could one literally sue everybody?). So we take the colloquial meaning of "ligitate everybody", and we have the exact practice in which he's engaging.

      Even if they have a legitimate case, who in
    • So what you're telling us, is that if you came up with a great idea for a product, not only would you not patent it, you'd tell everyone around so that you could compete with them on the free market to see who has the better product? If that were reality, then the economy would be so hideously unstable, that it would not even be funny.
  • by randyest (589159) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:09PM (#7897793) Homepage
    The suit, filed in federal district court in Texas, alleges that EchoStar's DVR infringes TiVo's ``Time Warp'' patent, which includes the method used to allow viewers to record one program while watching another and the storage format that supports advanced ``TrickPlay'' capabilities such as pausing live television, rewinding and slow motion.

    Huh? So I guess ReplayTV and Panasonic ShowStopper paid to license this "invention" from TiVo? I find that hard to believe, but I guess it's possible. Does anyone know for sure, or is ReplayTV (now owned by Denon&Marantz) next on the lawsuit target list? Seems odd that D&M would buy the flailing Replay without thier lawyers noting that their only product depends on an unlicensed patent owned by TiVo.

    Of course, this also seems to indicate that TiVo isn't doing so well these days. I had thought they were doing OK.

    Finally, I have to express my displeasure that such a patent was ever awarded. If anything, whoever patented the original VCR (assuming someone did) should hold this patent as well. Moving something from tape to digital storage and processing to provide the same features is not innovative enough to deserve a patent.
  • by Tacoguy (676855) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:14PM (#7897849)
    Hi and color me biased but Charlie Ergen and Echostar built my business only to tear it apart. I was a C-Band dealer for years (Echostar was primary wholsaler) and had a great business only to see them introduce "Dish" that was not available to the dealers that had made them a success.

    I have seen the tactics of Ergen purchasing companies and assimilating technology and in some cases reverse engineering IE:Polaroter

    Go Go TiVo !!


    TG
  • WHY? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlkPanther (515751) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:19PM (#7897899) Homepage
    Gimme a break, the first thing I have to say about this, is other companies have been doing this for years, and Tivo waits until now until to sue? It seems to me that Tivo (obviously) knew about this competitor product, and was just sitting around waiting until the competitor's product reached critical mass (with all of the promotions Dish is running, they have been distribution a very large number of these infringing DVRs). Waiting until the competition is firmly committed in their distrobution gives Tivo the largest advantage (READ: Amount of money).

    In cases like this where a company waits around to sue until it will make them the most money, rather than suing to protect their property, should have their patents revoked. Patents are only around to protect inventors, not to make the inventor money (that's what the invention is for).
  • Atleast... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cartzworth (709639) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:19PM (#7897905) Journal
    ...he was well spoken and got his real intentions across, unlike the recording industry.
  • by payndz (589033) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:23PM (#7897948)
    So presumably they'll also be sueing Panasonic over their range of DVD-RAM recorders that do *exactly* the same thing, only they save to a DVD-RAM disc rather than a hard disc. Likewise the assorted combi HD/DVD recorders on the market from companies like Philips and Thomson, among others. And in the UK, they'll also be sueing Sky (AKA News Corporation... so rather a big hitter) over their Sky+ boxes, which basically do everything a Tivo does, except that Sky+ is still in business here and Tivo isn't.

    I liked the idea of Tivo (though not enough to take out a subscription even when they were in business in the UK... I don't watch *that* much TV) but this lawsuit has instantly turned me against them. Claiming IP/patent rights over an *idea* rather than a *technique* is exactly the kind of bullshit thinking that is going to kill off innovation in the West and allow countries like China and India to squash us in the future even as they laugh at our unbelievable stupidity in letting lawyers rule the roost.

    Once a company starts bleating about "intellectual property" and issuing lawsuits to protect it rather than actually making a product that people want to buy, then it's doomed. Last I heard, this was a free market. If not enough people want to buy Tivos to keep the company in business, then fuck 'em.

    (But in true SCO style, it probably means their share price will rise, so invest now before the company dies its inevitable hideous death!)

    Who's the boss of Tivo? Is he going to become the new Darl?

    • something as basic as 'word processing'
      and some monopoly sees it, and makes it.
      just, completely ignores you..
      what do you do?

      do copyrights have no value or purpose in your world/ethical view?

      do you know what happened to the inventors of icicle lights?

    • So presumably they'll also be sueing Panasonic over their range of DVD-RAM recorders that do *exactly* the same thing, only they save to a DVD-RAM disc rather than a hard disc.

      Since the method in TiVo's patent specifically says hard disk, I doubt it.

      And in the UK, they'll also be sueing Sky (AKA News Corporation... so rather a big hitter) over their Sky+ boxes, which basically do everything a Tivo does, except that Sky+ is still in business here and Tivo isn't.

      Does TiVo have a UK patent? If not, you'
  • by mrkslntbob (731248) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:24PM (#7897960)
    Why are people just randomly allowed to patent doing things? "Tivo's can pause and rewind live TV, so they should be the only legal way to do so." So if the train company patented driving you to work, and i decided to walk, i'd be infringing on their patent and hopefully arrested before arriving to work. Justice is served.
    • by Mike Hawk (687615) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:35PM (#7898064) Journal
      Congratulations mrkslntbob!

      I hereby award you worst metaphor of the day on the whole entire internet! By comparing TiVo to a train company and other PVR companies to walking, you have created the least applicable comparison posted on the web in the last 24 hours! Unfortunately, this distinction does not come with any cash reward, though expect someone who agrees with you to mod you up, even though it will be clear they do not understand the issue either! We also would have accepted comparing TiVo to either "like a car" or the Nazi's.
  • by Jonathan Quince (737041) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:25PM (#7897977) Homepage

    Does anybody know if there is any kind history between the two companies?

    According to the articles, Echostar has been offering DVR-like capabilities for awhile now; the suit is just based on some of their latest features. And obviously, TiVo has also been in this business for some time. Echostar offers the product with a service, and TiVo offers the product as their primary line of business. In this type of situation, it's only natural that one might approach the other and propose some kind of deal.

    Is there any chance that there is a history of offers/solicitations between the two companies, and that TiVo filed the suit because of being rebuffed?

    (Disclaimer for the attorneys: This is just wild speculation based on the "sniff test". As in, this suit just seems to be a bit too much from the clear blue sky...)

    • Does anybody know if there is any kind history between the two companies?
      Other than the fact that Echostar's only competitor (DirectTV) just happens to provide Tivo service and equipment as part of their offering?
  • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:31PM (#7898027)
    TiVo CEO Mike Ramsay adds: 'Our aim here is not to litigate everybody ... but to further advance and seek commercial relationships so that people recognize the value of our intellectual property, and give us fair compensation.'"

    Exectuive -> Human translation:
    'Our aim here is not to litigate everybody, just the people who don't pay us liscencing fees'
  • by spektr (466069) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:33PM (#7898045)
    If I were up to infringe a time warp patent, I would create prior art in the past.
  • it could make Tivo a target for buyout by large copyright holders. If you can't outlaw digital time-shifting, owning a patent on it is the next best thing.
  • surely, the patent is on the idea.

    how many times, before TiVO even existed have we all dreamed about fast forwarding through those darn commercials? they just made it a reality. no patent should exist for that, really... common sense proves prior art.
  • Basically, they've received a patent for the hard drive. Hard drives have always been able to read and write at the same time. In a Tivo (or any other device like it) the video is converted to DATA and stored on an IDE hard drive. Data is data. Period. To have granted this patent in the first place is ridiculous. All this is is a data recorder (read:computer) that has video inputs and outputs.
  • ReplayTV (Score:3, Informative)

    by crt (44106) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:45PM (#7898160)
    For those wondering if they are going to go after ReplayTV next - they already did a few years ago. However, ReplayTV (SonicBlue at the time) owned a few patents on PVR as well and counter-sued. They decided to dismiss claims rather than sue both companies into oblivion.

    See here [com.com]

  • interesting. . . (Score:3, Informative)

    by jafac (1449) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:29PM (#7898536) Homepage
    I'm a longtime Dish customer. Yes, I suffered through the long HELL that was the DishPlayer.

    Incidentally, my DishPlayer is still in service, and since they fixed the software bugs, it's actually quite reliable. My only complaints, really, are sometimes poor menu response time, and the fact that it's a rather noisy box. I'm sure some extra storage capacity would be nice, but the thing's like 4 years old.

    Anyway, EchoStar bought the DishPlayer (their first PVR) technology from Microsoft. (who had, in turn, bought it from another company, as a vehicle for getting WebTV subscribers hooked on MSN - guess what? didn't work! almost zero DishPlayer subscribers I know online actually subscribe to WebTV).

    The DishPlayer itself is a rather nice, and simple interface. It doesn't really do much. But what it does is simple to use. It's "OS" is BSD unix. But the client software had some really really nasty bugs a few years back. I was talking with a lawyer who was seriously considering a class action against Dish. But they backed down after Dish finally fixed the problems. Dish actually sued Microsoft and got a settlement from them for their crappy buggy-ass WebTV client software, which was killing the PVR software during schedule downloads.

    So I'm wondering if they're suing EchoStar for the implementation in DishPlayer, or the implementation in the later 501 or 721 boxes - whose software was written by EchoStar, and not based on the original DishPlayer stuff.
  • by Mal Reynolds (676267) <Michael_stev80@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:41PM (#7899116)
    Tivo and Replay TV own a majority of the patents covering this technology, so it's not at all surprising they are attempting to receive their due licensing fees.
    Tivo and Replay TV have a patent sharing agreement among themselves, but it does not carry over to other manufacturers. Between them they own enough patents to have virtual control over the technology.
    The reason I suspect they're moving now is because many of the big cable and satellite companies have built PVR functionality to their set top boxes. The nationwide releases of such products from Comcast and Echostar has already started. If it goes well, as I suspect it will, the rest of the cable world will not be far behind.
    If Tivo and Replay were to allow their technology to be "rented away" in cable company set top boxes, it would likely put Tivo and Replay out of business.
    I expect Replay and Tivo will both try to receive license payments from any cable companies rolling out cable-box PVR's. As well they should, they each have a very full patent portfolio covering the technology.
    Bottom line, why in the world should the big cable and satellite companies get a free ride, and not have to pay for technology they didn't even develop?
    Because no matter what happens in regards to licensing, the cable co's are going to make one heck of a lot of money renting these set-top PVR's. So why shouldn't the legitimate patent holders, Replay and Tivo, at least receive some licensing fees for having developed the technology in the first place? That's what patents are all about after all.
  • by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:49PM (#7899180) Homepage
    First, I want to say that I am completely objected to frivolous lawsuits. (The SCO Lawsuit is frivolous - they have no right to charge users to run linux before they have won in court)

    Now that I've made that clear, I want to say that I completely support TiVo in this decision. The Dish Network PVRs are complete rip-offs of TiVo, right down to the design of their remote (they even took Tivo's trademark yellow pause button!). Dish Network is clearly and obviously trying to cut in on TiVo's business, and has been recently offering free PVRs to new subscribers. TiVo has every reason to be worried that their designs are being stolen. They rightfully own the patent, and the Dish PVR is a direct rip-off on TiVo; I believe that this is a fair use of the American patent system.

    That being said, I can't say much in favor of Echostar. They have been known for their cutthroat business practices (most of which do very little to benefit the company itself), and the entire company is disorganized. Just look at forums around the 'net. You will find hordes of people who all hate echostar. I should know. I subscribe to their service. Over the past year, the quality of video streamed to my house has gotten poorer and poorer as they decrease the mpeg bitrate (on some channels, pixelation is VERY obvious). Fortunately for me, I've had very few other problems with the service, and haven't had to deal much with the company... so I see no reason to switch to DirecTV. But if the opportunity presents itself, I might switch.

    This isn't the first time Echostar has been in legal trouble. They seem to have a bad history of lawsuits, patent-infringments, and tons of FCC violations. Hell... their CEO is also a professional gambler.

    I may as well add here that I've used the Dish PVR. It does highly resemble TiVo, but lacks its ease of use.

    I also own a panasonic time-slip DVD recorder, and I can safely say that it is quite different than Tivo's time-warp feature. It comes much closer to resembling a fancy VCR than a PVR.

    Prior art probably won't be an issue. Sure, most of the geeks claim it was possible back in '96, but in all practicality, it wasn't possible with consumer-grade hardware. A Pentium-100 simply lacked the power to record and play NTSC resolution video simultaneously... not to mention that you'd fill up that 2gb hard drive very very quickly. The only thing I can think of that would allow such a "Time-Warp" would be the Amiga video Toaster; those date way back farther than '96.

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