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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 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 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 thisisimpossible (240524) <ralphm.thescrub@net> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:32PM (#7898036)
    Actually Replay and Tivo made an agreement a couple of years ago as they both had key patents.
  • 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.
  • 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]

  • Re:Uh oh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by CrankyFool (680025) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:18PM (#7898451)
    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.
  • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Informative)

    by eyegor (148503) * on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:23PM (#7898485)
    explain how I can use one vcr to record one show while I watch a previously taped show?

    Or how I can pause live tv without having a tape running constantly 24/7?

    Or how I can decide after the fact to record a show after it's already started (assuming that I do it in the first half hour or so)?

    Or how I can keep one show for months on a tape while recording around it?

    or erasing shows from the middle of the tape while still being able to record shows in the unused spots?

    Hmmm??? I didn't think you could...
  • They already did... (Score:3, Informative)

    by balamw (552275) * on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:28PM (#7898519)

    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 criticisms that the DVR market is doomed.

    I would presume they probably got through discovery and realized it was a lose-lose battle and simply ended up cross-licensing each others' IP at the end of it.

    ob MS footnote: Note that the old Echostar PVRs werea ctually developed by Microsoft and precursors to what became UltimateTV. Wonder if they'll sue MS too? ;-)

    Balam
  • 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 servoled (174239) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:30PM (#7898540)
    It does not matter if TiVo was first to market or not if they filed their patent before who ever was first to market released their product. Was the DishPlayer out before April/July 1998? If not, it doesn't matter when it was released in relation to the TiVo boxes.
  • by ploppy (468469) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:35PM (#7898575)
    The problem with the linked news article is it is too vague to know what Tivo is claiming is infringed.

    The concepts of trick-play and time-shifting are arguably obvious, the non obvious thing is how to do it technically. The big question here is how vague are their patents? i.e. how many ways to implement it technically do they think their patents encompass. This, of course, affects whether all DVRs that do trick-play etc. are reckoned to infringe or only DVRs which follow the same techniques.

    Now any one doing this has three technical challenges: how to lay the data out on disk to ensure correct replay/storage (remember video and audio are real-time and therefore data has to arrive in a guaranteed time); how to encode the individual streams; and how to construct indexes into the individual data that point to data that can be discretely played whilst in trick mode.

    Now there are a lot of papers around from the early 90s (I did some of this research) that tackle the design of filesystems to guarantee timely retrieval. A lot of this pre-dates Tivo.

    The encoding of the data on disk affects ability to do playback in reverse. If each video frame was encoded separately (intra-coding), then reverse play is easy. The problem comes with inter-coding techniques like MPEG, which encodes frames based on previous frames, which means the data can only be played back forwards. Here, reverse play can only be done on the separate encoded frames (so-called I frames in MPEG, which typically occur 4 times per second). There are many possible ways of locating these I frames, pre-built indexes or dynamic scanning of the stream are two examples.

    There are many ways of doing trick-play and time shifting; to re-iterate, the important question is how vague are their patents, and what do they think is infringing.

  • by kindbud (90044) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:49PM (#7898659) Homepage
    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're wrong, again.

    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 ...

    TiVo is claiming that Echostar is violating TiVo's patent because Echostar copied their technique, or method as patent-speak calls it. Again, you're flaming away at a strawman.

    ... 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.

    You are using "us" rather loosely, since this is a US company suing a US company over alleged infrigement of a US patent. And now you're in a huff over this ranting about boycotting a product you already decided not to buy, that isn't even offered in your country anymore. Wow, what a crusader for patent reform and free market innovation you are. Where's my rolling eyes smiley when I need it?

  • Re:Uh oh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:00PM (#7898730)

    Looking at the patent in question [uspto.gov], at least 90% of it is quite obvious, even if the execution is difficult to program. The fact that it's difficult to program does not make it non-obvious though. They, of course, list out every minute step, as the patent process requires them to do, but all this does is obfuscate what the system actually does. Quite simply, it converts the incoming video stream (which could be in any of several formats) into an MPEG file on a hard drive. That file can be manipulated by the user through their interface (play, pause, rewind, FFW, etc.). So, while their system is nifty, the patent is, at the very least, very overbroad. While there may be some part of it that is deserving of a patent, the patent is very bad as it stands right now.

  • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Informative)

    by curious.corn (167387) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:07PM (#7898777)
    Ehm... a dual decker VCR? A looping tape? Sorry man, these are trivial ideas that were never implemented before purely for a cost reason, that's it. Noone would ever buy an analog tivo in the '80 because of it's expense or poor visual quality but now that HD storage is dirt cheap it's economically viable to do so. Tivo hasn't done anything new, they just put an old idea to practice because the tech that made it viable arrived.
  • Since the method in TiVo's patent specifically says hard disk, I doubt it.

    A DVD is hard, unless it's a flexDVD [flexstorm.com].

    Does TiVo have a UK patent?

    Espacenet.com shows existence of several European Patents owned by TiVo Inc.

  • Re:In other news... (Score:2, Informative)

    by TGK (262438) <Killfile@Nepha[ ]s.Com ['ndu' in gap]> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:30PM (#7899021) Homepage Journal
    Of course, given that DirecTV (EchoStar's major competition in the DBS market) has a relationship with TiVo, this raises some other interesting questions as well.

    I don't think TiVo has a leg to stand on here. The fact of the matter is that there are dozens of instances of TiVos technology in other mediums (though not in the same box). There are also hundreds of other system out there that do the same thing. It might be worth noting that EchoStar isn't the only (invalid) patent infringer, nor have they been for some time.

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