Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Microsoft

Microsoft Pockets Patent for Encouraging TV Viewing 266

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the you-know-you-want-to dept.
theodp writes "Through its WebTV unit, Microsoft was awarded a patent Tuesday for a system and method for encouraging viewers to watch television programs, such as offering viewers frequent-flier miles for identifying the name of a sponsor or the color of an announcer's shirt. In other news, Microsoft took a District Court to task for failing to recognize the existence of prior art for the Eolas web plug-in patent, resulting in a $521 million judgment against the software giant."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Pockets Patent for Encouraging TV Viewing

Comments Filter:
  • Incentives?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SIGALRM (784769) * on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:04PM (#9773960) Journal
    methods and apparatus for encouraging viewers to pay attention to television programs, commercials in particular, by offering viewers some incentive to watch
    The best incentive would be decent programming.

    One more reality show like "Wife Swapping" [eonline.com] and I'm going to kill my TV...
    • Re:Incentives?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by geminidomino (614729) * on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:07PM (#9773981) Journal
      One more reality show like "Wife Swapping" and I'm going to kill my TV..

      Wasn't that originally done by Dave Chapelle as a SPOOF on reality TV? Ugh...

      But don't kill your tv. Just cut your cable. If you kill your tv you lose your video games!
      • by shadowbearer (554144) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:13PM (#9774029) Homepage Journal
        But don't kill your tv.

        Letting your tv die of terminal loneliness is much better. :)

        SB
      • But don't kill your tv. Just cut your cable

        I think the moral of the story here is 'Don't lose your TV, loose it!'

        Yes, this is a dig at people who can't tell the difference between the two (worryingly many).
      • Re:Incentives?? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Lord Kano (13027)
        Wasn't that originally done by Dave Chapelle as a SPOOF on reality TV? Ugh...

        Sort of. Dave did a skit about a show called "Trading Spouses" and now Fox has created an actual show with the . [fox.com]

        I hope Dave Chappelle is getting some money out of it.

        LK
        • Actually CBS (or ABC, I can't remember) created the show calling it the Swap. Fox heard about it and rushed to put the identical show out a few weeks before.
        • >I hope Dave Chappelle is getting some money out of it.

          Well, if you watch the show....

          Like paul moody said, if you're black, don't get popular, or the white man will come take your show :)

      • Re:Incentives?? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Blakey Rat (99501)
        http://www.livejournal.com/users/thesparque/21116 . html

        Chapelle's Law of Reality Television
        Chapelle's Law of Reality Television is as follows:

        If a person brings up as a joke any idea for a reality television show, it will be adopted and aired within approximately one year's time.

        Evidence: During the first season of Chapelle's Show on Comedy Central, a skit aired in which Chapelle parodies the popular television show "Trading Spaces" with a show called "Trading Spouses." Coming this summer on the Fox N
        • Well, if they ever made a reality tv show like the Real World skit they did on the Chapelle Show, thats one bit of reality tv I'd be willing to put up with.

      • One more reality show like "Wife Swapping" and I'm going to kill my TV..

        Wasn't that originally done by Dave Chapelle as a SPOOF on reality TV? Ugh...

        Monty Python did it first [ibras.dk].

        Schwab

      • Yes. Your video game controller goes into your TV. The cable is supposed to go into the cable modem. Get it right. :)
    • So you have Wife Swap now?

      Can't you guys come up with your own programme ideas instead of constantly using ours? :-P
      • because no american show has ever aired there, huh? and you make all your own movies too, no hollywood drivel in your neck of the woods.
    • I know I've seen this done before, although not as often on TV as radio. But I do remember the local FOX affiliate at one time having a call-in contest which required a clue that was given during a particular program.

      It isn't much different than some radio contests. IE "Be the n-th caller when you hear the song SomeSongThatIsOnlyPlayedOnceToday between the hours a X and Y" That encourages people to listen to the radio all between X and Y hours.
      • CHannel 13 (UPN) San Diego has something called a couch potato code. Go to their website, enter the code, you get some sort of points.
    • Trading Spouses [realitytvworld.com], a which is a FOX ripoff of Wife Swapping. The mind boggles that someone would want to do that, but then again the entire reality TV phenomenon (which, if you notice, is getting further and further away from "reality"). But that should count as your reality show.
      • the entire reality TV phenomenon (which, if you notice, is getting further and further away from "reality")

        Were there ever any shows that really were based on "reality"? Even Survivor, which is sometimes interesting because of the shifting alliances, is done in a completely contrived situation, and the end product is heavily edited. Those shows should really be called unreality TV. When I first heard the term "reality TV", my comment was, "Why would I ever want to watch a TV show about my everyday lif

    • Geez IMPROVE THE GODDAMN PROGRAMMS. You know something funny? One of the longer running programs on the bbc and copied to dutch tv is "Have I got news for you" a program that has 1 host (now rotating on the bbc with celebs after the original hosts had a scandal) and two two man teams with a regular on each time and a celeb as guest. The hosts asks topical news questions and the teams answer either with the right answer or a funny one or often both.

      It sounds like it would never appeal to the mainstream (it

    • One more reality show like "Wife Swapping" and I'm going to kill my TV

      In Soviet Russia you don't kill your TV... your TV kills you!

    • The best incentive would be decent programming.

      Lord knows you wouldn't have to worry about prior art :)
  • to watch TV???? Or is watching subscriber based?
  • Tits and ass have been encouraging viewing for years.
    • Hence Baywatch
    • Re:Prior art? (Score:2, Informative)

      by platypibri (762478)
      Tech TV's(R.I.P.) Digital Dig contest has people watch for codes and then enter them on the web.I'm sure a dozen more will pop up in the thread. Looks like they got their head up a small narrow space at the patent office.
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tsali (594389) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:06PM (#9773974)
    We actually need to encourage people to sit around and watch television? Come on....

    Sedentary life is its own reward.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Funny)

      by zurab (188064)
      We actually need to encourage people to sit around and watch television? Come on....

      I was wondering myself: Microsoft patents IE pop-ups on TV - does this count as "progress of science" or "useful arts?" Can someone patent a pop-up blocker for TV too? Ohhh, wait a minute, I'll be back...
  • Come on (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pvt_medic (715692)
    ITs getting to a point that Microsoft is going to have a patent on everything. THis isnt a groundbreaking idea or concept, there needs to be reforms in how patents are given out. What next we going to see someone patent the idea of having an input device onto a computer?
  • We don't need no stinking incentives!

    ----
    Average Bored Teenager
  • by Izago909 (637084) <tauisgod.gmail@com> on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:09PM (#9774000)
    They are trying to play both sides of the field. To me, Microsoft is like watching the homeless guy down the street have an argument with himself. Very entertaining, but it's advisable to keep your distance.
    • Plus, they get free advertising on slashdot every time they do it.

      What a great deal!
  • The good old days (Score:5, Insightful)

    by filtur (724994) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:10PM (#9774019) Homepage
    I remember when good tv shows used to be the incentive to watch tv.
    • by DeepHurtn! (773713)
      When was TV anything else besides a barren wasteland of corporate-enforced mediocrity?
      • by nyrk (779328)
        When PBS used to show real science shows NOVA, etc.
      • When Star Trek:TOS was still going.

        It's been a long, long time since Roddenberry tweaked the public mores...

        SB
      • When was TV anything else besides a barren wasteland of corporate-enforced mediocrity?

        There was a show called The Prisoner a long time ago. It was British in origin but became very popular in the US. I couldn't do it justice by trying to explain it, but it was definitely different. The fact that I can still remember it raises it above mediocrity. :)

      • by gidds (56397)
        It still is. [bbc.co.uk] Depending where you live, of course...
  • Secret Message: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bingo Foo (179380) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:12PM (#9774024)
    Lameness filter, here I come:

    B-E S-U-R-E T-O D-R-I-N-K Y-O-U-R O-V-A-L-T-I-N-E

    (please tell me someone get the reference.)

    Come on, this kind of encouragement has been going on for DECADES.

    • by kfg (145172) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:20PM (#9774088)
      Yes, it does indeed seem that MS has been granted a patent on the Captain Midnight secret decoder ring.

      KFG
    • by ip_fired (730445) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:22PM (#9774105) Homepage
      I'm not sure where you might have seen that, but it was in my Discrete Math book in the section about RSA encryption. :)
    • You'll shoot your eye out, kid! A Christmas Story :) [imdb.com]
    • Re:Secret Message: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:29PM (#9774169)
      Come on, this kind of encouragement has been going on for DECADES.

      RTFP. No, just skimming the Abstract isn't sufficient.

      The patent describes a fairly specific method of encouraging and measuring a viewer's attention to detail. It's not nearly as insidious as the impression one might get from reading nothing but a one-sentence summary of the patent.

      This happens with every story about patents on Slashdor. Half the posts are "surely product X constitutes prior art, it's different in concept and implementation but a ten-word summary of it would be mostly the same", and the other half are jokes about patenting the practice of filing junk patents. And both halves are certain they have the answer for reforming the Patent OFfice, which is obviously broken and needs to be replaced because some guy on a web message board, with no formal experience in patent law, doesn't understand it.

      I give up. I'm heading over to my Preferences page to filter out whatever category patent stories end up in.
      • Re:Secret Message: (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WNight (23683) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:50PM (#9774319) Homepage
        And inevitably, some schmuck comes along and points out a fairly trivial point that invalidates someone's joke of "Foo, but ... ON A COMPUTER", makes an anti-anti-patent rant, as if the system must not be broken just because if you look through all seventeen pages of lawyerese there's a single new idea.

        I hope you aren't gunning for an 'insightful' mod.

        It doesn't take a patent lawyer to judge the worthiness of the system. (There's a perfect example of attempting to put a fox in charge of the henhouse.) It only takes someone who can see that the patent office sees nothing wrong with the single-click patent (or any patent on a result for that matter) or with RAMBUS's submarine tactics. Both of these are obvious innovation stifling patents, yet the PTO's comment is that it's not their job to validate patents... !?!

        So, because they've got some budget trouble, they issue government-mandated monopolies to people on whole areas of technology, making it the responsibility of everyone else to police the system. That's like me saying I can't afford to do my job and charging you, at random, for the results of fixing my lack of work.

        But yeah, I don't have a degree in patent law so obviously I can't see how patents are getting broader and broader, until they barely mention any specific technology, and are being used to blackmail whole industries.
        • It doesn't take a patent lawyer to judge the worthiness of the system.
          You're right, it doesn't. It does, however, take somebody who knows more about patents than what they read in Slashdot comments.
        • > they issue government-mandated monopolies to
          > people on whole areas of technology, making it the
          > responsibility of everyone else to police the
          > system

          It's a lot worse than that.

          Consider that the stupid US government is coercing other stupid governments around the world, including my own, into adopting US laws covering intellectual property. The result is that the US patent office is essentially being given powers applicable to much of Europe and elsewhere.

          In fact, granting ridiculous pate
      • Re:Secret Message: (Score:3, Informative)

        by 0x0d0a (568518)
        RTFP. No, just skimming the Abstract isn't sufficient.

        The patent describes a fairly specific method of encouraging and measuring a viewer's attention to detail. It's not nearly as insidious as the impression one might get from reading nothing but a one-sentence summary of the patent.


        I suggest *you* RTFP. I was all set to fire off a "you need to read the *claims*, not the *abstract* to determine what a patent covers post, but then I read the claims. It really is a ridiculous patent.

        You are correct that
      • I give up. I'm heading over to my Preferences page to filter out whatever category patent stories end up in.

        Incredible. The voice of logic final finds its way on to slashdot. Best grab your umbrella's for that rain of frogs soon to follow.
    • Re:Secret Message: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AaronGTurner (731883)
      Christmas Story - the code found using the decoder pen!
  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:16PM (#9774057) Homepage Journal

    From the bedroom Iran's voice came. "I can't stand TV before breakfast."

    "Dial 888," Rick said as the set warmed. "The desire to watch TV, no matter what's on it."

    "I don't feel like dialing anything at all now," Iran said.

    "Then dial 3," he said.

    "I can't dial a setting that stimulates my cerebral cortex into wanting to dial! If I don't want to dial, I don't want to dial that most of all, because then I will want to dial, and wanting to dial is right now the most alien drive I can imagine; I just want to sit here on the bed and stare at the floor."

    Her voice had become sharp with overtones of bleakness as her soul congealed and she ceased to move, as the instinctive, omnipresent film of great weight, of an almost absolute inertia, settled over her."

    Philip K. Dick - Do androids dream of electric sheep ?
  • doesn't mass media do this with programs to encourage vewing? it would be interesting to find out how well they would be willing to pay microsoft a royalty for having a contest to watch a certain program for the hidden clue and then call the 900 number with the answer to the secret question. The 99th caler will wind a bycicle. I remeber stuff like this from way back in the 70's (due to my age) I also remeber getting forms and having to fill with stuff like this in order to enter a contest through the ma
  • Local News... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by changa (197280) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:22PM (#9774107) Homepage
    I thought local shows have been doing this for years with contests?

    "Just write down the the name of the visitor in today's show and send a postcard to Win a CAR P.O. blah blah..."

    I seem to remember these as far back as the 80's.

    That and local news pulling similar tricks to get you to watch.
  • Saturday Morning TV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alaren (682568) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:23PM (#9774119)

    I thought maybe this was another of those, "no, what Microsoft patented sounds obvious but really it's different..." But I followed the link and sure enough:

    "For example, viewers who watch the commercial may be entered in a prize drawing..."

    Apparently no one at the Patent Office ever watched Saturday Morning Cartoons. In the eighties particularly, but even today...

    "Be sure to watch all morning long for the FoxBox secret codes! Collect them all and win a prize!"

    I don't even see this as a borderline case. Saturday morning cartoons have had prior art on this patent since the seventies at least. The people at the patent office aren't just asleep at the wheel. They're dead, buried, and blindfolded in hell.

    • To the patent office, the only prior art is prior patents. They do not look at anything else. Therefore, your example of 1970 TV cartoon competitions is not a concern to them, since it wasn't patented...
      • ...is that noone has been stupid enough to even try and patent much of what might be seen as prior art- mostly because it's so damned obvious, and patenting it would involve taking ownership of something completely devoid of anything even remotely innovative. Back when poeple actually had both common sense, and a sense of appreciation for real accomplishment, they'd have been embarrassed to submit some of the patents we're seeing today.
  • Isn't that supposed to be a British thing???

    Rich.

  • Up next... (Score:2, Funny)

    by ender1598 (266355)
    Patents encouraging people to:

    Surf the internet
    Go to school
    Raise children
    Listen to the radio
    and to leave the toilet seat down when finished!
  • No time to watch TV. Must configure Linux box! Must configure Linux box!! Must configure Linux box!!!
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:30PM (#9774179)
    Let me make a suggestion to everyone out there in Slashdotland who uses a Microsoft product in any way.

    Whether you love or hate Windows, whenever you read an article like this about more Microsoft stupidity, rather than venting your anger on your monitor or even on Slashdot, turn it into something positive & deny Microsoft just a little bit of the power they have over you.

    No, I'm not talking about fdisk-ing your hard drive and diving manically for the nearest Linux distro - instead, have a scout round all your Windows applications and spend an hour or two downloading and playing with an Open Source or free equivalent application, just to see what that little bit of your life will be without Microsoft.

    Take something simple, like the Notepad text editor. If you're feeling really brave, you could go try out Vim if you want to do vi-type editing in Windows, otherwise, go try Textpad++ for a more traditonal-style editor. (I won't put links here, just Google for them, you'll find them.) Spend a couple of hours just trying to wean yourself off that little piece of Microsoft dependency, you will feel better for it, believe me!

    Others you could try are Thunderbird for email, Ethereal for network sniffing, Firefox as a web browser, Filezilla as an FTP client, ExactAudioCopy (with Lameenc) for ripping MP3s... the list is endless.

    Just make sure you do something positive with your anger. It may well be that the day you ditch Windows is a long way off (perhaps never) but at least you'll feel a little more confident that if and when that day comes, you'll be just that one step closer to an easy transition.

    • Sorry, no can do, there's a restraining order that keeps me away from the Scouts.
  • Would call http://watchfarscape.com/ prior arts =P
  • Can I get frequent flyer miles if I trade in my TV? There's nothing good on, and I think it would be nice to go somewhere else.
  • ...giving CEOs (with far too much money and too little common sense) a good thump.

    My patent is free to use by all as long as I can hold them down while you do the thumping.

    The only exceptions are Gates, Ballmer, McBride & Fiorina where I get to poke them each in the eye once halfway during the thumping session.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:47PM (#9774300) Homepage Journal
    I know everyone is saying they are amassing patents in a defensive move.. but I cant see them passing up the opportunity to go on the offensive when they have large enough portfolio.

    Between that, and their bank account, they could pretty much eliminate everything that stands in their way.
    • Patents are like nuclear weapons. There are a few countries in the world already that can destroy the planet Earth as we know and love it. They don't do this. Why? Because they know it's a stupid thing to do, and other countries will retaliate.

      If they start enforcing software patents en masse, I bet the next day there will be five dozen Eolas-like companies who have patented something primitive and stupid. Not to mention IBM with their GIANT portfolio who may decide to give Microsoft a hard time, big time.
  • Microsoft is clearly gearing up for the coming patent war. Perhaps it is using SCO as a test pawn. MS's "trail blazing" engineers have proudly filed over 3000 patents [microsoft.com] last year. I bet you didn't know MS innovates over 10 times per day. Now that MS can't grow much more in the software space, it will use the litigation space to satisfy shareholders.
  • eIncentives!

    It's the e that makes it patentable.

  • If I had a patent on a guaranteed way to persuade Bill Gates to drop his drawers and let you fuck him up the ass with a pipe wrench, I'd be a millionaire.
  • Reading the abstract, it struck me as odd that this didn't seem to involve computers in any way. Computers are Microsoft's business, after all.

    You have to read way down to figure out that the part they're really patenting isn't the incentive system itself but the automated response gathering systems, over the web and over email.

    There are even some bits I'd I'd consider non-obvious, like localizing the prize by inserting the "there's a quiz coming up" signal further downstream.

    It's all got in mind the id
  • In 1998, I bought a WebTv for my Aunt, then in her 70s, Our Tv usage plummeted to almost zero. After a short time, I bought a PC, and my Aunt who is now 84, is still addicted to WebTv. I have a phone line just for her WebTv use. My Aunt is a true technophobe, but loves her IM and Chat Rooms, so the WebTv unit is perfect for her. She will sign up for anything and everything. She will open every piece of spam and click anything contained therein. WebTv protects her from a lot of unplesantness and allo
  • Whenever I use Windows for more than 10 minutes I would rather watch TV than continue using Windows.

    Of course MS Messenger, Media Player and Hotmail makes you want to watch TV because there are fewer ads on television.

  • Ever watch one of those take home defensive driving videos? They ask you questions like "what color shirt was blahblah wearing?" to encourage you to actually watch it. Prior art up the wazoo.
  • because they have many lawyers ... there may be prior art to encouraging tv viewing in the form of cereal prizes et.

    Laywers cause crime
  • by cgreuter (82182)

    This could be the end of television. Still, I shouldn't get prematurely excited about over this.

    There might be a downside.

  • before responding with the usual "Microsoft patents something that's been done before" responses, can I please encourage people to read the patent properly?

    Just FYI, but the abstract means (almost) nothing. Scroll down the page and read the text of claim 1. In order to infringe on this patent, somebody would have to do everything the relevant claim says, not just some of it.

    My reading says this is actually very specific, and certainly doesn't cover any generic method for "encouraging people to watch tv"

    • by dbk25 (565275)
      Very specific? Here's the end of the patent:

      "While the present invention has been described in connection with specific embodiments, variations of these embodiments will be apparent. [...] Therefore, the spirit and scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the foregoing description."

      Frankly, claim 1 doesn't seem particularly specific or limited to me.
  • RewardTV [rewardtv.com] has been doing exactly this since 2001. You get points for taking quizzes on the previous night's shows, but you get lots of bonus points for answering questions about certain commercials that ran during the show (to make sure you watched them) and for giving feedback on the commercials and the show.

    Once you have the points, as the Microsoft Patent suggests, you can use them at special auctions, to buy gift certificates to places like Amazon, and to enter contests.

    As far as I know, they aren't

  • What's next? McDonald's pays people to eat their food?
  • Prior Art Found (Score:3, Informative)

    This has been done, but what's more important for USPTO is that it's been done using a computer

    On digital TV in the UK, they're always asking viwers to 'press the red button' and be up for a chance to win 'something crap'.
    What's more competitions also run, like on Discovery Home & Leisure, where viewers watch the channel for an entire week and when they see a fish float across the screen then they press the red button to be up for a chance to win prizes.

    If this isn't exactly what the MS patent is going on about, I don't know what is.

"Bureaucracy is the enemy of innovation." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments

Working...