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Microsoft Patents

Microsoft Sues TiVo 112

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i've-got-patent-pending dept.
doperative notes that "TiVo [is accused] of infringing four patents. Microsoft is asking that TiVo be barred from importing the digital-video recorders, which are primarily made in Mexico and sold in the U.S... The four patents in the ITC case relate to program schedules and selection, controlling the interface, and a way to restrict use of the DVR based on the program’s rating."
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Microsoft Sues TiVo

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:09AM (#34994174) Journal
    "Sue" isn't the best choice of words here. It was an ITC Complaint [scribd.com] that Microsoft hopes will result in the banning of TiVo imports from Mexico that allegedly infringe on Microsoft's patents. The patents are 5,585,838 [uspto.gov], 5,731,844 [uspto.gov], 6,028,604 [uspto.gov], and 5,758,258 [uspto.gov]. You can find confirmation from Microsoft's mouth here [winrumors.com].
    • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:32AM (#34994442)

      You can find confirmation from Microsoft's mouth here [winrumors.com].

      And in the winrumors link you supplied, it says that MS took this route ".. days after Tivo brought a lawsuit against close Microsoft partner, AT&T". Surprise!

      • by sortadan (786274) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @03:21PM (#34998138)
        as a long time tivo customer, i feel comfortable saying go microsoft!

        tivo cares nothing for it's users, and the sooner they go out of business the better.

        once upon a time they had a great product, and they made it terrible by forcing annoying advertisements in all their menus, as soon as you pause anything, over live tv when a product is featured, and they don't provide digital over the air programming info for non-cable subscribers. 100% of customer contact goes through a call center which is powerless to perform all but the most basic tasks.

        /rant

        • by imag0 (605684)

          once upon a time they had a great product, and they made it terrible by forcing annoying advertisements in all their menus, as soon as you pause anything, over live tv when a product is featured, and they don't provide digital over the air programming info for non-cable subscribers. 100% of customer contact goes through a call center which is powerless to perform all but the most basic tasks.

          /rant

          that's odd. I've never seen an advertisement whenever pausing live TV, or when pausing recorded shows. Yes, there's a 'more about $foo_show' item that pops up, but I clicked on it exactly once years ago and never noticed it again.

          I'm unsure about the OTA programming thing, but since the device is basically geared to be a 'cable box replacement'. It has a niche and it's a good one.

          All the times I've called the TiVO call center (it was in Canada, I believe) the techs were quick, gave good answers to my questi

        • by mldi (1598123)
          Yes, because less competition always results in better products for the consumer at lower costs.
        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          I definitely don't *like* the ads when you pause something. (BTW, it is a minor TEXT ad, and it is NOT what is selected.. you must explicitly MOVE UP and select it.)

          However, you're ABSOLUTELY WRONG about "they don't provide digital over the air programming info for non-cable subscribers". You can use a Tivo with plain OTA. That works 100%. No cable whatsoever. (You *might* be talking about "clear QAM" channels. Those are NOT 'over the air' stations, they're on your cable, so you must obviously be a cab

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        And in the winrumors link you supplied, it says that MS took this route ".. days after Tivo brought a lawsuit against close Microsoft partner, AT&T". Surprise!

        How is that a surprise? The reason AT&T are being sued by Tivo is because of microsoft's software, given the way these sort of patent suits usually play out i'd say this is the exact opposite of a surprise, this is exactly what you would expect to happen. Tivo sues AT&T over a patent issue with MS' software platform, so MS counters that Tivo infringes on patents in the same kind of software and the end result will be the most unsurprising one, a cross-licensing agreement.

    • by LO0G (606364) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:33AM (#34994460)

      TFS leaves out one critical point in TFA. This complaint is in reaction to TiVo suing AT&T (and Microsoft since the software in question was written by Microsoft (MediaRoom)).

      This isn't as simple as "big bad Microsoft is suing poor little TiVo". According to TFA, this is just another volley in a protracted lawsuit.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        It leaves out a couple of points, anoher important one is that they're in discussion for a cross-licensing agrement.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        yes, and they're taking the ITC loophole, which is only used whenever someone is going for damage (but not to actually prove anything in court)

    • It's simple to understand if you try. Nobody can complain of or sue Microsoft effectively. Microsoft can use the law to bust someone's balls for something. End of legal theory.
      • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @12:39PM (#34995536)

        Nobody can complain of or sue Microsoft effectively. Microsoft can use the law to bust someone's balls for something.

        What about Eolas (don't want to link to a patent troll), which sued Microsoft for auto-activated controls in a web browser and won half a billion dollars? Or i4i which sued them for being able to edit custom XML tags in Office 2007 and won $290 million? Oh, and Sun sued them over Java and won, although that resulted in Java not being installed by default on the dominant platform which I always thought was a terrible outcome for Sun.

        I am sure that there are plenty of other examples, but those are the ones that jumped to mind. Most lawsuits end in private settlements so we never know the final figure.

        • by h00manist (800926)
          Ok, you win, let's sue them.
        • by peragrin (659227)

          Eolas was a patent troll. in that case I very much wanted MSFT to win simply to kill off a patent troll.

          What is needed is a method of killing patent trolls from being able to sue. Like you have to have a shipping product in 3-5 years from the date the patent was granted or else the patent is invalid.

          • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:46PM (#34996738)

            No, MS winning against Eolas wouldn't have helped anything or changed the situation. If someone has to be a patent troll, I'm happy to see them go after Microsoft and other big monopolists and take away some of their cash. I haven't seen Eolas suing anyone else, such as Opera or Mozilla, so I don't feel to badly about them.

            What I would have liked to see in that situation was MS do something useful with their power, and pressure government to fix the patent laws so that they silliness with software patents is stopped. But they didn't do that; they'd rather pay $500M so they can keep using their software patents as offensive weapons against smaller competitors.

          • What is needed is a method of killing patent trolls from being able to sue. Like you have to have a shipping product in 3-5 years from the date the patent was granted or else the patent is invalid.

            Certainly for a trivial little idea like the one that Eolas came up with, then I whole heartedly agree. But I am not so sure when it comes to a field like medicine that is exceedingly complicated and yet incredibly expensive to develop to a final product. For example, a company or university might come up with a method of getting a chemical to a part of the body to which it is difficult or dangerous to administer medicine in a conventional way. It might be a revolutionary technique that may one day lead to

            • by peragrin (659227)

              Software isn't real though. Once you make it once you can duplicate it an infinite amount of times. drugs, physical objects all deserve patents.

              Software, methods, etc shouldn't be patentable to begin with. someone has a patent on manually collating files by laying them on a table and walking around that table taking one sheet each time.

              Is that really a patent worthy item? is there a difference between that and eolas's patent on plugins? Not really. software is already abstract and is always built on p

      • Nobody
        Nobody except an orginisation specifically specialising in suing. By specialising in suing and not making (or even licening the making of) anything you make it extremely difficult to countersue.

    • We need a law to be able to sue large monopolies for damages when incurring undue wasted time, costs and labor as a direct result from from intentionally-designed features to lock users into their products. Software companies must make a "reasonable" effort to make data formats documented, understandable and compatible. "Reasonable", of course, is at least somewhat compatible with the size and resources of the company, the market, and the budgets for the products. It is understood that the company owns t
      • Do you know what is ON the scales of justice now? Piles of cash.

        That's why we are so screwed. The honest little man (or corporation) can't be heard over the piles of cash being dropped from the ceiling.

    • They are suing Tivo [reuters.com] in Seattle as well.
      From the article:

      SEATTLE, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) sued digital video recorder company TiVo Inc (TIVO.O) on Monday...

      The claims of patent infringement, made in federal court in Seattle...

      emphasis mine...

    • After reading the abstract on 5,585,838 you mention, I wonder how does this not apply to my Dish DVR system (or any other logical DVR system one might create for that matter).
      • I'm pretty sure Dish and DirecTV have settled with Tivo over this and are currently paying
        licensing fees to use these patents. It took a while but in the end they settled. I remember
        because while I was a Dish subscriber my DVR settings kept subtly changing and Dish's blanket
        reason for it was that they were working with Tivo to provide functionality that didn't
        infringe. Sorry for no link, I'm sure googling for Tivo & Dish Network will provide plenty of
        details.

    • Some of these patents are so lame they are beyond belief. A menu system is unique? The general feeling of a Tivo, I had one for about 8 years, reminds me of DOS apps. You know, using the arrow keys to move around. Is bringing the concept of paper menus to a computer really innovative? Instead of a cursor you use your eyes to navigate a menu and you make your selection verbally. It is obvious that a pointer and a selection button would be needed to take over the role of eyes and verbal commands. How else wou

    • by AlwaysTheQuietOne (1983204) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:08PM (#34996098)
      I've looked at those patents. They're not "inventions", they're requirements documents. If that is the criteria, I should patent everything I ever developed requirements for and coded.
      • by mldi (1598123)
        If you're willing to shell out several thousand dollars each patent, go for it! The current cost of patent is geared for A) people with serious inventions they're willing to invest in and possibly market, and B) megacorps bathing in cash. The price structure leaves these things a bit unbalanced in multiple ways. Are you willing to fight for your patent in court? Would you really sue Microsoft if you determined they violated your patent?

        In order to buy or fight a patent, you needs TONS of cash. End of sto
    • by bobs666 (146801) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:09PM (#34996118)
      These are not valid patents. They are just products Microsoft hopes to sell one day. So Microsoft is just abusing patent law to build the monopoly.

      When will this charade be put to an end. And since when did Microsoft own the rights to the function of the 'V' chip?

      Oh ya, when the patent was granted. Go figure.
      • by bloodhawk (813939)
        Quite the reverse, Tivo attacked Microsoft's customers and Microsoft with lawsuits for their software, these lawsuits are in retaliation to the bastard acts of Tivo, quite frankly Tivo deserve whatever they get hit with, live by the sword, die by the sword.
      • by meerling (1487879)
        And what multibillion dollar multinational company isn't abusing patent law (among others)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BuckaBooBob (635108)

      This should be tossed out by the judge before it even begins...

      Tivo has been selling boxes since 1999 and has been very public about it.. They are not some Overnight Success that just came out of nowhere.. If they have been infringing this lawsuit should have poped up years ago..

      If Tivo added new features that are Infringing then they should be order to roll back or roll out non infringing Firmware.

      If they are new granted Patents.. Tivo either has prior art or Tivo never researched enough..

      If the Software P

    • by jbengt (874751)
      Only skimmed through two of those patents, but damn the PTO, those gotta be some of the most obvious ideas in the world. Lining up channels in one axis, time on another, and displaying the TV show info in a "tile" at the intersection of time and channel number? I believe I've seen that layout in most TV guides since at least the 70s. The fact it highlights the "focus" position makes it patentable? I don't think so
      I have ATT Uverse, and MS did a lousy job in implementing their system compared to my old
    • How was Microsoft awarded any or all of them from mid to late 90s when they were already being done through Satellite TV boxes in the early 80s, maybe even late 70s?

    • ITC complaints don't work against products made in the USA. Outsourcing puts your business at risk of being shut down without even losing a real court case.

    • by ajs (35943)

      The patents are 5,585,838 [uspto.gov], 5,731,844 [uspto.gov], 6,028,604 [uspto.gov], and 5,758,258 [uspto.gov].

      Urg...

      Ok, so 5,585,838, "Program time guide" should be revoked, the patent officer that reviewed it fired and the lawyer who submitted it fined. Seriously, this patent is, in essence "TV Guide via software menus". Novel is not a word that can be used to describe that, period.

      5,731,844, "Television scheduling system for displaying a grid representing scheduled layout and selecting a programming parameter for display or recording," is a patent on the TiVo, pure and simple. It was granted about a year before t

      • Your logic seems good to me, but I cannot see how it being television, or any other networked media is any different from virtually any software system. Selecting spellcheck is not much different from selecting record. Having a menu handle something new is not innovation.

        Now, if MS can find a patent for an innovative system design that is only used for scheduling TV on a computer, then TIVO should worry. For example, a video filesystem or encoder, I could accept a patent for, if and only if that algorithm w

  • Usual bullshit... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Eggplant62 (120514)

    From the Redmond monopoly. Microsoft can't compete on the merits of their products so they use bully tactics. How typical.

    • Re:Usual bullshit... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by telemart73 (677670) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:34AM (#34994466)
      I respectfully disagree. Back in the day (2001?) I had a Microsoft UltimateTV for our satellite service. I felt the technology was considerably more sophisticated and easier to use than Tivo. IIRC, the user interface was much quicker and effective and it also had dual tuners. I believe MS stopped selling it less than a year after release for whatever reason. I kept using it as my preferred DVR until DirecTV released their HD DVR. Granted, these patents appear amazingly broad and I have personal issue with software patents like this, but saying MS cannot compete on merits is not true, at least in this case, IMHO.
      • by Richy_T (111409)

        Microsoft can compete on merits but they stopped selling it the year after release? Could the one be the disproof of the other perhaps?

        • by wjousts (1529427)
          They stop selling it but they are abusing a monopoly (the GGP troll's "point"). Could the one be the disproof of the other perhaps?
        • I thought of that as I was writing but gave up attempting to write out that cognitive dissonance... I still argue that the product had better merits than Tivo did at the time and that the merit did not lead to sales. Just like the Betamax/VHS argument where one was better but did not win. Good point on your part, though.
        • Microsoft can compete on merits but they stopped selling it the year after release? Could the one be the disproof of the other perhaps?

          Perhaps, but not necessarily. The product could be better than any competitor's, but the marketing department decided to pull the plug for whatever reason. Recent history is full of examples of superior technology being defeated by superior marketing.

      • by scorp1us (235526)

        Yeah well I had a ReplayTV which was founded 2 years before TiVo.

        ReplayTV's interface was way better than TiVo's

        • by blazerw (47739)

          ...ReplayTV which was founded 2 years before TiVo.

          Wikipedia says ReplayTV was founded in 1997, the device was announced in January 1999 at CES and began selling in April.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReplayTV
          Tivo was founded in 1997, began early trials to actual users in 1998, was also at CES in 1999 and began selling in March.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TiVo

          Luckily your opinion of the interface does not require facts.

      • by Is0m0rph (819726)
        I'd agree I was still using my old Ultimate TV boxes just a couple years ago. I always found them superior to other DVRs I had tried.
      • by jbengt (874751)
        YMMV, but today I have UVerse, which uses MS software. The user interface is a peice of crap, slow and cumbersome. It's not unusual to hit a menu selection and have nothing happen for several seconds, so you hit it again, only to have it flick on and off, as it finally catches up to your two clicks. Also, it lacks features my DirecTV interface had, e.g. the "previous" button has no effect when you're in the guide; the "back" button sometimes goes back to the last screen, sometimes kicks you out of the me
        • by Darinbob (1142669)
          This is the big reason I avoid U-Verse. I have this in my neighborhood now, but am wary despite having ATT for internet and mobile. So the U-Verse cultists came knocking at the door last night offering to show me salvation. We did manage to agree that Comcast was the devil. I wouldn't mind U-Verse for internet instead of DSL, if it was the same price, but it's never offered alone. So they suggested I could get U-Verse television without a contract and then cancel after a month but keep the other servic
      • by Nirvelli (851945)
        Engadget HD had an article not all that long ago comparing Windows Media Center to the newest TiVo, [engadget.com] and it is conveyed that Microsoft has actually had a very strong history on the software end of the DVR world.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Nope. It's Tivo that's the patent bully here. Although it's hard to imagine how Microsoft has any leverage on Tivo here. Microsoft is the late entrant here.

      Although with BS like being able to patent the enforcement of MPAA ratings, it's hard to tell what might happen.

      "select title from recordings where rating = :v_PG13 ;"

      Real "inventive" there...

      • by Cwix (1671282)

        Look up Microsoft UltimateTV. They had something on the market at around the same time Tivo came out. That doesnt make them the "late entrant"/

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          Yeah. "look it up".

          That's not exactly the most compelling demonstration that Microsoft was in the market in any meaningful way.

          One device tied to a single vendor that was released after the Tivo and quickly was discontinued.

          This is the kind of "inventor" that should not be able to hold the rest of the industry hostage. Tivo pulling this nonsense is bad enough.

          • Patents aren't invalidated if your product isn't the most popular on the market.

          • by tepples (727027)
            The Wikipedia article claims that Microsoft UltimateTV died in 2003 when DirecTV was trying to merge with Dish Network, which had its own DVR. There wasn't an UltimateTV box for cable, unlike TiVo.
  • Poor TiVo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by commodore6502 (1981532) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:12AM (#34994212)

    Always getting sued by someone.
    I wonder how Microsoft can claim the patent when Tivo was first with the DVR capability. Also: Why did microsoft wait almost 15 years to bring this complaint? Why the delay Borgified Bill.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They're probably working on a product themselves, and decided that rather than working to develop it, they'd rather force TiVo's bottom to drop out and pick them up for a nickel or 3.

    • I wonder how Microsoft can claim the patent when Tivo was first with the DVR capability.

      Because they filed for and, with the exception of one of the patents, received the patent years before TiVO was ever released?

      • by unity100 (970058)
        first to invent, not first to file. thats the rule.
        • by wjousts (1529427)
          IIRC, it depends on where you are. Rules vary by country. I think the US is first to invent, while most of the rest of the world is first to file. Of course, you have established that TiVo was first to invent either, only that they were first to market successfully.
    • by godefroi (52421)

      The patents aren't about DVR capability. Now you don't have to wonder anymore.

    • Perhaps a Borgified Balmer?

    • They didn't "wait" for anything; this is in response to Tivo suing ATT [cbsnews.com]
      over software Microsoft provides to ATT for their U-Verse product. I dislike software
      patents and am no fan of Microsoft but I can't say I have much sympathy for Tivo
      with regards to this matter either.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      They're not claiming a patent on the DVR itself.

      The four patents in the ITC case relate to program schedules and selection, controlling the interface, and a way to restrict use of the DVR based on the program's rating. Microsoft said the technology is used in its Mediaroom software that runs on competing set-top boxes including AT&T's U-Verse service.

      Also: Why did microsoft wait almost 15 years to bring this complaint?

      The ITC case opens a new front in a battle that began more than a year ago when Micr

  • rating? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:16AM (#34994274)

    >restrict use of the DVR based on the program’s rating.

    Isn't that what the rating was put there FOR? my god, how did they get a patent on that?!!?

    • No one else thought it made any sense to, so Microsoft wrote some nonsense, sent it into the patent office, and, what do you know, they managed to get a patent?
  • Funny... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:17AM (#34994288)

    Funny how three of the patents were granted just at the time the Tivo must have been in final development.

    • Re:Funny... (Score:4, Informative)

      by godefroi (52421) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:44AM (#34994638)

      Why's that funny? I don't see the connection. What would be more interesting is when the patents were FILED in relationship to the TiVo development.

      • by tgd (2822)

        Its funny because vanishingly few Slashdot readers have any idea how patents work or how to read and understand them.

        He didn't realize he's the one that is funny.

  • Reading this post [winrumors.com] and TFA, the chronology seems to be that Tivo sued first. If this is the case, then Microsoft is doing exactly what they should be doing, bitch-smacking Tivo on behalf of its customer, AT&T. This is how companies expect their vendors to cover their asses. Pay attention Google.

  • Is it only me or is Microsoft being a lot more agressive in litigation by suing a lot more and sponsoring people who sue competition. Not sure if it is a strategy shift since Bill Gates left or they just decided to attack competition in a more open way. Before, they would just change the protocols (like samba) so it was not backward compatible

    maybe I am seeing something when there isn't... who knows?

  • As a fellow Mexican /. reader, I am interested in any reference to the assertion that TiVos are made in Mexico.

    Does anyone has an article saying that?

  • ... is to give Apple some more reason to hesitate before entering the DVR market (by leveraging the AppleTV and possibly acquiring TiVo out-right). At this point, Apple's dominance in mobile computing and its ability to further extend its domination into Television programming puts a squeeze on Microsoft's ability to hold its ground.

    If I were wrong, Microsoft is simply wasting their time (or just being plain mean) filing a lawsuit against a company that has a single niche product and little, if any, risk e

    • Agree. Microsoft is in a good place to p0wn living room PC's b/c of the XBox. I bet what's going on here is they're (finally) getting serious about putting DVR in the XBox and TiVo (and its patents) are in the way.
  • As Microsoft's strategy of using patents against competition gains momentum, with attacks such as this against TiVo, it yet again highlights that Mono is a ticking time bomb that should be avoided.
  • Why a DVR isn't sold much here is a farce. I have an older sony HDD 250, a great OTA DVR which uses Rovi listings to work. This unit is obsolete by today's standards, but has an easy interface and program guide. Sony never made others here in the US, but has an extensive line elsewhere in the "noncompatible" world. Dish made a DVR for a while, but such an obivous technology is not easy to get. You can make a HTPC if you have some ability, but you can't buy a simple box at Best Buy. You can rent it from
    • by speedlaw (878924)
      This box has a TV Guide on screen, which IS a grid, and falls under the "patents" discussed. It was released in 2003 or so, and even has a rudimentary search. Sony, for all their faults, has supported this box even into the digital transition with updated software for a six year old gadget. There must be some agreements between Sony and TV Guide On Screen (now Rovi/Macrovision). My Dish box is about as smart, and about as easy to use. Tivo is the BMW to the Sony's Ford and Dish's Chevy, but I can't rea

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