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Life or Death for Tivo 284

Posted by Zonk
from the i-like-his-silly-feet dept.
CUShane writes "The Washington Post is running an article on the patent case between Tivo and EchoStar regarding Tivo's DVR technology. The article states that Tivo has a better than 70% chance of winning, while a loss would basically doom the company. Is there a possibility that the patent system is working right in this case?" From the article: "TiVo attorney Morgan Chu has been arguing in court that TiVo's inability to turn a profit, despite the popularity of its product, is partially because of EchoStar's infringing on its patent. TiVo co-founder Michael Ramsay testified that he showed EchoStar executives the TiVo product and pursued a licensing deal with them, but that a deal was never struck even though EchoStar began selling its own DVRs that used technology very similar to TiVo's."
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Life or Death for Tivo

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  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:50AM (#15059149)
    Nothing to see here... delete recording? (Y/N)

    /someone had to say it

  • by Josh teh Jenius (940261) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:53AM (#15059184) Homepage

    ...to learn that TiVo hadn't turned a profit yet? I was.

    Are there any other popular gadgets (besides blackberry) caught up in stuff like this?

    • by Serapth (643581) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:58AM (#15059243)
      No, im not at all shocked Tivo hasnt turned a profit. Actually its one of those companies that came out of the dot com boom, but somehow didnt die. It started with great technology and no viable business plan. However with billions in venture capital backing it, it followed the grow big quick strategy. Downside being, they were taking a pretty serious hit for each unit sold.

      So now that Tivo is an established brand they needed to retool there strategy from growth, to making money. Sadly sofar, they havent faired that well in the transition. Not to mention the number of competitors they have now they didnt (really) have then, Media Center, Myth TV, OnDemand Cable, etc...

      I wouldnt be suprised to hear that Tivo REALLY needs to win this lawsuit, just for the funds it could bring in. Which is a shame as tech wise, tivo is a nice product. Just as a business plan... I wouldnt have touched it with a ten foot pole. Had they gone the Sceintific Atlanta (sp?) route and been a direct hardware provider to the major providers I could see them being a much more viable company today. But they fought tooth and nail to keep their own branding instead of being rebadged as a providers product and that decision is coming to bite them in the ass.
    • Are there any other popular gadgets (besides blackberry) caught up in stuff like this?

      Satellite radio.

      Of course, they'll pry my Sirius tuner from my cold dead hands. Of course, if they're prying the tuner from my cold dead hands, then I'll have died in my car, and I don't want to think about why that would happen...
  • Is there a possibility that the patent system is working right in this case?

    Just because the system didn't crash on you a day doesn't mean it's not crashy. Hellooo Eolas patent? Blackberry?
    • I think the intent was "wow, did we really go a day without the system crashing?" rather than "well, that's a whole day with no crashing, so we're never going to see another crash"
    • Re:Not "right" (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bacon Bits (926911)
      The only problems I have with the patent system are:
      1) Software patents. In order for software patents to not grossly stiffle innovation, they need to have a maximum lifespan of 2 years. 100 years ago,
      2) Inappropriate patents. Only significantly innovative products should receive patents. Alternately, a "lesser" patent should exist for minor derivative changes with a 1-2 year duration.

      The USPTO is over 200 years old (first patent was in 1790). At that time, a 10 to 20 year monopoly on a novel invent

  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:54AM (#15059197) Homepage Journal


    I had the first Tivo of anyone I knew -- the day I first heard about it I picked one up. It was a great device for its time, but the recent Tivos I've experienced have no shown much improvement. It is my belief that patents stifle innovation, and they allow the patents holders to stick with the status quo longer than open competition would allow. There can be innovation without patents [dklevine.com] (PDF warning).

    For Tivo to say that their livelihood is in a delicate position because of this patent is ridiculous. If they had protected this patent and EchoStar was never able to compete, all it would mean is that Tivo would have left their prices higher than the market would expect, and they'd still not do much to innovate and invent.

    In order to bring a product to market, one must look at all sorts of requirements. Marketing, fast competition, consumer need, consumer affordability, and longevity. Not every product will succeed, and many will fail. The great part about failure is that, on a whole, consumers win out in the long run as other people innovate on top of the failure and release a product or service that is financially viable. Nowhere in the system is a patent system necessary, because there will always be people who want to make a product at a lower cost, even at no cost. Look at MythTV for proof, there, as well as any open source success story.

    How many times must it be said that patents don't foster creation, they disrupt it. A monopoly is a monopoly, and the worst examples of monopoly are those that exist solely by using the force of government to back them up. In fact, I truly believe that no monopoly can exist without the myriad of government favoritistic laws and regulations that prevent the open competition that is created when restrictions are removed.

    Think not of Tivo, think of the consumer that wins out in the end. This is all that matters in a market -- you should not enter a market without having an understanding of what it takes to survive, succeed and surpass your competition. If you think you can win by removing competition from the picture, you're ignoring the basic ideals of freedom that we're supposed to hold so close to our hearts.

    I truly believe it is time for Tivo to close up shop. In the next 10 years, the DVR/PVR idea will be gone -- integrated into every bit of electronics we use, up to even cell phones. As bandwidth increases and costs decrease, the need to use a DVR/PVR will be reduced to those who just want to have the data in their home. Tivo (and EchoStar) will find themselves useless fast enough if they think this is a growing market.
    • I had the first Tivo of anyone I knew -- the day I first heard about it I picked one up. It was a great device for its time, but the recent Tivos I've experienced have no shown much improvement.

      I'm no fan of Tivo (the company) but the Tivo device itself is great. I own both a Series 2 and a DirecTivo. I don't personally see a need for all the things that MythTV does (while tying up a fairly high-end (for me) piece of useable hardware). My DirecTivo records my shows, without much interaction, and lets me
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:02PM (#15059301) Homepage Journal
        You're right about the need for a simple box to time-shift recordings digitally. Yet Tivo is a huge barrier to entry for many low-budget manufacturers. A very close friend of mine is a "famous" importer of Chinese and Taiwanese goods, and he's shown me (in his home), a cheap-brand DVD player with an integrated DVR. The thing worked wonders, and I believe he said the cost would be under $39 to the consumer if it could get through all the patents it violated. I believe it would be even cheaper if the import tariffs were less, too.

        With that, think of all the money consumers would save over the coercion-enhanced Tivo and other DVRs. The money you save not padding their pockets means more money you can spend on other things you want -- meaning more jobs created rather than profits enhanced artificially by government force.
        • Makes for a great story, but doesn't sound likely at all. Even a cheap chinese OEM can't put a DVR together for $39. The component costs (like a large harddrive, a must for DVRs) are higher than that - even in China.

          The software costs of Tivo to the manufacturers are minimal, if not zero. Where Tivo makes its money is the subscriptions ($13/mo or whatever it's up to now) - that's their business model. They hook you on the subscriptions by actually subsidizing the costs of the hardware made by others (i
          • I wish I had taken pictures. Since I saw the product, I've been working to find out how one can make a cheap PVR and I do believe that it is quite possible, especially considering the large number of useless harddrives out there that no one wants. I've seen 10 gig hard drives available at wholesale for $4.99 in lots of 50,000. These are new, too. Electronics is dirt cheap, so are DVD mechanisms. I have no idea what the cost of these items would be in China, but I just returned from Asia a few weeks ago
            • I believe that you saw the device, I just don't believe the friend of yours that told you $39.

              My wife used to work for a famous Taiwanese computer maker that has almost all its manufacturing in China. It's not quite that cheap to make a computer, even a low end ones (and a DVR is essentially a computer - it's got almost all the same components - and not really a low end one at that). Even if you forget about all the licensing costs, R&D, fixed overhead, distribution and marketing costs (which I am s
              • You're probably correct, there. I'm fairly certain that he meant "in the near future" but I can't recall (bad memory).

                The big issue was that the barrier to entry is higher because of patents and copyrights. It seems crazy to me that we have laws protecting the idea someone comes up with, but the originator can't find a way to bring the product to market properly. In the long run, consumers do suffer, and one person (or corporation) has favoritism because they may have been the first one to write the idea
            • Electronics is dirt cheap, so are DVD mechanisms.

              I've recently come to believe that I never want to use a cheap DVD mechanism again. They seem to become more susceptible to minor disk flaws over time. I've had this problem with two players and a laptop, but I never had the problem with my Pioneer Tivo DVD-R. Lens cleaning didn't help, and though I heard a million voodoo ideas on the Internet, the one that made the most sense was "don't buy a cheap DVD player."


        • and I believe he said the cost would be under $39 to the consumer

          I call shenanigans.

          There's no way you could get it for $39 unless it had like a 10GB hard drive. I mean, when you add the cost of the shipping from tiwan to here for something the size of a VCR/Tivo/DVDplayer-type stereo component, and to that add the cost of the circuit board, the dvd drive and laser, and a 40GB hard drive... there's no way it'd be less than $75 AT LEAST. And I only paid $99 for my 40GB Tivo, plus the monthly.

          ~Will
    • by glindsey (73730) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:03PM (#15059307)
      I've had a TiVo for nearly as long as you've stated, and I believe that the percentage of people who "just want to have the data in their home" is far higher than most people estimate. I don't want giant media corporations telling me when and where I can watch things; I want to possess the data so I can view it whenever and wherever I desire. Likewise, consider the number of people who purchase DVDs of television series, many of which are still rerunning in syndication today; people do this because they want their own copy.

      On the other hand, consider "personal" video recorders that store the content upstream, at the provider's location. They choose when and which content is available. They choose whether you can fast-forward through commercials in it. They choose how many times you can view it, or how long it is available. And, of course, if you cancel your subscription, you lose it all.

      No thank you.
      • I'm not necessarily saying that big media corporations should be in control of the product you purchase. For example, I've optimized my home broadband connection enough that I can download torrents of movies and TV shows almost as fast as realtime (when there are enough seeders which is usually true when something is new). In the long run, I believe that torrent v2.0 will facilitate grabbing things of interest (sort of like a Tivo thumbs up via RSS/XML) so that you can watch it when you want to. Right no
    • by dvnelson72 (595066) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:11PM (#15059404)
      Your positions sounds like someone who has never had an innovative idea that you tried to market AND as someone who wants to use other people's ideas freely.

      If you have ever gone to big companies with a big innovation that you need them to fund or license, then you would know that patents are vital to your protection. Secrecy only travels so far. How do you market a concept without sharing it?

      If you want to convince me that Tivo's patent is too broad and should not be eligible for a patent, I'll listen and I may agree. But the anti-innovation crowd tends to think everything should be free because ideas cannot be owned. Raise the red flag and tell me that I can't own my property either because the earth is owned by all of us. It's anti-capitalistic b.s.

      Download your stolen movies and mp3s. Steal technology from little guys trying to carve a niche. Tell yourself that patents stiffle innovation.

      Then, when you have your big idea, come crying to someone else about Microsoft stealing it without paying you.
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:21PM (#15059500) Homepage Journal
        Your positions sounds like someone who has never had an innovative idea that you tried to market AND as someone who wants to use other people's ideas freely.

        The opposite is true. For the past 10 years or so I've positioned myself in the Chicago consulting market as the guy who gives away ideas -- many of them. I find that I'd rather have others put the ideas into action so that I can profit from the final product. Google my name (Adam Dada) and you'll find a few magazines I've been quoted in, usually promoting my old main skill: pushing corporations to try new things and regard all competition as healthy.

        Some of my businesses have failed, mostly because of irresponsibility. Why should Tivo patent their ideas when I couldn't in most of my businesses? When I opened retail stores, should I have a "protection" over others from copying my store layout and products at a cheaper price? When a plumber enters a market, should his new found technique to fix a leak faster and cheaper be limited only to him? I believe in letting people use their labor as they see fit -- even if it means they're selling themselves too cheaply.

        If you have ever gone to big companies with a big innovation that you need them to fund or license, then you would know that patents are vital to your protection. Secrecy only travels so far. How do you market a concept without sharing it?

        Just coming up with an idea is not enough to bring it to market. Bringing an idea to market requires many people to implement all sorts of labors to finalize a product. If you can't do it cheaper and faster than the next guy, your idea is likely not ready to be brought to market. Look at all the ridiculous patents on every cell phone that comes out -- every one has a new patent pending. Yet all cell phones are basically alike, so these patents only seem to prevent new people from entering the market.

        I've gone to very big companies (again, some can be found through googling me) with ideas, and many of them continue to hire my company to introduce something new to a given market, especially large but stagnant ones. You'd be amazed at how many CEOs will listen to a great idea even if it means their competition will quickly copy it. You'd also be amazed at how many MBAs hate new ideas with new competition -- I believe this is part of the problem. Business school graduates believe in the textbook, entrepreneurs believe in hard work and strong customer service. In the end, having a product means nothing if the customer can not use it to save them money or time over the price they paid.

        Then, when you have your big idea, come crying to someone else about Microsoft stealing it without paying you.

        Actually, I used run an idea website that has had numerous inventions "stolen" from it and I'm more than happy about it because I can profit from the creations. I must e-mail Google twice a month with a new idea for them to use (not that they have even listened necessarily), and I work hard to get my ideas out without attributing my name to them. I just want emerging markets to take advantage of, leave the coding and technology developing to those who have the desire to bring ideas to fruition. An idea is worthless without all the other parts: marketing, manufacturing, support, production, warehousing, analysis, customer sales, etc. Every piece of the puzzle is more important than the idea itself.

        • I'm a fan of your posts, but what this specific one fails to cover is the fact that there *does* exist a place for patents in the world today. As usual, the answer is a middle ground between you and the grandparent.

          The place for patents is this: New ideas, really new ideas, take time to materialize. If I were to say "I have an idea", it may take 4 or 5 years worth of research, testing, development, more testing, and then at the end, I have to hire a designer to make it look pretty, a manufacturer to ramp
      • by Surt (22457) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:26PM (#15059554) Homepage Journal
        The problem people are having with patents is that:
        a) nearly all of them are too broad
        b) nearly all of them are trivial
        c) there's no sense of proportion

        And my guess is that you're speaking as someone whose ideas have never been squashed by an obviously bogus patent.

        The problem we have with a, is that patents cover too much. Even a vaguely similar idea gets covered, and you wind up paying money to someone who had nothing to do with your innovation.

        The problem with b is, you come up with some simple product that no one is marketing, and start selling it, only to have the patent holder come knocking for a piece of your action, and surprise surprise the patent office has granted a patent on your idea, even though it was so obvious you wouldn't have even considered patenting it yourself. Furthermore, there's no allowance for independent invention, so even if you got to your idea completely on your own, if you got there a day late that idea belongs to someone else.

        The problem with c is, even if the patent covers only a tiny portion of your device, you can be extorted for basically everything. It doesn't come to that, but the patent holder typically will pick up more than a 'fair' share of the profits.

        All in all, the patent system is so broken right now, we would be better off without it entirely. Which is not to say that some middle ground position might not be even better.
      • Without patents, people would still invent, new drugs would be made, and new household products would enter the market. Money is to be made so it would continue.

        Secondly, ideas are still stolen with patents in place. Its called the legal system, reverse engineering, and corporate spies.

        However, patents were not intended to encourage people to invent so they wouldn't be stolen, but rather allow those ideas to be brought into public domain after 17 years.

        Its not the innovation that I'm concerned about, but ra
      • Your position sounds like someone who has never had their innovative idea squashed by greedy patent holders who have gained illegitimate "rights" to overly-broad and obvious chunks of the idea space.

        Until you've labored for years to create something truly innovative and received a cease-and-desist letter claiming that you've infringed someone's ill-gotten patent, you have no legs to stand on. I've been through this. I've seen these guys' bogus patent claims, and determined that they wouldn't stand up in

    • I agree, tho the situation on this side of the pond seems to be shifting rather quickly away from any behemoth PVR provider. The most popular UK cousin of Tivo: Sky Plus, is quite popular over here, but is starting to pale in the face of the oncoming torrent [pun partially intended] of alternatives about:

      *PVR PC. MythTV has improved in leaps and bounds, and even Windows MCE [I'm serious!] provides a rather capable PVR system.

      *Off-the-shelf PVR. Lots of Freeview decoders avaiable now with hard disks for reco
      • You forget we have *nothing* with tivo functionality here.

        Freeview DVRs? No season passes at all. Manual record only.

        Sky+? Limited season passes to certain channels only. No ability to handle conflicts (it simply deletes the season pass if there's a conflict). EPG only 7 days ahead, and if a series doesn't occur that week it again deletes the season pass. Not able to watch programmes unless you're a *current* subscriber. No suggestions, No wishlists. Automatically deletes box office movies.. I could
    • Your photocopied patent diatribe is wrong in this case for many reasons:

      (1) Echostar hasn't innovated anything, they copied Tivo's product after it was shown to them, Echostar's DVR isn't different than Tivo's product in any meaningful way;
      (2) Echostar and Tivo aren't in direct competition, Echostar is in a better position than Tivo to provide DVRs to its customers because you need its dish to use its system - i.e. Echostar's customers don't get to easily pick between Echostar and Tivo products.
      (3) because
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:57AM (#15059234) Journal
    That TiVo sued EchoStar in tiny Marshall, Texas, was no accident, said Bradford Lyerla, intellectual property attorney and partner with Marshall, Gerstein & Borun, a specialty firm in Chicago. Juries there, Lyerla said, find in favor of the plaintiffs in patent trials about 80% of the time.
    ...
    "TiVo has a great jury story," Lyerla said. "If TiVo loses, it could be the end of them. That creates greater sympathy on the part of the jury."
    The patent system has nothing to do with this.

    This story is entirely about the jury. A jury can decide a case any which way they like, no matter what the law says (see jury nullification [umkc.edu])

    +1 to Tivo for manipulating the system.
    • This story is entirely about the jury. A jury can decide a case any which way they like, no matter what the law says (see jury nullification [umkc.edu])

      This is true, but judges will specifically tell juries not to do this. They specifically instruct juries to decide the case on the merits of the evidence and NOT on the merit of the law. Lawyers are often forbidden to tell juries of their nullification power. Potential jurors who know about those rights will be removed from the jury. The court goes to

      • This is a classic example of a system propping itself up. Combine these instructions with government education, and there's no hope. One of the key reasons to have a jury is so that they can judge the law as well as the case!
        • One of the key reasons to have a jury is so that they can judge the law as well as the case!

          The jury's decision is based on the facts of the case. The judge makes his ruling based on the law. In a non-jury case, the judge rules on both the facts and the law. The jury does not make decisions based on law.

          -h-
          • You're describing the way the system works now, not how it's supposed to work.

            The whole point of a "jury of his peers" is to be a check on the government. Government agents (prosecutors, judges, legislators, etc) cannot deprive you of life, liberty, or property without running it past twelve normal citizens. That's huge, and we've forgotten all about it.

            The link of the OP has some data about how nullification was viewed up until the late 1800s. Worth reading.

      • even if the jury DOES do this, the case just ends up in the appeals court, where you need ANOTHER jury to nullify, and that's not likely.

        Appeals courts only have appellate jurisdiction and, thus, only judge the appealed trial. There is no additional finding of fact unless the case is remanded for some reason back to a court with original jurisdiction. Usually there are no juries involved in appeals, instead there is a panel of judges. See this for a good explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_ [wikipedia.org]

    • Jury nullification is very rare since judges instruct jurors to apply the facts of the case to the law to reach their decision whether they agree with the result or not. They are virtually never informed that they even have the option of nullification since lawyers are barred from telling them; and furthermore some states such as California even have a jury instruction requiring the judge to be notified if a juror is deciding their verdict using nullification. Judges have the power to remove jurors by claim
    • +5, Wrong.

      FRCP Rule 50 [cornell.edu](a)(1): If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue.

      In civil trials, the judge can ove
    • +1 to Tivo for manipulating the system.

      Since the plaintiff brings the case, the American legal system is very much weighted in favor of allowing the plaintiff to bring suit wherever they want to, provided jurisdiction can be established.

      Tivo's counsel would be quite remiss in bringing suit in a venue with a bias against plaintiffs.

    • by nickname225 (840560) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:56PM (#15060476)
      I am an attorney - and this issue of Jury nullification is not entirely true. It's true that in U.S. Criminal cases (where double jeopardy applies) a jury can effectively nullify a law with a finding of not guilty. In civil cases, it's not so easy. A judge in a civil case can overturn a jury finding and render a Judgment notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV in Lawyerspeak). It's exactly what it sounds like - the jury can find for one party and the judge can decide that the jury is wrong and find for the other side. It's not done too commonly - and judges don't have a completely free hand - the standard is something like "No reasonable jury could reach this verdict". Of course, it's reviewable on appeal - and in the U.S. we are hesitant to over rule a jury - but if the jury just ignores the law a judge will not stand by.
  • by Deeper Thought (783866) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:58AM (#15059250)
    I propose we shorten the lifetime of technology patents to 3 years, non-renewable.
    20 years is crazy!

    What is the duration in other countries?

    This page The Optimal Lifetime of a Patent [drexel.edu] is interesting. They say the lifetime should vary based on a cost/benefit analysis. I would guess that the "optimal term" is closer to 3 years than 20 years for most computer/electronics patents.

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:59AM (#15059257) Homepage Journal
    Is there a possibility that the patent system is working right in this case?

    I know we all love TiVo and all, but it looks like their patent is on simultaneously watching and recording TV.

    You know, like you used to do when you watched one channel and had your VCR record another.

    Or like when you watch streaming media in your web browser and it continues to buffer even when you hit "pause".

    Basically, this is yet another stupid IP patent (is there another kind?), even if we like the company trying to enforce it.

    • I think that you are missing a giant nuance that, in fact, makes what TiVo does novel.

      Certainly, with a VCR, you could record something on one channel and watch another, but you weren't watching it via the VCR, you were watching it via the TV as the VCR was not applying a carrier signal to its output. With a VCR, you were also unable to setup the VCR to record and then, at any time during the recording, rewind and watch from an arbitrary point. You could only view the recording after the recording was fini
  • TiVo co-founder Michael Ramsay testified that he showed EchoStar executives the TiVo product and pursued a licensing deal with them, but that a deal was never struck even though EchoStar began selling its own DVRs that used technology very similar to TiVo's.

    Lesson Learned: Do not show greedy executives what technology you are working on, or they will steal your idea and change it just enough to sell it legally for themselves.
    • I have a hard time believing that executives 'stole' the idea. Any reasonable company, before demo'ing, usually asks clients to sign a Non-disclosure Agreement.

      If Tivo didn't ask for this, then they're crazy. If they did and Echostar pursued technology anyways in violation of the NDA, Tivo has a great case.

      I bet 'recording to a hard drive' was in the executives minds before Tivo came in. I think Tivo just packaged the idea and useability of a unit much better than anyone on the market. Echostar execs probab
  • According to TFA, they hold a patent on watching one show and recording another at the same time?

    I dunno about you guys, but I've had a VCR that could do that since before anyone had come up with the name "TiVo".

    (And if this case succeeds, you can kiss any open-sourc PVR software goodbye, you know)
    • by Em Ellel (523581) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:16PM (#15059454)
      According to TFA, they hold a patent on watching one show and recording another at the same time?

      I dunno about you guys, but I've had a VCR that could do that since before anyone had come up with the name "TiVo".


      really? You had a VCR that lets you watch one tape while recording another show to same tape? I do not think there was a single device with single media that allowed you to do this until tivo.

      -Em
      • So either a dual-deck vcr is prior art, or a dual-harddrive dvr isn't a violation, right?
        • LOL, Perhaps you should look into difference between linear and non-linear recording media.

          For dummies explanation, dual deck VCR is two VCRs in same case, NOT a single device and it uses two descrete recording medias. I.e. you cant record/playback using controls of deck A on a tape in deck B and vice versa. These are two separate recording/playback devices. Two (or more) hard drives in a PVR act as a single storage media, you do not need to know which hard drive things get recorded to. You can be recording
          • My point was that you can make a dual hard drive pvr work in this way, just as you could a dual deck vcr. Not that any existing pvr works this way, but you could, and then presumably you're either around the patent, or the dual deck vcr is prior art.
            • But the way you are proposing it... a dual hard drive PVR that BEHAVES equivelent to a dual deck VCR...would mean that you COULD NOT read and write to the same hard drive at the same time. so while a show is recordiing, you would only be able to watch a subset of your recorded programs, and which subset would depend on what drive you are currently recording to.

              The only possible way around that might be to fragment the show between the 2 drives...always write the current block of recorded show to whichever d
      • Is tivo really the first to let you watch a recorded show while taping another? I know dual deck VCR's where out, and before that most people had 2 VCR's for that exact reason.
        • TiVo is the first to let you watch the beginning of a show while still recording the end of the show.

        • Digitally compress and record one show while at the same time playing a show back from the same media device...

          Now, if you could VCR record one show while playing back a show from the same tape, it might qualify...

          The newer TiVOs have multiple tuners, you can record multiple shows in parallel. Sweet.

          TiVO will be the DVR of the future. Echostar may be much bigger now, but TiVo set forth an impressive IP portfolio at the get go.

      • I do not think there was a single device with single media that allowed you to do this until tivo.

        The hard drive in my DVR is not a single media. It has multiple platters, and a read/write head for each platter.
      • You had a VCR that lets you watch one tape while recording another show to same tape?

        Many of us had computers [wikipedia.org] that did it. I didn't, personally, but I was around quite a few of them. So then, a decade later, TiVo released a specialized computer that did the ten-years-later equivalent but in a smaller form factor. Now that is patent-worthy innovation.

    • I dunno about you guys, but I've had a VCR that could do that since before anyone had come up with the name "TiVo".

      Are you sure about that? You had a VCR that could record one show to tape while playing another show from the same tape at the same time? I think that more accurately describes the TiVo patent. Their patent involved technology to write one realtime multimedia stream to a disk while simultaneously reading another realtime multimedia stream from the same disk. That's not exactly an easy thing
    • (And if this case succeeds, you can kiss any open-sourc PVR software goodbye, you know)

      Untrue. Just becuase we make it illegal here in the US doesnt mean that developers hosted in Sweden cant continue. And we all know that if it continues there, I will be able to download it here. Thats the whole beauty of the internet thing.

      B
    • According to the article they are suing because EchoStar is using the technology TiVo patented to let you watch one show while recording another, not the simple fact that they can do so.

      If that's the case and an ill informed writer isn't making a mistake or misusing the English language then TiVo's case is a lot more valid. They would not be saying that no one is allowed to record one show while letting you watch another. Instead they would be saying that you can't do it through this particular method which

  • Most developers face a dilemma when mass marketing a new development: market it directly, competing with the existing sales channels to the market, or sell/license it to a competitor. It's a kind of "coopetition" more necessary these days when branding and distribution controls most market access. The risk is that the developer will merely educate the competition to the worthiness of the product in the market, and the established seller will decide to sell their own version, without "partnering" with the de
  • I could create a bicycle using my own patented technology...but that wouldn't give me the right to sue every company making bicycles because they are "similar"...

    One would have to use my technology to make the case...

    Or every car namufacturer would be in violation of eachother's patents...

    Why are people so stupid?
    • I sure hope this doesn't gain traction. If you will notice one of the previous posts discussed the matter of actually owning a copy of the content. I don't believe for a moment that I speak for all consumers, but I personally don't want someone else regulating when, how, and how long I can watch the program for. What happens when Time Warner gets a court order to block access to their servers for violating who-knows-what-regulation? You can kiss "your" content goodbye. I like storing stuff on my comput
  • by saterdaies (842986) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:30PM (#15059605)
    There's a lot of talk about patents and I don't like much of it. It's very ideologically driven with little regard for the facts.

    The field of economics believes that people respond to incentives. By giving someone a patent on something, you are ensuring that, for a limited time, they are able to secure most of the "social benefit" of that invention less the "social cost" of developing and producing it. For example, let's say that Tivo spent $100 million "inventing" their product - assuming they were truly innovative and that this is an actual invention. Then let's say that it costs $200 to build a Tivo - the cost of the hardware, marketing, labour used in assembly, shipping, the works. Clearly, Tivo can't sell units for $200 and turn a profit - in fact, they can't sell them for $201 and turn a profit unless they sell over 100 million units (which would cover the R&D).

    Now, let's say that there aren't copyright laws for a second and that I can load Tivo software on a box I make (which costs me $200 to make) and start selling them. I can sell at a price a lot less than Tivo can because I don't have to recoup R&D costs of $100 million. This is why software patents are a little more tricky. In the real world, I would have to develop an alternative to the Tivo software which would cost me money, but probably less than the $100 million it cost Tivo since I would be duplicating an already existing piece of software which is substantially easier to do.

    Looking at more mechanical things, one can easily see how they work and duplicate the design and the "inventing" company goes out of business - sort of.

    There are a lot of people who argue that being first to market is enough of an advantage. An economist wouldn't. Yes, being first to market will provide one's company with a good amount of the social benefit of an invention, but not all of it (patents don't give you all either, but more) and so there is less incentive to invent and less invention than is socially beneficial happens.

    I hate to use caps, but I must stress this: WITHOUT PATENTS, THERE IS LESS INVENTION THAN THERE SHOULD BE.

    So patents do help correct for that market failure, but they also have detrimental effects. The one that bothers me the most is that patents give a monopoly. For the non-economists, monopolies charge higher prices and deliver fewer units because it is more profitable for them to sell fewer at a higher price. Basically, if I can make a pen that everyone wants and I have a patent on it, I might have a choice of selling 1 million units at $10 per pen or 5 million units at $1 per pen - by selling less units, I get double the money! This won't happen in a competitive market because with more firms selling, it becomes more profitable to sell more units because the more the firms, the fewer of those $10 buyers we each get.

    Of course, the natural outgrowth of this monopoly pricing is questioning whether companies are able to capture more money than the social benefit through this system because of above market pricing. Maybe.

    Then we get into the "standing on top of giants" problem. Patents mean that you can't stand on giants for a period of time (I actually don't know the exact amount of time, but I think it's about 20 years). So patents retard one's ability to build on the inventions of yesterday.

    So, patents encourage and discourage innovation, but is that why the majority of people are in favor of them? No. People see them as fair. People have an "I created this, it's mine" mentality. If you invented something, would you want other people ripping it off? If you wrote a song, would you like others passing it off as theirs - or worse, that their version was better? Ideally, you probably would - it would encourage the type of amazing developments that we see with things like the Creative Commons, but you probably won't feel that way and I don't believe in trying to convert people to different philosophies.

    In the end, we mig
    • The field of economics believes that people respond to incentives.

      This is my chief argument against software and business method patents. In these fields, which are just incredibly dynamic, I don't think that the patents actually do provide an incentive. Inventors would tend to create the same inventions anyway. A patent doesn't increase the value of an invention, but it does concentrate what value is there. I think that the unconcentrated value of inventions in these fields is currently high enough to prov
    • I hate to use caps, but I must stress this: WITHOUT PATENTS, THERE IS LESS INVENTION THAN THERE SHOULD BE.

      I have a patent on using caps for emphasis. Pay up.
    • WITHOUT PATENTS, THERE IS LESS INVENTION THAN THERE SHOULD BE.

      The problem isn't "patents"--we've had them in the U.S. since colonial days; h*ll, they're mentioned in the Constitution.

      The problem is that EVERYTHING nowadays, every notion, every vague idea, is considered "patentable."

      We all laughed back in the 80s, when Apple threatened to sue any and everyone who infringed their idiotic "look and feel."

      The joke has long since soured.

  • Tivo is Dead (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sheldon (2322) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:42PM (#15059738)
    Companies are starting to offer DVR technology in other devices now. LG has it in a television and a DVD recorder. There are plenty of Windows Media Center PCs being sold these days, etc.

    The problem with Tivo is the subscription service. First, the cost, second the fact that you need a phone line. It's inconvenient, and the subscription fee is a hidden cost for buyers. I even had Tivo with my DirecTV service in my old house, and I had to pay an extra $5.95 for it. That's ridiculous.

    They ought to figure out a way to make it work just like a standard VCR easily and foolproof, and then license the technology to anybody and everybody who wants to build it into their existing devices. TV's could have a DVR built in for an extra $100. Why not?

    The fact that they haven't realized this yet is evidence that their business acumen isn't very innovative.
  • If it doesn't work in all cases it doesn't work, and it doesn't. Inventor invents something patents to make money, patents drive price up and delay, consumers avoid higher priced item, lower priced items with equivalent functionality come to market perhaps even in advance of the patented, grabbed up by consumers. Inventor both broke and alientated, patent office workers overworked. There's no stopping a good idea, nor should there be... what there should be is recognition and reward of good ideas by a kn
  • Consistency (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jdavidb (449077) * on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:56PM (#15059876) Homepage Journal

    No, I don't think that Tivo should be allowed to restrict other people from using the same idea of recording television to a hard drive and all that entails, even if I do happen to think that Tivo has the best and coolest implementation, and even if I am worried that they might go belly up if they are not granted such special monopolistic privileges. :(

    I am nothing, if not consistent.

  • Dear TiVo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frenchs (42465) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:57PM (#15059880) Homepage
    Dear TiVo,

    You and I have had a good year together. But we just aren't meant to be together. You are too overbearing and clingy. You have a lot of good qualities to offer to somebody else in this world, and they'll love you for it, but your ability to somehow predict that I *need* to watch every episode of Saved By The Bell is a bit creepy to me, and we are spending way too much time together.

    You won't be easy to leave, dearest TiVo, and I'll certainly think about you those late nights that I come home and want to watch the 9th inning of that game I missed. But I think it's for the best. I've come to the conclusion that I'm better off without you, so this is the end of the line.

    -s
  • by LibertineR (591918) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:09PM (#15060004)
    If he ever hopes to retire a wealthy man. DirecTV offered that bastard big money, and he turned his nose up at it, even though his company HAS NEVER MADE A DIME OF PROFIT, thinking that he could be all things to all people. Never mind that TiVo sucked on early cable systems, and anyone who tried to use that IR thingy wished they hadnt. Those of us who got our TiVos through DirecTV are the only ones who ever experienced what TiVo could really be, because our recording never had to be converted from digital to analog, unlike the rest of you out there with your sucky DVRs. We got the TiVo interface, the best picture, and could have had even more if not for the greedy bastards at TiVo who thought that their product alone would make them rich.

    Stupid management always kills cool products. They priced the orignal service way beyond what most people were willing to pay, while DirecTV users got the unit for $99 and $5 a month! What are you NON DirecTV folks paying for the inferior analog-recorded service that you get?

    I hope TiVo loses and has to take LESS money from DirecTV the second time around for their insolence, because if they win the case it is bad for the consumer.

  • If the auto industry had to be developed in the litigation environment of today, there would only be one make of car available. It would be black, and you'd have a five year waiting period to get one.
  • by angle_slam (623817) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:12PM (#15060031)
    I hate the way the news media covers cases like this because they never do something simple, like tell you what patent number is at issue. So this is a mere educated guess, but I think the patent in question is 6,233,389 [uspto.gov].

    Here's claim 1:

    1. A process for the simultaneous storage and play back of multimedia data, comprising the steps of:
    accepting television (TV) broadcast signals, wherein said TV signals are based on a multitude of standards, including, but not limited to, National Television Standards Committee (NTSC) broadcast, PAL broadcast, satellite transmission, DSS, DBS, or ATSC;
    tuning said TV signals to a specific program;
    providing at least one Input Section, wherein said Input Section converts said specific program to an Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) formatted stream for internal transfer and manipulation;
    providing a Media Switch, wherein said Media Switch parses said MPEG stream, said MPEG stream is separated into its video and audio components;
    storing said video and audio components on a storage device;
    providing at least one Output Section, wherein said Output Section extracts said video and audio components from said storage device;
    wherein said Output Section assembles said video and audio components into an MPEG stream;
    wherein said Output Section sends said MPEG stream to a decoder;
    wherein said decoder converts said MPEG stream into TV output signals;
    wherein said decoder delivers said TV output signals to a TV receiver; and
    accepting control commands from a user, wherein said control commands are sent through the system and affect the flow of said MPEG stream.

  • ...and it may be too late. I've long been amazed at the lack of hardware innovation on Tivo's platform. I've owned my S2 Tivo for nearly 4 years now and there's been a couple of times I would have considered buying new devices to solve very specific problems but Tivo had no hardware innovations available.

    Nobody really likes hardware churn for minor features, but I think Tivo really cost themselves a lot of sales (and hence service) opportunities by not coming out with incremental upgrades.

    I would have mov
  • What exactly is a "70% chance of winning"? A court case is not probabilistic, and the likelihood of TiVo winning cannot be quantified. It's one thing for the Washington Post to be dumb, but News for Nerds should not perpetuate it.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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