ReplayTV (not Tivo) Owns Key DVR Patents

Joe Campbell

  I've seen it asserted in various places that most  DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) don't have a more elegant user interfaces and scheduling functionality because Tivo holds the patents in these areas and would sue any product that imitated these features. My research at the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) reveals that ReplayTV, not Tivo, holds the important patents in this area.
  1. 6,324,388 (entitled Video data recorder with integrated channel guides) claims most of the user interaction with the DVR that we generally associate with Tivo. For example:
    • Use of a channel guide database for recording based on said user specified criteria, wherein the selection of shows is based on one of either pattern matching or fuzzy logic analysis of the user specified criteria and the channel guide database, and wherein the processor further selects for removal a previously recorded show having a lower priority than the selected future shows if insufficient capacity exists for recording the future shows;
    • The use of user specified criteria for selecting from one or more of show names, director names, actor/actress names, show class, keywords, and rating information.
    • Use of user specified criteria including user provided preference rating information of previously watched shows.
    • And so forth...There are 50 claims in the patent.
  2. 6,360,053 (entitled Method and apparatus for fast forwarding and rewinding in a video recording device") claims a method for fast-forward, rewind, quick-skip forward/backwards.  It also claims a skip "based upon scene change analysis," which is doubtless the commercial-skipping feature the lawsuits around which drove its original parent company (Sonic Blue) into bankruptcy.

Tivo has three much narrower patents:

  1. 6,233,389 (entitled Multimedia time warping system) claims a specific method for obtaining and storing MPG2 audio/video files so that a user can, among other things,  simultaneously watch another program or live TV (i.e., the "pause live TV" functionality).
  2. 6,215,526 (Analog video tagging and encoding system) claims a method for embedding data within a television signal in such a way that it survives analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion during the transmission process. Considering the rapid deployment of digital media, the value of this patent is rapidly decreasing.
  3. 20,030,182,567 Application (i.e., pending, entitled Client-side multimedia content targeting system) claims the end-to-end features and functions of the TiVo Service.

In addition to the method and apparatus patents described above, TiVo owns several design patents (design patents are really just super-copyrights) for design of its remote control, the integrated DIRECTV Receiver with TiVo. (See design patents D424,061, D431,552, D424,577, D435,403, D45%,043).