Cisco Has Enough Of TiVo Patent Claims, Files To Invalidate TiVo Patents

from the offensively-defensive dept

Over the past few years, as competition in the DVR market has become tougher, TiVo has become more and more reliant on using its patents to stop competition and innovation, rather than focusing on competing in the marketplace. its most famous case was the one against EchoStar, which even included TiVo buying a bull (literally) in Eastern Texas, where the district court case was heard. While it won at the district court level, during the appeals process, the Patent Office suddenly indicated that the patents might not be so solid. Not long after that, TiVo and EchoStar worked out a settlement.

TiVo found the process so enjoyable that it apparently started thinking about a second career as a patent troll -- and has already sued Verizon and Motorola. Not surprisingly, it's been pushing some others to license some patents... and at least one large player has had enough. Cisco, owners of Scientific Atlanta, a maker of settop boxes and DVRs, has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate four TiVo patents -- or, if the patents are found valid, a declaratory judgment that it does not infringe.

Of course, by filing first, Cisco was also able to file the case in San Jose, rather than letting TiVo try to get the case into Texas (despite the fact that both Cisco and Tivo are located not far from each other in Northern California). As far as I know, TiVo has not purchased a bull in San Jose.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    arcan, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:32am

    i have a good idea. companies can only file suit in the district where their main headquarters is.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Richard (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:44am

      Re:

      No - they could move that too easily - better the place where they do most business.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:56am

      Re:

      That's too convenient, the district where their main headquarters reside will be more favorable to them. How about they can only file IP suit where the defendants district resides.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:58am

        Re: Re:

        but, really, I have a better solution. Abolish IP laws. Abolish government established cableco and broadcasting monopolies. Abolish government established taxi cab monopolies. and abolish all of the other many many many anti-competitive laws that the government wrongfully creates in exchange for campaign contributions and revolving door favors.

         

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  •  
    icon
    Gothenem (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:37am

    I always find it amazing that patent trolls continue to sue others. To the point of rediculousness, and yet the government officials are blind to it and STILL claim that patents spur on innovation.

    While the patent system is a neccessary one, it needs to be changed. I do not suggest removing patents entirely, the purpose they were created for is still valid, much like copyright. To create a limited time monopoly for a person to make money with - to innovate without having their work stolen right out the gate and make someone else wealthy off their innovation. What I suggest is limit the amount of time a patent is valid, and base that time on the half-life of a product.

    Thus, something in the world of computer software would have a short half-life, meaning the innovator has a short time to make money on their new innovation, and then they must continue to innovate or be forced out of the market by those that do. However, someone who makes a new type of washing machine with a half-life of 6 years, has a bit more time to make money on his idea, but even then, after 6 years, there is room for other companies to step in and try to make the product better, less expensive, or both, allowing the free market to decide who wins and who looses.

    Some people will pay more for the same product because the companies brand is trusted. People who buy Kleenix over no name brand facial tissue. People who buy Heinz Ketchup instead of no name Ketchup. Others will seek the less expensive alternative. That is what the free market is about. Patents can be used to help innovation. Why create a new drug if other companies will make a Generic drug right away? You won't be able to recoup your costs for developing the medicine, and others will reap the benefits of your labour.

    That said, allowing the drug company to hold the patent on the drug for an extended period makes the drug out of reach for many who cannot afford to purchase it. That is where a patent is a good thing.

    You develop the drug, and are given a set amount of time to produce it without others doing the same. When your patent runs out, it is time for others to enter the market. Now the Patent system already works in this way, but the LENGTH of the patents are far too long for many products. Especially in the technology industry, where new technologies replace older models on a yearly basis AT THE SLOWEST!! Often, a product is out-staged a few months or weeks after it hits the market, but the Patents last for YEARS, turning the whole mess into an arms race to get patents as a "Nuclear Deterrent" and eventually as a "Threat to exort money".

     

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    •  
      icon
      Rikuo (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:43am

      Re:

      Excuse me but did you just say "That said, allowing the drug company to hold the patent on the drug for an extended period makes the drug out of reach for many who cannot afford to purchase it. That is where a patent is a good thing."

      So keeping life saving drugs out of reach of those too poor to afford them is a GOOD THING?

       

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      •  
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        usul_of_arakis (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re:

        I think he should have put "That is where a patent is a good thing." at the end of the previous paragraph. Would make more sense.

         

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        •  
          icon
          Some Other AC (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 7:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Now the Patent system already works in this way, but the LENGTH of the patents are far too long for many products."

          This commenter clarifies his statement a little further down. Placement was not optimal, but I agree with most of the comment. Patents/Copyrights are fine as long as the time limit is reasonable.
          Patents should be based on the following:
          1) You must have a working model of the item, object, etc...
          2) You must have a verifiable business plan to produce, implement, etc...
          3)Life span of the patent should only last long enough to ensure an chance at monetizing the object.

          There is no guarantee in this world of making millions of dollars. There is only the guarantee of a chance at it. Everything else is how hard is the person/company willing to work at generating a profit from the patented object.

           

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      •  
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        Gothenem (profile), Jun 5th, 2012 @ 1:08pm

        Re: Re:

        Sorry, I meant that is where a patent is NOT a good thing.

        My bad.

         

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    •  
      icon
      Simple Mind (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      I always find it amazing that patent trolls continue to sue others. To the point of rediculousness, and yet the government officials are blind to it and STILL claim that patents spur on innovation.

      The problem is that the government officials are mostly lawyers. They look at all the patent litigation going and see a vibrant working system, where you and I see a morass in the way of getting real things done.

      Basically, hire lawyers to lead you and what do you get? More laws and more lawyers.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:42am

    I don't blame Tivo so much. The incumbent cableco monopolists wrongfully exercise their government established monopoly power to make it very difficult for competitors to create competing DVR's with all the same features. They manipulate the FCC, they manipulate signal standards, and they make the whole thing very confusing and proprietary.

    "rather than focusing on competing in the marketplace."

    It's hard to do that when incumbent government established cableco monopolists do everything in their power to lock you out of the market.

     

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    •  
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      pixelpusher220 (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 8:15am

      Re:

      Agreed, for all the bashing about Patent Trolls, Tivo actually created something and is actively selling it. The problem is usually a company buying a patent and *only* suing others. That is not the case here.

      Tivo created something phenomenal, and rightfully is using the limited duration patent period to make money off that invention.

      Bashing Tivo here is like bashing the concept of Patents entirely. If you don't believe in patents please just say so, but they have a purpose and Tivo is actively using their patents to bring products to market.

      If perhaps the patents are ruled invalid that's a different story, but the article here clearly seems to accuse Tivo of being unfair simply for enforcing its patents.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        JEDIDIAH, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 12:51pm

        The asteroid hit already.

        Tivo created something. They didn't "invent" anything. That's an important distinction. One allows you to hold the rest of the industry hostage for the next 20 years and the other one does.

        The fact that cable providers could abuse their position is not a good reason to excuse patent trolling by Tivo Corp.

        Most importantly. Tech has changed dramatically. It's been 10 years since the necessary underlying components of a PVR have been readily available to consumer PC buyers. Any patents that Tivo might have simply aren't relevant anymore.

        Hauppauge, Intel, and Nvidia made them irrelevant.

        Tivo is a dinosaur and they need to get out of the way.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          JEDIDIAH, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 1:08pm

          The asteroid hit already. (edit)

          One allows you to hold the rest of the industry hostage for the next 20 years and the other one does not.

           

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  •  
    icon
    ken (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:01am

    Take Their Patents

    This is what I like to see. Instead of victims just defending against patent attacks they move to invalidate the trolls patent all together. Every time a patent dies new innovation is born.

    Too bad TiVo can no longer compete with other DVRs and now has to resort to patent trolling.

     

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    •  
      icon
      ken (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:18am

      Re: Take Their Patents

      There is a long history of patents from the steam engine to the telephone to the airplane to the lightbulb that none of these things really took off until after their patents had expired and without exception development was hampered by the inventors who were more interested in asserting their patents than actually producing and improving their inventions.

       

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      •  
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        pixelpusher220 (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 8:43am

        Re: Re: Take Their Patents

        But Tivo? Tivo's DVRs are still miles ahead of the DVRs from most people. They've offered to license their technology to the CableCo's for their DVRs and the balked.

        Patents serve a purpose. Is the system perfect? Of course not. But Tivo is actually making and selling products, which is the usual complaint against a 'patent troll'.

        What would you have them do?

         

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        •  
          identicon
          JEDIDIAH, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 12:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: Take Their Patents

          > But Tivo? Tivo's DVRs are still miles ahead of the DVRs from most people

          That's because they are patent trolls. They actively bully anyone else that provides alternatives. Who is going to step up when they are just likely to be sued?

          THAT is the what patents do.

          6 year old open source PVR software will beat the snot out of Tivo.

          It's not hard to out-innovate Tivo.

          I would have Tivo compete on their merits. As a consumer, there is nothing else that interests me. Otherwise, I will just build my own better alternative.

          If Tivo won't provide it, and if Tivo will bully anyone that might try, then I would rather be able to fend for myself.

           

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:04am

    Couldn't care less about TiVo. Sick of overuse of the word troll.

    TiVo has a current, selling product based on these patents henceforth they are NOT a patent troll.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      Sick of overuse of the word troll.

      Now that's a mighty vague non-sentence. You’re sick of overuse of the word by whom? I sure as hell don't think you're stupid enough to blame the messenger (Techdirt in this case).

      Could it be that this is reality and you and many others need to wake the hell up to how fucked things are?

      I think "patent trolling" a.k.a. the "IP lawsuit industry" is at the forefront in the US these days, but why is it? Is it because the US HAS no other industry any more? It certainly appears that way. What happened?

      Welcome to the 21st century. So-called "IP Lawsuits" are how profits are made for shareholders and how markets are dominated in the US these days. There is sure as hell very little else going on. And please don't say "Silicon Valley" - that's one or two generations ago.

      What the fuck else is left in the US (besides war machines of course)?

      Yes, the US has sunk to a new low: IP lawsuits. Now the corporate remnants sue each other until only one is left standing. And then it is your overlord - game over.

      In summary: WAKE THE FUCK UP! THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO HELL!

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:23am

        Re: Re:

        It's obvious that you don't have a problem with patent trolling, you actually have a problem with patents. Two different issues.

         

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    •  
      icon
      doubledeej (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      They may have a product that is available, but they don't offer a competitive product to the marketplace. They rested on their laurels for way too long before they started to innovate, and the recurring fees for using their product really turns off potential buyers.

      If they killed their fees and negotiated decent rates with cable companies and satellite providers they could potentially be competitive. But their business model is flawed so they've moved from being a real player into near irrelevance.

       

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        pixelpusher220 (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 8:52am

        Re: Re:

        They are still light years ahead of Verizon's offering. I imagine Comcast and other cable companies are similar.

        Tivo invented something completely new and is selling it. It's reasonable to argue the patents are invalid - that's a debatable point.

        But to say that because their products aren't 'competitive' they should forfeit their patents? That's not in patent law. You invent something, you get X number of years monopoly on that something. Period.

        It's up to them how they use that monopoly, but either you don't want ANY patents, or you have to accept how Tivo actively uses their patents to make products. Note I said 'accept' and not 'agree with'.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          JEDIDIAH, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 1:00pm

          Fanboy lies.

          > Tivo invented something completely new and is selling it

          No they didn't. They merely used a computer to be a VCR. They took advantage of the inherent qualities of general purpose computers and it's associated tools.

          The state of tech at the time gave them a slight edge on what a kid with a PC and a shell script could do but not much.

          Also, Tivo wasn't alone. The fanboys tend to forget this fact.

           

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  •  
    identicon
    staff, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:14am

    more dissembling

    "...using its patents to stop competition"

    Once again you have it backwards. Patents create competition, not stop.

    “Patent troll”

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”. This is just dissembling by large infringers and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

     

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    •  
      icon
      ken (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:23am

      Re: more dissembling

      Sorry but patents are now more likely to crush small inventors than protect them. Patent trolls are the enemy of the small inventor. They steal ideas from other people by claiming one of their patents is infringing even though it is only vaguely similar. These trolls are extortionists that prey on inventors.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:31am

      Re: more dissembling

      And despite the number of studies showing that patents hinder innovation, you want to increase patents? Show me a study that supports your claim. I would be interested to see demonstrable counter points.

      I think patents have their place in helping individuals and businesses recoup costs incurred for all aspects of making a product. However, there are many documented problems with patents currently and for the benefit or all, these issues need to be addressed. Keeping the current usage of patents, while desirable to those that are benefiting from them, is an issue to the public. Otherwise, why is the discussion around patents so engaged by the public?

      As I read your post, you sound like a big business, trying to make yourself appear as a grass roots group. Please forgive me if I am wrong but how you presented yourself sounds like astro turfing.

       

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    •  
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      Richard (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:45am

      Re: more dissembling

      Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets.

      You see that situation as arising from a particular supreme court decision. I see it as an inevitable consequence of patent law. Any system that allows one party to tax or inhibit another's business will inevitably end up as the tool of large organisations.

      Small inventors would be better off without patent law altogether.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 7:01am

      Re: more dissembling

      "Patents create competition, not stop."

      How could you say something so stupid?

      The very definition of a patent is a government established monopoly and so, by definition, they (are designed to) hinder competition.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        JEDIDIAH, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re: more dissembling

        Yes. A patent is there to hinder competition.

        If you aren't at least willing to acknowledge that then you simply aren't being honest.

        You can't adequately consider the situation without acknowledging all of the facts both good and bad.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 7:23am

      Re: more dissembling

      “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”.

      This assumes that independent inventions don't occur. Just because one person can come up with an idea doesn't mean that no one else can independently invent it. In that sense, the invention belongs to every independent inventor, not just whoever owns the patent.

      No one looks to patents for inventive ideas. Where is the patent on how to build my computer mouse, keyboard, my cell phone, graphing calculator, etc... They don't exist. The existing patents are worthless.

      Even Samsung tried to go after those that tried to disseminate (sell) their trade secrets/designs. Samsung has patents. Why aren't these things disclosed in patents? Because what is patented is absolutely worthless, if a company has anything of value it would naturally keep it a secret.

      http:// hardware. slashdot .org /story /12/04/05/2016259/samsung-employees-conspired-to-sell-amoled-tech-11-arrested

      (delete spaces)

      and just because someone is the first to come up with an idea doesn't entitle them to exclusive use of that idea upon communicating it to others. Just because they maybe the first author doesn't mean they should have the exclusive privilege to control its use. The invention shouldn't be 'theirs' in the sense that they should have exclusive control over its use. Anyone can sit around and come up with ideas all day long, doesn't mean they should have exclusive use to those ideas. Patents aren't a form of disclosure, they don't do society any favors, they're a form of dictatorship, a way to tell others what they can't do. A dictator must disclose to its people what they can't do. Any law must disclose to its people what they can't do. That a dictator may claim 'ownership' to the disclosed ideas doesn't justify any behavioral limitations he may impose on others. Trying to reframe attempts to limit the behavior of others (especially if it's against their interests) as something other than authoritarianism and dictatorship, as a way to prevent someone from 'using the invention of others without paying them' is disingenuous. No, patents are simply a way to tell others what they can't do. It doesn't do anyone, except for the government established monopolists (and the government that gets money to issue patents and, in general, the government-industrial complex), any good. If it makes you happy you can keep your ideas to yourself, we don't need you telling us what we can't do under the pretext that something is 'your invention'.

      No one is entitled to a government established monopoly. If someone doesn't like it, they are free not to communicate their idea. Others will come up with ideas without them.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 8:33am

        Re: Re: more dissembling

        “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”.

        and IP laws should not be about ensuring that someone gets paid when others use 'their' inventions. To the extent that this is their purpose then that's more reason to abolish them. Your post is the biggest reason I want these laws abolished. The more IP laws are made into something other than serving a publish benefit the more we, as a society, should be determined to abolish them.

        No one is entitled to a government established monopoly and no one is entitled to having others pay them for the use of 'their' invention. The only reason IP should exist should be to serve a socially beneficial purpose, nothing else. Any other reason is grounds for abolition.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 7:28am

      Re: more dissembling

      "small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions."

      I have no problems with big business. This isn't about big business vs small business, and it shouldn't be framed that way. It's about anti-competitive laws and businesses that engage in anti-competitive behaviors. Google is a big business that has a history of being relatively moral. By comparison, the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and big media cartels (ie: MPAA/RIAA) are big and they have a history of being morally lacking. Some small businesses are moral and others are not.

      Anti-competitive laws are immoral regardless of who exploits them (and those that exploit them are immoral). Abolish them. My problem is not with big business, small business, or the like, it's with government established monopolists.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 6:58am

    Now what did they need the bull for?

    Somehow I thought lawyers generated their bullshit automatically... Silly me.

     

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  •  
    icon
    Greevar (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 8:15am

    What do I need a TiVo for?

    I have the internet. It provides me all the content I could want and without the spotty reception that comes with digital TV.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      JEDIDIAH, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 1:06pm

      Re: What do I need a TiVo for?

      Digital TV also provides you with all of the benefits of some of these early Tivo patents. Digital TV is already a "storage ready" format. It is "pre-digitized". Much of the work that an original S1 Tivo would be doing is already done for you by your local broadcaster.

      Although that part was already being done by your average 2001 era PC video capture card too.

      From the point of view of your computer, they look pretty much the same.

       

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  •  
    icon
    jakerome (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 5:52pm

    I'm a doofus

    Accidentally posted 3 comments on a 2-year old article. D'oh!

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100608/1521449744.shtml#c212

    Just on the one point, about litigation replacing competition. Problem is, there was no real competition in set-top DVRs--- the monopoly cable provider would just pick a vendor, rarely choosing the best option. TiVo was, by all accounts, far superior to all other DVRs and only Windows HME was close through most of the 2000s. But the playing field wasn't level, not even close. Still isn't.

    I would've loved to have seen a real competition in DVRs without cable companies putting their thumb on the scales. There wasn't. There isn't.

    Monopoly made competition moot, and TiVo turned to litigation instead.

    --------------

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/39482986/USPTO-s-Final-Examination-TiVo

    I think this will be the 3rd, 4th or 5th time the patents are challenged. So far all the software claims have been upheld, including in September 2010 review following Dish/Echostar's last challenge.

    ---------------

    Here's a story about the same. http://gigaom.com/video/u-s-patent-office-backs-tivo-in-dishechostar-fight/

     

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    •  
      identicon
      JEDIDIAH, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 7:01pm

      Re: I'm a doofus

      > by all accounts, far superior to all other DVRs

      No. There was also ReplayTV. It was litigated out of existence because it offered better customer centric features than Tivo.

      Tivo's problem is simply that most people don't care. They don't care enough to spend $25 a month for a better experience. They don't care enough to spend $1000 up front for a better experience.

      Most people will take the default option whatever that is.

      No amount of abusing the patent system will alter that.

      On one side you have cheap bastards that don't care and on the the other side you have demanding technocrats that will build their own solution as soon as the need arises.

       

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