Rovi Sues Amazon For Not Licensing Its Electronic TV Guide Patent

from the maybe-they-can-trade-one-click dept

Rovi, the DRM company which recently changed its name from Macrovision, surprised some folks three years ago, when it bought Gemstar/TV Guide. However, in that deal, Rovi got a bunch of patents, and now it’s suing Amazon over its IMDB site, claiming the company is violating five different patents concerning electronic programming guides (i.e., tv listings). If this sounds ridiculous to you, welcome to today’s patent system. The specific patents are listed here:

  • 7,603,690: Interactive television program guide system with pay program package promotion
  • 7,493,643: Program guide system with video-on-demand browsing
  • 6,769,128: Electronic television program guide schedule system and method with data feed access
  • 6,275,268: Electronic television program guide with remote product ordering
  • 5,988,078: Method and apparatus for receiving customized television programming information by transmitting geographic location to a service provider through a wide-area network

The thing is, most of these seem pretty questionable. You could put any halfway decent programmer in front of a computer and say “I want to create a programs guide, just online” and they’d come up with much of this stuff. And now Amazon gets in trouble because IMDB includes an obvious service that fits with what IMDB does?

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Companies: amazon, rovi

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Comments on “Rovi Sues Amazon For Not Licensing Its Electronic TV Guide Patent”

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24 Comments
jeff says:

Re: There should be few if any digital patents...

Just so everyone is on the same page, the oldest of these patents dates back to Dec. 4, 1991. Any prior art or allegation of obviousness must be at least this old. Maybe it can be said that it would have been obvious to a programmer in 1991 that television guides should not only be electronic, but provided from a centralized distributor based on geographic information provided from the viewer. I don’t have a clear memory of the capabilities of computer networks and information providers circa 1991, but its possible that this really was innovative at the time. Also, it wasn’t until the 2007 KSR decision that SCOTUS lowered the threshold for determining that patent claims were obvious. You really can’t fault the patent office for granting a patent under the laws and court rulings of the day. However, in light of the KSR decision, it is easier to argue that prior art techniques, which previously might have been considered to be from non-analogous subject matter, should be considered to render a patent obvious. For example, after KSR it is far more likely that prior art examples related to non-electronic, localized information listings could be combined with prior art examples of using a computer terminal and network to retrieve information listings, in order to render these patents obvious.

jeff says:

Re: Re: There should be few if any digital patents...

Actually, I just did a more thorough check and the 5,988,078 patent actually claims priority all the way back to 1981!

Parent Continuity Data
Description Parent Number Parent Filing or 371(c) Date Parent Status Patent Number
This application is a Continuation in part of 07/848,338 03-09-1992 Abandoned –
is a Continuation-in-part of 07/802,249 12-04-1991 Abandoned –
is a Continuation-in-part of 07/796,702 11-21-1991 Abandoned –
is a Continuation-in-part of 07/595,393 10-10-1990 Abandoned –
is a continuation of 07/484,175 02-23-1990 Patented 4,963,994
is a continuation of 07/213,162 06-29-1988 Patented 4,908,713
is a continuation of 06/634,179 07-24-1984 Abandoned –
is a continuation of 06/330,111 12-14-1981 Abandoned –
Child Continuity Data
08/947,950 filed on 10-09-1997 which is Patented claims the benefit of 08/287,343

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: There should be few if any digital patents...

Prior art and obvious are two entirely separate issues. The question of geo-coding is separate from the other programming challenges and once addressed is no more complicated than “$zipcode=90210;”.

“select * from program;” is not terribly inventive.

THIS is precisely the sort of nonsense when I am talking about when I speak of corporations stealing MY PERSONAL ability to benefit from the product of MY own intellect.

Databases are very old things. Even relational databases are pretty old and there are other technologies that even predate that. I am sure that some old fart could give some relevant COBOL examples.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Got antenna problems? Perhaps solid-state plasma antennas will be the answer. This kind of antenna definitely won’t be exposed on phones — and it’s a bit ominous that this technology is also being developed for “pain beams” by the military. [url] “

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101213/19555212261/dailydirt-remember-when-wireless-just-meant-radio.shtml

I’m actually surprised that this kind of innovation is coming from the U.K. Shows they at least still have some innovative potential. Of course it’s not coming out of the U.S. , we’re never at cutting edge of technology anymore. Now most of our innovation consists of patents on ideas that were copied from other countries. I was reading about the latest camera pill the other day and guess who developed it? Japan. The only thing the U.S. is at the cutting edge of these days is IP litigation.

Not an electronic Rodent says:

Ummm Sky?

“You could put any halfway decent programmer in front of a computer and say “I want to create a programs guide, just online” and they’d come up with much of this stuff.”

I’d be curious as to whether Sky have licensed these patents. I only bothered to look at the fist one, but the (bloody obvious) description of a simple menu-based payment system linked to an EPG is pretty much identical to how Sky TV works.

If Sky came up with it “on their own” then that’s the “1/2 decent programmer” qualification out the window as I’ve always assumed judging by the quality of their software that programming was done by an extensive team of lobotomized monkeys on LSD.

Not an electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Ummm Sky?

“I think you might have just insulted lobotomized monkeys on LSD.”

Ooops!
I would like to make it clear that no insult was intended to any primates and I realise that I was clearly in error in comparing their programming ability with any employees of large media companies. I accept that whatever medical procedure the primates in question may or may not have undergone is no justification for such base assertions. I apologise wholeheartedly to any monkeys upset by my statement and undertake not to make such staements in future. Furthermore I would like to make it clear to any hippies or drug lords reading that it was in no way intended to malign any recreational drug products as having any potential negative effect on the ability to code.

Hmmm think I got waway with it *phew*

Miles (profile) says:

“And now Amazon gets in trouble because IMDB includes an obvious service that fits with what IMDB does?”
Given Macrovision was a huge success, isn’t this outcome expected?

When one can’t innovate, litigate to pay the bills.

I put this statement on my vehicle as a bumper sticker.
I was sued 22 times, for copyright infringement, in just one day and on my way to work at a non-profit organization.

I went to 22 separate trials and was found guilty in all of them. I now owe 353,459 people $135,475,435,893,782 (damn lawyer fees), because they all claim to “own” the copyright.

Luckily, I have a patented (and DRM) piece of software to make this all go away.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to install, so I downloaded a copy via BitTorrent and it installed beautifully.

This action apparently got the attention of 139 lawyer firms, because each one is asking for $2000 or “be sued”. I decided on the latter.

Here we go again!

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