Court: Similarities In Shortening MLB Broadcasts Doesn't Equal Patent Infringement

from the home-run dept

I've made this clear in the past, but I'm a huge fan of Major League Baseball's Advanced Media wing and a good deal of the work they do in providing clips and streaming on the internet and mobile devices. One aspect I hadn't been aware of, however, was a method for watching games very quickly by stripping out the downtime, commercials and the commentary. As I understand it, it's all the game content and nothing else, and it can make it possible to watch a full game in fifteen minutes.

And if this sounds like something baseball broadcasts have obviously needed, a company called Baseball Quick fully agrees with you. That's why it also developed a system for likewise condensing baseball games. Then, because this is America, Baseball Quick and MLB spent the last three years going after each other in court for the two competing products that do the exact same thing. And, amazingly, despite the existence of patents in the works, the judge in the case has rightly outlined why there isn't any infringement.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest noted that each company's algorithm offers a different pitch, in a 23-page opinion issued Thursday. MLB "uses a subjective editing process focused on copying and pasting material, whereas BQ's is objective and focused on deleting material," the opinion states. She granted MLB's motion for a judgment declaring that its technology does not infringe its competitor's patent.
While it's not quite the idea/expression dichotomy one finds in copyright cases, it's nevertheless nice to see a court rule on the actual method ("art") rather than the outcome. Too often the focus is on the latter, which feeds into an ownership culture that appears to think that having an idea that is of use is the same as developing a patentable method for arriving at said use. In this case, the method for achieving shorter baseball broadcasts was different in a significant enough way that there's no infringement.

In the meantime, MLB is trying to get Baseball Quick's patent declared invalid under the idea that the method described is obvious. The move is likely MLB being vindictive, but that doesn't mean they aren't right. Shortening a broadcast of a baseball game by deleting all the parts that aren't the game does sound obvious, though the method for getting there may not be.


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  • identicon
    Christenson, 16 Dec 2014 @ 9:27pm

    Novelty anyone?

    Seriously....for how long have we watched highlight reels on CNN? CBS news in the days of Walter Cronkite? Where did they get the name "reels"???

    How is this possibly new, by any algorithm, subjective or objective? Come on, catch every pitch, and follow the action whenever the ball goes anywhere besides the catcher's mitt!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 16 Dec 2014 @ 11:28pm

    I think the complex part of Baseball Quick's system isn't the "delete the parts that aren't the game" idea but the algorithms and processing needed to identify [i]which[/i] parts aren't the game. That's where any valid patents would lie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      toyotabedzrock (profile), 17 Dec 2014 @ 12:00am

      Re:

      Their are free. Computer vision libraries that handle recognizing certain types of objects and motion. Intel open sourced one a while back.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 16 Dec 2014 @ 11:57pm

    There is nothing patentable here. I bet they both used third party vision libraries to detect certain types of footage.
    Then all you are left with is automated video editing which is nothing new.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Beech, 17 Dec 2014 @ 2:06am

    Glass Houses

    "Hey! Their way of shortening the game is totally obvious. Our way of shortening the game is SO much less obvious, because reasons!"

    Really though, if it was so obvious why didn't MLB do it that way with their program? And if one/either of these shortening methods are obvious then why haven't they been used before in the last century baseball has been around?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Atkray (profile), 17 Dec 2014 @ 6:13pm

      Re: Glass Houses

      I wondered the same thing and then it hit me...they thought of just removing parts, decided it was obvious and therefore not likely to survive a patent challenge so they concocted a convoluted process to accomplish the same thing by copy and pasting.

      Unfortunately for them, thanks to a recent SCOTUS ruling, we know that what they actually created was a duck.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RR, 17 Dec 2014 @ 3:31am

    Algorithms?

    Do we really want patents on algorithms?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2014 @ 4:00am

    Ducks

    "While it's not quite the idea/expression dichotomy one finds in copyright cases, it's nevertheless nice to see a court rule on the actual method ("art") rather than the outcome."

    Which is contrary to the standard set by the Supreme Court in Aereo. I wonder if this ruling will be appealed given that it obviously not based on the new "duck test" standard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 17 Dec 2014 @ 4:34am

      Re: Ducks

      That was different. That was a copyright issue, which is different... well... because.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2014 @ 11:17am

        Re: Re: Ducks

        But, as a matter of jurisprudence, the Supreme Court demonstrated that it is not the actual details of the case that matter, but rather the superficial, fuzzy, outward appearance. So, if you can squint your eyes, hold your head just right and imagine that something looks kind of, maybe, like a duck, then it is a duck. Based on that standard, Judge Forest obviously got this case all wrong.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 17 Dec 2014 @ 5:49am

    it's all the game content and nothing else, and it can make it possible to watch a full game in fifteen minutes

    Great, now if we could actually have them play the entire game without any of the breaks, down time, and filler activity it might actually be exciting.

    Perhaps we could just put a shot clock on the pitcher.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 19 Dec 2014 @ 12:42pm

    MLB's response

    Take me out to the ball game
    Take me out with the crowd
    We help charities harm Autistics
    We don't care if that makes us seem dicks
    Let me root, root, root for eugenics
    If they don't kill, it's a shame
    For when Autism Speaks strikes, you're out
    At the old ball game

    Whoops! Wrong response...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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