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Life or Death for Tivo

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-like-his-silly-feet dept.

284

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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First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059145)

I stole it from Tivo!

Nothing to see here. (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059149)

Nothing to see here... delete recording? (Y/N)

/someone had to say it

Re:Nothing to see here. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059224)

Parent wrote: "delete recording"

Uh, I think you just violated the patent too. Get ready for TiVO to sue you.

Bringing it more on topic - what the heck in non-obvious about Tivo? "when computers & hard drives get fast enough they can be used like a VCR" is sure as hell not very innovative.

Count the seconds... (0, Troll)

davidmcw (97565) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059156)

... until the TiVo v's MythTV flamewar begins... for the nth time

I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (1, Insightful)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059171)

Dont.

Fuck.

With.

My.

TiVo.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059258)

TiVo is great (based on my experience back when I was a DirecTV subscriber and used a DirecTiVo box, which I understand aren't made anymore), but they have charged too much for the service (providing tv listings) necessary for their software to function. It feels like you are renting their boxes rather than actually owning them. And while on paper that looks like a good business model, in practice it doesn't do very well unless they aren't really providing a significant service (updating the TiVo's tv listings isn't a significant enough service to justify the monthly fee).

I don't think it helps that Sony is involved in their decision making (unless that has changed).

How much does public opinion count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059282)

I wonder if any of the Jurors have a Tivo?

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (0)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059295)

Umm... someone tell that to TiVo.

They've been removing features, not adding them.
Lifetime subscription: gone
Fast forward 30 seconds: gone
Indefinite retention: selectively gone

That's just off the top of my head.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059486)

Just my 2 cents...
"Lifetime subscription" isn't a feature, is a payment/subscription model
"Fast forward 30 seconds" has never been an official feature, and is in NO way "gone"...(try Select-Play-Select-3-0-Select sometime)
Indefinite retention: only a few, rare programs (aside from technical glitches)

So what feature have you lost? I'd like to know.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (2, Interesting)

hawkbug (94280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059629)

You're right - I don't think Tivo should be trying to make money based of a subscription model, I think they should price them higher and compete on features. Anybody can download a program guide into Myth for free right now, Tivo should just adopt the same plan and sell better-featured hardware at a higher cost. I know I'd pay it.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (4, Interesting)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059297)

You just supplied the perfect defense for echostar.

Tivo owners are very loyal/rabid about Tivo. I worked at echostar during a bad time in my life, and got dozens of calls about our PVR. Everyone was disappointed or angry that it wasn't a tivo, they wanted tivo, why wasn't it like tivo, etc.

Echostar just needs to play a few hundred of these calls to prove that their PVR is nothing. like. tivo.

If you think the whole Mac/PC beef is religious in nature, try the Tivo/anything else one.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (4, Informative)

Digital Pizza (855175) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059521)

If you think the whole Mac/PC beef is religious in nature, try the Tivo/anything else one.

Ain't that the truth.

Go to an online TiVo forum and ask about feeding your TiVo listings from XMLTV rather than subscribing. Bask in the hostility.

Here's a hint: google for "oztivo", "tivocanada", and "service emulator". Learn perl. Then lament the fact that you'd be sued and lynched if you ever told anyone how you did it.

(This is all hypothetical, of course.)

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (1)

Digital Pizza (855175) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059710)

(Sorry to reply to myself) BTW, I was smart enough not to be the one who asked!

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (2, Interesting)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059857)

Smart. It's always a good policy to lurk for awhile to avoid those sticky issues.

I have started seeing hints of unhappiness about tivo from the fanbase. I'd say Tivo's ipod-like clamp on loyalty is loosening. Your theoretical knowledge might become fashionable should customers decide Tivo's gone bad. Then it becomes necessary to continue using the hardware.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (2, Insightful)

vslashg (209560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059916)

If you think the whole Mac/PC beef is religious in nature, try the Tivo/anything else one.

Ain't that the truth.

Go to an online TiVo forum and ask about feeding your TiVo listings from XMLTV rather than subscribing. Bask in the hostility.
While I certainly agree many TiVo fans have an religious attachment to their DVRs, I don't think your suggestion really demonstrates this.

Here's an analogy: Go to the fansite of a struggling AAA baseball team, and enter the forums. Ask the fans there for the best way to sneak into the ballpark. You'll get hostility there, too, not because the fans are fanatical, but because they're pissed you've come to their fansite to solicit information on ways to rip off the their team.

I don't know if you're referring to the largest of the TiVo forum sites [tivocommunity.com] , but that site has red, highlighted text at the front of each forum where you might want to discuss TiVo service theft, saying in no uncertain terms that their forums are not the appropriate place to discuss it. So if you tried it there, then the community would be pissed at you not only about your chutzpah, but also about your sub-AOL-user levels of netiquette.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (2, Interesting)

slughead (592713) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059298)

Dont.Fuck.With.My.TiVo.

Actually, TiVo is suing someone else for patent infringement. So.. your tivo is fucking with others.

Tivo has yet to turn a profit and they think this will make a difference? I don't get it.

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059740)

Gawd, I certianly won't.

I personally can't stand when I go to someone's house and have to use their TiVo. I sooo miss my Echostar DVR at that point. Now, if we could only get one product which allows me to "skip forward 30 seconds" and has season pass functionality, then I'd be sold!

Re:I Think This Can Be Summed Up In Five Words (1)

zerocool^ (112121) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059981)


A-MEN, mr jardinians! I'd kill a man over my Tivo, if it came to it. ...And it has before... Don't look under the raised floor...

~Will

Was anyone else surprised... (4, Interesting)

Josh teh Jenius (940261) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059184)

...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?

Re:Was anyone else surprised... (5, Insightful)

Serapth (643581) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Was anyone else surprised... (1)

Josh teh Jenius (940261) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059435)

Thanks for some free education. I had no idea TiVo had been around so long.

Re:Was anyone else surprised... (2, Interesting)

Misch (158807) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059692)

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...

Re:Was anyone else surprised... (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059989)

i why, if you died in your car, were you clutching the tuner?

nuff said (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059192)

Not "right" (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059193)

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?

Re:Not "right" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059260)

Just because the system didn't crash on you a day doesn't mean it's not crashy. Hellooo Eolas patent? Blackberry?

Wow, I had no idea that such a simple sentence would be completely misread. Here's some emphasis, since you seem to have some difficulty understanding the point.

Is there a possibility that the patent system is working right in this case?

Re:Not "right" (1)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059324)

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" (2, Interesting)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059742)

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 invention was not a bad idea, since a single invention could often go a hundred years and have no derivative works. Shortly after the end of the second world war, it became common to see derivative works withing 5 years. The patent system, intended to promote innovation through guaranteed profit, now has a 70 year history of stiffling it.

Let them die, for many reasons (3, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059197)



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.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (2, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059240)

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 watch one while it records two more.

A good majority of the users out there (that Tivo attracts over MythTV installations) are using a Tivo because they couldn't give a two flying fucks about "additional uses" that other DVRs offer. On a side note, I'm a fairly competent computer user but I still can't justify another computer purchase just to hook it up to my TV to burn DVDs of TV shows and have a weather report while playing MAME. YMMV.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (4, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059301)

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.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

avdp (22065) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059525)

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 (in the form of a mail-in rebate usually) making it free (or close to it).

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059680)

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 and I was shocked to see how cheap many wholesale items were (clothes, cell phone parts, etc). Heck, I saw 10,000 count USB cables for ridiculously low prices and of good build quality, and I laugh at the US$29.99 exact-same cable in the US.

Nonetheless, it will happen, we just won't see it because of our regulations. Another reason why the US can't compete on the world level -- we protect those who don't need protecting, at great cost to the average consumer.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (2, Interesting)

avdp (22065) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059801)

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 sure were not in that $39 price tag either) you won't get a DVR out the door in China for $39. Maybe some day, but not today, and certainly not yesterday.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15060011)

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 on paper and file it with a government office in the right way, with the right amount of money spent and lawyers pushing for it.

It is all counter-innovation as far as I can tell, but I believe it will take years before others see the problems with patents and how you just can't fix the system.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059994)

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."

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (4, Interesting)

glindsey (73730) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059372)

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 now, that means storing data locally, but in the long run (as bandwidth goes up) I believe we'll see more real-time torrent-type schemes out there.

I just tried a 12mbps connection to the home (I live in a tiny 2000 populace town 1 hour from Chicago and Milwaukee) and I was amazed at the bandwidth. The provider said they could double it in a year at the price of 4mbps cable. In a few years, I doubt we'll being using hard drives as much as we are today if bandwidth is readibly available.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (5, Insightful)

dvnelson72 (595066) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (5, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059500)

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.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059708)

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. ...snort!...

If "making money with blogs" is typical of your "ideas" and "inventions", then I pity the foo' who takes your advice.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (2, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059798)

It isn't my advice, in fact I openly say I am against it for myself. The reason I posted about it is because of the numerous e-mails I receive every day regarding it -- and people seem too lazy to go out and search for real advice on the topic.

In the years I've been in business, everyone who has worked for me has had the opportunity to start their own business. This is because I push my employees to go off on their own (and have even financed many of their startups). I've had my share of success and failure, so I felt it was a good topic to write about, given that some of my bigger failures are very public knowledge, and many of my successes have been kept too close to my chest -- something I realized is counter-productive in raising my billable rate.

The more I share, the more I am worth, the more people can rely on some unique perspectives of an anarcho-capitalist entrepreneur.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (4, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059554)

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.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059747)

Download your stolen movies and mp3s. Steal technology from little guys trying to carve a niche.

Wait a second... shouldn't you be able to make an argument in favor of IP without blurring the difference between theft and copyright infringement, or theft and patent infringement? As a supporter of IP, don't you feel that IP stands on its own merits without needing a red herring (theft) to prop it up?

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059849)

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

Why would I download them after going to the trouble of stealing the discs from the store? That's just a waste of bandwidth.

...and tell me that I can't own my property either because the earth is owned by all of us.

Oh. I see. Are you confusing physical items and intangibles, or buying into "infringement=theft" that the big corps would so desperately have you believe?

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

bitkari (195639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059457)

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 recording TV, although recordable DVD seems to be the more popular medium for the majority of consumers here. There's something about the physical format that is still appealing to many, it seems.

*Downloads. While official channels, such as ITMS have taken off in some parts, folk here can't actually use these, instead being generally restricted to less savoury RealOne streaming affairs which are, of course, horrible. Less-authorised downloads are rampant - offering something that no UK TV provider can: access to US shows almost immediately after showing in the States.

The usual lag of several months for shows to cross national borders is something that content providers may want to address sooner, rather than later, otherwise they may find their audience doing it for themselves, as it were.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (2, Informative)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059973)

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 go on.

I may have to get Sky+ since Tivo don't look like producing an HD version this century (or indeed updating their UK version at all). I'm not looking forward to it *at all*.

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

oldenuf2knowbetter (124106) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059466)

Between the "ah-ha" moment of a new idea and the delivery of a complex manufactured product incorporating that idea to consumers, comes a time when the inventor has to decide if it is worth his trouble and if he can turn a profit. Patents, no matter how flawed the system, give the inventor a period of time to make an attempt to do so.

Patents do not not necessarily stifle innovation, but they stifle competition from those who didn't innovate but are attempting to make a profit from the ideas of someone who did. Without some sort of patent system an inventor might struggle to bring his product to market, see it gain acceptance, and then see it ripped-off by a predatory company with lower manufacturing costs and none of that annoying development cost. The inventor loses market share, goes belly-up, and vows to never bother to invent anything again. The predator makes the profits and lurks quietly waiting for another fool to bring something new to market.

Does the consumer win in this scenario? Only until true innovators recognize that it's useless to do so.

Re:Let them die......not in this case (1)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059527)

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 of (1) and (2), Tivo isn't in any position to compete with Echostar because Tivo doesn't have access to Echostar's market.

As Tivo cannot out-innovate Echostar as you seem to imply, they have no means of inhibiting Echostar's free-riding. If they cant out-innovate Echostar and cant sue them, what do you suggest Tivo do? Build a satellite network better than Echostar's?

Re:Let them die......not in this case (1)

Big_Breaker (190457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059856)

#2 Is true mostly because set-top boxes can directly store the digital feed. They do not need to capture and they don't do an extra compression cycle. This makes them simpler, cheaper and generally better.

Re:Let them die......not in this case (1)

jwest (21646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059903)


I have an E* DVR and I can tell you it is not similar to TiVo. The basic functions (pause, record, ffw, rewind, etc) are the same, but all DVRs have those functions and my VCR had them before that. The menu structure and general UI is not TiVO-like.

Last week if you'd asked me who E* ripped off, I would have answered "ReplayTV".

Re:Let them die, for many reasons (1)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059848)

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. . . . 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.

I think differently. I think that if TiVo had protected its patent, Echostar would not have been able to make money off technology that TiVo spent money developing. So, in order to make money, Echostar would have had to come up with its own technology, and in order to draw customers away from TiVo, the Echostar technology would have to be cheaper and/or better. That is the opposite of stifling innovation.

Instead, because TiVo did not stomp on Echostar fast enough, Echostar made money off technology that was already in existance. There was no need for the company to innovate--it used TiVo technology instead. So, because of this patent infringement, we have no new technological development.

So, in conclusion, and in contradiction to your argument, I think infringement of this patent is a prime example of how not enforcing patent law stifles innovation. Not vice versa.

We call that "Forum Shopping" (5, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059234)

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.

Re:We call that "Forum Shopping" (2, Insightful)

stlhawkeye (868951) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059337)

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 great lengths to prevent juries from doing this, and 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.

A travesty (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059431)

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!

Re:A travesty (1)

HardCase (14757) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059837)

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-

Re:A travesty (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059896)

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.

Re:We call that "Forum Shopping" (2, Informative)

mzwaterski (802371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059964)

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_States_court_o f_appeals [wikipedia.org]

Re:We call that "Forum Shopping" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059484)

A jury can decide a case any which way they like, no matter what the law says (see jury nullification)

That is incorrect. If a jury gives a verdict that there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis [cornell.edu] for a reasonable jury to give, the judge can overturn it. So can the appeals court. This can and does happen in patent cases. Patent cases are civil suits; the link in the parent has to do with criminal defendants, who get stronger protections.

However, in close cases, the judge and the appeals court will defer to the jury verdict.

Re:We call that "Forum Shopping" (1)

fafalone (633739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059845)

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 claiming they will not apply the law according to the judges instructions.
And nullifying patent law?? When nullification is used, it's usually for drug cases and becoming increasingly common as more people wake up to the fact that the laws are racist, ineffective, unconstitutional, and actually responsible for the vast majority of drug-related harm to society. Those are some of the elements that provoke deciding that a law is just so bad that it shouldn't be enforced; I just don't see it happening in patent infringement cases, since jurors aren't going to be emotionally involved and deciding major moral dilemmas; especially since lawyers can't even bring the issue up to get them thinking that way.

Re:We call that "Forum Shopping" (2, Informative)

jbf (30261) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059930)

+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 overrule the jury when the lawyer moves for JMOL.

Patent Solution -- 3 year limit (4, Interesting)

Deeper Thought (783866) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Patent Solution -- 3 year limit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059560)

Almost all countries are 20 years. The US was 17 years from issuance prior to 1995 and changed to a 20 years from filing in 1995, mainly to conform to other countries. Patents in the US are not renawable and IIRC have never been. Copyrights were renawable, but now that congress in a bid to curry favor with Disney (to keep Mickey Mouse subject to copyright protection) and others have made them last 95 years (the Sonny Bono Act), the renewal is less of an issue.

Re:Patent Solution -- 3 year limit (1)

Ponzio Fucetola (918620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059601)

The patent term in other countries is 20 years from the filing date, which is why the U.S. patent term is 20 years from the filing date...

Re:Patent Solution -- 3 year limit (1)

oshy (674602) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059899)

3 years sounds a good idea.

By the time the 3 years were up, they'd have to be out with their next idea to stay ahead of the oposition and make the consumers want to buy their new one.

Would make it better for us too. EG the Tivo & equivelents would have bigger hard disks, record several chanels at once, dump a series to DVDs, make the coffee and take out the trash.

Re:Patent Solution -- 3 year limit (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15060003)

Funny, it used to be 17 years until we harmonized with other countries. Now it's 20.

Nope, IP patents are still dumb. (5, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059257)

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.

Lesson for Today (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059286)

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.

Steve Jobs did it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059359)

That's how he got the idea for his implementation of the GUI; he got "inspired" by visiting Xerox.

Re:Steve Jobs did it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059393)

...and before the visit, Apple payed Xerox for the demo. Xerox was OK with it.

Re:Lesson for Today (1)

ktappe (747125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059910)

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.
While this type of theft has certainly happened in other cases, I don't buy it happening in this case. TiVo is such a simple idea that there is really no way that Echostar even had to copy TiVo. A PVR/DVR is simply a channel guide & timer integrated with a video digitizer-to-hard drive system. Many of us were digitizing video to HD long before TiVos came out; we just didn't have a program guide & timer. So TiVo putse these together and it's patentable? On the other hand, this is the USPTO we're talking about....

-Kurt

Wait, so what was the patent? (1, Troll)

The Warlock (701535) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059303)

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)

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (3, Insightful)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 8 years ago | (#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

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059724)

So either a dual-deck vcr is prior art, or a dual-harddrive dvr isn't a violation, right?

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (1)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 8 years ago | (#15060001)

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 and playing back to same hard drive or different, no difference from end user point of view.

So no, dual deck VCR is not a prior art, nor is dual hard drive PVR exempt. That is not what the patent is about.

-Em

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059810)

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.

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059853)

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.

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059490)

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 to do with the level of technology that exists in the original series 1 TiVo's.

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059702)

Their patent involved technology to write one realtime multimedia stream to a disk while simultaneously reading another realtime multimedia stream from the same disk.

Rather like New England Digital had done on their Synclavier digital audio workstations since 1985 or so? Granted, that didn't involve video, but it fundamentally was the same thing - recording multiple data streams to disk while reading multiple data streams from the same disk, all synchronized and in real-time. Video wasn't an option back then because of hardware limitations, but plenty of companies (Fairlight, in particular) had certainly given it some thought. Tivo did bring some spiffy products to market, but I haven't seen anything that I feel deserving of patent protection.

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (1)

Brushfireb (635997) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059503)

(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

Re:Wait, so what was the patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059553)

>> 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".

Did the VCR really record a show and present a show... Or were you watching your TV while the VCR recorded?

doctrine of equivalents problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15059383)

Here's the real problem with Tivo's suit and intellectual property law -- this Clark guy who's heavily quoted in TFA explains that TiVo should win their suit because even though EchoStar used a different approach to implement the same functionality, this "doctrine of equivalents" means they're still violating TiVo's patent and then goes on to explain that it also means Cablevision's data-on-servers approach would violate TiVo's patent ... BUT TiVo's founder got the whole idea from the work he was doing at another company for a data-on-servers DVR!

Which means that if TiVo wins their suit based on this "doctrine of equivalents" then they should/would lose if the company the TiVo founder was working for sues TiVo!

Any NDA? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059401)

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 developer who invested in its development. Patents can help, but they're expensive, time consuming and no guarantee against a well-funded competitor with legal expertise and experience. And a patent like the one at the heart of TiVo's lawsuit against EchoStar is also overly broad, applying legal devices like the Equivalents Doctrine to patent an entire class of inventions, not just the one actually invented. Many developers who make our livings from substantially improving on existing inventions avoid such patents that we would hate to see used against us in the hands of another inventor.

So we usually require a nondisclosure, noncompete, noncircumvent agreement before disclosing any details to the dangerous potential partner. Where is that NDA in this conflict? Was there one, which turns out to be unenforceable? That would be an important lesson for our whole profession. Did TiVo not have one, but gained millions in investment anyway, while EchoStar consumed their business? Another valuable lesson, this time for everyone. Are NDAs worth the paper they're signed upon?

"Similar" isn't patant theft (2, Interesting)

Efialtis (777851) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059406)

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?

Re:"Similar" isn't patant theft (1)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059529)

People aren't stupid.
The fact that they can get away with ramming stupid things through bureaucracy is the problem. The smart people are given an inch and taking a mile. Money drives this and nothing short of all-out reform of the patent system will resolve the issue.

Goodby DVRs (1)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059410)

No matter what the outcome of the case, TiVo is screwed.

http://news.com.com/Comcast%2C+Time+Warner+back+Ca blevision+DVR+plan/2100-1033_3-6056149.html [com.com]

Re:Goodby DVRs (1)

TheJediGeek (903350) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059607)

The TiVo company may be screwed, but that doesn't mean DVRs are going anywhere. Especially if they lose, there are plenty of other types of DVRs out there. For the /. types there's MythTV for Linux and Media Portal for Windows. (I haven't used either yet, still setting up a machine with decent TV tuners) For the mainstream, Media Center PCs seem to be getting MUCH more popular. Echostar has DVRs. DirecTV is releasing their own DVR without the TiVo name on it. Comcast has On Demand, which is similar in function.

The TiVo company might collapse, but there will be plenty of other options.

Re:Goodby DVRs (1)

bynary (827120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059683)

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 computer. That way it's under my direct control.

This whole move towards centralized data storage on all fronts is troubling. One point of storage = one point of failure/control. Bye bye freedom. We hardly knew ye (coincidentally, I just did a search for this phrase on Google and the first result was an article about Tivo...spooky).

Tivo will live on in some form (1)

finnif (945981) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059561)

Tivo is just such a compelling product that it seems like someone will have to buy their IP out of bankruptcy. That's the worst case scenario -- hopefully someone will buy them before they get to that point. The ripoff products have just never come close to the user interface that Tivo provides. I'd like it if Comcast would buy them instead of deploying this craptacular Motorola DVR that they've got now.

People just love Tivo, hey, their brand name has become a verb ("I'm Tivoing '24' right now")! Buying their brand name alone would help any similar product get a better image.

Patents, Fairness and Innovation (4, Insightful)

saterdaies (842986) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 might want to think of alternative, better ways of encouraging R&D and invention that aren't so stifling. For example, a 100% tax-credit for R&D/invention would mean that it costs $0 to do this. Now, that would probably be abused by companies, but it would make invention/R&D a neutral thing to do - you wouldn't loose money doing it, but you wouldn't be given all the social benefit powers that patents provide. The first to market might give you enough incentive to get socially beneficial levels of invention. Likewise, having government funded research is another good way - as long as the products of that research go into the public domain.

Maybe I'm completely off base. When classes are done this year, I look forward to reading Innovation and Its Discontents [amazon.com] which is all about how "Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do About It" (shameless plug for one of the deans at my school).

Re:Patents, Fairness and Innovation (2, Interesting)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059874)

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 provide enough of an incentive for invention, publication, and bringing to market. More incentive would be superfluous, and come at a significant cost. These costs should be avoided where they don't actually yield a commensurately greater benefit for the public.

In time, perhaps, these fields will slow down and the added incentives will become useful. For the time being though, I don't think that the pace of inventiveness in either field would slow down one bit if patents were unavailable.

People have an "I created this, it's mine" mentality.

Yeah, that's an obstacle that really needs to be overcome. Patents and copyrights are utilitarian. The issue is what implementation, if any, yields the greatest public benefit. In patents, the benefit can be broken down into parts: encouraging invention, encouraging publication, encouraging coming to market, having the most minimal encumberance on the public possible. Generally you end up trading the last two in order to encourage the first three.

Re:Patents, Fairness and Innovation (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15060024)

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.

What about ReplayTV? (1)

HeavenlyWhistler (716762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059608)

Tivo can't claim that their patent gives them sole ownership of the DVR concept. ReplayTV released their first DVR the same time as Tivo did.

The original ReplayTV system offered the following features:

  • Easily create and configure your own personalized Replay Channels
  • Guaranteed recording of your favorite TV shows
  • VCR-type controls while watching live TV (Pause, Rewind, Fast Forward)
  • Rewind to the beginning of a live broadcast while it is still being recorded
  • Instant replay
  • User definable video-quality levels
  • Fast IEEE-1394 (FireWire connection) for future attachments and storage expansion
  • RF/ANT input for cable (F-type)
  • Line One input (2 audio RCA: 1 composite video RCA)
  • Line Two input (2 audio RCA; 1 composite video RCA; 1 S-Video
  • Line One output (2 audio RCA; 1 composite video RCA)
  • Line Two output (2 audio RCA; 1 composite video RCA; 1 S-Video)
  • Upgradable storage capacity
  • On-screen easy-to-use program guide
  • Automatic clock set
  • Compatible with all over-the-air, cable, and direct broadcast satellite systems
  • Easy one-button recording of TV programming
  • ReplayTV does not use videotape
  • Models that store 6 to 28 hours of video

What precisely is the innovation that Tivo claims to have patented?

And don't get me started on the whole "look and feel" patent nonsense...

Tivo is Dead (3, Insightful)

sheldon (2322) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

It either works or it doesn't... (1)

benow (671946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059804)

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 knowledgable consumership. I built a homebrew pvr, wrote the code myself... it presents, schedules, suggests and other functions. As basically any other pvr does. I've never used a tivo, or any other non-open pvr... but I bet I infringed a patent or two along the way. Products produced with openness in mind enocurage a knowledgable community... we are after all in it for the long run.

Consistency (2, Interesting)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059876)

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 (2, Insightful)

frenchs (42465) | more than 8 years ago | (#15059880)

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

A particular greedy CEO better call DirecTV today, (2, Informative)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

The Automobile Industry (1)

Illbay (700081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15060014)

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.
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