A few weeks back, the USPTO published TiVo’s latest patent: Program Shortcuts, which is effectively an update to their 2009 filing. As a non-patent attorney industry observer, I’ve seen substantial resources wasted litigating a variety of obvious, generic functionality that perhaps should be free of protection. Indeed, generally speaking, “bookmarking” isn’t new or unique … across a variety of platforms, including a long history of favoriting set-top channels, setting upcoming show reminders, and tagging On Demand video content for future viewing.
With the soap box behind us, TiVo’s Program Shortcuts patent does indeed provide some interesting clues as to their upcoming direction. And, given the refiling, beyond reassigning the patent from TiVo employees to TiVo itself, one can assume the company is both serious about the described functionality and presumably closer to implementation. From the abstract:
Techniques are described that allow DVR users to create program shortcuts to different types of media content from content providers. A program shortcut comprises a reference to another media content. A user may generate a shortcut so that the user may easily find and return to media content without performing a new search. In addition, techniques may be used to automatically generate program shortcuts for a user based at least in part to user-indicated preferences or actions.
The most fascinating nugget, from both filings, details social features long sought after by TiVo power users:
As an additional way to use program shortcuts, the DVR system illustrated in FIG. 1 allows users to share program shortcuts with users of other DVRs. Users may create networks with users of other DVRs in order to share media content. The networks may be private networks between the users or through the Internet. For example, in one embodiment, DVR system 100 might allow a user to identify other DVR users as “friends” and invite the other DVR users to access items in the user’s Now Playing List. Thus, when a user is linked to other DVR users, the user may view, among other things, the other users’ Now Playing Lists. In an embodiment, the user who is sharing shortcut may choose from a predefined list of reasons for sharing the shortcut. For example, the user may choose from choices such as, but not limited to, “It is my favorite show” or “It is like <name of another show>.” The predefined list avoids the problem of making users type on the television.