TiVo "Program Shortcuts" Patent Details Social DVR


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.

(Thanks Sam!)

20 thoughts on “TiVo "Program Shortcuts" Patent Details Social DVR”

  1. “As a non-patent attorney industry observer who’s seen substantial resources wasted litigating a variety of obvious, generic functionality…”

    Were you a patent attorney, I can assure you that you would not consider those substantial resources as wasted.

    (Also, given that my patent filing on humans eating food by using utensils has finally been accepted, I’m starting to rethink my previous opposition to the current patent regime.)

  2. Tivo has earned more thru its patents than thru its products, so it makes sense they would spend a lot of effort in this area. Of course, as a user I’d prefer them to speed up the development of their product.

  3. Personally, some of the functionality would be a nice addition to my shows queue. For example, a friend tells me about a movie to watch on Netflix. I add it to my TiVo queue for later viewing. It also shows up in my What To Watch Now.

  4. “I question how and why bookmarking media even made it through the approval process.”

    Classic tech knee jerk reaction to an application being published. nothing has been ‘approved’ or issued

  5. Chucky, one of my best bud’s cousin is a patent attorney I was supposed to meet/date… damn, a missed an opportunity there – could be lighting cigars with Benjamins!

    hfcsyrup, good to know, will make it harder to defend. ;)

  6. “a missed an opportunity there – could be lighting cigars with Benjamins!”

    A missed opportunity for us both! I successfully patented lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills back in the mid-90’s. It’s proved a surprisingly minimal revenue stream, so I would’ve appreciated that marriage.


    “Ok Chucky LOL I needed a reason to laugh and appreciate the post!”

    Beware. By laughing out loud at my comment, you’ve now lost your ability to sue any company which makes any product I’ve ever used.

  7. Interesting. 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.

    Among other things, will DVR system 100 be providing a list of recommended advertiser content?

  8. Yes, advertising is mentioned – some examples were movie trailers with expiration dates and linkage to a promotional Lexus website or video element.

  9. I wonder if this will be the step towards what Ben@EngadgetHD always mentions. This sounds like you would be able to add shows from Netflix to your Now Playing list.

  10. I first suggested all of this years ago – back when they first added networking to TiVo officially. Pretty much everything they cover – having a social group of friends, sharing content, using friends to influence TiVo Suggestions (“Your friends like this”), being able to bookmark content and places in shows, etc. I’d be nice to see some of this stuff finally happen.

  11. Yeah, we’ve been talking about a variety of sharing options, both methods and locations, for years (1, 2)… But probably not recordings themselves — that surely helped sink Replay. MZ – good to see you! And I do imagine you were probably first.

  12. I actually picked up a top-end Roamio and a couple of Minis a few months ago – and they’re sitting in the closet in their boxes. It has been a busy/rough few months so I haven’t gotten around to setting them up yet. I’m still using my Premiere XL4/Elite as my primary DVR. I’ve boxed up by old Pioneer S2 DVD unit and my S3 is going to be boxed up when I setup the Roamio.

    I wasn’t trying to claim ‘first’, just saying that these aren’t new ideas – so it’d be nice to see them actually happen, and not just get talked about for the nth time.

    One of the reasons I stopped blogging was that I just got frustrated. Too many times features would be delayed or dropped. I got tired of having things promised over and over, getting new release dates repeatedly, etc. For example – Android support. One of the reasons I haven’t been motivated to setup the Roamio is because we have no iOS devices in my household and no desire to have any. But we have several Android devices. Without Android support the streaming features are worthless. It has been what, two years now? C’mon, it isn’t *that* hard. I’m still using my Slingbox PRO-HD.

    Some of the new features, like DIAL support, are nice. I’ve used that, though it does seem to work better on my Chromecast so I switch over to that more often.

  13. Well said, MegaZone. Anyone that isn’t frustrated with TiVo either has their head in the sand or is long tivo stock.

  14. @jagmeoff,

    Quoting Chucky on the subject of troll & TiVo short jagmeoff/tim_tivo, “A perfectly cromulent point, jagmeoff. OTOH, your comments have never been updated, no matter what is going on with reality.” Perhaps you should go back into your cave on Investor Village? You’ve acknowledged that you are a DIRECTV user and haven’t used a TiVo in years.

    @MegaZone, I agree with you that the pace of progress at TiVo can be painfully slow but they have a superior product on their hands with Roamio and Mini. The recent Dial support, Netflix, and YouTube updates work extremely well. As Ben Drawbaugh commented in his most recent Engadget podcast, I find myself using TiVo’s What To Watch Now (WTWN) functionality way more than I expected. I look forward to the addition of additional personalization and recommendation features on that front including the addition of Thuuz and Metacritic rating to the TV interface. The new default recording options (its about time) are also welcome and in HD but it is sort of amazing that we still have the settings screen in SD. While we know that Android support is probably coming in June there are rumors that it might only support the latest version of Android. I’ve been told by my sources that the issue with Android is DRM-related. Personally I would love to see a web app to replace TiVo desktop and allow streaming from my Roamio onto my desktop. Lastly, it appears that Opera is gaining a lot of industry support and I’m cautiously optimistic that might lead to more updated apps on the platform including something that supports Ultraviolet and possibly a new, long-overdue, streaming Amazon app.

  15. Eh, my feelings probably more closely align with MZ. I find What to Watch Now and the Opera Store both launch too slowly and provide limited value once running. Even if/when Opera lands some better apps, it’s still a knee-capped app platform within an app platform – ever other box I have gets to the good stuff faster. (Perhaps this “bookmark” functionality could improve the experience.) I returned my Roamio partially due to that missing Android and cellular streaming support. TiVo is arguably the best when it comes to pure DVR functionality, but that’s only X percent of what I do on my television.

    MZ, if you’re not ready to tear up your configuration you may consider simply swapping out that S3 for a Mini fed from your Elite. I’ve got a headless Elite in the basement, with Slingbox attached, feeding a Mini in the Family Room and a Mini in the Master Bedroom.

  16. Poor Sam. Tough to defend, the indefensible. The Android app is another TiVo embarrassment, similar to the first two years of the Premiere platform(only two years is generous). Only TiVo can come out with (potentially) a superior product and continue to loose customers for a number of years.

    Thank goodness for getting in bed with cable, particularly overseas cable. That monopolistic world is MUCH easier to compete in than the open market. Too bad, too many of the deals were just plain bad. Like the TiVo/Comcast & the TiVo/DirecTV deals. With Comcast they built something that didn’t work, and DirecTV they built something no one wants. But Comcast and DirecTV came out like bandits, no patent payouts. Then there were all the website buried, “would you like to spend extra for a TiVo? or our cheaper DVR?” arrangements that produced nothing significant.

  17. Having done some patent work in the past, hfcsyrup is correct. It doesn’t mean any stance by the USPTO. It is merely a publication of a patent application which is typically done 18 months after filing, but the applicant can request to not have their application published if desired.

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