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Old 04-10-2013, 08:18 AM   #1
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TiVo awarded patent related to commercial detection

US Patent Issued to TiVo on April 9 for "Method and an apparatus for determining a playing position based on media content fingerprints"

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 9 -- United States Patent no. 8,417,096, issued on April 9, was assigned to TiVo Inc. (Alviso, Calif.).
"Method and an apparatus for determining a playing position based on media content fingerprints" was invented by Amir H. Gharaat (Menlo Park, Calif.), James M. Barton (Alviso, Calif.) and Mukesh K. Patel (Fremont, Calif.).

According to the abstract released by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: "A method for determining a playing position of media content based on media content fingerprints is described. In an embodiment, the playing of an advertisement may be detected by determining that one or more fingerprints of media content being played are associated with an advertisement portion of the media content. In an embodiment, an advertisement may be detected by identifying the persons associated with the faces in the advertisement portion of the media content and determining that the identified persons are not actors listed for the media content. In an embodiment, the advertisement may be enhanced with additional content pertaining to the product or service being advertised. In an embodiment, the advertisement may be automatically fast-forwarded, muted, or replaced with an alternate advertisement. In an embodiment, only a non-advertisement portion of the media content may be recorded by skipping over the detected advertisement portion of the media content."

The patent was filed on Dec. 4, 2009, under Application No. 12/631,775.
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-P...&RS=PN/8417096
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Old 04-10-2013, 12:48 PM   #2
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So, Tivo is finding a way to detect commercials based on facial recognition software? What happens if one of the actors happens to be a spokesperson for the product in the commercial? Seems like a roundabout way of commercial detection, but hey, if it works, more power to them. I'll be curious to see how this pans out.
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Old 04-10-2013, 02:52 PM   #3
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So, Tivo is finding a way to detect commercials based on facial recognition software?
The patent application was filed in 2009 so for all we know the work has long since been abandoned. I share your skepticism on the approach. I was looking to see if a "Rube Goldberg" was listed as a co-inventor.
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Old 04-10-2013, 05:08 PM   #4
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Probably just another thing to sue Dish over.
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Old 04-11-2013, 07:22 AM   #5
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Probably just another thing to sue Dish over.
Sounds about right. I think Tivo just files patents on anything they can think of just to keep their competitors from using it. If they do, then Tivo gets their lawyers involved to sue them for copyright infringement.
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Old 04-11-2013, 09:31 AM   #6
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Sounds about right. I think Tivo just files patents on anything they can think of just to keep their competitors from using it. If they do, then Tivo gets their lawyers involved to sue them for copyright infringement.
The patent system is so screwed up. I feel that if you don't show up to the patent office with a working product, your application should be thrown out. Just think of how many patents science fiction authors could apply for!
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Old 04-11-2013, 02:51 PM   #7
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The patent system is so screwed up. I feel that if you don't show up to the patent office with a working product, your application should be thrown out. Just think of how many patents science fiction authors could apply for!
These days you can apparently patent an idea or a concept without having to produce an actual working product. You probably just have to provide enough details to prove that your idea is actually viable.
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Old 04-11-2013, 03:20 PM   #8
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They're only using faces of actors as an example. They could almost use anything for a "finger print". One common technique I can think of is bug detection. On almost all programs there is a station logo in the lower right of the screen that goes away when the commercials start. That bug could be used as a "finger print" to determine when commercials start.

That being said I've done a lot of research in this area and there is no full proof way to detect every commercial break. A combination of black detection, bug detection and audio volume detection seems to be the most reliable, but that's still not 100%. You might also be able to look at captions, since they are now required by law on all content here in the US, but caption sync is a bit of a problem so I'm not sure how reliable that would be.
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:45 PM   #9
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I don't know about patents, but I've been playing with the "comskip" program on my linux box (downloaded and built from source) and it is fantastically accurate with no manual intervention on my part (at least for the Doctor Who episodes I recorded from BBC America).
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Old 04-11-2013, 05:03 PM   #10
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Yeah, the tech is already out there. It's the legal part that is keeping TiVo waiting to actually do it. Imagine how they could advertise that as a key differentiator from cable DVRs!!
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Old 04-11-2013, 08:16 PM   #11
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I always thought a good way to do it would be with a "social network". People who just happen to share their own custom list of times relative to the beginning of a program that should be edited out. TiVo wouldn't be doing anything but enabling individuals to share their custom edits, and those custom edits wouldn't actually have to be for commercials - shucks folks might want to share their edits of sports center that remove all the scenes of horrific broken legs (to pick a random example).
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Old 04-12-2013, 01:35 PM   #12
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That wouldn't work because the broadcasts from different regions have slightly different time stamps. Plus you'd have to account for padding, clipping, signal loss, etc...
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Old 04-12-2013, 01:40 PM   #13
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I don't know why Tivo is wasting time on such work. It bankrupted ReplayTV, is that what TiVo wants to be, another bankrupt company that only a odd bunch of reactionaries use any more?
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Old 04-12-2013, 03:34 PM   #14
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They're only using faces of actors as an example. They could almost use anything for a "finger print". One common technique I can think of is bug detection. On almost all programs there is a station logo in the lower right of the screen that goes away when the commercials start. That bug could be used as a "finger print" to determine when commercials start.

That being said I've done a lot of research in this area and there is no full proof way to detect every commercial break. A combination of black detection, bug detection and audio volume detection seems to be the most reliable, but that's still not 100%. You might also be able to look at captions, since they are now required by law on all content here in the US, but caption sync is a bit of a problem so I'm not sure how reliable that would be.
I think VideoReDo application does a great job for this.

Prior to my main PC taking a dump, I would set it up to autmatically transfer a tivo recording to my machine, start a job that would have VideoReDo remove the commercials, then push the recording back to the TiVo.

I don't think I ever got a content removed from a recording. Everyonce in a while I would get a commerical that slipped through though.
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Old 04-12-2013, 04:32 PM   #15
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I don't know why Tivo is wasting time on such work. It bankrupted ReplayTV, is that what TiVo wants to be, another bankrupt company that only a odd bunch of reactionaries use any more?
The issues were legal. Charlie Ergen is clearing the path for TiVo, ironically enough, considering TiVo patent trolled Ergen.
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Old 04-12-2013, 07:05 PM   #16
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The issues were legal. Charlie Ergen is clearing the path for TiVo, ironically enough, considering TiVo patent trolled Ergen.

If by "patent trolled" you mean a small start-up company proving in court that their patented technology was knowingly stolen by a much larger competitor, then yes. But I don't think anyone really uses the term that way.
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Old 04-12-2013, 08:33 PM   #17
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I think VideoReDo application does a great job for this.
We're working on making it better. Right now it only detects black. We're planning on updating it to take into account audio and possibly other things like bug detection.

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If by "patent trolled" you mean a small start-up company proving in court that their patented technology was knowingly stolen by a much larger competitor, then yes. But I don't think anyone really uses the term that way.
I have to agree here. Dish took possession of a TiVo prototype, held on to it for a while, and then told TiVo "never mind we made our own". They didn't just accidentally violate TiVo's patent. They specifically reverse engineered TiVo's prototype. The patent suit was the only way TiVo could fight back.

Some of the other companies they've sued may have actually developed their own technology that just happened to run afoul of TiVo's patent, which might be considered tolling. But Dish blatantly ripped them off and deserved to get sued.
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Old 04-12-2013, 08:52 PM   #18
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If by "patent trolled" you mean a small start-up company proving in court that their patented technology was knowingly stolen by a much larger competitor, then yes. But I don't think anyone really uses the term that way.
The only argument against "patent trolling" you can make is that TiVo actually makes a product, and most patent trolls don't. Other than that, it was trolling a ridiculous patent against DISH through a broken system. What's next a patent of putting peanut butter and jelly together?

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I have to agree here. Dish took possession of a TiVo prototype, held on to it for a while, and then told TiVo "never mind we made our own". They didn't just accidentally violate TiVo's patent. They specifically reverse engineered TiVo's prototype. The patent suit was the only way TiVo could fight back.

Some of the other companies they've sued may have actually developed their own technology that just happened to run afoul of TiVo's patent, which might be considered tolling. But Dish blatantly ripped them off and deserved to get sued.
Clearly, it is rocket science to dump digital video on a hard drive and read it back. TiVo was an obvious step, they just took some computer hardware and threw a nice GUI on it.
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Old 04-15-2013, 11:30 AM   #19
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Clearly, it is rocket science to dump digital video on a hard drive and read it back. TiVo was an obvious step, they just took some computer hardware and threw a nice GUI on it.
Pretty easy today - not so easy to do it all in realtime with affordable late '90s technology.
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Old 04-15-2013, 04:13 PM   #20
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Pretty easy today - not so easy to do it all in realtime with affordable late '90s technology.
Still a good example of a broken patent system, but what else is new?
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:23 AM   #21
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Dish ripped them off, plain and simple. They were in talks to do a deal, TiVo gave them a prototype in good faith, and then dish just stole the hardware design and did it themselves.

Also just because something seems obvious after the fact doesn't mean it's not patentable. There are a ton of "obvious" ideas that are patented. Netfix has a patent on their queue, Amazon has a patent on "one click" purchasing, and Gemstar has a patent on electronic programming guides. The whole purpose of patents is to protect ideas, no matter how simple they seem after the fact or how easy to copy.
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Old 04-16-2013, 08:21 PM   #22
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Dish ripped them off, plain and simple. They were in talks to do a deal, TiVo gave them a prototype in good faith, and then dish just stole the hardware design and did it themselves.

Also just because something seems obvious after the fact doesn't mean it's not patentable. There are a ton of "obvious" ideas that are patented. Netfix has a patent on their queue, Amazon has a patent on "one click" purchasing, and Gemstar has a patent on electronic programming guides. The whole purpose of patents is to protect ideas, no matter how simple they seem after the fact or how easy to copy.
You mean the patent system is broken because of those examples of completely ridiculous patents that were granted?
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:36 PM   #23
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Clearly, it is rocket science to dump digital video on a hard drive and read it back. TiVo was an obvious step, they just took some computer hardware and threw a nice GUI on it.
You've just rendered all your comments on this topic irrelevant because you clearly don't understand what TiVo patented or why it's important.
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:34 PM   #24
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You mean the patent system is broken because of those examples of completely ridiculous patents that were granted?
No. At the time they were filed those ideas were unique. They may seem obvious now, but at the time the patents were filed the ideas were unique and gave a competitive advantage to their respective companies. If we don't allow even the simplest ideas to be patented then big corporations, with all their resources, will simply steal all the good ideas for themselves and it would be almost impossible for a startup to make it.

Sure patents are abused by some people. Just like all systems are abused and manipulated. But in the grand scheme of things I still think the patent system, as-is, is better then nothing.
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Old 04-17-2013, 05:59 PM   #25
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No. At the time they were filed those ideas were unique. They may seem obvious now, but at the time the patents were filed the ideas were unique and gave a competitive advantage to their respective companies. If we don't allow even the simplest ideas to be patented then big corporations, with all their resources, will simply steal all the good ideas for themselves and it would be almost impossible for a startup to make it.

Sure patents are abused by some people. Just like all systems are abused and manipulated. But in the grand scheme of things I still think the patent system, as-is, is better then nothing.
Much of the patent system is ridiculous. All software patents should be eliminated, as should all business process or process patents. I kind of see it for some mechanical devices, but even then, it's a tough sell.
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Old 04-20-2013, 03:09 PM   #26
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Much of the patent system is ridiculous. All software patents should be eliminated, as should all business process or process patents. I kind of see it for some mechanical devices, but even then, it's a tough sell.
If you go with that line of thinking then there is no motivation to create something that doesn't exist if there is no way to protect yourself.
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Old 04-20-2013, 04:59 PM   #27
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If you go with that line of thinking then there is no motivation to create something that doesn't exist if there is no way to protect yourself.
Software can be copyrighted. It should not be able to be patented, because it makes no sense. Business processes just shouldn't be patentable at all. That doesn't really make sense either.
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Old 04-21-2013, 01:27 PM   #28
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Software can be copyrighted. It should not be able to be patented, because it makes no sense. Business processes just shouldn't be patentable at all. That doesn't really make sense either.
The cod itself can be copyrighted, but that doesn't protect the functionality of the software. If you come up with software that does something truly unique, that has never been thought of before, a copyright wont protect you from someone simply reverse engineering it and releasing another product that does the exact same thing. Patents do.
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Old 04-21-2013, 07:26 PM   #29
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The cod itself can be copyrighted, but that doesn't protect the functionality of the software. If you come up with software that does something truly unique, that has never been thought of before, a copyright wont protect you from someone simply reverse engineering it and releasing another product that does the exact same thing. Patents do.
That's why software shouldn't be patentable. It has opened up a whole can of worms that shouldn't be there for software.
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Old 04-22-2013, 04:47 PM   #30
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That's why software shouldn't be patentable. It has opened up a whole can of worms that shouldn't be there for software.
How is designing something unique in code any different then designing a new chemical combination for a drug? Both are patentable, as they should be. If it weren't for the patent system no one would spend the money on R&D because as soon as they released something new there would be a dozen other companies who'd just rip them off and undercut them. Patents help progress by giving companies exclusive rights for a limited amount of time so that they can recoup their R&D costs.

Now are they sometimes abused? Of course. But I still think it's better then the alternative.
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