TiVo sued by Lycos, along with Netflix and Blockbuster

TiVo Inc., NetFlix Inc., and Blockbuster Inc. were sued by Internet search engine Lycos Inc. over the way they provide recommendations to customers for movies or television shows.

I think this is just another example of how broken our patent system is. Things like TiVo Suggestions, the general concept of recommending something to someone based on past behavior, is an obvious idea that is widely used across the net. Heck, it was used by retailers and catalog companies to make personal suggestions long before the net was around. Obvious concepts like this really shouldn’t be patented.

Lycos was the first search engine I used regularly, back when their mascot was still a Wolf Spider and not the dog. (Lycos is short for Lycosidae.) Eventually I concerted to Google when they came on the scene. Lycos has just slipped into obscurity, now they’re suing people for using obvious concepts they managed to patent.

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  • xforge

    What utter crap; that’s like suing somebody for walking by putting one foot in front of the other.

  • anonymous

    The patents involved don’t cover the entire “idea” of this sort of filtering, but cover a large collection of highly-sophisticated techniques for doing so, which were highly revolutionary at the time invented in the 90′s. In fact, just after patent filing the technology involved was described to a leading research group at MIT for due diligence purposes, and their reaction was, “that’s impossible”, because they couldn’t figure out how to do such a thing. And the recommendation abilities of the tivo system, as awesome as it is, was foreseen, discussed and patented long before tivo was developed. Whether the defendents’ particular algorithms infringe or not remains to be seen, but it is certainly not a simple matter to understand or decide. The question of whether the patent system needs reform or not is a much bigger issue, and the answer is likely “YES”, but this particular suit is simply playing by the rules of the system and business as the government now has set them.

  • anonymous

    Nice to see a lawyer-type shill show up and try to defend silly lawsuits with stretched arguments. The patent they claim was infringed upon dates to 2001, not the 90s. Welcome! :p

  • anonymous

    #1: if you actually know any “lawyer-type shills”, you would know they would never type in random comments into a blog for free, nor would they do so to jeopardize their suit.

    #2: the first comment was actually written by someone who has no stake in the matter today whatsoever, but who happens to be an authorative source on the details of the case. There are actually more patents than what is cited here involved, and the priority dates go back well into the 90′s, and the technology involved was developed beginning in 1990, in fact.

    #3: all inventors and innovators hate the patent system, at least at first. then you sigh and say, that’s how the system is set up, and there is no way to realistically fight it. then you move on to, “what are the rules of this game?” so you can invent and innovate within that system as best you can. then your patent gets transferred numerous times until someone unrelated to the invention owns it. then someone many years later says it is a patent that covers some general concept that it really doesn’t – just some very sophisticated techniques for doing so that were very innovative at the time. then they decry the patent system and the owners for patenting something so “obvious” and say the patent system is screwed up. it may be, but few commentors here on such things have the depth of understanding to know what is actually wrong with it nor what should be done about it.