The US patent office must have unpaused their hard drives because, hot on the heels of winning a patent related to closed captions on a DVR, TiVo has been awarded another patent at the heart of the DVR experience. With the application having been originally filed in October of 1999, it took the USPTO over ten years to review and finally approve their ultimate request… And on February 16th, TiVo was given the legal exclusive on what looks like “season pass” prioritization, conflict resolution, and recording.
For those unfamiliar with how a DVR works, part of their magic is the ability to you record shows in the future without having to worry about when they’er on. Back in the ole VCR days, we’d manually instruct our gadget the time and channel we wanted to record. But TiVo and other DVRs automagically keep track of this information and records our programs whenever they’re scheduled to run. Because the TV studios tend to schedule all of their good programming at the same time (I’m looking at you Thursday night), there are often conflicts between what you’d like to record and the number of TV tuners available to do it.
To resolve, or at least reduce, these issues, TiVo created their Season Pass manager to prioritize which shows get recorded and which ones don’t. This helps to make sure that I always get to watch Survivor and CSI, even if it means that I sometimes have to skip Community.
From patent 7,665,111,
The invention correlates an input schedule that tracks the free and occupied time slots for each input source with a space schedule that tracks all currently recorded programs and the programs that have been scheduled to be recorded in the future, to schedule new programs to record and resolve recording conflicts. A program is recorded if at all times between when the recording would be initiated and when it expires, sufficient space is available to hold it. Programs scheduled for recording based on inferred preferences automatically lose all conflict decisions. All scheduling conflicts are resolved as early as possible. Schedule conflicts resulting from the recording of aggregate objects are resolved using the preference weighting of the programs involved. A background scheduler attempts to schedule each preferred program in turn until the list of preferred programs is exhausted or no further opportunity to record is available. A preferred program is scheduled if and only if there are no conflicts with other scheduled programs.