Time Warner Cable wins patent to stop fast forward button

You know what the technology world needs? More patents! And since new innovations are difficult to come up with, companies appear to be trying to patent the most basic things they can. In this case, FierceCable is reporting that Time Warner Cable has won a patent to disable the fast forward button on your DVR.

The original patent, filed back in 2007, attempts to cover all sorts of “trick play” functionality, including “rewind, pause, skip, and/or fast-forward.” The patent goes on to explain the reason for disabling these features and they all boil down to either advertising revenue or forcing users to watch things they don’t want to.

The ability to prevent trick mode functionality may be important for a number of reasons. Advertisers may not be willing to pay as much to place advertisements if they know that users may fast forward through the advertisement and thus not receive the desired sales message. Content providers may not be willing to grant rights in their content, or may want to charge more, if trick modes are permitted. Further, some portions of a program may contain legal notices, such as carriage agreements, copyright infringement or piracy warnings, and the like, which viewers should desirably give their full attention to.

The patent also goes into technical details on a number of compression algorithms including MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. It’s interesting to note that even patent applicants have typos in their submissions, as noted with the following sentence from the filing:

The well-known H.264/MPEG-4/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) standard is noted for achieving very high data compression and employs basic principles similar to those of MPEG-2, with a number of features that ate enhanced, compared to MPEG-2, as will be familiar to the skilled artisan.  

Why a patent needed to be issued for such an “invention” is something we can’t wrap our head around. That said, we don’t expect to see this patent implemented in TWC’s DVRs anytime soon as that would probably convince many customers to switch over to DirecTV or Dish. Indeed, this patent may actually be a blessing in disguise as it could convince other providers to not implement similar restrictions in their product for fear of a lawsuit.

Source: FierceCable, USPTO

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My wife and I are getting sick and tired of some of the commercials. We don't mind commercials when they're done right. When they stick to 30 seconds, have some humour in them and are not stupid. But there are a few that are REALLY annoying, ones for products like No No and that acne creme etc... that are 2 min long commercials that repeat the same message over and over again until we are forced to mute it or go insane (perhaps they'll disable the mute button next?). And other commercials where those idiots are singing on the life raft for juicy fruit. Our mute button is getting a lot of work these days. I don't own a DVR, we have talked a lot lately about reducing my cable down to basic, cheapest cable. I have some VHS Tapes I was trying to replace, but lately I have enjoyed them more than things like DVDs because I can fast forward past commercials and a spec of dust on a VHS tape won't effect the movie at all. I'm not a hug fan of newer technology these days. It seems to be getting worse, more controlling where you no longer own content you buy. I certainly will NEVER buy a DVR that allows them to disable the FF button and would unsubscribe from any service. Your money is the only way you have to vote for these things, don't buy into it.

Reading all the comments makes me think people are becoming more LETHARGIC couch potatoes. What did they do when there was no cable but only broadcast on air ? Just treat it as such - a nature's call / sandwich break !

It is very puzzling to me how people find it to be OK to pay for TV and then have to watch Commercials! What are you actually paying for??? Anyone I talk to is paying between $100 to $200 a month. Sometimes more.
I believe, in the past free to Air TV channels had commercials to cover expenses. With monthly cable payments they swim in money. Sneaking in the commercials became standard so they were cutting in more commercials until a law was passed to max of 20 minutes of commercials per hour, the corporate world will try to bust out more revenue by upping the standard of what is acceptable now. They will get away with it as they did with showing more than 20 min an hour. [nobody has count as it is spread out unevenly]
As I see it people will just bend because they need and want the visual junk food.
And are willing to pay regardless of whether the actual cost is 1/8 of what they pay or less.

Lets see how Far Eastern non-branded products follow the ruling, probably about as much as they did for DVD region encoding......

Everyone should just cancel and move to another company. People need to start standing up to crap like this. They work for us, not the other way around.

"...we don't expect to see this patent implemented in TWC's DVRs anytime soon as that would probably convince many customers to switch over to DirecTV or Dish."

I certainly doubt it. They're not going to spend this amount of money just to sit on it. They will implement it and lose a few customers, and then the rest will follow. Let's not forget about extra bag fees and how that went down.

More reason to get your own CableCard Tuner or make your on PC DVR. These companies have no idea who there consumer is. It will only hurt them in the end more.

Lucky Comcast took over where it used to be TW. All the crap I can watch on tv. I can easily just watch it on the internet. I might have to wait a few hours, but I don't have to worry about commercials. Else, I could just always get a tv tuner and use that to record tv shows, then transfer it to USB and watch it on my flat screen.

KomaWeiß said,
Lucky Comcast took over where it used to be TW. All the crap I can watch on tv. I can easily just watch it on the internet. I might have to wait a few hours, but I don't have to worry about commercials. Else, I could just always get a tv tuner and use that to record tv shows, then transfer it to USB and watch it on my flat screen.
You do know Comcast disabled the fast forward button already. Unlike Time Warner who got rid of it completely Comcast disabled it for certain networks like if you watch a show on Fox you can't fast forward.

Totalaero said,
You do know Comcast disabled the fast forward button already. Unlike Time Warner who got rid of it completely Comcast disabled it for certain networks like if you watch a show on Fox you can't fast forward.

What happens if you use your own DVR?

Totalaero said,
You do know Comcast disabled the fast forward button already. Unlike Time Warner who got rid of it completely Comcast disabled it for certain networks like if you watch a show on Fox you can't fast forward.

I have Comcast and watch Fox several times a week (Bones, Simpsons, FG,etc) and I have never had any problems fast forwarding through commercials.

Basically, it's like a DVD or BD where you can't bypass the piracy warning when the disc plays - it could just be applied over certain commercial slots.
As long as it's not all the time I don't see the issue, they just need to implement it in the STB and then only enable it on content where the advertiser has paid an extra premium.

Let me get this right. TWC has the patent and are the only people who are allowed to disable the fast forward button, unless other companies pay for the right to disable the button? So they've made it harder for other companies to implement this? Great!

Peter Knobloch said,
Let me get this right. TWC has the patent and are the only people who are allowed to disable the fast forward button, unless other companies pay for the right to disable the button? So they've made it harder for other companies to implement this? Great!

Silver lining... yes.

So they have patented live tv? (can't FF, Rewind, or Pause)
Back to the good old days of the 90's, lets not move forward with technology lets just hold it back

idiots.. and they wonder why piracy is on the increase!

Next they will be putting electronic restraints in the chairs to stop you from making tea during the adverts, what next.. stopping you from blinking in case your miss an advert??

Ever thought about paying us to watch them??!!! I mean, I cant actually remember the last time I saw an advert and thought, oohh.. must go out and buy that!! On the most part Im not brand loyal, I buy what I like, or what is cheapest.. and do research on the internet to find what I want, adverts are all lies!

DrScouse said,
idiots.. and they wonder why piracy is on the increase!

Next they will be putting electronic restraints in the chairs to stop you from making tea during the adverts, what next.. stopping you from blinking in case your miss an advert??

Ever thought about paying us to watch them??!!! I mean, I cant actually remember the last time I saw an advert and thought, oohh.. must go out and buy that!! On the most part Im not brand loyal, I buy what I like, or what is cheapest.. and do research on the internet to find what I want, adverts are all lies!


for you, me and others its easy. altho im a little brand loyal (almost always use Axe deodorant.. altho its from those cheap ass 99cent stores, have used AMD for over a decade, prefer sony music systems and Philips TV's)
but also never seen a commercial and thought 'oh goodies, gonna buy that' but don't forget the average person its all about repetitive, make sure the name is stuck in people's minds, so they subconsciously buy their products.... and it works damn ads..
ah well, downloading is legal in The Netherlands (eventho TPB is blocked here -.-) but downloading music, video and book material (also ebooks) falls within our copyright laws. software however does not, altho downloading it is legal, unlike media, using it without a license is not

I don't watch tv anyway, I prefer DRM free digital files that I can play on any of my devices in HD with no lag, no adverts, can play at any time and every episode of my fav shows just hours after showing on TV after paying just a small subscription fee. They need to catch up and offer a better service equal or better than piracy. Netflix, Lovefilm, Hulu and Spotfify is the best they can come up with? Maybe they need another decade to adapt.

I don't really care about this TV is starting to crumble but as always the media we consume will adapt and get better.

Open Minded said,
STOP GIVING TIME WARNER YOUR MONEY!!

yep, i ditched their cable service last summer. dont miss it a bit!

people - believe it or not, you can live w/o cable. stop supporting these companies and perhaps they'll change.

I'd be interested if this was limited to Time Warner devices or any DVR (home built, TiVo, MythPC). If it is TW devices, let em be douchebags and drive savvy users to other options. If it is the later, let em lose customers because of their anti-consumer patent in play.

Soon it will be like Charlie Brooker predicted in one of his Black Mirror stories: The TV will know whether you are looking at the screen or not, and force you to watch ads or face the consequences.

Shiranui said,
Soon it will be like Charlie Brooker predicted in one of his Black Mirror stories: The TV will know whether you are looking at the screen or not, and force you to watch ads or face the consequences.

Glad to see someone else on here who's watched Black Mirror.

Asrokhel said,
I had to look that up, as I never heard about it before.

Well, I was wrong, I have seen "Black Mirror" before, all 3 episodes. Don't know how I forgot.

How can that be legal for them to forcefully disable functionality of a product you own? Anyways, if anything this will just lead to more people torrenting tv shows to watch on their media center pcs.

They can always play the "by purchasing this product, you have a license to use it, not own it" card

trag3dy said,
How can that be legal for them to forcefully disable functionality of a product you own? Anyways, if anything this will just lead to more people torrenting tv shows to watch on their media center pcs.

arclite01 said,
They can always play the "by purchasing this product, you have a license to use it, not own it" card

Just like Blizzard and Diablo 3!!! (Referring to: Changing gear, after people purchased it via Real-Money Auction House, then changing said gear, to uselessness.)

MPAA I'm sure will back this with them, and corporate greed will win again.

trag3dy said,
How can that be legal for them to forcefully disable functionality of a product you own?
When was the last time you was able to purchase a cable box from the cable company?

Z'Loth said,
When was the last time you was able to purchase a cable box from the cable company?

You buy your own DVR? I didn't think this had anything to do with a cable box since the OP specifically mentions dvr's.

Z'Loth said,
When was the last time you was able to purchase a cable box from the cable company?

trag3dy said,
You buy your own DVR? I didn't think this had anything to do with a cable box since the OP specifically mentions dvr's.

Most DVRs have built in cable/satellite. I know here in Canada, Bell/Rogers/Shaw/StarChoice/Etc. all offer it that way.

trag3dy said,
How can that be legal for them to forcefully disable functionality of a product you own? Anyways, if anything this will just lead to more people torrenting tv shows to watch on their media center pcs.

Sony did it with the PS3 by removing the "Other OS" in a firmware update....

trag3dy said,
How can that be legal for them to forcefully disable functionality of a product you own? Anyways, if anything this will just lead to more people torrenting tv shows to watch on their media center pcs.

using their receiver on their service means you have to play by their rules. also, i'm sure there is a part in the terms of service that specifically mentions that TWC can modify their equiptment and service

TruckWEB said,

Sony did it with the PS3 by removing the "Other OS" in a firmware update....

Removing software functionality is hardly the same thing as removing hardware functionality.

trag3dy said,
How can that be legal for them to forcefully disable functionality of a product you own? Anyways, if anything this will just lead to more people torrenting tv shows to watch on their media center pcs.

...and they wonder why we do it. Stupid corporate idiots. I'd just buy my favorite shows on itunes/tpb and have a media center pc...

In Australia there is a body backed by TV stations and advertisers called Freeview and they all recommend "freeview" DVR's video recorders etc. They say it works better than non-freeview equipment.

The trouble with "freeview" equipment is that you can not skip ads!!

Most intelligent people just regard the "freeview" label as a warning sign not to buy it, rather than as TV stations and advertisers would prefer you think of it as a superior product.