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.