Florida Company Sues Apple Over Apple TV's 'What Did He Say?' Feature

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jul 27, 2017.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Florida company CustomPlay filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple today, claiming a Siri feature that allows fourth-generation Apple TV users to rewatch a portion of video with closed captioning copies its movie companion software. The case has yet to be assigned to a judge.


    Using the Siri Remote, Apple TV users can ask "what did he say?" or a similar question and tvOS will rewind the TV show or movie by several seconds and resume playing with closed captioning temporarily enabled. This way, if you missed what someone said, you can conveniently go back and listen a second time.

    Skip to roughly the 1:02:13 mark of Apple's September 2015 event video below to see a live demo of the feature.

    Skip to roughly the 1:02:13 mark of the video

    CustomPlay owner Max Abecassis essentially argues he invented the idea first, as the owner of U.S. Patent No. 6,408,128 B1, filed in 1998 and granted in 2002. The patent covers a replay function with subtitles activated by either remote control or voice control, much like tvOS's feature.

    An excerpt from the patent's description:
    In its complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, CustomPlay says it has software that uses the patent available for download on its website. The company's homepage lists apps such as PopcornTrivia and CustomPlay, each available on the App Store for iPhone.

    For one app, named One Screen, CustomPlay describes a "What?" feature that does sound similar to the Apple TV's feature.
    One Screen, however, happens to be the only app listed as "coming soon" on CustomPlay's website. The company said it still intends to make the software available to end users, but it's unclear when. It's also unclear if similar functionality is included in its PopcornTrivia and CustomPlay apps, or DVD software for PCs.

    CustomPlay's so-called "What?" feature

    CustomPlay says it contacted Apple about the potential for an exclusive business relationship in 2014. The company believes Apple is aware of its patent and, without a license, proceeded to implement its patented technology in its tvOS operating system for the latest Apple TV model, launched October 2015.

    Court documents obtained by MacRumors show CustomPlay seemingly mailed letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and three iTunes executives in July 2014, and Abecassis sent a few follow-up emails to Cook later in the year, but it's unclear if Apple responded. There is no indication of Apple responding at the very least.

    CustomPlay's website says it is affiliated with Nissim Corporation, which appears to be a non-practicing entity, also owned by Abecassis. Nissim sued Apple last September for allegedly infringing upon seven patents related to DVD specifications. The two companies reached an unknown settlement in December.

    Nissim's website says it has brought lawsuits against major companies such as Apple, Paramount Pictures, Time Warner, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. All of those companies, excluding Apple, are also listed as Nissim's licensees, alongside Acer, Bose, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Sony, and others.

    CustomPlay is seeking damages of an undetermined amount from Apple, plus legal costs, and it has requested a jury trial.

    Article Link: Florida Company Sues Apple Over Apple TV's 'What Did He Say?' Feature
  2. Brandhouse macrumors regular

    Aug 6, 2014
    I'm going to dream up an idea, maybe I'll watch 'Black Mirror' for an idea that in the future might be feasible, but isn't now, patent it and just wait so one day I can sue everyone.

    Some people need a hard smack over the head.
  3. Glavin macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2014
    Someday I'm gonna damned well find an angle on pattenting breathing.
  4. farewelwilliams macrumors 65816

    Jun 18, 2014
    they patented the question "What?"
  5. Gasu E. macrumors 68040

    Gasu E.

    Mar 20, 2004
    Not far from Boston, MA.

    Someday I'm going to patent people saying "Someday I'm going to patent (something absurd)".
  6. scrapesleon macrumors member


    Mar 30, 2017
  7. cerote macrumors 6502a


    Mar 2, 2009
    Well the patent is spot on to what it does. Unlock some other ones battling with very vague patents.
  8. Brandhouse macrumors regular

    Aug 6, 2014
    But I didn't write something to those words, so your patent doesn't apply in this case.
  9. Glavin macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2014
    Brandhouse and Gasu E., I found your and my posts uncomfortably close in both content and timing, so I have just now applied for and received a provisional patent on claiming "Jinx!" in an online web-format message board. The two of you owe me a Coke or I'll see you in court.
  10. DarthMoops macrumors regular

    Aug 7, 2010
    Baltimore MD
    It's so unlike Apple to be involved in litigation.
  11. Brandhouse macrumors regular

    Aug 6, 2014
    Looks like I've been caught.
  12. shareef777 macrumors 68000


    Jul 26, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    You mean like the idea of a rectangular phone?
  13. CIA macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    Usually I side with Apple on these things, but based on the description, Apple's version really does seem to be incredibly similar to the patent.
  14. macfacts macrumors 68000


    Oct 7, 2012
    So do it.
  15. TMRJIJ macrumors 68020


    Dec 12, 2011
    South Carolina, United States
    I’m thinking about patenting the faint inaudible sounds of a heartbeat. I’ll be rich :cool:
  16. solipsism, Jul 27, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017

    solipsism macrumors 6502


    Jan 13, 2008
    It might be too specific. There's a reason that patents are written in a certain way.

    For example, Apple could argue that "the button" on their remote only calls Siri and that that key to feature working is Siri understanding a verbal command "What did he/she/they say" and other such terms.

    It could also be argued that "What did he say" (and its variants) and rewinding a video a handful of seconds with the subtitles enabled, could be deemed obvious. I know I certainly had this idea long before Apple implemented it and without having ever seen this patent until today.

    Their patent also makes very specific comments about the user getting to set how far the media will jump back, which is not something the Apple TV offers. Again, too specific can hurt you with patents.
  17. FelixDerKater macrumors 68000


    Apr 12, 2002
  18. lederermc macrumors regular


    Sep 30, 2014
    This is ridiculous. English IS in the public domain.
  19. cmChimera macrumors 68040


    Feb 12, 2010
    I'm not trying to pick a side, and I don't really care who wins out here. But Macrumors users, do not confuse patents for trademarks. You can invent something, patent, and then not release it. Just because some company hasn't released this product, doesn't mean that it's not a valid patent. Also, they're not patenting the term "What," they're patenting whatever tech they use to recognize the keyphrase and rewind, and add captions.

    EDIT: Saw that their patent doesn't include voice activation.
  20. psionic001 macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2006
    All this stuff will be a big impediment to AI.

    Siri in 2025: "Sorry, I can't respond to that question because the feature 'what did he just say?' was patented in 1998"
    me: Urrrrr.... "Hey Siri, rewind 15 seconds and turn the volume up and turn subtitles on, then continue playback"
    Siri in 2025: "OK"
  21. cmChimera macrumors 68040


    Feb 12, 2010
    That patent would be expired.
  22. roland.g macrumors 603


    Apr 11, 2005
    One mile up and soaring
    The idea can't be patented. Neither can a feature. If the software code is similar enough that's a different story.
  23. 69Mustang macrumors 601


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    Siri is the "button" or means that triggers the start of the replay function; first act being asking the question. That replay function is a part of the ATV not a part of Siri.

    You, me, or anyone else just having an idea is not the standard that's set for obviousness. That's not a criticism btw.

    Their patent covers both user specified and system specified rollback: "i) rewind or skip backwards the playing of the video a system default or a viewer specific previously defined amount, e.g. 20 seconds

    I'm not judging the merits of their patent claims. Just pointing out your points aren't as valid as you may think they are.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 27, 2017 ---
    A lot of people seem to making that incorrect assumption about 'What'.

    IANAL but I don't think they have to specifically (or want to) say voice activation since they broadly covered it under "or means" here:
    "A remote control capable of activating a replay function comprises a WHAT? button, key, or other replay function key or means, to enable a viewer by activating the replay function to automatically cause the system to:"

    That can be broadly interpreted to include voice activation. Probably why it's in there.
  24. Michaelgtrusa macrumors 604


    Oct 13, 2008
    Everywhere And Nowhere
    The biggest patent infringements come from overseas. Fight them first.

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