IBM Files Patent for Blogging Remote Control

--Hillcrest Labs, Nintendo Settle Remote Control Patent Dispute

The Baltimore Sun newspaper reported last week that IBM has filed a patent for a TV remote control that can be programmed to auto-blog or auto-tweet while the user watches programming (i.e. to automatically provide information about what the user is watching) and that also allows the user to post his or her own custom comments, as well as a screenshot of the program he or she is watching. "A viewer selects a media program to view by use of a remote controller with networking capability," the patent filing reads. "Upon the viewer wishing to send a blog posting to a blog, the viewer determines whether a tag to be included in the blog posting is to be a pre-existing tag or a custom tag, wherein the blog posting comprises program information about the media program useful to identify the media program. If the tag is to be a pre-existing tag, the viewer selects the pre-existing tag from a plurality of pre-existing tags using the remote controller and if the tag is to be a custom tag, the viewer generates the custom tag using the remote controller. If a protocol provided by the remote controller to send the blog posting to the blog allows a snapshot of the media program to be included in the blog posting, the remote controller takes the snapshot of the media program and includes it in the blog posting." The remote would also "display responses to and from other bloggers with whom the viewer is communicating," the patent filing states.

According to the patent filing, the rationale for such a remote is that "more than ever, people wish to be able to share their comments with others in real time as they experience life. In the case of television, for example, one of the joys of watching television is discussing with one's friends the juicy bits of a favorite show or the latest television program," the filing continues. The full text of the patent filing is available at: http://tinyurl.com/m6hgxe

In other remote control news: Bloomberg reported last week that Hillcrest Labs and Nintendo have filed a notice with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) that they have settled their patent dispute. Last fall, Hillcrest filed a complaint with the ITC (and also began a separate civil lawsuit) that Nintendo's Wii video game system infringes on three Hillcrest patents (US #'s 7,158,118, 7,262,760, and 7,414,611) which describe technologies for a handheld three-dimensional pointing device, and on US patent #7,139,983, which describes a navigation interface display system that graphically organizes content for display on a television. Hillcrest was asking the ITC to ban imports of the Wii into the US.

Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. While, according to the settlement's terms, Nintendo continues to deny infringing on Hillcrest's patents, Bloomberg points out that agreement between the companies is termed a "licensing and settlement agreement."

The patents at issue are related to Hillcrest's flagship pointing and motion-control technology, Freespace. The technology is designed for use in advanced TV remote controls, including the company's own pointer-based remote, dubbed the Loop, which allows navigation of TV services using just two buttons and a scroll wheel. Licensees of the technology announced to date include Logitech, Universal Electronics, Inc. (UEI) and ZillionTV.

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