Oops. That DVD should have caused the toilet to flush.

Oops. That DVD should have caused the toilet to flush.

Summary: Today, while driving my 15 year-old home from a doctor's appointment, I asked him what he thought should happen when you stick a DVD into a computer. "That's obvious Dad.


Today, while driving my 15 year-old home from a doctor's appointment, I asked him what he thought should happen when you stick a DVD into a computer. "That's obvious Dad.  It should give me the option to play it" he said.  It's obvious to me to and millions of other people who are probably used to seeing the same thing happen when they put a CD into their computers or attach a digital camera to their USB port.  But today, in asserting that it has a legitimate patent on the idea of autoplaying a DVD when someone sticks in a computer,  Intervideo sued Dell for patent infringement.  According to the report filed by News.com's Michael Singer:

InterVideo, located in Fremont, Calif., is asking the court to enjoin Dell from manufacturing, selling or importing products that infringe patents tied to its Linux-based InstantOn technology. The software allows a DVD to automatically start playing a movie when a user inserts a disc into a computer running an InterVideo program. The suit concerns U.S. Patent No. 6,765,788.

My initial reaction was that it must be a mistake or there must be a bug in Dell's systems.  Surely, Dell meant to activate the flushing mechanism in the nearest toilet via Wi-Fi. (Note that I categorized this blog post under Wired & Wireless.)  

In an exchange of e-mails with Intervideo's public relations counsel Andy Marken, I was told that Intervideo has a patent on the autoplay technology as well as a codec (compressor/decompressor -- commonly used for storing video).  But Marken confirmed that the infringement suit has nothing to do with the codec.  Although the anti-patent community will surely lash me with a wet noodle, I can accept that there's a patent on something as complicated as a codec.  A lot of work, research, and development goes into one of those.  But into an autoplay technology? Puh-leeze.  I'm sure there was work involved.   But I'm not willing to accept an any claim that it was non-trivial when compared to something like a codec (not to mention that any 15-year-old will tell you that a DVD should autoplay when it's stuck into a computer).  Marken hasn't gotten back to me on that.

When I told my 15-year-old what was going on and how Intervideo probably wants Dell to pay it royalties for every computer it sells that can autoplay a DVD, he said with perfect 15-year-old indignance, "That's dumb.  Every computer does that.  What do they think? They can get money from all of them for something so simple?"  Answer: Yes.

Unfortuantely, a precedent could mean that Dell is on shakey ground.  Intervideo apparently sued Acer for the same thing and, according to a Reuters story, the case was settled to Intervideo's satisfaction.  On the other had, Acer isn't an American company.  Dell is and it's the world's top computer maker (based on marketshare data).  Although Dell refuses to comment on litigation, my hope is that Dell doesn't lay down and die on this one.  Sooner or later, the line has to be drawn on completely frivolous patents and my sense is that this is one of them. Either that, or the world is going to become a very boring place (see attempted satire). 

Topic: Dell

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  • I thought patents must not be "obvious"

    Unless there was something really innovative here, the patent office must have gotten sloppy. This is about as dumb as the PTO granting Spike Lee a copyright for the word Spike.
    • I think you mean is

      "the patent office must have gotten sloppy."

      IMHO, the patent office is granting patents without thinking. Or do you think Amazon's "one click" technology is not obvious. They have been doing this for quite a while in all areas. Remember, they allowed the patent for a method of swinging sid-to-side.

      Why are they doing this, I don't know. It could be funding. It could be pressure from others. Only the patent office knows. My suspicion is that they do know what they are doing and this is some elaborate nerd prank :)
      Patrick Jones
      • Actually...

        "My suspicion is that they do know what they are doing and this is some elaborate nerd prank"

        Actually, Microsoft is behind it all. We all know Microsoft has purchased the US government, and this "sloppy" patent granting by the PTO is just a smokescreen to divert our attention away from the real devil. By getting people all riled up about patents, they don't notice that Microsoft is still taking over the world. All these companies that own these patents are actually owned by Microsoft. Don't believe me? Prove me wrong. Unless you do, I'm right.

        No, wait. It's the Bush administration. By granting so many frivolous patents, the US government is attempting to corner the world's IP market. That way, we can take out the next target - Switzerland. We all know those Swiss are up to something, holed up in those hills all day long. Armed with all these patents, we can bring Switzerland to its knees. Until you can prove otherwise, I'm right.

        No, wait. It's right-wing Christians. We all know how Christians are trying so hard to bring about the Second Coming. All these patents, owned by good Christian companies, can force the rest of the world to toe the line. Pretty soon, every country will have to be right-wing Christian or they'll lose their ability to autoplay DVDs. And we all know that will bring about the End Of The World. Yeah, that's the ticket.

        I'm sure I covered the truth in there somewhere.

        Carl Rapson
        • Good one

          I bet it is the Swiss. Damn them and their army knife :)
          Patrick Jones
          • Neutral is the nice way of saying...

            I collaborate with your enemy but I've all your money so you can't touch me.
      • Why this happens

        ---Why are they doing this, I don't know---

        The USPTO is a revenue generator. Congress takes the money
        the USPTO makes, and funnels it into all sorts of pork barrell
        projects. They've grown dependent upon this revenue, and
        make all sorts of demands on the USPTO to raise even more
        money. Hence, you get patent officers being given quotas that
        they must fulfill. The officers must process and approve a given
        number of patents, so the revenue from that can be assured of
        coming in. This results in sloppy reviews and the granting of
        lots of patents that are sure to be overturned (which doesn't
        matter to the USPTO as they've already received the fees for
        those patents).
        tic swayback
      • The USPTO make no money for rejecting....

        The USPTO make no money for rejecting patents, only for accepting them.

        Can anybody see a problem with this system?
  • What about prior art?

    Does this patent ONLY apply to DVDs? If you put a CD into a computer and it starts playing music - isn't that the same thing? Heck, if you put a floppy into a computer and it launches a program - isn't THAT the same thing? If not, I'm running right out and patenting podcasts that play when you put a USB flashdrive in . . .
    Roger Ramjet
    • Even...

      ...the Commodore Amiga detected if a floppy disc was inserted.
      It sat there on the Kickstart screen happily waiting.
      And that was the early 80's.
  • Even earlier prior art

    All the VHS and Betamax systems that I've EVER seen automatically start playing the movie when you insert the tape.
    • I've always hated that feature

      Usually when I put a tape in I'm not wanting to watch it this second. DVDs are nice because the wait for you press play at the menu screen. Tapes on the other hand just go.
    • Older ones waited

      My first two video players (old enough to be large, heavy and silver) both waited until you pressed the play button before playing, but the feature is indeed pretty standard for any produced in the last decade or so.
  • Even earlier than my previous post

    I forgot about cassette tapes, and before that....

    8 track tapes! :D
  • autorun shouldn't even exist anyway

    "duh,I'm so dumb I can't find a file or start
    a movie/program/game by my self and I wan't
    the computer to do it for me".
    autorun shouldn't even exist anyway,so,
    hahahaha,I hope every computer manufacturer
    gets sued so it stops the autorun nonsense.

    Do we all have to pay Intervideo royalties?
  • Precident

    The inventor of intermittant wiper blades DID have a valid patent and ALL automakers DID violate it. He proceeded to sue each and every one of them - and won every time. This was a neat and tidy CLEAR example of patent violations. It certainly gets a lot more murky as you delve into software . . .
    Roger Ramjet
  • I want the patent on the process of filing software patents

    Then the lawyers would pay me for a change. :-)
    • Sorry, not new and novel...

      Was already suggested on ZDNet before...
      • Then I want the patent on creating mediocre posts

        Imagine the money that I would get from this discussion board alone!!
    • The Patent Office

      has a contractor who requires you to use Windows.
      Update victim