It's been a ten year process, but TiVo just won a patent on managing DVR recording schedules and resolving schedule conflicts using a list of shows ordered by priority. US Patent #7,665,111 covers "recording, storing, and deleting of television and/or web page program material" by generating a prioritized list of shows that contains both shows chosen and ranked by users and shows the DVR think you'll like, matching that list against the program guide and available recording space, and resolving conflicts based on priority. Yeah, that's what essentially every DVR on the market does now -- but before you run off screaming into the woods, remember that this was all basically uncharted territory when TiVo applied for this patent way back in 1999, the same year it launched one of the first DVRs.

Now, TiVo has been anything but shy when it comes to suing over its other hard-fought DVR patents, so we'll have to see how the company decides to use this new bit of IP leverage; patents that have been pending for this long aren't exactly secrets to anyone, and we're sure TiVo's competitors have been thinking of clever ways to design around it. (One bit that jumps out: the priority list has to contain both "a viewer's explicit preferred program selections for recording" and "inferred preferred program selections for recording," so DVRs that don't auto-record like TiVos could potentially be excluded.) Of course, we'd rather just see TiVo retake the lead in the DVR space with some entirely new ideas -- we'll see what happens next month.

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