A Florida-based digital video company is suing Apple over a Siri feature of the fourth-generation Apple TV. The company, CustomPlay, says that it originally created the Apple TV and Siri feature that allows users to ask “what did he say?” to rewind and rewatch a short section of the video.
The feature was introduced with tvOS and makes it easy for users to quickly rewind a movie or TV show by 10 seconds in order to catch any dialogue they may have missed. Subtitles are also temporarily enabled during the rewind to help viewers understand what is being said.
CustomPlay says that it originally created such a feature and that Apple is infringing upon its patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,408,128 B1. The patent was filed for in 1998 and granted four years later in 2002 (via MacRumors).
The patent describes a remote control “capable of activating a replay function” in form of a “What?” button. This would automatically rewind by a previously defined amount and turn on subtitles, much like Apple’s feature, though the patent doesn’t cover voice activation.
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: i) rewind or skip backwards the playing of the video a system default or a viewer specific previously defined amount, e.g. 20 seconds; ii) turn on the subtitle to a system default or a viewer specific previously selected subtitle language.
In its complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, CustomPlay says that it contacted Apple in 2014 about a partnership. Court documents show the company repeatedly emailed Apple executives about forming a relationship, but it appears that Apple never responded. Because of this, CustomPlay believes that Apple is aware of its patent but implemented the feature anyway, without any sort of license.
CustomPlay advertises several apps for iOS on its website, including PopcornTrivia and CustomPlay, both of which it says use the “What?” feature. The company is seeking damages from Apple and legal costs. Apple has yet to respond to the lawsuit.