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TiVo It

By - December 13, 2004


I am the proud owner of two Tivos. But this news has me upset: the NYT notes that Tivo is sending bigfoot letters to media organizations telling them how to use the trademarked term “Tivo” in a sentence. In particular, they don’t like folks using “Tivo” as a verb. (I wonder who Google would start with if they made up their mind to do the same? I know their trademark lawyers don’t like the dilution of the trademarked term, but it’s a lost cause!)

This smacks of desperation. Clearly their biggest issue is the use of “Tivo-like” which must just kill them – if I were running the company, that’s the one that would stick in my craw. But policing society’s use of Tivo as a verb? Crazy.

Attempts to muzzle society’s use of your trademark in what essentially is idiomatic conversation is doomed to failure. You can’t do it. And the process of trying will only make for bad will. I say, celebrate the fact that you’re a verb – it’s an honor! If you can’t, you’re in for a long cold winter. I, for one, would love to be bigfooted for saying I Tivo’d something last night. In fact, I *did* Tivo something last night. Yup, I Tivo’d a few things, in fact, including Desperate Housewives. But my attempt at Tivoing doesn’t always work – I missed the last few episodes due to a bad connection to my cable box. Which makes me sad. I think I need a kleenex.

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4 thoughts on “TiVo It

  1. Neville says:

    The law obliges Tivo and many other businesses to act in this way, because if they don’t send the letters out then the IP in their name can be taken away from them by the courts. As a practical matter there is little they can do – you are unlikely to see any attempt to enforce this.

    On a personal level I’m sure they find this as ridiculous as you do.

  2. pb says:

    No it doesn’t. Things would be problematic if, for example, companies were using “tivo” in a product name and Tivo failed to notify. Here we’re just talking about general usage of “tivo” as a verb which would never lead to lost copyright/trademark for failure to notify.

  3. Tankko says:

    No, you’re wrong. You must defend your trademark or loose it, no matter the useage. It is very common for companies to send out letters like this, with no desire to enforce it. They just have to act like they are.

    This is a good thing. I wish patents worked like this, then a company could not sit on a patent, wait until it became a standard and then sue.

  4. JC says:

    I guess TiVo has just been “searchblogged” (or is it “Battelled”?). But seriously, is TiVo trying to have its cake and eat it, too? I seem to recall that Whatshername, the TiVo spokesperson on all of the advertising clips pushed by TiVo to my boxes, uses TiVo as a verb. If TiVo wants the use to be exclusive to their box, perhaps they should focus on innovation of their offering and stop falling behind NDS and open source Myth TV. By doing so, CEO (and attorney) Tom Rogers can prevent TiVo from being “AltaVista’d”.