CustomPlay sues Apple over Apple TV ‘What did he say?’ feature

“Florida company CustomPlay filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple today, claiming a Siri feature that allows fourth-generation Apple TV users to rewatch a portion of video with closed captioning copies its movie companion software,” Joe Rossignol reports for MacRumors. “The case has yet to be assigned to a judge.”

Rossignol reports, “Using the Siri Remote, Apple TV users can ask ‘what did he say?’ or a similar question and tvOS will rewind the TV show or movie by 10-15 seconds and resume playing with closed captioning temporarily enabled.”

“CustomPlay owner Max Abecassis essentially argues he invented the idea first, as the owner of U.S. Patent No. 6,408,128 B1, filed in 1998 and granted in 2002,” Rossignol reports. “The patent covers a replay function with subtitles activated by either remote control or voice control, much like tvOS’s feature.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Here’s an excerpt from CustomPlay’s patent description:

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, e.g. English; iii) turn off the subtitle at either the point the WHAT? button was pressed or at some viewer specific previously defined point with respect to the time at which the WHAT? button was pressed, e.g. five seconds prior to, or after, the point the WHAT? button was pressed; and iv) increase the audio/dialog volume during the segment replayed.

The patent wording suggests that CustomPlay has a decent case against Apple. Whether that patent should have been granted in the first place or not, we’ll let the court(s) hash that out if Apple and CustomPlay don’t simply settle.


  1. It keeps referring to a replay or “WHAT?” Button which the AppleTV does not have. It does say “… other replay function key or means…” but I think “or other means” is too broad and will be rejected.

    1. I don’t see the “what’ button or rewind button or whatever you want to call it being central to the patent. The central claim seems to be the “rewind” with the CC turned on. Seems like a valid patent to me.

  2. I suppose that this is defined as a utility patent, which has a lifespan of 20 years (through the year 2022 in this case) assuming that the required periodic payments are made to the USPTO. Unless the patent is overturned, Apple will likely owe them something. But this is such a simple idea with limited application – it should not be worth millions, much less tens or hundreds of millions.

    I can do the same thing right now with just two button pushes – the skip back button followed by the caption button. I am almost in violation of the patent!

    The patent system is breaking down. How can anyone developed a complex, innovate product without inadvertently infringing on dozens of patents? Crazy.

    1. As it is not a Standards Essential patent, which would limit payment to a ‘fair’ amount, if Apple loses it will be up to negotiation as to how high the payment will be.

      The point of the ‘invention’ is that the process is simplified for the user to a single press or voice activation. You also missed the part of adjusting volume, and then returning all settings to what they were before you initiated the “WHAT” function. Using your example the process described in the patent would take at least 5 button pushes (skip back, caption ON, Volume UP, Volume DOWN, caption OFF). More if you set the volume higher than 1 press worth.

  3. Has CustomPlay produced a working technology or is it simply a literary composition existing in a database? I think most of us agree that a patent should not be issued simply for a literary description with a few diagrams.

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