EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2903 - October 01, 2012     3 of 5

eBay Does tCommerce

By Brian Cohen

Email This Story to a Friend

Many companies are exploring the convergence of television, computers and the Internet, and eBay and its online payments unit PayPal are among them. Brian Cohen takes a look at some recent patent filings to uncover technological advances that will help consumers purchase products through their television sets.

eBay recently applied for patent 20120240138 "Secure Transaction Through a Television" with the United States Patent and Trade Office

Following is an extract of this "tCommerce" patent:

"As electronic commerce became more popular in recent years, consumers have been given more flexibility regarding being able to do shopping without having to leave their homes. For example, a consumer may see a product being advertised while watching an infomercial on television (TV). The infomercial may display the merchant's phone number and/or website address. If the consumer is interested in purchasing the product, he may call the merchant or log on to the merchant's website to complete the purchase. However, these types of transactions may be inconvenient to the consumer, as the consumer may not be able to instantly buy the product but may be forced to leave the TV. In addition, these transactions may not be secure enough...."

"...the TV program may be a movie, a TV show, a music video, a commercial, a documentary, an educational program, a sporting event, a video game, or another suitable media program displayed on the consumer's TV set. According to certain aspects of the present disclosure, the TV program is being displayed to the TV set through a video stream (or data stream). At various points of the video stream, there are embedded trigger points in the video stream to notify the consumer that an offer for a merchandise is available....."

While traditional "static" unidirectional product placement (think Reese's Pieces candy in the movie ET) has been around for quite some time, we have yet to see digital overlay product placement proliferate the market.

Examples of digital overlay product placement are from the companies Sportvision (formerly PVI or Princeton Video Image) and Mirriad:

"Sportvision provides hassle-free product placement with the acquired PVI system's Virtual Product Integration. Advertisers can strategically place their products within a broadcast without worrying about script changes or logistical complications…After the what (product to advertise), where (location in the frame), and when (point in the broadcast) are all identified, advertisers will still have the opportunity to manipulate these variables for each additional airing of the show. Promoters have the flexibility to interchange their featured products or adjust the placement location before each broadcast."

This, as the name of the company might imply, is the same technology used by ESPN (see PVI virtual technology sold to ESPN, Sportvision).

British company Mirriad which uses "Proprietary, unique end to end solution to reach audiences by digitally embedding brands into video content..." illustrates how products are overlaid/inserted into video seamlessly in this Youtube video.

The missing link is a technology such as in eBay's patent filing which would allow an instantaneous purchase of a product so that the viewer is not "forced to leave the TV."

Sometimes a TV viewer would like to freeze/bookmark a frame for later review and potential purchase of a product. Selecting a product for purchase in a moving image could potentially be a cumbersome one. Sportvision already has technology that addresses Positioning of a cursor associated with a dynamic background.

"Many computer applications use a mouse-driven cursor to allow a user to interact with the display. The cursor is generally used to perform a function, such as selection, on a displayed object. ... When the desired object is not in a fixed position in the display...the task of positioning the cursor over the object can become more difficult... The present invention automatically changes the position of a cursor in a display in accordance with the movement of the background in the display. This advantage allows for easier positioning of the cursor by a user on a desired object in the display... The cursor thus "sticks" to a particular object within the video image."

After selecting an object/product, the TV viewer has to be sent to a place to learn more about the product and make their purchase. Ericsson's GoldPocket technology "Method and apparatus for hyperlinking in a television broadcast" is one such conduit:

"… Predefined regions...when appearing in the video, are highlighted to indicate to the viewer an opportunity for interactivity. At this point, a viewer may press a control button to invoke an annotation tied to the highlighted region and as a result, a graphic with product-related information will be overlaid on the screen. Next, the viewer may choose to make a purchase or request more information (this description of the patent was actually taken from Sportvision's "plain english" reference to it)...

I can't think of a more compelling reason for folks to be excited about the merger of these technologies than Princeton Video's (Sportvision) patent application for Hyperlinked 3D Video Inserts for Interactive Television, which permits manipulation of products in the video!

"A viewer may directly interact with a 3D object that is virtually placed in a physical location in a video scene. Initially, the object appears as an integral part of the original video scene and does not interfere with the general viewer's experience of the program. A viewer may initiate interaction with the object using an input device. An interested viewer may navigate through the object's architecture based on the viewer's interest. For example, the viewer may drag the object to a new physical insertion point in the scene. The user may rotate the 3D object into different orientations and zoom in.

What's also interesting about eBay's patent filing is that eBay filed for the patent rather than its subsidiary PayPal. In fact, the illustration filed with the patent office use a PayPal logo and not an eBay logo.

eBay sees opportunity in "couch commerce" as evidenced by its Watch eBay mobile app for the iPad and PayPal's deals with TiVo and Comcast. Will eBay (Paypal?) dominate your TV? Discuss on the AuctionBytes Blog, where we look at another eBay patent of note.

About the author:

Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998. He currently trades under the member name His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian can be contacted through his website at where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."

You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to and either link to the original article or to
All other use is prohibited.