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Is it just me, or is this patent really broad?

Patent No. 7437290

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7437290.html

Claim 1

  1. A method for automatically censoring audio data, comprising the steps of:

    (a) automatically processing the audio data to detect any undesired speech that may be included therein, by comparison to undesired speech data, by performing the following steps; comparing words in the audio data against words comprising the undesired speech, to identify potential matches; dynamically varying a probability threshold dependent upon at least one criterion; and based upon a probability of a potential match and the probability threshold, determining whether any undesired speech is included in the audio data;

    (b) for each occurrence of undesired speech that is automatically detected, altering the undesired speech detected in the audio data, producing censored audio data in which the undesired speech is substantially no longer perceivable by a listening audience; and

    (c) dynamically adjusting the probability threshold based upon a frequency with which undesired speech by a specific speaker is detected in the audio data, so that as the occurrences of undesired speech that are detected increase, the probability threshold is reduced.

  • To avoid this patent a system could do steps a) and b) but not step c). It seems like an odd feature that could be left out without hurting the performance of the system. – George White Jan 11 '14 at 17:03
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It would be very broad - (which doesn't mean bad or invalid assuming it was novel and non obvious at the time of filing) without one of its key limitations.

All of the independent claims require a weighting factor to be adjusted in what seems to an odd and unnecessary way. Looking at claim 1: to avoid this claim a system could do steps a) and b) but not step c). It seems like an odd feature that could be left out without hurting the performance of a competing system. The more censored words are detected the less sensitive the system gets to deciding something is on the censored list. I guess it is a form of a high level negative feedback but it would seem to start to let censored material through if there was a lot of it. The same limitation applies to all the independent claims.

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