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This Patent Application received a non-final rejection by the US Patent Office that was based in part on Ask Patents contributions! An initial rejection is part of the typical course of a patent application.

Thanks to the YOU, the Ask Patents community, overly-broad claims have at least been narrowed. Follow @askpatents to block more overly-broad patent applications.

US Patent No. 2010/0251120 (filed 2009-03-26, USPTO link) seems basically to be "using a URL to link to a given part of a video". The key claim is:

A method comprising:

  • receiving from a first user interface a first input from a first user specifying a first particular instant in a video other than a beginning of the video;
  • in response to the first input, generating by one or more computer systems first data for inclusion in a link to the video, the first data representing the first particular instant in the video and being operable automatically to direct playback of the video at a second user interface to start at the first particular instant in the video in response to a second user selecting the link at the second user interface;
  • and communicating the first data to a link generator for inclusion in the link to the video

or in human speak, something to generate links like blah#t=43s

(plus later, claim 12, that must then be processed by the system, and a lot of minor dependent claims about all of the above, etc)

However, there doesn't seem to be anything particularly non-obvious about this, given that URLs are designed to convey context about a resource. Conveying time as part of a URL does not seem any kind of invention. Can anyone think of prior art for this? Perhaps for audio, if video is elusive?

Note that under the AIA it is not be possible for Ask Patents to submit prior art under the pre-grant process used by Ask Patents due to the window having closed. Prior art which is found below would need to submitted under the six-month post-grant process or the ex-parte rexamination process. (This could be done by a company or an individual.)

  • 4
    There have been plugins such as jQuery.Address and SWFAddress which perform similar functionality but I don't know how long YouTube has had this functionality, or how long jQuery Address has been around (first blog post - asual.com/blog - is from before the patent filing date and even discuss YouTube's API changes), but at the very least, the base functionality for allowing users to perform this has been around for quite some time. Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 13:03
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    It's amusing how you first described the method in natural language, and then claimed that a URL encoding is "human speak" :D Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 9:15
  • 1
    @ErikBurigo I'm grading on a geek-curve here ;p Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 9:34
  • If a place exists where grading so, it woudl be here. :D Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 10:43

8 Answers 8


I'm no expert, and I'm not sure if this qualifies, but the following draft specification appears to define "temporal URI fragments" in a generic way that covers the above clauses. It was published in 2005, there are probably older variants.

Extract from the abstract:

Temporal addressing enables, e.g., direct access to a clip inside a video stored on a Web Server, or direct jumps to a specific event within a piece of music. The syntax is not restricted to audio or video Web resources though, but covers all kinds of Web resources that contain time-continuous information.



Google published this patent application on on September 30th, 2010. But YouTube (owned by Google) announced the ability to link to timestamps in videos in October, 2008 — Link To The Best Parts In Your Videos.

Wouldn't that invalidate their patent on that basis?

Reference: USPTO.GOV: 35 U.S.C. 102 Conditions for patentability …

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless —

(b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of application for patent in the United States.

  • Thanks Robert - great answer. I wonder what the official definition of "printed publication" is - any idea? Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 16:51
  • @MarcGravell The actual USPTO regulation also includes "public use" in that restriction, so I updated the post. That link includes the legal definition "public use", but in a cursory reading, it seems to apply. Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 17:13
  • I think the relevant date is the filing date 2009-03-26, which would be less than a year from the linked blog post. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 23:30
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    Doesn't this simply transfer the right from Google to Youtube (in other words, Google)?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 23:41

I thought that the html spec dealt with these as 'fragments' and has been in there for a while:

From the 1st link:

For a music object, the Fragment ID could give a section in time

The second link reads (2.1.1 Introduction to URIs):

Every resource available on the Web -- HTML document, image, video clip, program, etc. -- has an address that may be encoded by a Universal Resource Identifier, or "URI".

and a bit further below (2.1.2 Fragment identifiers):

Some URIs refer to a location within a resource

I would think a temporal location is within that scope.


Google published this patent application on on September 30th, 2010. But YouTube (owned by Google) announced the ability to link to timestamps in videos in October, 2008 — Link To The Best Parts In Your Videos.

Wouldn't that invalidate their patent on that basis?

No - the application was filed on March 26, 2009. So a "public use" in October, 2008 would not be "more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent."

Also, keep in mind that this is a just a published application and this is the broadest claim the applicant originally submitted (standard practice - cast a wide net and let the examiner tell you where you have to trim). The fact that it was published has no bearing on its patentability. In fact, I took a quick look on PAIR, just out of curiosity, and this application was published before the examiner had even begun the examination process.

The claims have gone through the typical process of rejection, amendment, final rejection, amendment after final/request for continued examination. Currently, all claims of the application have been "finally" rejected and the current version of the broadest independent claim, as amended after the final rejection, is considerably more limited than the version in the application.

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    Is this information publicly visible somewhere? Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 18:54
  • Yes, on the Patent Office's Public Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system. uspto.gov/patents/process/status Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 18:58
  • Ah. I can see the status, but is the application as amended after the final rejection published somewhere? I'm new to this :) Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 19:02
  • 1
    Assuming you've gotten into Public Pair, entered the application number and hit Search, it should take you to a tabbed UI screen. The default tab is Application Data, which gives you the basic who/what/where/when information. One of the other tabs is called Image File Wrapper. Click on that and you'll get a list of links to scanned images of all the documents in the application's file history. It's a bit unwieldy to navigate, but its there. Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 19:25
  • Thanks! I never would have guessed that. Image wrapper, indeed! Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 23:36

RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) RFC2326 April 1998



component of PLAY command, example from above wikipedia entry RTP-Info: url=rtsp://example.com/media.mp4/streamid=0;seq=9810092;rtptime=3450012


Didn't SMIL handle this back in the late 90's? I remember Real Networks promoting this heavily.


Time and control a presentation. SMIL provides powerful timing features that let you easily manage your presentation's timeline. You can keep clips rigidly synchronized, for example, or start an audio clip playing at 2.5 seconds into its internal timeline without changing the encoded clip.


The report from the 2007 W3C Workshop on Video in the Web outlines the following: [[ 5.1 Temporal Addressing

Movie tape

Temporal addressing provides the ability to reference a time point, or a segment of time, in video and audio content: a normal play time (or time offset), a framed-based time, or an absolute time. It allows the media player to jump to the specified time or frame, or only to play a segment of file. RFC 2326 (RTSP) defines the notion of normal play time, the stream absolute position relative to the beginning of the video. SMPTE time codes (SMPTE 12M-1999 Television, Audio and Film — Time and Control Code) defines the notion of frame-level accuracy. Absolute time uses UTC.

Temporal addressing approaches in SMIL, MPEG-7, MPEG-21 and temporal URI.

Both SMIL and MPEG-7 require an indirection: one needs to get the XML description containing the temporal information before fetching the video content. It should be noted, thought it was not mentioned at the Workshop, that even HTML 5 includes the notion of time offset and time segment.

On the other hand, the MPEG-21 and Temporal URI approaches rely on defining a URI syntax and thus don't rely on an additional XML description. However, these approaches also have limitations:

They lack the ability to represent complex fragments, especially when combining temporal and spatial addressing.

When using the fragment identifier component syntax of a URI, it is dependent on the media type of the retrieved representation (see section 3.5, Fragment, RFC 3986). For example, the MPEG-21 URI syntax is tied to the MPEG container. Thus, it would be difficult to apply one generic fragment identifier to the existing video or audio codecs.

]] http://www.w3.org/2007/08/video/report.html#Temporal_Addressing

See also "Identifying Spatial and Temporal Media Fragments on the Web" (position paper for the 2007 workshop): http://www.w3.org/2007/08/video/positions/Troncy.pdf


A while back I worked for a startup producing online learning and video conferencing recording systems. One of the features of the system was linking forum comments to specific points in a video. My colleagues have a patent for it, which is now owned by Cisco.


Also relevant:


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