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Just saw this press release: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sister-technologies-granted... Congratulations to them. Getting a Patent is a long process and they obviously did a great deal of work to make it happen.
I am wondering what, if anything, this means for the other companies out there that use the same process of taking dealer or third party produced photos and then merging them with voice overs, background music and scrolling text and then encoding that file into a suitable video format for internet consumption.
Anyone have a take on this?
As you know, SiSTeR Technologies is a valued vendor client of AdAgencyOnline.net and I have a personal vested interest in their success. I asked Israel Alpeert, my friend, client and co-founder of SiSTeR, how I should reply to this post. Iwas proud of his answer so I saw little reason to edit or add to it:
"First and above all, SiSTeR's patent is a stamp of recognition and pride to the entire automotive industry – without the support and the loyalty of the industry SiSTeR couldn't have done it and we shall all be proud for having kept the innovation, productivity and "born in the USA" spirit while developng our video production/marketing platform!
Most of the other providers have been SiSTeR resellers and partners in the past. I assume that just as they chose to enter into an agreement with SiSTeR and enjoyed the fruits of such relations that they will honor the spirit of competition within the boundaries of the law and mutual respect of intellectual property.
In any case, SiSTeR's product and results are considered superior and the company always demonstrated its willing to share and contribute for the benefit of the entire dealer group."
My only additional comment is --- What are friends for!
Thanks for sharing Israel's response. I would be very interested to read your thoughts on the matter, if they vary from Israel's in any meaningful way.
You are welcome Tom.
As far as adding to Israel's well thought out response, my only contribution would be that his preference to take the high road in dealing with potential conflicts is commendable. I would like to think that I served as an example in support of his way of thinking based on my success using a similar tact when dealing with friends.
The innovative solution developed by SiSTeR Technologies attracted me to join them in their formative stages and I see the fact that they were awarded a patent as confirmation of my discovery. Fortunately, the patent has opened many eyes and doors for them based on the credibility that it lends to their now confirmed unique video production/marketing platform and I am excited by the new partnerships that are being formed to share in their next generation of game changing video technology.
Obviously I would be happy to share some of their new releases with you and our fellow ADM friends so feel free to contact me at email@example.com or call my office at 561-962-2738 or of course contact Israel, Tomer or John directly by visiting their website.
I love having rich friends so if you can figure out a way to monetize a relationship with SiSTeR ... let's talk! After all, what are friends -- and ADM -- for!
SiSTeR is fortunate have someone like you in their corner. You are a strong advocate.
I thought for sure there would be extensive response and discussion in this post. Perhaps my response can stir up some additional conversation.
USPTO Patent #7882258 claims a very specific method and system for rendering an animation (video) from a series of still digital images. The technology described in this patent was very ingenious at the time of the patent's application filing in late 2005. As is suggested in the patent, the general availability of computer processing power required to cost-effectively render and encode video in 2005 was extremely limited. The invention claimed in patent #7882258 was innovative in how it utilized commodity server and network hardware to create animations from still images, thereby keeping costs low and the product's pricing attractive to subscribers.
However, fast-forward (no pun intended) to 2011 and we find cost-effective high-performance computing to be widely available. A combination of technologies including cloud computing, graphics processing units (GPU), and high performance clustering (HPC) are now so inexpensive, scalable, and reliable, what made large scale true video rendering/encoding nearly impossible in 2005, is no longer an obstacle by today's standards. True frame-by-frame automated non-linear video editing of rich multimedia content is now a reality and can cost-effectively be produced on a large scale.
In deducing the various technologies implemented by the half-dozen or so vendors with similar product offerings, I would estimate that at least one, maybe two of them are likely using methods that infringe upon what is claimed in patent #7882258. If there is legal action initiated by the patent holder, i would confidently say that the cost to the defendant of changing (and consequently improving) the method of rendering videos to use one or more of the modern video rendering technologies i described above is far less expensive than to license, settle, or defend a patent infringement suit.
I often find discussions and debate regarding patented processes related to e-commerce fascinating. I hope that my response was interesting and relevant.
Like you I thought that there would be more discussion. Only a lawyer can render a legal opinion and even they don't agree. So, maybe that is why more people have not chimed in. So, legal issues aside let's look at the business aspect of this.
From what I know of the PTZ companies and their product, I can't see the profit margin being one where you can add another cost and still be viable. But, maybe I am missing something.
The real question is why pursue technology that as you pointed out is 6 years old? My 8 year old created a PowerPoint type presentation with Prezi and then rendered it as a playable video online. You can do the same thing with PowerPoint on a PC. The real value is in actual video. A few companies are starting to produce real video for car dealers, from the Flipcam upload to the full production crew and professional editing model. The challenge is to be able to produce content efficiently and cost effectively that is of a quality that it will entice consumers and engage them for the dealers that is presenting their product for sale. Now if a company can solve that problem, well that will really have some value.
As my silence will evidence, I don't want to open a dialogue that could contribute to any legal challenges, or even assert that there will be any since as Israel commented the real issue is the recognition of his initial vision.
That said, the value of the SiSTeR Video Production marketing platform lies in the scalabilty of their solution including human voice vs. text to speech, integrated full motion video clips synched with the audio for a more professional finished production, multi level interactive schema layers within the video allowing for linked info -- like a Carfax report, lead generator, graphics, etc -- a linked application called vShock which allows a dealer to establish business rules to select similar inventory on a micro-site linked to the dealer's site for added vSEO with the initial vehicle video serving as a place holder on the search engines, their established video channel and their dedicated API to You Tube as well as their automated distribution to all online marketing platforms, their backend tool that automatically advises SiSTeR and the dealer of any problems in the production or placement of the video, the ability to monitor the open rate and length of time the video played and a new mobile application that will serve as a new data collection point to take pictures on a PDA and start the production process with no need for a third party provider --- to name a few feature/benefits!
Of course money matters and the fact that all of the above as well as revenue sharing advertisement placements on their player to subsidize the cost and deliver a branding message along with the vehicle retail call to action for a few hundered dollars a month doesn't hurt!
Again, this does not address your initial inquiry about the potential impact of the patent but hopefully you can understand why I decided not to address that issue on a public forum.
Philip: You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a lawyer in my family. I have been hearing since I was very young that only lawyers get to practice law. I was never really curious about the legal process in this, I can surmise how that will play out, I was more interested in how it will change the landscape.
I appreciate you presenting the value proposition of what SiSTeR sells, resells and perhaps licences for sale. I think the point to this, and what Rich pointed out, it is not very (if at all) different from what other PTZ Stitched Slide Show production companies are doing. No matter what they call it, they are still using still images to create content. So the question will be for those that are doing the same thing as SiSTeR is: Should we quit, join them, create a different workflow, pay a licence fee?
I appreciate the similarities with other picture to video solutions, however it is the comprehensive, automated, effcient, scalable nature of their turnkey video solution with integrated R.O.I. analytics and performance metrics coupled with their unique marketing platforms and consumer focused shopping tools -- such as their vShock that -- serves to differentiate them.
Two people with paint a brush and canvas may seem equal until you identify one as Michael Angelo. I'm just sayin!
I know that each of these companies have some cosmetic differences. The point that was being made and the reason for the patent is that they are all, as you say "picture to video solutions"
You spend considerable time, effort and money researching what is best for your clients. I am sure that you are well aware what the workflow, both for the dealership and all the involved third parties, in the Picture-to-Slide Show model. SiSTeR has a patent on a process. Others use the same or a similar process. All the widgets, plug-ins, gadgets and such may be slightly different, but they all start from getting pictures from the dealership, that either the dealership staff took or from pictures that the dealership paid someone else to take and upload. Then the have the photos ported along with other data and they create a slide show. You can add all the other stuff like voice and scrolling text and animations but the fact remains it is a slide show. Then they render it into .flv They all do it.
That is what the Patent is about; the process. Not the widgets.
I have asked Israel to respond to this post with the confidence that there are answers that will adddress your questions and provide insights that I am not authorized to share. I only mention this since it is not in my nature to avoid replying to an issue that has implications that will impact a sector of our industry -- as I believe that the SiSTeR Patent will.
Suffice it to say that other than a possible over simplification of the processes protected by the patent and perhaps a slightly minimized recognition of the equally relevant differentiators that seperate SiSTeR Technologies solution from the referenced "picture to video slide shows" which exist in the market that the replies have correctly framed the situation. Only time will prove out the impact of the patent, however, the recent explosive growth of SiSTeR evidences the added value that their now recognized proprietary platform represents.
Hopefully, Israel will take it from here!
The real bottom line is Sister has a rather big stick now and rightfully they should. Patents don't start the day they are issued, they go all the way back to when the application was filed. Someone could have been violating their patent for years and in turn could owe them years of royalties even though the patent just issued. Remember, Dealix paid Autobytel something over 20 million dollars for just that type of infringement.
Patents should not be taken lightly. They can take years to get and are looked at from every angle before being issued. There is a little law that allows for the damages to be tripled if the infringing party did so knowingly. It's not the kind of lawsuit anyone wnat to be on the receiving end of.