July 28, 2010, 5:19 PM

HSN receives two e-commerce patents

The online and TV retailer has patented TV and video technologies.

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TV and web retailer HSN Inc. has been awarded a patent for its technology that lets consumers shop with their TV remotes and another patent related to making purchases from online video, the retailer said today.

"This reinforces our position as a revolutionary force in television and retail as we continue to bring exciting innovations to our customers that enable them to shop whenever and however they choose,” says John McDevitt, vice president of advanced services. He adds that the patents announced today are the first HSN has received for e-commerce technology.

The first patent—U.S. Patent No. 7,752,083, entitled “System for Improved Interactive Television Processing”—covers technology that enables consumers to make a purchase by clicking a TV remote control device on a digital cable TV platform, such as from Comcast or Verizon, or the Dish Network satellite TV platform, McDevitt says.

“This is about covering individualized transactions over interactive TV,” McDevitt says. HSN currently serves about 30 million homes that use the Shop by Remote feature, which it first made available in 2006. The number of homes using the feature has grown steadily, though HSN isn’t saying how many purchases are transacted through it, McDevitt adds.

The second patent—U.S. Patent No. 7,756,758, “Method and System for Improved E-Commerce Shopping”—covers several proprietary features of HSN’s e-commerce site, HSN.com, that let visitors view multiple high-definition videos, McDevitt says. A customer who clicks the HSN.com home page link, HSN in HD, can choose among several categories of videos, including Jewelry, Electronics and Kitchen & Entertaining, then click on a second video from another category.

Clicking on a second category video automatically reduces the size of the first video and moves it to the side of the web page. The most recently clicked video, meanwhile, appears in a more prominent screen that lets a visitor mouse over a series of thumbnail images of products within the chosen category to activate a video about the selected product. The shopper can click a Buy button on the prominent video at any time to purchase the product featured in the video.

The shopper can also click the reduced-size video at any time to make it appear in the prominent position with its own set of thumbnail images and a Buy button. The idea behind watching two videos simultaneously is to let shoppers choose among multiple demonstrations while they’re in process, McDevitt says.

Compared with many patents, both of HSN’s e-commerce patents were processed and approved relatively quickly, with the Shop by Remote technology patent filed in 2006 and the video display patent filed in 2008, according to Thomas Duston, a partner at Chicago law firm Marshall, Gerstein & Borun, where he specializes in patent litigation involving e-commerce technology and other types of patents.

Duston notes, however, that HSN’s patent applications were also filed relatively late for e-commerce technology, which could raise questions about how well they might survive a legal challenge. “It would be natural to assume that HSN will have to contend with the fact that there has been a lot of development in e-commerce technology over the years that has preceded the date of application for these patents,” he says.

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