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0 



(19) 




Europaisches Patentamt 
European Patent Office 
Office europeen des brevets 



(12) 



(43) Date of publication: 

03.09.1997 Bulletin 1997/36 

(21) Applicatbn number: 97301344.4 

(22) Date of filing. 27.02.1997 



(n) EP 0 793 387 A2 

EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION 

(51) int ci. 6 : H04N 7/173 



(84) Designated Contracting States: 


o Miura, Isamu 


DE FR GB 


1-1 Shibaura 1-chome Minato-ku Tokyo 105 (JP) 




o Katayama, Yasuko 


(30) Priority: 29.02.1996 JP 43464/96 


1-1 Shibaura 1-chome Minato-ku Tokyo 105 (JP) 


(71) Applicant: KABUSHIKI KAISH A TOSHIBA 


(74) Representative: Shindler, Nigel 


Kawasaki-shL Kanagawa-ken 210 (JP) 


BATCHELLOR, KIRK & CO. 




2 Pear Tree Court 


(72) Inventors: 


Farringdon Road 


« Hashimoto, Koichi 


London EC1R0DS (GB) 


1-1 Shibaura 1-chome Minato-ku Tokyo 105 (JP) 





(54) Tv mail system 



(57) TV mail system comprising a plurality of televi- 
sions (10) each having a receiving function capable of 
receiving broadcasting radio waves and displaying a 
program, and a mail server (20. 30) to which the televi- 
sions (10) are connected through communication lines, 
is characterized in that the television (10) has a mail 
sending function (12, 14) for making mail including at 
least destination information and the body of a mail to 
output the mail data to the mail server (20, 30) and a 
mail receiving function (12, 14) for displaying the con- 
tents of mail data received from the mail server (20, 30) 



together with the received mail, the mail server (20, 30) 
has a database (35) in which authentication information 
of users are registered, a receiving mail box (36) for stor- 
ing received mail data, mail boxes (37) for receivers, a 
mail distribution means (39) for distributing, to a mail box 
(37) for the receiver, mail data stored in the receiving 
mail box (36) by making a reference to the authentica- 
tion database (35) and an outputting means (33) which 
sends out the mail data received from one television to 
at least one different television in corresponding with the 
destination information. 



CSS 



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INTERACTIVE 
TELEVISION 



REMOTE CONTROLLER^ 6 
TING UNIT 



PPgjftl 



12 



DATA 
RECEIVER 

ZTZ 



PROGRAM 
COTTOLLERl 



DATA 
DISPLAY UNIT 



£2 

JO — I 



.10 
> 20 

v> 



LOCAL RESPONSE SERVER CENTER RESPONSE SERVER 



^-^toOTE CONTROLLER! 
INTERACTIVE BPERAJINS WIT 
TELEVISION ^ZT 



12 



DATA 
RECEIVER 



PROGRAM 



DATA 
DISPLAY UNIT 



fir 



LA 14 



10 



f 1 



22 

s 



CLIENT 



PROGRAM 



LOCAL RESPONSE SERVER 



20. 
vr 



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SI 



22 



CLIENT 
PROGRAM 



AUTHENTICATION 
DATA BASE] 
35 




"-000 

0001 1111 1234 
MAIL BOX 



F I G. 1 



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BNSDCCID: <EP 0793337A2J. > 



Prnted by Jouve. 75001 PARIS (FR) 



1 

Description 

The present invention relates to a interactive tele- 
vision system formed by televisions each having a pro- 
gram broadcast receiving function and response serv- 
ers to which the receivers are connected through com- 
munication lines, and more particular to a TV mail sys- 
tem tor sending and receiving electronic mails to and 
from the televisions. 

Recently, the advancement of the performance of 
television for home use results in techniques for using 
the television being attracted attention as a part of mul- 
timedia field. At present, teletext broad casting has been 
put into practical use, the teletext being a technology in 
which a multiplicity of programs multiplied on broadcast- 
ing waves are, by the receiver side, selectively received 
in accordance with the needs for the receiver side and 
converted into television video signals so as to be dis- 
played on the television screen. 

By using the technique of the teletext, a multiplicity 
of teletext programs and programs in the form of static 
or dynamic images can arbitrarily be presented to view- 
ers in addition to usual television broadcast. For exam- 
ple, a commodity, the commercial film of which is being 
broadcast, and a method of purchasing the same can 
be broadcast by a teletext program multiplied on the tel- 
evision program above. 

However since the conventional television broad- 
cast system one-way presents information from the 
broadcast station to viewers through televisions, selec- 
tive display of supplementary information of a commod- 
ity required by a user among a plurality of commodities 
presented in a program, or calling viewers during the 
program to real-time add up responses from the viewers 
to reflect the response to the contents of the program 
cannot be performed. 

In order to realize a bi-directional program (herein- 
after called a "bi-directional program") with which not on- 
ly one-way presenting information from the presenter of 
a program to viewers can be performed but also viewers 
are permitted to return responses to the program, it 
might be feasible to employ a interactive television 
(hereinafter called a "interactive television") having a 
f unction capable of accepting response data through the 
television from which a television program is being 
broadcast to send data above to an accumulation center 
(a response server). 

However, the television adapted to the teletext 
broadcasting is arranged to perform only one-way infor- 
mation transmission such that programs transmitted 
from a broadcast station are presented for viewers. As 
described above, use of the television of the foregoing 
type has been limited. 

As described above, since the television for home 
use is arranged to perform only one-directional informa- 
tion communication such that programs are presented 
to viewers, use of the television of this type has been 
limited 



2 

An object of the present invention is to provide a TV 
mail system which is capable of widening use of home- 
use television to a field for sending and receiving elec- 
tronic mails without a necessity of using a calculating 

5 machine, such as a personal computer. 

In order to achieve the foregoing object, the present 
invention has the following means. 

According to one aspect of the present invention, 
there is provided a TV mail system comprising: a plural- 

io jty of televisions each having a receiving function capa- 
ble of receiving broadcasting radio waves and display- 
ing a program: and a mail server to which the televisions 
are connected through communication lines, is charac- 
terized in that the television has a mail sending function 

is for making mail including at least destination information 
and the body of a mail to output the mail data to the mail 
server and a mail receiving function for displaying the 
contents of mail data sent from the mail server, the mail 
server has a database in which authentication informa- 

20 lion of users are registered, a receiving mail box for stor- 
ing received mail data, mail boxes for receivers, a mail 
distribution means for distributing, to a mail box for the 
receiver, mail data stored in the authentication database 
and an outputting means which sends out the mail data 

2S received from one television to at least one different tel- 
evision in corresponding with the destination informa- 
tion. 

According to the present invention, the mail sending 
function of the television is arranged to make mail data 

30 from the destination and the mail body so as to be trans- 
mitted to the mail server. In the mail server supplied mail 
data is stored in the receiving mail box thereof. Mail data 
stored in the receiving mail box is, by the distribution 
means, distributed to the mail box of the receiver by 

3S making a reference to the authentication database. 

In the mail server, the forward means makes mail 
data from mail information distributed to the mail box to 
transmit mail data above to the television for the receiv- 
ing-side person. The television displays the received 

40 mail on the basis of the contents of the mail data re- 
ceived from the mail server by the mail receiving func- 
tion. 

Specifically, the TV mail system may have a struc- 
ture such that the television has a mail sending function 

45 for displaying a mail sending screen and accepting des- 
tination telephone number and a mail body to make mail 
data so as to output the mail data to the mail server, and 
a mail receiving function for receiving mail data trans- 
mitted from the mail server to meet a mail receiving re- 

so quest to display a mail receipt screen on the basis of the 
contents of mail data, and the mail server has a data- 
base in which authentication information including user 
identifier of users of the televisions are registered, a re- 
ceiving mail box for storing received mail data, mail box- 

55 es for receivers, name analysis means which retrieves 
the authentication database in accordance with destina- 
tion telephone number of mail data stored in the receiv- 
ing mail box to acquire information for specifying the 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



BNSDCCID <EP 0793367A2J.> 



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EP 0 793 387 A2 



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mail box of a destined receiver, mail distribution means 
for storing mail data stored in the receiving mail box in 
the mail box in accordance with information for specify- 
ing the mail box, and transfer means which takes out 
mail information from the corresponding mail box to 
meet a mail receiving request from the television to 
make mail data so as to output the mail data to the tel- 
evisions of the receiver who has made the mail receiving 
request. 

In the above-mentioned structure, the authentica- 
tion database has a region in which receiving informa- 
tion is written and receiving information is brought to an 
receiving state when mail data has been received and 
is brought to a non-receiving state when the mail receiv- 
ing request has been made. 

As a result of employment of the foregoing struc- 
ture, the authentication database is able to manage the 
receiving state of electronic mails to all ol users. More- 
over, receipt can be urged for a user if an income elec- 
tronic mail has not been received for a long time. 

According to a second aspect of the present inven- 
tion, there is provided a TV mail system comprising: a 
plurality of televisions each having a receiving function 
capable of receiving broadcasting radio waves and dis- 
playing a program; a plurality of local mail servers to 
which the televisions are connected through communi- 
cation lines in each predetermined area and which are 
connected to one another on a network: and a center 
mail server to which the local servers are connected 
through the communication lines, is characterized in 
that the television has a mail sending function which 
makes mail including at least destination information 
and the body of a mail to output the mail data to the local 
mail server, and a mail receiving function for displaying 
a received mail on the basis of the contents of mail data 
received from the local server, the center mail server has 
a database in which authentication information of users 
are registered and name analysis means which ac- 
quires., from the authentication database, authentication 
information of a receiver, analysis of which has been re- 
quested by the local servers, to output the authentica- 
tion information to the local server from which the re- 
quest has been made, and the local mail server has a - 
receiving mail box tor storing received mail data, mail 
boxes for receivers, interchange means which makes 
mail routing data formed by adding authentication infor- 
mation with respect to analysis request responded from 
the center mail server so as to interchange mail routing 
data to the receiving-side local mail servers, distribution 
means for storing mail routing data interchanged from 
the sending-side local mail servers to a mail box for the 
receiver in accordance with authentication information, 
and transfer means which makes mail data from mail 
information distributed to the mail box so as to output 
the mail data to the televisions for the receiver. 

As a result, the-TV mail function can be dispersed 
to the center mail server and the local mail servers. 
Thus, the load which must be borne by the center mail 



server can be reduced. 

Node management information is provided for the 
center mail server for managing addresses of the local 
mail servers on the network which are connected to one 
5 another through the network: and the address is notified 
when analysis is requested so that interchange data is 
easily forwarded from the sending-side local mail server 
to the receiving-side local mail server. 

The preferred aspects of the TV mail system ac- 
io cording to the present invention are as follows: 

(1) The mail box for the receiver has a region in 
which receiving information is written, receiving informa- 
tion is brought to an receiving state when mail routing 
data has been received from the sending-side local mail 
J5 servers and is brought to a non-receiving state when the 
mail receiving request has been made. 

Since the process for turning off the receiving flag 
is closed in the local mail server, amount of communi- 
cation with the center mail server can be reduced. 
20 (2) The television has replay mail making means 
which accepts a reply mail to the received mail when a 
received mail is displayed and which makes mail data 
for a reply mail in which telephone number of the sender 
provided for the received mail is automatically set as 
25 destined telephone number when a request to make the 
reply mail has been made. 

Since the address of the reply mail can automati- 
cally be set : the load of the input operation for a user 
can be reduced. 
30 (3) The television has forward mail making means 
which accepts a forward request of a received mail when 
the received mail is displayed and which makes mail da- 
ta for transference in which the address of the sender 
provided for the received mail is automatically set as the 
35 address of an original sender when a request to forward 
the received mail has been made. 

Since the address of the original sender can auto- 
matically be set to the forward mail, the load of the input 
operation for a user to write the forward mail can be re- 
^0 duced. 

(4) Any one of the mail server, the center mail server 
or the local mail servers has a sending history box pre- 
pared for each user, means for storing mail data in the 
receiving mail box when the server has received mail 
45 data and storing mail data in a sending history box for 
the user and means which takes out the sending history 
from the sending history box tor the user when a sending 
history request has been received to make sending his- 
tory data so as to output the sending history data to the 
so television from which the request has been made, and 
the television has means which accepts sending history 
request on the mail service screen to output the sending 
history request data to the server provided with the 
sending history box and means for displaying a list of 
55 sending history of the user on the basis of sending his- 
tory data transmitted from the server to correspond to 
the sending history request. 

Since sending history can be displayed, a new mail 



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BNSDOClO <EP 0793337A2_I_> 



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can be written by using a mail written and sent previous- 
ly 

(5) The television has classification selection 
means for causing a classification list of typical bodies 

to cause a user to select a classification of the typical 5 
bodies from the classification list, typical body selection 
means for causing a list of the typical bodies belonging 
to the classification of the typical bodies selected by the 
classification selection means to cause the user to se- 
lect a typical body and input support means for support- 10 
ing writing of a mail by inserting one or a plurality of the 
typical bodies selected by the typical body selection 
means into a mail body which is being written. 

Typical bodies can be input by selecting buttons 
from the television with which characters cannot easily 
be input. Therefore, the load of the input operation for 
user can be reduced. 

(6) The television has printing means for reading 
contents of screen data which is being displayed on the 
screen and printing screen data and means for request- 20 
ing the printing means to print the contents by recogniz- 
ing a print command issued from a user. 

The contents of screen data which is being dis- 
played on the screen can be printed. In the structure 
above, the television has means for adding, to mail data, 2s 
a print permission flag indicating whether or not the mail 
can be printed and means for checking the print permis- 
sion flag added to mail data received by the television 
to determine whether or not printing is permitted. 

Mails of a type which is considered that printing is 30 
undesirable can be protected by the sender. 

(7) Any one of the mail server, the center mail server 
or the local mail servers has a screen database for stor- 
ing screen data relating to a mail service which is dis- 
played by the television so that required screen data tak- 35 
en out from the screen database is forwarded to the tel- 
evision which has made a request. 

In a case of version-up of the contents of the mail 
service, the program for all of the televisions cannot be 
changed. However, the present invention enables a 40 
changed mail service can be provided for all of the users 
only by rewriting the screen database of the server. 

(9) The television has means for extracting, from re- 
ceived broadcasting radio waves transmitted from a 
broadcast station, a script in which procedures lor mail 45 
transmission and receipt, a variety of required screen 
data items corresponding to the contents of the mail 
service and control consents of screen display are de- 
scribed and a memory for storing the script extracted by 
the extracting means. so 

Only by transmitting broadcasting radio waves hav- 
ing a latest script from a broadcast station, the script of 
all of the televisions can be updated. In the foregoing 
structure, the television has means for accepting a script 
update request supplied from a user and script update 55 
means for storing a corresponding script in the memory 
to update the script when the script has been extracted 
from the received broadcasting radio waves in a state 



6 

where the script update request supplied to the accept- 
ance means is effective. Only when the user requests 
the script to be updated, the script can be updated. 

By giving version number to the script which is pro- 
vided for the broadcasting radio waves by the broadcast 
station, whether or not the script received by the televi- 
sion is a latest one can be determined. 

By using the interactive television as the televisions, 
a response server according to embodiments below can 
be used as the mail server the center mail server or the 
local mail server. 

As described above, according to the present in- 
vention, there is provided a TV mail system which is ca- 
pable of widening use of home-use television to a field 
for sending and receiving electronic mails without a ne- 
cessity of using a calculating machine, such as a per- 
sonal computer. 

This invention can be more fully understood from 
the following detailed description when taken in con- 
junction with the accompanying drawings, in which: 

FIG. 1 is a diagram showing the structure of a TV 
mail system according to a first embodiment of the 
present invention; 

FIG. 2 is a diagram showing the data structure in an 
authentication database according to the first em- 
bodiment; 

FIG. 3 is a diagram showing the data structure in a 
receiving mail box according to the first embodi- 
ment; 

FIG. 4 is a diagram showing the data structure of a 
mail box according to the first embodiment: 
FIG. 5 is a flow chart of an operation in a interactive 
television according to the first embodiment; 
FIGS. 6A to 6C are diagrams showing the screen 
structure relating to provision of a mail service ac- 
cording to the first embodiment; 
FIG. 7 is a diagram showing the data format of mail 
data according to the first embodiment; 
FIG. 6 is a flow chart of an operation in a local re- 
sponse server according to the first embodiment; 
FIG. 9 is a flow chart of an operation in a center 
response server according to the first embodiment; 
FIGS. 10A and 10B are diagrams showing the 
screen structure for receiving the mail service ac- 
cording to the first embodiment; 
FIG. 11 is a diagram showing the data format for 
mail receiving request data; 
FIG. 12 is a diagram showing the data format for 
mail data; 

* FIG. 13 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
an authentication database according to a second 
embodiment of the present invention; 
FIG. 14 is a diagram showing the data format for 
sending data of an authorized sender list according 
to the second embodiment; 
FIG. 15 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
another authentication database according to the 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



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BNSOOCID: <EP__07933C7A2_I_> 



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EP 0 793 387 A2 



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second embodiment: 

FIG. 16 is a diagram showing the data format of an- 
other sending data item of the authorized sender list 
according to the second embodiment: 
FIG. 17 is a diagram showing the structure of a TV s 
mail system according to a third embodiment of the 
present invention: 

FIG. 18 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
an authentication database according to the third 
embodiment; 10 
FIG. 19 is a diagram showing the data structure of 
node managing information according to the third 
embodiment; 

FIG. 20 is a diagram showing the data structure in 

an routing box according to the third embodiment; *5 

FIG. 21 is a flow chart for a mail transfer program 

according to the third embodiment; 

FIG. 22 is a flow chart for a mail routing program 

according to the third embodiment; 

FIG. 23 is a flow chart for a name analysis client 20 

program according to the third embodiment: 

FIG. 24 is a flow chart for a name analysis server 

program according to the third embodiment; 

FIG. 25 is a flow chart for a mail distribution program 

according to the third embodiment; 25 

FIG. 26 is a diagram showing the data format for 

name analysis request data: 

FIG. 27 is a diagram showing the data format for 

name analysis result data; 

FIG. 28 is a diagram showing the data format for 30 
mail routing data: 

FIG. 29 is a diagram showing the data format for 
receiving flag turning off request data: 
FIG. 30 is a diagram showing the structure of a TV 
mail system according to a fourth embodiment of 35 
the present invention; 

FIG. 31 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
an authentication database according to the fourth 
embodiment; 

FIG. 32 is a diagram showing the data structure in *o 
a mail box according to the fourth embodiment; 
FIG. 33 is a flow chart for a mail transfer program 
according to the fourth embodiment; 
FIG. 34 is a flow chart for a name analysis client 
program according to the fourth embodiment; 45 
FIG. 35 is a flow chart for a mail distribution program 
according to the fourth embodiment; 
FIG. 36 is a diagram showing the structure of a re- 
sponse server according to a fifth embodiment of 
the present invention; so 
FIG. 37 s a diagram showing the data structure in 
a screen database according to the fifth embodi- 
ment; 

FIG. 38 is a diagram showing the data format for 
screen information request data according to the ss 
fifth embodiment; 

FIG. 39 s a diagram showing the data format for 
screen information data according to the fifth em- 



bodiment: 

FIG. 40 is a diagram showing an example of display 
of typical body classification screen according to a 
sixth embodiment of the present invention: 
FIG. 41 is a diagram showing an example of display 
of typical body list according to the sixth embodi- 
ment: 

FIG. 42 is a diagram showing the structure of a stor- 
age region according to the sixth embodiment; 
FIG . 43 is flow chart showing a interactive television 
according to the sixth embodiment: 
FIG. 44 is a diagram showing the structure of a in- 
teractive television according to the seventh em- 
bodiment of the present invention; 
FIGS. 45A and 45B are diagrams showing data for- 
mats lor mail data and mail data according to the 
seventh embodiment: 

FIGS. 46A and 46B are diagrams showing the struc- 
ture of a screen for receiving/sending a mail which 
is displayed in the structure according to an eighth 
embodiment of the present invention; 
FIG. 47 is a diagram showing the data format for 
mail data according to the eighth embodiment; 
FIG. 48 is a diagram showing the data format for 
mail data according to the eighth embodiment: 
FIG. 49 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
a mail box storing a received mail to which a replay 
mail will be sent in the structure according to the 
eighth embodiment; 

FIG. 50 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
the mail box storing a reply mail according to the 
eighth embodiment: 

FIG. 51 is a flow chart of an operation in a interactive 
television according to the eighth embodiment: 
FIG. 52 is a diagram showing the structure of a 
screen displayed for receiving a mail in a structure 
according to a ninth embodiment of the present in- 
vention; 

FIG. 53 is a diagram showing the structure of a 
screen displayed for forwarding a mail in the struc- 
ture according to the ninth embodiment: 
FIG. 54 is a diagram showing the data format for 
mail forward data according to the ninth embodi- 
ment; 

FIG. 55 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
a mail box according to the ninth embodiment: 
FIG . 56 is a flow chart of an operation in a interactive 
television according to the ninth embodiment; 
FIG. 57 is a diagram showing the structure of a cent- 
er response sever according to a tenth embodiment 
of the present invention; 

FIG. 58 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
a sending history box according to the tenth embod- 
iment; 

FIG. 59 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
a receiving mail box according to the tenth embod- 
iment; 

FIGS. 60A and 60B are diagrams showing the struc- 



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ture of a service screen for a sending history which 
is displayed in the structure according to the tenth 
embodiment: 

FIG. 61 is a flow chart of an operation in a center 
response server according to the tenth embodi- 
ment; 

FIG. 62 is a flow chart of an operation in a interactive 
television according to the tenth embodiment: 
FIG. 63 is a diagram showing the data format for 
sending history request data according to the tenth 
embodiment; 

FIG. 64 is a diagram showing the data format for 
sending history data according to the tenth embod- 
iment; 

FIG. 65 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
a sending history box according to an eleventh em- 
bodiment of the present invention; 
FIG. 66 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
a receiving mail box according to the eleventh em- 
bodiment: 

FIG. 67 is a diagram showing the data structure in 
a mail box according to the eleventh embodiment: 
FIG. 63 is a flow chart of an operation in a center 
response server according to the eleventh embod- 
iment; 

FIG. 69 is a diagram showing the data format for 
sending history data according to the eleventh em- 
bodiment; 

FIG. 70 is a diagram showing the structure of a 
sending history screen which is displayed in the 
structure according to the eleventh embodiment; 
FIG. 71 is a diagram showing the relationship be- 
tween a interactive television and a broadcast sta- 
tion according to the twelfth embodiment of the 
present invention; 

FIG. 72 is diagram showing the structure of a serv- 
ice menu screen on the interactive television: 
FIG. 73 is a diagram showing the structure of a 
script according to the twelfth embodiment; 
FIG. 74 is a flowchart of an operation in a broadcast 
station according to the twelfth embodiment: 
FIG. 75 is a flow chart of an operation in a interactive 
television according to the twelfth embodiment: 
FIG. 76 is a diagram showing the structure of an 
update acceptance screen of a interactive televi- 
sion according to a thirteenth embodiment of the 
present invention; 

FIG. 77 is a flow chart of acceptance of update in a 
interactive television according to a thirteenth em- 
bodiment of the present invention; and 
FIG. 78 is a flow chart of an operation for updating 
a script for the interactive television according to the 
thirteenth embodiment. 

Embodiments of the present invention will now be 
described. 



(First Embodiment) 

FIG. 1 is a schematic view showing a TV mail sys- 
tem according to a first embodiment of the present in- 
5 vention. 

The TV mail system is formed by a plurality of au- 
thenticated and registered interactive televisions 10 in- 
stalled in usual homes, local response servers 20 scat- 
tered locally to communicate with the interactive televi- 
10 sions 10 in the area and a center response server 30 
connected to all of the local response servers 20 such 
that mutual communication is permitted. 

The interactive television 10 receives broadcast ra- 
dio waves transmitted from a broadcast station by a data 
*5 receiver 11 thereof. The interactive television 10 sepa- 
rates broadcast radio waves into information of the orig- 
inal broadcast program and information of the interac- 
tive television program (programs, images, characters) 
from each other to supply the interactive television pro- 
20 grams and the like to a program controller 12. and for- 
ward information of the original broadcast program to a 
data display unit 1 3. The program controller 1 2 executes 
the interactive television program and accepts a re- 
sponse to the interactive television program returned 
2S from a user through a remote controller operating unit 
16. Moreover, the program controller 12 provides an 
electronic mail service to meet a request from a user. 
Fixed information required for the interactive television 
10 to provide the TV mail service has been stored in 
30 information storing section (a memory) 15. 

The interactive televisions 10 and the local re- 
sponse server 20 are connected through lines by corre- 
sponding communication controllers 14 and 21. Al- 
though a telephone line is used in this embodiment, an- 
35 other communication line may be employed. Also the 
local response servers 20 and the center response serv- 
er 30 are connected to each other through their commu- 
nication controllers 21 and 34. 

The local response server 20 has a client program 
-to 22 having a function for interpreting the contents of a 
header provided for sending/receiving data, a request 
data and the like. The client program 22 forward mail 
data sent from the interactive television 10 to the center 
response server 30 and interchanges mail data sent 
45 from the center response server 30 to meet a mail re- 
ceiving request. 

The center response server 30 has an authentica- 
tion database 35 storing authenticated information of 
previously registered users, a receiver mail box 36 for 
50 storing mail data sent from the local response servers 
20 and a mail boxes 37 for respective users. The mail 
box 37 is managed with identification numbers (ID = 

0001, ID= 1111, ID = 1234 ). 

FIG. 2 is a diagram showing the structure of data in 
55 the authentication database 35. 

The authentication database 35 manages all of us- 
ers, which have been registered, with user IDs respec- 
tively given to the authenticated information including 



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names, addresses, telephone numbers and the like, TV 
mail receiving information and other information items. 

FIG. 3 is a diagram showing the structure of data in 
the receiver mail box 36. 

Data in the receiver mail box 36 is sectioned into a 
sender, destination and the body for each TV mail. Note 
that the destination is the telephone number. 

FIG. 4 is a diagram showing the structure of data in 
the mail box 37. 

The mail box 37 is prepared for a user to which a 
TV mail has been sent the mail box 37 being managed 
with the user ID. Data for the mail box 37 is composed 
of a sender and the body. 

The center response server 30 has a mail transfer 
program 33 for forwarding a TV mail stored in the mail 
box 37 to meet a request from the local response server 
20, a mail distribution program 39 for storing TV mails 
stored in the receiver mail box 36 into corresponding 
mail boxes 37 in accordance with results of analysis of 
the destinations and a name analysis server program 
38 for analyzing the destinations of the TV mails stored 
in the receiver mail box 36. 

The operation of the system having the above-men- 
tioned structure will now be described with reference to 
FIGS. 5 to 12. 

FIG. 5 is a flow chart of operations of the interactive 
television 10 which are performed when a TV mail is 
sent and received. Initially, the operation for sending a 
TV mail will now be described. 

When a request to display a service menu has been 
supplied to the interactive television 1 0 from the remote 
controller operating unit 16, the program controller 12 
takes out screen information of the service menu shown 
in FIG. 6A from the information storing section 1 5 to sup- 
ply the same to the data display unit 1 3 so that the serv- 
ice menu is displayed on the TV screen. The service 
menu screen has a list of names of services which can 
be provided. 

When "TV Mail" has been selected from the service 
menu screen shown in FIG. 6A as a result of the remote 
control operation, the TV mail service screen shown in 
FIG. 6B is displayed on the TV screen. Since a mail is 
required to be sent in this operation, "Sending" is select- 
ed from the TV mail service screen by a remote control 
operation. When "Sending' has been selected, the pro- 
gram controller 1 2 takes out the format of the TV mail 
sending screen shown in FIG. 6C from the information 
storing section 1 5 to supply the same to the data display 
unit 13 so that the format is displayed. 

Then, a user writes required information in the des- 
tination area and the body area in the format of the TV 
sending screen by a remote control operation so as to 
make a TV mail document. The telephone number of 
the receiving-side user is input to the space for the des- 
tination and a message is input to the space for the body 
of the document. 

When "Sending" has been selected from the TV 
mail sending screen, the program controller 12 makes 



mail data with the sending format shown in FIG 7. That 
is : information indicating sending of a mail is provided 
for the sending header the telephone number of the re- 
ceiving-side user obtained by copying the destination in- 
s formation on the screen is provided for the destination, 
and the message written in the space for the body on 
the screen and obtained by copying is written to follow 
the foregoing telephone number. Thus-made mail data 
is supplied to the communication controller 14. Then, 
io the communication controller 14 establishes the con- 
nection with the local response server 20 through a line 
so that mail data above is sent. 

FIG. 8 is a flow chart showing the mail sending proc- 
ess and a main receiving process which are performed 
15 by the local response server 20 

The local response server 20 supplies mail data re- 
ceived from the interactive television 1 0 to the client pro- 
gram 22. If the client program 22 has detected that the 
supplied data is a sensing mail in accordance with the 
20 checked contents of the header of the mail data : the cli- 
ent program 22 supplies mail data above to the commu- 
nication controller 21 so as to forward the same to the 
mail transfer program 33 of the center response server 
30. The mail transference between the local response 
25 server 20 and the center response server 30 is per- 
formed through the corresponding communication con- 
trollers 21 and 34. 

FIG. 9 is a flow chart showing a sending operation 
and a receiving request operation which are performed 
30 by the center response server 30. 

The center response server 30 supplies the mail da- 
ta supplied from the local response server 20 to the mail 
transfer program 33. If the mail transfer program 33 de- 
termines that the supplied data is a sending mail in ac- 
35 cordance with the checked contents of the header of the 
mail data, the mail transfer program 33 stores the mail 
data in the receiver mail box 36. 

The mail distribution program 39 periodically con- 
firms the contents of the receiver mail box 36. If a mail 
40 data is stored, the mail distribution program 39 takes out 
the stored mail data to perform development of the ad- 
dress, development of the sender and storage into the 
receiver mail box. The development of the destination 
is performed such that the telephone number of the des- 
45 tination is instructed to the name analysis server pro- 
gram 38 to request analysis of name. 

When data search for the development of the des- 
tination has been requested from the mail distribution 
program 39, the name analysis server program 38 uses 
50 the telephone number of the destination as a key to take 
out personal information of the receiver from the authen- 
tication database 35 so as to supply the user ID to the 
mail distribution program 39. Moreover, the name anal- 
ysis server program 38 turns on "receiving flag" in per- 
55 sonal information above. Personal information having 
the receiving flag, which has been operated, is reflected 
to the authentication database 35. 

The name analysis server program 38 performs the 



25 



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BNSDOCIO: <EP 0793387A? I_> 



7 



13 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



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development of the sender requested from the mail dis- 
tribution program 39 with the instructed user ID of the 
sender such that the name analysis server program 38 
uses the user I D of the sender as a key to take out name 
and address of the sender from the authentication da- 
tabase 35 so as to supply the same to the mail distribu- 
tion program 39. 

The mail distribution program 39 uses name and 
address of the sender obtained in the development of 
the sender and the body of the mail data to make a re- 
ceiving mail. Then, the mail distribution program 39 
stores the receiving mail in the mail box 37 having the 
user ID of the receiver obtained in the development of 
the destination. FIG. 4 shows a state where a TV mail 
has been supplied to a receiver having user ID = 1111 
from Mr. Miura, Hamura City. 

When the receiving mail has been stored in the mail 
box 37, a line is connected to the telephone number of 
the receiver of the receiving mail of the mail box 37 
through a local response server to notify supply of the 
TV mail. 

The process for receiving a TV mail will now be de- 
scribed. 

As shown in FIG. 5, when a user supplied with no- 
tification of receiving opens the TV mail sending screen 
of the interactive television 10 and selects "receiving", 
the process starts. The operation which is performed un- 
til the TV mail sending screen is opened is similac to that 
which is performed when 'sending" is performed. FIG. 
1 0A is a diagram showing a state where "receiving" has 
been selected on the TV mail sending screen displayed 
on the interactive television 10. 

When the "receiving" has been selected on the TV 
mail sending screen, the program controller 12 of the 
interactive television 10 supplies mail receiving request 
data in a predetermined format to the client program 22 
of the local response server 20 through the communi- 
cation controller 14. FIG. 11 is a diagram showing the 
data structure of mail receiving request data above. The 
header of the mail receiving request data is provided 
with information indicating mail receiving request. More- 
over user ID (ID = 1111) given to the interactive televi- 
sion 10 of the receiver is provided next to information 
above. 

As shown in FIG. 8, when the local response server 
20 has received mail receiving request data from the in- 
teractive television 1 0, the client program 22 checks the 
contents of the header of the mail receiving request data 
to determine that data is the mail receiving request. If 
the client program. 22 has determined that data is the 
mail receiving request data, the client program 22 for- 
wards mail receiving request data to the mail transfer 
program 33 of the center response server 30. 

As shown in FIG. 9, when the mail transfer program 
33 of the center response server 30 has checked the 
contents of the header of the mail receiving request data 
and determines data to be the receiving request, the 
mail transfer program 33 communicates the user ID 



number provided for the mail receiving request data to 
the name analysis server program 38. The database op- 
eration function of the name analysis server program 36 
is used to turn off the 'receiving flag" provided for per- 
5 sonal information of the user who has requested receiv- 
ing and which has been stored in the authentication da- 
tabase 35. 

The mail transfer program 33 takes out received 
mail from the mail box 37 having the user ID provided 

10 for the mail receiving request data to make mail data. 
FIG. 12 is a diagram showing the data format of mail 
data. The header of mail data above has information in- 
dicating mail receipt, the user ID for the mail box is pro- 
vided for the destination and the contents of the mail box 

15 are described in the destination and the body. Mail data, 
which has been made as described above ; is returned 
to the local response server 20 covering the receiver. 
Thus, the line is connected to the telephone number 
which is the destination so that the local response server 

20 20 interchanges mail data to the interactive television 
10. 

The interactive television 10 displays received mail 
in accordance with the contents of the supplied mail da- 
ta. FIG. 1 0B is a diagram showing an example of the 
25 displayed mail which has boon received as described 
above. 

As described above, according to the first embodi- 
ment, the interactive television 10 for home use is ena- 
bled to be connected to the local response servers 20 
30 and 30 through a telephone line. A TV mail supplied from 
the interactive television 10 as response data is re- 
ceived by the local response servers 20 and 30 so as to 
be stored. Moreover, a mail is sent to the destined inter- 
active television 10 to meet the request from the inter- 
ns active television 10 to receive the mail. Therefore, an 
electronic mail can easily be sent from the home-use 
interactive television 10 or the same can be received by 
the interactive television 10. Since the mail box 37 for 
the receiver is provided for the center response server 
*o 30, the mail can be distributed later even if the interac- 
tive television 10 has been switched off. 

(Second Embodiment) 

45 The second embodiment has a structure such that 
the center response server 30 is provided with a function 
for limiting transference of mail data from the interactive 
television 10. 

A first means for limiting transference of mail data 

so is structured such that an "authorized sender list" having 
identification numbers of users permitted to send elec- 
tronic mails is provided for the authentication database 
35, as shown in FIG. 13. 

The "authorized sender list" is registered from the 

ss interactive television 10. A screen for accepting regis- 
tration of the "authorized sender list" is displayed on the 
interactive television 10 to cause the user ID. the tele- 
phone number or name of the user required to be au- 



8 



BNSDOCIO <EP 0793387A?J_> 



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EP 0 793 387 A2 



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thorized to be input to forward, to the center response 
server 30, a request to be registered in the "authorized 
sender list". A list registration request data in the data 
format as shown in FIG. 14 is forwarded to the center 
response server 30. 5 

In the center response server 30. the communica- 
tion controller 34 supplies list registration request data 
to the server program through a program having a func- 
tion capable of determining the contents of the header. 
Then, the server program registers the authorized send- 10 
er list (the user ID) provided for the present list registra- 
tion request data to the authorized sender list having 
user IDs. If the authorized sender list in the list registra- 
tion request data is in the form of information (name, 
telephone number or the like) except for the user I D. the *5 
user ID is requested to the name analysis server pro- 
gram 38. 

When the mail distribution program 39 has received 
mail data, the mail distribution program 39 requests the 
name analysis server program 38 to supply personal in- 20 
formation of the receiver which is made to be the desti- 
nation to determine that the user ID of the sender has 
been registered in the authorized sender list. If the user 
I D has been registered, a mail is sent similarly to the first 
embodiment. If the user ID of the sender is not regis- 25 
tered in the authorized sender list, present mail data is 
abolished and abolition is notified to the sender. 

A second means for limiting transference of mail da- 
ta is structured such that a 'rejected sender list" to which 
a list of identification numbers of persons who are re- 30 
jected from receipt of electronic nails has been regis- 
tered is provided for the authentication database 35, as 
shown in FIG. 15. 

The process for registering the "rejected sender list" 
is similar to the process which is performed by the first 35 
means such that list registration request data shown in 
FIG. 16 is forwarded to the center response server 30 
so as to be provided for a predetermined position in the 
authentication database 35. 

When the mail distribution program 39 has received *o 
mail data above, the mail distribution program 39 re- 
quests the name analysis server program 36 to supply 
personal information of the receiver which is the desti- 
nation to determine whether or not the user ID of the 
sender has been registered in the rejected sender list. 45 
If it has been registered, mail data is abolished and ab- 
olition is notified to the sender. If the user I D of the send- 
er is not registered to the rejected sender list, the mail 
is forwarded similarly to the first embodiment. 

According to the second embodiment, a problem in so 
that an electronic mail, which is noise for a receiver, is 
unintentionally received in the mail box of the receiver 
can be prevented. Thus, only electronic mails required 
for a user can be received. Therefore, the communica- 
tion cost can be reduced and the capacity of the mail 55 
box can effectively be used. 



(Third Embodiment) 

FIG. 17 is a diagram showing the structure of a TV 
mail system according to a third embodiment of the 
present invention. 

The third embodiment has a structure such that lo- 
cal response servers are connected to each other 
through the communication controller so that a network 
structure is formed because a mail must be inter- 
changed between the local response servers due to re- 
spective provision of the TV mail function for each local 
response server. 

The TV mail system according to the third embodi- 
ment is composed of interactive televisions 10, local re- 
sponse servers (20A and 20B) and a center response 
server 30. The local response server 20 is provided with 
mail forward, interchanging and distribution functions, 
while the center response server 30 is provided with a 
node managing function and an authentication function. 

FIG. 17 is a diagram showing functions of local re- 
sponse servers 20A and 20B required in a case where 
the local response server 20A serves as a sending side 
and the local response server 20B serves as a receiving 
side. However, a structure in which the sender and the 
receiver are reversed may be employed, two serves 20A 
and 20B have the same functions. 

The sending-side local response server 20A uses 
functions of a communication controller 21 , a mail trans- 
fer program 23, a mail routing program 24, a name anal- 
ysis client program 25 and a receiver mail box 26. The 
receiving-side local response server 20B uses functions 
of the communication controller 21. the mail transfer 
program 23, the mail routing program 24, the name anal- 
ysis client program 25, an routing box 27, a mail distri- 
bution program 28 and a mail box 29. 

The center response server 30 is provided with a 
communication controller 34, a name analysis server 
program 39, an authentication database 35 and a node 
managing information storing unit 40. FIG. 18 is a dia- 
gram showing the data structure of a authentication da- 
tabase 35. The authentication database 35 has, in ad- 
dition to personal information of users and mail receiving 
information, IDs of local response servers covering the 
interactive televisions of users. FIG. 19 is a diagram 
showing the data structure of node managing informa- 
tion stored in the node managing inf ormatbn storing unit 
40. Node managing information is composed of IDs of 
local response servers network addresses. 

FIG. 20 is a diagram showing the structure of a mail 
routing box 27 arranged to be used by the receiving-side 
local response server 20. The routing box 27 stores des- 
tinations, senders and bodies. As each sender, address 
and name of a sender which can be obtained from de- 
velopment of the sender are registered. 

The operation of the TV mail system having the 
above-mentioned structure will now be described. 

Since this embodiment has the structure such that 
the functions provided for the center response server 



55 



9 



BNSDCCIO: <EP 07933C7A2_I_> 



17 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



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according to the first embodiment are assigned to local 
response servers, the interactive television 10 performs 
operations for sending and receiving TV mails similarly 
to that according to the first embodiment. That is. the 
interactive television 10 performs sending/receiving op- 
erations in accordance with the flowchart shown in FIG. 
5. 

Initially, "sending" will now be described. In accord- 
ance with the flow chart shown in FIG. 5 ; the interactive 
television 10 forwards mail data in the data format 
shown in FIG. 7 is forwarded to the sending-side local 
response server 20A. 

In the sending-side local response server 20A, the 
communication controller 21 checks the header region 
of received data to supply received data to any one of 
a mail transfer program, a mail routing program or a 
name analysis client program in accordance with the 
contents of the header region. If received data is mail 
data or mail data, the communication controller 21 for- 
ward data above to the mail transfer program 23. If re- 
ceived data is mail routing data, the communication con- 
troller 21 forwards it to the mail routing program 24. If 
received data is name analysis result data : the commu- 
nication controller 21 forwards it to the name analysis 
client program 25. 

Since data is mail data in this case : data is forward- 
ed to the mail transfer program 23. The mail transfer pro- 
gram 23, which has received mail data, checks the con- 
tents of the header of mail data in accordance with a 
flow chart shown in FIG. 2V If data above is sending 
mail, the mail transfer program 23 stores received mail 
data in the receiver mail box 26. 

The mail routing program 24 periodically confirms 
the contents of the receiver mail box 26. If the mail rout- 
ing program 24 has confirmed that mail data has been 
stored in the receiver mail box 26, the mail routing pro- 
gram 24 starts performing processes (a) to (c) in accord- 
ance with a flow chart shown in FIG. 22. 

(a) Development of destination and acquirement of 
ID of local response server to which the destined 
interactive television belongs; 

(b) Development of sender; and 

(c) Route to local response server. 

The processes (a) and (b) are performed by using 
the name analysis server program 38 of the center re- 
sponse server 30. Data communication with the name 
analysis server program 38 is performed by using the 
mail routing program 24 and the communication control- 
lers 21 and 31. 

The development of the destination is performed 
such that a request is made from the mail routing pro- 
gram 24 to the name analysis client program 25 to an- 
alyze name. The name analysis client program 25 re- 
quested to analyze name makes name analysis request 
data in accordance with a flow chart shown in FIG. 23. 
FIG. 26 is a diagram showing the data format of the 



name analysis request data. The destined telephone 
number of mail data is provided for name analysis re- 
quest data. Name analysis request data is forwarded to 
the center response server 30 after the line connection 
5 has been established between the communication con- 
troller 21 and the communication controller 34. 

In the center response server 30. name analysis re- 
quest data is forwarded to the name analysis server pro- 
gram 38 if the header of data analyzed by the commu- 
te nication controller 34 makes a request to analyze name. 
FIG. 24 is a diagram showing the contents of a process 
which is performed by the name analysis server pro- 
gram 38. The name analysis server program 38 uses 
the destined telephone number provided for name anal- 
is ysis request data as a key to acquire, from the authen- 
tication database 35, the ID of the receiving-side user 
and the ID of the receiving-side local response server 
20B. The development of the sender is performed such 
that the user ID of the sender is used as a key to acquire 
name and address of the sender from the authentication 
database 35. Moreover, the ID of the receiving-side local 
response server 20B is used as a key to acquire network 
address of the receiving-side local response server 20B 
from the node managing information storing unit 40. 
Moreover, the "receiving flag" of the receiver on the au- 
thentication database 35 is turned on. 

The name analysis server program 38 forms the us- 
er ID of the receiver, name and address of the sender, 
the ID of the receiving-side local response server 20B 
and the network address of the receiving-side local re- 
sponse server 20B forms into name analysis result data 
in the format shown in FIG. 27 so as to forward the same 
to the sending-side local response server 20A. 

In the sending-side local response server 20A, the 
communication controller 21 interprets the header to 
supply name analysis result data to name analysis client 
program 25. The name analysis client program 25 sup- 
plies received name analysis result data to the mail rout- 
ing program 24. 

When the mail routing program 24 has received the 
name analysis result data as shown in FIG. 22, the mail 
routing program 24 makes a mail routing data in the data 
format shown in FIG. 28. Mail routing data has informa- 
tion including the ID of the local response server, which 
is an interchange server, and provided for the name 
analysis result data. Mail routing data above is then in- 
terchanged to the destined local response server. The 
interchange is performed by using the network address 
acquired in the process (a). 

In the receiving-side local response server 20B 
which has received mail routing data, the communica- 
tion controller 21 supplies mail routing data to the mail 
routing program 24. The mail routing program 24 checks 
the contents of the header of mail routing data above. If 
data above is mail routing data, the mail routing program 
24 stores received mail routing data in the routing box 
27. 

The mail distribution program 28 periodically con- 



25 



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40 



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BNSDCCID:<EP 0793367A2 l.> 



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firms the contents of the routing box 27. If mail routing 
data is stored in the routing box 27, the mail distribution 
program 28 takes out and stores it in the mail box 29 
indicated by the user ID which is the destination. 

The process for receiving a mail will now be de- 
scribed. 

When the "mail receiving" screen has been called, 
the program controller 12 of the interactive television 10 
forwards mail receiving request data to the mail transfer 
program 23 of the local response server 20B through 
the communication controller 14. The data structure of 
the mail receiving request data is as shown in FIG. 11. 
The process until the foregoing operation is performed 
is the same as that according to the first embodiment. 

In the receiving-side local response server 20B. the 
mail transfer program 23 checks the contents of the 
header of the mail receiving request data. If supplied da- 
ta is the mail receiving request, the mail transfer pro- 
gram 23 requests the name analysis server program 38 
through the name analysis client program 25 lo perform 
a process for turning off the receiving flag of the authen- 
tication database of the user indicated with the receiver 
ID of the mail receiving request data. 

The mail transfer program 23 takes out the received 
mail from the mail box 29 indicated with the receiver ID 
to make mail data. Mail data is forwarded to the program 
controller 12 of the interactive television 10. Data com- 
munication is performed by using the communication 
controllers 21 and 14. 

The name analysis client program 25 requested to 
turn off the receiving flag makes receiving flag turning 
off request data in the format shown in FIG. 29 to forward 
the same to the center response server 30. 

In the center response server 30 which has re- 
ceived receiving flag turning off request data, the name 
analysis server program 38 interprets the contents of the 
header of the receiving flag turning off request data to 
specify the receiving flag of the receiver by using the 
destination telephone number as a key and perlorms a 
process for turning off the receiving flag. 

As described above, according to this embodiment, 
the mail boxes 29 of the receivers are dispersed to local 
response servers 20 so that the load for the center re- 
sponse server 30 is dispersed and reduced. Since the 
mail routing program 24 is provided with the function of 
converting the communication protocol to convert the 
protocol to another mail, mutual connection with the oth- 
er mail can be performed. 

(Fourth Embodiment) 

The TV mail system according to a fourth embodi- 
ment has a structure such that the receiving flag is lo- 
cated in the mail box and the same is omitted from the 
authentication database. 

FIG. 30 is a diagram showing the structure of a TV 
mail system according to the fourth embodiment. The 
TV mail system according to this embodiment basically 



has a network structure similar to the third embodiment 
and having interactive televisions 10. local response 
serves (20A and 20B) and the center response server 
30 wherein local response servers are connected to 
5 each other by the communication controller. 

In this embodiment, receiving flag information is 
provided for a mail box 28' which is used by the receiv- 
ing-side local response server 20B. The name analysis 
client program of the receiving-side local response serv- 
10 er 20B is not operated. 

FIG. 31 is a diagram showing the data structure of 
a authentication database 35' provided for the center re- 
sponse server 30. The authentication database 35' has 
a structure similar to that according to the third embod- 
iment shown in FIG. 8 except the receiving flag being 
omitted. 

FIG. 32 is a diagram showing the data structure of 
a mail box 29" for the receiver provided for the local re- 
sponse server 20. The mail box 29* of the receiver is 
20 additionally provided with an receiving flag. 

In this embodiment having the above-mentioned 
structure, mail communication is performed similarly to 
the third embodiment. That is, in the sending-side local 
response server 20A which has received mail data from 
2S the interactive television 10, the mail transfer program 
23 stores mail data in the receiver mail box 26, as shown 
in FIG. 23. and then requests the name analysis client 
program 25 to analyze name. The name analysis client 
program 25 is operated in accordance with a flow chart 
30 shown in FIG. 34 to make name analysis request data 
to request the center response server 30 to develop the 
sender and the like. 

The center response server 30, which has received 
name analysis request data from the sending-side local 
35 response server 20A, perlorms a similar process to that 
according to the third embodiment except for the proc- 
ess for the receiving flag (the process for the receiving 
flag is omitted) to return a name analysis result to the 
sending-side local response server 20A. 
40 |n the sending-side local response server 20A 
which has received the name analysis result, the mail 
routing program 24 forwards the name analysis result 
to the mail routing program 24 so that mail routing data 
shown in FIG. 28 is forwarded to the receiving-side local 
45 response server 20B by using the network address. 

In the receiving-side local response server 20B, the 
mail distribution program 28 stores mail routing data in 
the mail box 29', as shown in FIG. 35, and turns off the 
receiving flag in the mail box 29'. The mail transfer pro- 
50 gram 23 turns off the receiving flag in the mail box 29' 
in place of making a request to the name analysis client 
program 25 to perform the process for turning off the 
receiving flag. Thus, the name analysis client program 
25 is not required to have the function to make the re- 
55 ceiving flag turning off request data. 

When the receiving-side local response server 20B 
has received mail receiving request data from the re- 
ceiving-side interactive television 10, the mail transfer 



25 



30 



35 



40 



45 



50 



11 



BNSDOCID: <EP 079^3G7A2J_> 



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EP 0 793 387 A2 



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program 23 turns off the receiving flag in the mail box 
for the address, as shown in FIG. 33, and takes out the 
mail from the mail box to make and send mail data to 
the receiver. 

As described above, according to this embodiment, 5 
the operation for the receiving flag in the mail box of the 
receiving-side local response server 20B is operated. 
Therefore, the operation for tuning off the receiving flag 
is shifted to the local response server so that the quantity 
of communication with the center response server is re- 
duced. Another advantage can be realized in that re- 
ceiving can be confirmed simply by checking the mail 
box of the local response server. 

(Fifth Embodiment) 

The fifth embodiment relates to a service screen 
presentation method in which service screen informa- 
tion of a TV mail is stored in the response server to for- 
ward the same to the TV when a service is required. The 
structure of the TV mail system may be any one of the 
structures shown in FIGS. 1, 17 and 30. 

In this embodiment, a response server having the 
mail transfer program 23 is provided with a screen da- 
tabase 50 structured as shown in FIG . 36. Since the mail 
transfer program 23 may be provided for either the local 
response server 20 or the center response server 30 in 
this embodiment, the server is simply called a response 
server. 

FIG. 37 is a diagram showing the data structure of 
the screen database. The screen type is permitted to 
select a service screen shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B, a 
sending screen as shown in FIG. 6C and a receiving 
screen as shown in FIG. 10B. Screen data for each 
screen is stored. The contents of the screen database 
50 may be considered variously to correspond to the 
mail services presented by the TV mail system. 

In this embodiment, when the program controller 1 2 
of the interactive television 10 is requested to display a 
service screen of the TV mail as a result of the remote 
control operation performed by a viewer, the program 
controller 12 makes screen information request data as 
shown in FIG. 38. FIG. 38 is a diagram showing a format 
of screen information request data. Information indicat- 
ing a request of a screen is provided for the header of 
the screen information request data, the user ID of the 
viewer is stored in the requestor and the specification of 
the screen specified by the viewer by the remote control 
operation is set. Screen information request data is for- 
warded to the mail transfer program 23 in the response 
server. 

In the response server, screen information request 
data is forwarded from the communication controller 21 
(31) to the mail transfer program 23. When the mail 
transfer program 23 has received screen information re- 
quest data having a value indicating "screen request' in 
the header thereof, screen data indicated by the screen 
type is retrieved in the screen database 50. In accord- 



ance with a result of the retrieval, the mail transfer pro- 
gram 23 makes screen information data as shown in 
FIG. 39 to forward screen information data to the original 
interactive television 10. 

When the program controller 12 of the interactive 
television 10 has received screen information data, 
stored screen data is displayed on the data display unit 
13. 

According to the above-mentioned embodiment, 
the screen database 50 of the response server is re- 
quired to simply be updated even if the contents of the 
mail service, which is provided by the TV mail system, 
is changed to change the service screen or the like of 
the TV. The change of the contents, such as the service 
screen or the like, is not required to change each tele- 
vision to be adaptable to the change. Therefore, the 
change process can easily be performed. On the other 
hand, the method in which service screen of the TV mail 
is stored in the storing region of the television cannot 
update the menu if a necessity of updating the menu lo 
be adaptable to an improvement in the service arises. 

(Sixth Embodiment) 

A sixth embodiment is structured such that typical 
bodies are previously prepared in order to simplify the 
operation for inputting the body of the mail in order to 
support the sentence processing operation which is per- 
formed by a user. The structure of the TV mail system 
may be any one of the structures shown in FIGS. 1.17 
and 30. 

FIG. 40 is a diagram showing an example of a clas- 
sification screen for typical bodies which are displayed 
on the data display unit 13 of the interactive television 
10. The typical bodies are classified into "greeting let- 
ters*, "than k-you letters", "congratulation/inquiry letters" 
and "information letters". FIG. 41 is a diagram showing 
an example of a screen displaying a list of typical bodies 
on the data display unit 13 of the interactive television 
10. Expected sentences are displayed in accordance 
with the classification above. 

Classification information for typical bodies and in- 
formation of typical bodies shown in FIGS. 40 and 41 
are stored in the storing region of the interactive televi- 
sion 10. FIG. 42 is a diagram showing the structure of 
a storing region for classification information of typical 
bodies and information of typical bodies. The predeter- 
mined typical bodies are managed with classification in- 
formation. Information of regions in which typical bodies 
are stored is provided for each classification. 

A sending process is performed in the interactive 
television 1 0 in accordance with a flow chart shown in 
FIG. 43. When sending has been selected on the serv- 
ice menu screen, the program controller 12 displays a 
screen for sending a mail as shown in FIG. 6C to accept 
inputs of the destined telephone number and the body 
of the mail. At this time, if a request to support the op- 
eration for processing the body of the mail is made, clas- 



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sification information of typical bodies is read and a clas- 
sification selection screen shown in FIG. 40 is displayed. 
If a specific classification is selected on the classification 
selection screen, typical bodies belonging to the classi- 
fication are read and displayed as shown in RG. 41. 5 
Then, the user selects an arbitrary document from a list 
of the typical bodies by a remote control operation. The 
program controller 1 2 makes mail data such that the typ- 
ical body selected by the viewer is used as the body to 
forward mail data to the local response server. 

According to the above-mentioned embodiment in 
which typical bodies are prepared to permit a user to 
select an arbitrary body to support the operation of the 
user to write a body of the mail, the operation for input- 
ting the body of the mail can easily be performed by us- 
ing a Japanese syllabary because a keyboard is not 
generally provided for a television. 

Although the sixth embodiment is structured such 
that information, such as typical bodies, are stored in 
the storing region of the interactive television 10, infor- 
mation above may be stored in the response server sim- 
ilarly to the fifth embodiment. 

(Seventh Embodiment) 

A seventh embodiment has a structure such that a 
screen displayed on the data display section of the 
broadcasting television can be printed. 

In the seventh embodiment, the interactive televi- 
sion 10 has a printer 17 having a printing function, as 
shown in FIG. 44. In the interactive television 10 ; a print 
command issued from a viewer by a remote control op- 
eration is received by a data receiver 11. Then, a pro- 
gram controller 12 requests the printer 17 to print data. 
The printer 17 reads screen data, which is being dis- 
played on the screen, to read the same. 

A portion of contents of mails are undesirable to be 
printed. Thus, a print inhibition mechanism is provided 
with which the sender is able to protect printing of mails 
of the foregoing type at the receiving-side. 

Referring to FIGS. 45Aand 45B, the print inhibition 
mechanism will now be described. 

As mail data shown in FIG. 45A, a print permission 
flag is provided tor mail data, which is sent from the 
sendmg-side interactive television 10, the print permis- 
sion flag having a portion for inhibiting printing. Mail data 
above is forwarded to a local response server, to which 
the receiver belongs, by using the mail function accord- 
ing to any one of the foregoing embodiments. A print 
inhibition flag is provided for mail data which is forward- 
ed from the receiving-side local response server to the 
receiving-side interactive television 10, the print inhibi- 
tion flag having a value of the print inhibition flag of mail 
data above. As a result of the above-mentioned struc- 
ture, printing of the contents displayed on the TV screen 
can be inhibited. • 

If the sender does not permit printing, a mail having 
the flag indicating inhibition of printing is sent. If the re- 



ceiver attempts to print the contents of the mail, the pro- 
gram controller 12 interprets printing in the case where 
the contents are not permitted to be printed. According 
to the above-mentioned embodiment, a mail displayed 
on the television screen can be printed. Moreover, mails 
of a type having a copyright and required not to be print- 
ed cannot be printed attributable to the print inhibition 
function. 



An eighth embodiment of the present invention will 
now be described such that the structure of the TV mail 
system shown in FIG. 1 is taken as an example. 

The eighth embodiment has a structure having a 
function capable of writing a reply mail to a received 
mail. When a reply mail is written, the address of the 
sender of the mail is automatically provided for the ad- 
dress of the reply mail to reduce the load in the mail 
writing operation. 

A mail receipt screen as shown in FIG. 46 A is dis- 
played on the television screen of the interactive televi- 
sion 10. The screen has a reply button which is de- 
pressed when reply is performed to a mail (to which re- 
ply is made among the displayed mails). 

When the reply button has been depressed on the 
mail receipt screen, a mail reply screen shown in FIG. 
46B is displayed. "Destination" on the mail reply screen 
is automatically provided with name of the sender of the 
received mail to which reply will be made. 

Note that screen data for the mail receipt screen 
and the mail reply screen are stored in the server simi- 
larly to the fifth embodiment so as to be loaded down 
when a request has been made from the interactive tel- 
evision. 

FIG. 49 is a diagram showing the data structure of 
a mail box 37' storing a received mail to which a reply 
is required to be made. A sender ID indicating the send- 
er and type of the mail are added to the structure of the 
mail box 37 shown in FIG. 4. FIG. 50 is a diagram show- 
ing the data structure of the mail box 37' storing a reply 
mail. "Reply" is provided for the space for the mail spec- 
ification. 

In the above-mentioned embodiment, when the 
mail distribution program 39 of the center response 
server 30 takes out the received mail from the receiver 
mail box 35 to distribute the same to the mail box 37' of 
the receiver, name and the sender ID of the sender of 
the mail are written to the mail box 37'. If the received 
mail is not the reply mail, the specification is made to be 
"Original". 

In the receiving process which is performed in ac- 
cordance with a flow chart shown in FIG. 51, when the 
program controller 1 2 of the interactive television 1 0 has 
sent mail receiving request data to the center response 
server 30, the center response server 30 takes out a 
received mail from the receiving-side mail box 37' to 
make a mail data in the data format shown in FIG. 47. 



(Eighth Embodiment) 



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Mail data to which the sender ID has been provided is 
forwarded to the receiving-side interactive television 1 0. 

When the receiving-side interactive television 10 
has received mail data in the format shown in FIG. 47 
from the center response server 30, the interactive tel- 5 
evision 10 makes mail receipt screen shown in FIG. 46A 
on the basis of the contents of mail data, as shown in 
FIG. 51. 

When a reply mail to the received mail displayed on 
the television screen is made by the user the user se- M> 
lects the "Reply" button by a remote control operation. 

When the program controller 12 has been notified 
from the data receiver 11 that the "Reply" button has 
been depressed on the mail receipt screen shown in 
FIG: 46A, the program controller 12 calls the data dis- *5 
play unit 1 3 in order to display the mail reply screen such 
that name of the sender of the supplied mail is made to 
be the destination. When the user has input the body, 
the program controller 12 makes mail data. At this time, 
the sender ID of the received mail is provided as the 20 
destination, and "Reply" is provided as the specification. 
FIG. 48 is a diagram showing the data structure of the 
reply mail. The contents of the header are "Mail Send- 
ing". It means a fact that the foregoing mail is subjected 
to a process similar to that for a usual sending mail. A 25 
specification field is added to the data structure above, 
the specification field having a value indicating the reply. 
When the 'Sending' button has been selected by the 
user who has written the reply mail by a remote control 
operation, mail data, which is the reply mail, is forwarded 30 
to the center response server 30. 

In the center response server 30, the mail data, 
which is the reply mail, is stored in the mail box shown 
in FIG. 50. 

According to this embodiment having the above- 05 
mentioned structure, since the sender ID has been 
stored : a labor for inputting the destination, required to 
write the reply mail, can be omitted. Moreover, since the 
reply mail stores specification data indicating the "Re- 
ply", a user who has received the mail is able to recog- 40 
nize that the mail is the reply mail. 

(Ninth Embodiment) 

A ninth embodiment of the present invention will 45 
now be described such that the structure of the TV mail 
system shown in FIG. 1 is taken as an example. The TV 
mail system according to the ninth embodiment has a 
function which is capable of forwarding a received mail 
to another user. 50 

Initially, the structure of a mail receipt screen which 
is presented from the interactive television 10 to a user 
will now be described. FIG. 52 is a diagram showing a 
mail receipt screen. The mail receipt screen has a for- 
ward button. When a displayed and received mail (re- 55 
quired to be forwarded) is forwarded, the transference 
button is depressed. FIG. 53 is a diagram showing the 
structure of a mail sending screen which is displayed 



when the transference button has been depressed on 
the mail sending screen. The mail sending screen has 
a space for inputting the original sender. The space for 
the original sender is arranged such that name of the 
sender of the received mail which is required to be for- 
warded, is automatically input. Image data above is 
stored in the server similarly to the fifth embodiment so 
as to be loaded down to meet a request from the inter- 
active television. 

FIG. 54 is a diagram showing the data structure of 
a forward mail. The data structure is formed such that a 
sender field is added to the specification field. Moreover, 
the specification has a value indicating the transference. 
FIG. .55 is a diagram showing the data structure of a mail 
box storing the forward mail. The mail box has a region 
for storing information of the original sender in addition 
to the sender ID and the specification. 

A process according to this embodiment for for- 
warding a mail will now be described with reference to 
a flow chart of the interactive television shown in FIG. 
56. 

The description will be performed about a process 
from a moment at which the interactive television 1 0 has 
received a mail from the center response server 30 and 
a mail receipt screen shown in FIG. 52 is displayed on 
the data display unit 1 3. The process until the foregoing 
operations are performed is, as shown in a flow chart 
shown in FIG. 56, similar to that according to the first 
embodiment. 

When a user requires to forward a received mail 
which has been read on the television screen to another 
user the user is required to depress the transference 
button provided on the mail receipt screen by a remote 
control operation. 

When the program controller 12 has been notified 
from the data receiver 1 1 that the "Transference" button 
has been depressed on the mail receipt screen, the pro- 
gram controller 12 starts performing the mail transfer- 
ence process. That is, a mail sending screen as shown 
in FIG. 53 is displayed in which name of the sender of 
the received mail is made to be the "original sender". At 
this time, the contents of the body of the received mail 
are displayed in the body and the sender of the forward 
mail is permitted to add a comment to the body 

When completion of input of the destination and the 
body has been determined in accordance with depres- 
sion of the "Sending" button, a forward mail is made with 
the format shown in FIG. 54. At this lime, "Transference" 
is provided for the specification space and sender of the 
received mail is provided for the space for the original 
sender. The forward mail is formed into mail data so as 
to be sent to the center response server 30. 

In the center response server 30, the sent forward 
mail is stored in the mail box of the destined user. The 
forward mail stored in the mail box is as shown in FIG. 
55 such that the "Specification" has been made to be 
"Transference". If the specification is "Transference", 
name of the sender of the forwarded mail is stored in 



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the original sender field. 

According to this embodiment having the above- 
mentioned structure provided* with the function of for- 
warding the received mail to another user, a received 
mail can be forwarded. Since the forwarded mail is pro- 
vided with information of "original sender" when stored 
in the mail box, the original sender of the forwarded mail 
can be detected. 

(Tenth Embodiment) 

A TV mail system according to a tenth embodiment 
has a function for storing a sending history of a main 
sender. The TV mail system according to the tenth em- 
bodiment is basically structured similarly to that shown 
in FIG. 1 except the center response server. 

FIG. 57 is a diagram showing the structure of a cent- 
er response server according to the tenth embodiment. 
The center response server has a structure formed such 
that a sending history box 41 is added lo the center re- 
sponse server 30 shown in FIG. 1. A mail transfer pro- 
gram has a function for returning a sending history data 
to meet a request for a sending history. The data struc- 
ture of the sending history box 41 is shown in FIG. 5S. 
The sending history box 41 is provided for each user 
and consists of the destination and the body. 

The TV mail service screen and a TV mail sending 
history screen presented by the interactive television 10 
have structures as shown in FIGS. 60A and 60B. The 
TV mail service screen has a "sending history" button 
for selecting the sending history The TV mail sending 
history list screen displays a list of destinations and bod- 
ies sent by the user. The program controller 12 has a 
function for displaying the sending history list screen 
shown in FIG. 60B when the sending history button has 
been depressed on the screen shown in FIG. 60A. 

The contents of the sending process, the receiving 
process and sending history process which are per- 
formed by the center response server are shown in FIG. 
61. In the center response server, the mail transfer pro- 
gram 32 writes the mail forwarded from the communi- 
cation controller 34 to a receiver mail box 36, as shown 
in FIG. 59. In accordance with the contents of the sent 
mail, history of the original sender with respect to the 
present sent mail is written to the sending history box 
41. Since the sending history box 41 is provided for each 
user, a sending history box 41 , to which the history must 
be written, is specified in accordance with the sender in 
mail data. The contents which must be written, are des- 
tination and the body. 

In the center response server, when a sending his- 
tory request has been received from the interactive tel- 
evision 10. the mail transfer program 33 specifies the 
sending history box 41 in accordance with the sender of 
the sending history request data shown in FIG. 63 to 
make sending history data from data stored in the send- 
ing history box 41 so as to transmit the same to the in- 
teractive television. If a plurality of sending histories ex- 



ist, the sending history data is made for each sending 
histories. FIG. 64 is a diagram showing the data struc- 
ture of sending history data. A value indicating the send- 
ing history is provided for the header of sending history 
5 data. 

The interactive television 10 is operated in accord- 
ance with a flow chart shown in FIG. 62. When the data 
receiver 11 has received a history request due to the 
remote control operation performed by a user the pro- 
gram controller 12 requests the center response server 
to supply screen data so as to display TV mail service 
screen received from the center response server. When 
the "Sending History" button has been selected on the 
TV mail service screen, the program controller 12 
makes sending history request data shown in FIG. 63 
which is forwarded to the center response server. 

When the sending history has been forwarded from 
the center response server to the interactive television 
1 0 which has made the sending history request, the pro- 
gram controller 1 2 causes the data display section to 
display the sending history list screen in accordance 
with sending history data. 

As described above, according to this embodiment, 
the sending history box 41 for each user is provided for 
the center response server and the sending history data 
is returned when a sending history request is supplied 
from the interactive television 10. Therefore, the user is 
able to confirm the own sending history thereof. Since 
sending date data is added to the sending history, a fur- 
ther precise history can be obtained. 

(Eleventh Embodiment) 

A TV mail system according to an eleventh embod- 
iment has a function capable of storing the sending his- 
tory of the mail sender and another function for indicat- 
ing whether or not the receiver has received a mail. The 
TV mail system according to the eleventh embodiment 
basically has a similar structure as that of the TV mail 
system shown in FIG. 1. 

In this embodiment, a message ID, which is a 
unique number, is provided for each mail. Therefore, a 
region for storing the message ID is provided for the 
sending history box 41 so that data indicating a state of 
receipt is added. The state of receipt when the receiver 
has received a mail is brought to Yes. In an affirmative 
case, the state is brought to No. FIG. 65 is a diagram 
showing a schematic data structure of the sending his- 
tory box 41. 

Also the receiver mail box 36 is provided with a re- 
gion for storing the message ID as shown in FIG. 66 so 
as to store the user ID indicating the sender. Message 
ID and sender ID arc added to also the mail box 37 for 
the receiver, as shown in FIG. 67. 

Referring to a flow chart shown in FIG. 68, an op- 
eration of the center response server will now be de- 
scribed such that an operation for writing a state of re- 
ceipt to the sending history box is mainly described. 



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When the center response server has received mail 
data from the interactive television 10, the mail transfer 
program 33 stores the received mail in the receiver mail 
box 36. At this time, message ID is provided for the mail 
so as to be stored together with the user ID of the sender. 
The message ID must be a unique I D. When the sending 
history is written in the sending history box 41 , the same 
message ID is used and the state of receipt is made to 
be No. 

When the mail distribution program 39 distributes 
the mail to the mail box 37 for the receiver the mail dis- 
tribution program 39 adds the message I D and the send- 
er ID to the mail to be stored. When receiving request 
data has been received from the interactive television 
10, the mail transfer program 33 makes receiving re- 
quest data to meet the request from the receiver At this 
time, the message ID and the sender ID of the mail are 
read to specify the sending history box 41 in accordance 
with the sender ID and specify the sending history in ac- 
cordance with the message I D, followed by changing the 
state of receipt of the sending history to Yes. 

When the center response server has received a 
sending history request from the interactive television 
10, data indicating the state of receipt is added to send- 
ing history data as shown in FIG. 69, followed by trans- 
mitting sending history data. Therefore, the interactive 
television 10 which has received sending history data 
shown in FIG. 69 is able to display the state of receipt 
in addition to the sending history, as shown in FIG. 70. 

According to this embodiment having the structure 
such that the function for indicating whether or not the 
receiver has received a mail is added to the TV mail sys- 
tem having the sending history function, a state of re- 
ceipt is written to the sending history whenever the re- 
ceiver receives a mail. Therefore, the sender is able to 
detect whether or not the receiver has read the mail. 

(Twelfth Embodiment) 

The twelfth embodiment has a structure such that 
the contents of a TV mail service provided for a viewer 
through the interactive television can be updated by 
broadcasting radio waves from a broadcast station. FIG. 
71 is a diagram showing function block of the interactive 
television 1 0. A script superimposed on broadcasting ra- 
dio waves by a broadcast station 60 is separated by the 
interactive television 10 which has received the broad- 
casting radio waves so as to store the same in the mem- 
ory 15. The program controller 12 executes a program 
described as the script stored in the memory 15 so that 
a interactive television service and TV mail service are 
provided. 

In order to provide the TV mail service to a viewer, 
the program controller in the interactive television must 
control (1) the screen display and (2) the procedure. In 
a case of a service screen shown in FIG. 72, the screen 
display junction (1) controls characters, graphics, con- 
tents indicated by buttons and configuration of buttons 



and the like on the screen. On the other hand, the pro- 
cedure function (2) controls composition of data which 
must be forwarded to the local/center response server 
in accordance with the contents instructed by the user 
5 and analysis of received data. When the program con- 
troller 12 performs the TV mail service, the program con- 
troller 12 loads up the above-mentioned script from the 
memory 15 to control the television in accordance with 
the script. 

10 The broadcast station 60 updates the script in ac- 
cordance with a flow chart shown in FIG. 74. That is. 
when the contents of the TV mail service have been 
changed, a script corresponding to the changed con- 
tents of the service are made. FIG. 73 is a diagram 

*5 showing the data structure of the script consisting of pro- 
gram name indicating the contents of the senpt. version 
number of the script and a script relating to the script 
procedure relating to display of each screen. The broad- 
cast station transmits the foregoing script by using a pre- 

20 determined region of the broadcasting radio waves. 
Thus, the latest script is forwarded on the broadcasting 
radio waves transmitted from the broadcast station 60. 

When the interactive television 10 has received the 
broadcasting radio waves having the script, the decoder 

25 16 extracts the script from the received broadcasting ra- 
dio waves and notifies the receipt to the program con- 
troller 12. The program controller 12 subjects the ver- 
sion number of the script stored in the memory 1 5 and 
the version number of the received script to a compari- 

30 son. If the latter version number is new. the program 
controller 1 2 writes the received script to the memory 1 5. 

When the program controller 12 performs the TV 
mail service, the program controller 12 loads up the 
script from the memory 15 to control the television in 

35 accordance with the script. 

According to this embodiment having the above- 
mentioned structure, a latest TV mail service can always 
be provided with a latest script without a necessity of 
purchasing a new interactive television. 

40 

(Thirteenth Embodiment) 

The thirteenth embodiment has a structure such 
that script is not automatically updated in a state where 

^5 the user does not know the update but update is per- 
formed to meet a request from the user. In this embod- 
iment, a service menu screen as shown in FIG. 76 is 
displayed to accept a request from a user whether or 
not the user requires the update. The service menu 

so screen is structured such that either 'Update" or "Not 
Update" can be selected by the remote control operation 
performed by the user. 

FIGS. 77 and 78 are flow charts showing the oper- 
ation of the interactive television. Referring to the flow 

55 charts, the operation of this embodiment will now be de- 
scribed. The broadcast station 60 has a structure similar 
to that according to the twelfth embodiment and thus ar- 
ranged to forward the latest script on the broadcasting 



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radio waves. 

As shown in FIG. 77, when the program controller 
12 ol the interactive television 10 has recognized that 
the "Update" button has been depressed on the service 
menu screen shown in FIG. 76, the program controller 5 
12 requests the decoder 19 to receive the updated 
script. 

When the decoder 1 9 of the interactive television 
10 has extracted the updated script from the broadcast- 
ing radio waves in a state where update of the script has 10 
been requested, the decoder 19 notifies the program 
controller 12 the extraction together with the version 
number of the received script. The program controller 
12 compares the version numbers. If the version 
number of the received script is new, the program con- 1$ 
troller 12 loads down the received script to the memory 
15. 

According to this embodiment having the above- 
mentioned structure, the script can be updated in ac- 
cordance with the intention of the user. Thus, updale of 20 
the script which is not required by the user can be pre- 
vented. The present invention is not limited to the above- 
mentioned embodiment. A TV mail system can arbitrar- 
ily be formed by combining the structures of the above- 
mentioned embodiments. 25 



Claims 

1. A TV mail system comprising: 30 

a plurality of televisions (10) each having a re- 
ceiving function capable of receiving broad- 
casting radio waves and displaying a program; 
and 35 
a mail server (20, 30) to which said televisions 
(10) are connected through communication 
lines, is characterized in that 
said television (10) has a mail sending function 
(12, 14) for making mail including at least des- *o 3. 
tination information and the body of a mail to 
output the mail data to said mail server (20, 30) 
and a mail receiving function (12, 14) for dis- 
playing the contents of mail data sent from said 
mail server (20, 30), *s 
said mail server (20, 30) has a database (35) 
in which authentication information of users are 
registered, a receiving mail box (36) (or storing 
received mail data, mail boxes (37) for receiv- 4. 
ers, a mail distribution means (39) for distribute so 
ing. to a mail box (37) for the receiver, mail data 
stored in said authentication database (35) and 
an outputting means (33) which sends out the 
mail data received from one television to at 
least one different television in corresponding ss 
with the destination information. 

2. A TV mail system comprising: 



a plurality of televisions (10) each having a re- 
ceiving function capable of receiving broad- 
casting radio waves and displaying a program: 
and 

a mail server (20. 30) to which said televisions 
(10) are connected through communication 
lines, is characterized in that 
said television (10) has a mail sending function 
(12, 14) for displaying a mail sending screen 
and accepting destination telephone number 
and a mail body to make mail data so as to out- 
put the mail data to said mail server (20, 30), 
and a mail receiving function for receiving mail 
data transmitted from said mail server (20, 30) 
to meet a mail receiving request to display a 
mail receipt screen on the basis of the contents 
of mail data, and 

said mail server (20, 30) has a database (35) 
in which authentication information including 
user identifier of users of said televisions (10) 
are registered, a receiving mail box (36) for 
storing received mail data, mail boxes (37) for 
receivers, name analysis means (38) which re- 
trieves said authentication database (35) in ac- 
cordance with destination telephone number of 
mail data stored in said receiving mail box (36) 
to acquire information for specifying said mail 
box (37) of a destined receiver mail distribution 
means (39) for storing mail data stored in said 
receiving mail box (36) in said mail box (37) in 
accordance with information for specifying said 
mail box (37), and transfer means (33) which 
takes out mail information from the correspond- 
ing mail box (37) to meet a mail receiving re- 
quest from said television (1 0) to make mail da- 
ta so as to output the mail data to said televi- 
sions (10) of the receiver who has made the 
mail receiving request. 

A TV mail system according to claim 1 or 2, is char- 
acterized in that 

said authentication database (35) has a re- 
gion in which receiving information is written and re- 
ceiving information is brought to an receiving state 
when mail data has been received and is brought 
to a non-receiving state when the mail receiving re- 
quest has been made. 

A TV mail system comprising: 

a plurality of televisions (10) each having a re- 
ceiving function capable of receiving broad- 
casting radio waves and displaying a program: 
a plurality of local mail servers (20) to which 
said televisions (10) are connected through 
communication lines in each predetermined ar- 
ea and which are connected to one another on 
a network; and 



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a center mail server (30) to which said local 
servers (20) are connected through said com- 
munication lines, is characterized in that 
said television (10) has a mail sending (unction 
(12, 14) which makes mail including at least s 
destination information and the body of a mail 
to output the mail data to said local mail server 
(20) ? and a mail receiving function (12, 14) for 
displaying a received mail on the basis of the 
contents of mail data received from said local JO 
server (20), 

said center mail server (30) has a database (35) 
in which authentication information of users are 
registered and name analysis means (38) 
which acquires, from said authentication data- '5 
base (35), authentication information of a re- 
ceiver analysis of which has been requested 
by said local servers (20), to output the authen- 
tication information to said local server (20) 
from which the request has been made, and 20 
said local mail server (20) has a receiving mail 
box (26) for storing received mail data, mail 
boxes (29) for receivers, interchange means 
(24) which makes mail routing data formed by 
adding authentication information with respect 2S 
to analysis request responded from said center 
mail server (30) so as to interchange mail rout- 
ing data to said receiving-side local mail serv- 
ers (20), distribution means (28) for storing mail 
routing data interchanged from said sending- 30 
side local mail servers (20) to a mail box (29) 
for the receiver in accordance with authentica- 
tion information, and transfer means (23) which 
makes mail data from mail information distrib- 
uted to said mail box (29) so as to output the 35 
mail data to said televisions (10) for the receiv- 
er. 

5. A TV mail system according to claim 4, is charac- 
terized in that *o 

said mail box (29) for the receiver has a region 
in which receiving information is written, receiving 
information is brought to an receiving state when 
mail routing data has been received from said send- 
ing-side local mail servers (20) and is brought to a «*5 
non-receiving state when the mail receiving request 
has been made. 

6. A TV mail system according to any one of claims 1 

to 5, is characterized in that so 

said television (10) has replay mail making 
means which accepts a reply mail to the received 
mail when a received mail is displayed and which 
makes mail data for a reply mail in which telephone 
number of the sender provided for the received mail ss 
is automaticallyset as destined telephone number 
when a request to make the reply mail has been 
made. 



7. A TV mail system according to any one claims 1 to 
6, is characterized in that 

said television (10) has forward mail making 
means which accepts a forward request of a re- 
ceived mail when the received mail is displayed and 
which makes mail data for transference in which the 
address of the sender provided for the received mail 
is automatically set as the address of an original 
sender when a request to forward the received mail 
has been made. 

8. A TV mail system according to any one of claims 1 
to 7, is characterized in that 

any one of said mail server (20. 30), said center 
mail server (30) or said local mail servers (20) 
has a sending history box prepared for each us- 
er means for storing mail data in said receiving 
mail box (36) when said server has received 
mail data and storing mail data in a sending his- 
tory box for the user and means which takes 
out the sending history from said sending his- 
tory box for the user when a sending history re- 
quest has been received to make sending his- 
tory data so as to output the sending history da- 
ta to said television (1 0) from which the request 
has been made, and 

said television (10) has means which accepts 
sending history request on the mail service 
screen to output the sending history request da- 
ta to the server provided with said sending his- 
tory box and means (13) for displaying a list of 
sending history of the user on the basis of send- 
ing history data transmitted from said server to 
correspond to said sending history request. 

9. A TV mail system according to any one of claims 1 
to 8, is characterized in that 

said television (10) has classification selec- 
tion means for causing a classification list of typical 
bodies to cause a user to select a classification of 
the typical bodies from the classification list, typical 
body selection means for causing a list of the typical 
bodies belonging to the classification of the typical 
bodies selected by said classification selection 
means to cause the user to select a typical body 
and input support means for supporting writing of a 
mail by inserting one or a plurality of the typical bod- 
ies selected by said typical body selection means 
into a mail body which is being written. 

10. A TV mail system according to any one of claims 1 
to 9, is characterized in that 

said television (10) has printing means (17) 
for reading contents of screen data which is being 
displayed on the screen and printing screen data 
and means (12) for requesting said printing means 
(1 7) to print the contents by recognizing a print com- 



18 

BNSDOCID: <EP 0793367A2_l_> 



35 EP 0 793 387 A2 36 

mand issued from a user. 

11. A TV mail system according to claim 10, is charac- 
terized in that 

said television (10) has means for adding, to 5 
mail data, a print permission flag indicating whether 
or not the mail can be printed and means for check- 
ing the print permission flag added to mail data re- 
ceived by said television (10) to determine whether 
or not printing is permitted. 10 

12. A TV mail system according to any one claims 1 to 
11 , is characterized in that 

any one of said mail server (20. 30), said cent- 
er mail server (30) or said local mail servers (20) *5 
has a screen database for storing screen data re- • - 
lating to a mail service which is displayed by said 
television (10) so that required screen data taken 
out from said screen database is forwarded to said 
television (10) which has made a request. 20 

13. A TV mail system according to any one of claims 1 
to 11 , is characterized in that 

said television (10) has means (19) for ex- 
tracting, from received broadcasting radio waves 25 
transmitted from a broadcast station, a script in 
which procedures for mail transmission and receipt, 
a variety of required screen data items correspond- 
ing to the contents of the mail service and control 
consents of screen display are described and a 30 
memory (15) for storing the script extracted by said 
extracting means. 

14. A TV mail system according to claim 1 3, is charac- 
terized in that 35 

said television (10) has means for accepting 
a script update request supplied from a user and 
script update means for storing a corresponding 
script in said memory to update the script when the 
script has been extracted from the received broad- 40 
casting radio waves in a state where the script up- 
date request supplied to said acceptance means is 
effective. 



50 



55 



BNSDOCID. <EP 07 9338 7 A? }_> 



19 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



O 

CO 



LU 
> 

LU 

00 

LU 

CO 

o 

CL 

co 

LU 



CO 
CO 



CO 



CO oc < 
v >- LU 
^LU _J > CD 

<zuj cr 
z<wo. 



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LU 
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X 
5 



LU 



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covrv 



COMMUNICATION 
CONTROLLER 



> 

CT 
LU 
CO 

LU 
CO 

o 
o. 

CO 
LU 



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or 

CD 
O 

cr 



o 
o 



COMMUNICATION 
CONTROLLER 




CD 



en 



LU 
> 

cr 

LU 
CO 

LU 
CO 

z 
o 
cx 

co 

LU 

or 



o 
o 



CNJ ^ 

c\w 



LU 



CD 



CM 



COMMUNICAT 

CON TROLLER 
[ I 



ION 



LU J— 

ilr 



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CO 



SENDING END) 



>© 
fr-co 

01 ill 



CM 



CATION 



COMMUN 
CONTROLLER 



M 



cr 

LU 

<t LU 
Q O 
LU 

cr 




[receiving end) 



20 

BNSDOCID <EP 079338/A2 L> 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



USER ID 


NAME 


ADDRESS 


TELEPHONE 
NUMBER 


INCOMING 
FLAG 


1111 


KATAYAMA XX 


TACHIKAWA-CITY 
AKEBONO-CHO 


0425-22-XXAA 


OFF 


1234 


MIURA AA 


HAMURA-C I TY 
HANE 


O423-33-A0xx 


ON 













AUTHENTICATION DATA BASE 



F I G. 2 



SENDER ID 


DESTINATION 


BODY 


1234 


0425-22-XXXX 


HELLO 















DATA STRUCTURE OF RECEIVING BOX 

F I G. 3 



USER ID =1111 



SENDER ID 


BODY 


HAMURA-C ITY 
MIURA 


HELLO 











DATA STRUCTURE OF MAIL BOX 



FIG. 4 



BNSDOCID. <EP 0793387A2J_> 



21 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



Q START ) 









V 








SEND 


ING 


DISPLAY SERVICE 


RECEIVING 






MENU SCREEN 








t 








> 


f 


DISPLAY "MAIL SENDING" 




DISPLAY ' 


'MAIL . 


SCREEN 








RECEIVING" SCREEN 



I 



REQUEST INPUT OF 
DESTINATION TELEPHONE 
NUMBER AND MAIL BODY 

I 



MAKE MAIL 
SENDING DATA 

I 



SEND MAIL 
SENDING DATA 



E 



SEND MAIL RECEIVING 
REQUEST DATA 



RECEIVE MAIL 
RECEIVING DATA 

I 



DISPLAY MAIL RECEIVING 
SCREEN BASED ON 
MAIL RECEIVING DATA 





Q RETURN ) 



FLOWCHART OF INTERACTIVE TV 



FIG. 5 



BNSDOCID. <EP 0793387A2. 1_> 



22 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



SERVICE MENU 



TV MAIL 



SHOPPING 



FIG. 6A 



PLEASE SELECT ONE OF 
FOLLOWING SERVICES 



return) 



FIG. 6B 



TV MAIL SERVICE 



SENDING 



RECEIVING 



PLEASE SELECT ONE OF 
FOLLOWING OPERATIONS 



(return) 



FIG. 6C 



TV MAIL SENDING 



DESTINATION 
BODY 



0425-22-XXM 



HELLO, Mr. KATAYAMA 


L SENDER j 




(return^ 



BNSDOCID: <EP 0793337A2_I_> 



23 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



HEADER 


SENDER 


DESTINATION 


BODY 


MAIL 
SENDING 


1234 


0425-22-XXAA 


HELLO 



MAIL SENDING DATA 

F I G. 7 



Q START ^ 



PASS RECEIVED DATA 
TO CLIENT PROGRAM 



MAIL SENDING 



HEADER OF 
RECEIVED DATA? 



ROUTE TO CENTER 
RESPONSE SERVER 



MAIL RECEIVING 



MAIL RECEIVING 
REQUEST 



ROUTE TO 
DESTINATION 
INTERACTIVE TV 



ROUTE TO CENTER 
RESPONSE SERVER 



( RETURN ) 



FLOWCHART OF LOCAL RESPONSE SERVER 

F I G. 8 



BNSDOCID <EP 0793387A2 l_> 



24 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



Q START J 



PASS RECEIVED DATA TO 
MAIL TRANSFER PROGRAM 



SENDING 



STORE MAI 
DATA TO R 
BOX 



HEADER OF- 
RECEIVED DATA? 



REQUEST RECEIVING 



L SENDING 
ECEIVING 



ANALYZE 
MAIL IN 

box 



NAME OF 
RECEIVING 



DISTRIBUTE MAIL 
TO MAIL BOX OF 
RECEIVER 



INFORM RECEIVING OF TV 
MAIL TO INTERACTIVE 
TELEVISION 



TURN OFF 



NCOMING 



FLAG IN AUTHENT I CAL 
PATA BASE 



TAKE OUT MAIL 
FROM MAIL BOX 



MAKE MAIL 
RECEIVING DATA 



SEND MAIL 
RECEIVING DATA 



( RETURN ^ 



FLOWCHART OF CENTER RESPONSE SERVER 



F I 6. 9 



0793a87A2 I > 



25 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



TV MAIL SERVICE 



SENDING 



RECEIVING 



PLEASE SELECT ONE OF 
FOLLOWING OPERATIONS 



( RETURN ) 



F I G. 1 OA 



TV MAIL RECEIVING 



SENDER 



BODY 



HAMURA-CITY MIURAM 



HELLO. Mr.KATAYAMA 



( NEXT \ 
{ MAIL J 

(return) 



F I G. 1 OB 



26 



BNSDOCIO: <EP 07933b7A2_L> 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



HEADER RECEIVER 



MAIL RECEIVING 
REQUEST 



(MAIL RECEIVING REQUEST DATA) 

F I G. 1 1 



HEADER 



DESTINATION SENDER 



BODY 



MAIL RECEIVING 


1111 


HAMURA-C I TY 
MIURA 


HELLO 



(MAIL RECEIVING DATA) 

FIG. 12 



USER 
ID 


NAME 


ADDRESS 


TELEPHONE 
NUMBER 


INCOM- 
ING 
FLAG 


RECEIVING 
AUTORIZED 
SENDER LIST 


1111 


KATAYAMAOO 


TACHIKAWA-CITY 
AKEBONO-CHO 


0425-22-XXAA 


OFF 


ID =••• 
ID =••• 


1234 


MIURA XX 


HAMURA-C I TY 
HANE 


0423-33-AOXX 


ON 

















FIG. 13 



BNSDOCJD <EP 0793387A2.I_> 



27 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



HEADER 


SENDER 




SEND 






AUTHORIZED 


1234 


LIST 


SENDER LIST 







FIG. 14 



USER 
ID 


NAME 


ADDRESS 


TELEPHONE 
NUMBER 


INCOM- 
ING 
FLAG 


RECEIVING j 
REJECTED 
SENDER LIST 


1 1 1 1 


KATAYAMAOO 


TACHIKAWA-CITY 
AKEBONO-CHO 


0425-22-XXM 


OFF 


ID =••• 
ID =••• 


1234 


MIURA XX 


HAMURA-CITY 
HANE 


0423-33-A0XX 


ON 

















FIG. 15 



HEADER 



SENDER 



REGISTRATION REQUEST 
OF REJECTED SENDER 
LIST 



1111 



MAIL NUMBER OF RECEIVING 
REJECTED SENDER 



FIG. 16 



BNSDOCID: <EP 0793j87A2 l_> 



28 



EP 0 793 387 A2 




COMMUNICATION 
CON TROLLER 

1 




IT uj 
UJ ^ 

few 



COMMUNICATION 
CONTROLLER 

r 




SENDING END) 



[receiving end ) 



BNSOOCID: <EP 0793387A2. I_> 



29 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



USER 
ID 


NAME 


ADDRESS 


TELEPHONE 

Ml IUDED 


INCOM- 
ING 
FLAG 


LOCAL RESPONSE 


1111 


KATAYAMA XX 


TACHIKAWA-CITY 
AKEBONO-CHO 


O425-22O0XX 


OFF 


LOCAL 
RS2 


1234 


MIURA AA 


HAMURA-C I TY 
HANE 


O423-33A0OX 


ON 


LOCAL 
RSi 















AUTHENTICATION DATA BASE 

FIG. 18 



LOCAL RESPONSE 
SERVER 


NETWORK ADDRESS 


LOCAL RS1 


888-8888 


LOCAL RS2 


999-9999 







DATA STRUCTURE OF 

NODE MANAGING INFORMATION 



F I G. 1 9 



DESTINATION 


SENDER 


BODY 


1111 


HAMJRA-C ITY 
MIURA 


HELLO 















DATA STRUCTURE OF ROUTING BOX 



FIG. 20 



BNSOOCID: <EP 0793387A2J_> 



30 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



C START ) 



MAIL SENDING 



HEADER OF 
RECEIVED DATA? 



MAIL RECEIVING 



STORE MAIL SENDING 
DATA TO RECEIVING 
BOX 



REQUEST TURNING OFF 
INCOMING FLAG IN 
AUTHENTICAL DATA 
BASE 



TAKE OUT MAIL 
FROM MAIL BOX 



MAKE MAIL 
RECEIVING DATA 



SEND MAIL 
RECEIVING DATA 



( RETURN } 



FLOWCHART OF LOCAL RESPONSE SERVER 
(MAIL TRANSFER PROGRAM) 



F I G. 21 



BNSOOCID: <EP 0793387A2 1 > 



31 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



^ START ^ 



YES 



YES 



ANALYZE NAME 
OF MAIL IN 
RECEIVING BOX 



DOES DATA EXIST 
IN RECEIVING BOX? 



NO 



RECEIVE MAIL 

ROUTING DATA? 



YES 



NO 



RECEIVE NAME 
ANALYSIS RESULT? 



MAKE MAIL 
ROUTING DATA 



SEND MAIL 

ROUTING DATA 



c 



NO 



STORE MAIL ROUTING 
DATA IN ROUTING BOX 



RETURN 



J 



FLOWCHART OF LOCAL RESPONSE SERVER 
( MAIL ROUTING PROGRAM) 



F I G. 22 



32 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



YES 



Q ST ART 3 



RECEIVE NAME 
ANALYSIS REQUEST? 



I 



NO 



YES 



RECEIVE NAME 
AN ALYSIS RESULT? 



YES 



RECEIVE TURNING OFF 
REQUEST OF INCOMING 
FLAG? 



MAKE NAME] 
ANALYSIS 
REQUEST DATA 



SEND NAME 
ANALYSIS 
REQUEST DATA 



~ MAKE TURNING 
OFF REQUEST DATA 
OF INCOMING FLAG 



I 



SEND TURNING OFF 
REQUEST DATA OF 
INCOMING FLAG 



NO 



PASS RESULT TO 
MAIL ROUTING 
PROGRAM 



( RETURN ) 



NAME ANALYSIS CLIENT PROGRAM 



FIG. 23 



BNSDOCID: <EP 079^367A2^I_> 



33 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



C 



YES 



START J 



RECEIVE NAME ANALYSIS 
REQUEST DATA? 



NO 



RECEIVE TURNING 
REQUEST DATA OF 
INCOMING FLAG? 



OFF 



RETRIEVE THE FOLLOWING 
DATA FROM AUTHENTICATION 
DATABASE AND NODE 
MANAGING INFORMATION 

•USER ID OF RECEIVER 
•LOCAL RESPONSE 

SERVER ID OF RECEIVER 
•NETWORK ADDRESS OF ABOVE 

SERVER 

•NAME ADDRESS ET OF SENDER 



YES 



NO 



TURN ON 


INCOMING FLAG 








AND 


SEND NaSI 


ANALYSIS 


RESULT DATA 



c 



SET TURNING OFF 
INCOMING FLAG OF 
SPECIFIED RECEIVER 



RETURN 



3 



NAME ANALYSIS SERVER PROGRAM 



FIG. 24 



BNSDOCID: <EP 07933b7A? .!_> 



34 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



( START ) 







f 




YES DOES DATA EXIST 

IN ROUTING BOX? 


t 


NO 

f 


DISTRIBUTE DATA 
TO MAIL BOX OF 
RECEIVER 










y 



( RETURN ) 



MAIL DISTRIBUTION PROGRAM 

F I G. 25 



HEADER SENDER DESTINATION 



NAME ANALYSIS 
REQUEST 



1234 



0425-22-XXAA 



NAME ANALYSIS REQUEST DATA 



FIG. 26 



35 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



HEADER 


SENDER 


ROUTING 
DESTINATION ADDRESS 


NETWORK 
ADDRESS 


NAME ANALYSIS 
RESULT 


HAMURA-CITY 
MIURA 


1111 


LOCAL RS2 


999-9999 



NAME ANALYSIS RESULT DATA 

FIG. 27 



HEADER RECEIVER DESTINATION SENDER BODY 



MAIL 

INTERCHANGE 


LOCAL RS2 


1111 


HAMURA-CITY 
MIURA 


HELLO 



MAIL INTERCHANGE DATA 

F I G. 28 



HEADER DESTINATION 



TURNING OFF REQUEST 
OF INCOMING FLAG 



TURNING OFF REQUEST DATA 
OF INCOMING FLAG 

F I G. 29 



36 



EP 0 793 387 A2 




< 
o 



COMMUNICATION 
A/ CONTROLLER 



CsJ 



O 

CO 

• 

CD 



COMMUNICATION 
CONTROLLER 



COMMUNICATION 
CONTROLLER 

I 



0£ 
UJ 
O 
h- — 

<: lu 
o o 



T 




COMMUNICATION 
CONTROLLER 

i 



SENDING END) 




(receiving end) 



CO 

>- 

CO 



< 
> 



BNSDOCID: <EP 079i3G7A2_l_> 



37 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



USER 
ID 


NAME 


ADDRESS 


TELEPHONE 
NUMBER 


LOCAL RESPONSE 
SERVER 


1111 


KATAYAMAOO 


TACHIKAWA-CITY 
AKEBONO-CHO 


0425-22-XXXX 


LOCAL RS2 


1234 


MIURA XX 


HAMURA-CITY 
HANE 


0423-33-xxxx 


LOCAL RS1 













AUTHENTICATION DATA BASE 



F I G. 31 



USER ID = 1111 



INCOMING FLAG ON 




SENDER 


DESTINATION 


BODY 


1233 


0425-22-XXXX 


HELLO 















MAIL BOX OF RECEIVER 



F I 6. 32 



BNSDOC1D: <EP__0793a87A2J_> 



38 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



^ START ^ 



MAIL SENDING 



HEADER OF 
RECEIVED DATA? 



MAIL RECEIVING 



STORE MAI 


I SENDING 


DATA TO R 


ECEIVING 


BOX 





TURN OFF INCOMING 
FLAG IN MAIL BOX 



TAKE OUT MAIL 
FROM MAIL BOX 



MAKE MAIL 



RECEIV! 



NG DATA 



SEND MAIL 
RECEIVING DATA 



( RETURN ^ 



MAIL TRANSFER PROGRAM 



F I G. 33 



BNSDOCID <EP„_. 0793j87A2_I_> 



39 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



( START ) 



YES 



RECEIVE NAME 
ANALYSIS REQUEST? 



I 



NO 



RECEIVE NAME 
ANALYSIS RESULT? 



MAKE NAME 
ANALYSIS 
REQUEST DATA 



I 



SEND NAME 
ANALYSIS 
REQUEST DATA 



c 



YES 



NO 



PASS RESULT TO 
MAIL ROUTING 
PROGRAM 



RETURN 



NAME ANALYSIS CLIENT PROGRAM 



FIG. 34 



BNSDOCID. <EP 0793387A2_I_> 



40 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



( START ^ 



YES 



DOES DATA EXIST 
IN ROUTING BOX? 



DISTRIBUTE DATA 
TO MAIL BOX OF 
RECEIVER 



TURN ON INCOMING 
FLAG IN MAIL BOX 



c 



NO 



RETURN 



MAIL DISTRIBUTION PROGRAM 

F I G. 35 



INTERACTIVE 
TELEVISION" 



RESPONSE SERVER 



21(31) 



[8 



MAIL 

TRANSFER 
PROGARM 



SCREEN DATABASE 



SCREEN 
DATABASE 



-23 
(33) 



50 



F I G. 36 



BNSDOCID: <EP_0793387A2_L> 



41 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



SCREEN TYPE 


SCREEN DATA 


SERVICE SCREEN 


A546F876. . . . 


SENDING SCREEN 




RECEIVING SCREEN 





DATA STRUCTURE OF SCREEN DATABASE 



FIG. 37 



SCREEN 

HEADER REQUESTOR TYPE 



SCREEN INFORMATION 
REQUEST 



1234 



SERVICE SCREEN 



OTHER CANDIDATES 



SENDING SCREEN 
RECEIVING SCREEN 



SCREEN INFORMATION REQUEST DATA 



F I G. 38 



HEADER REQUESTOR SCREEN DATA 



SCREEN 



1234 



A546F876. 



SCREEN INFORMATION DATA 



FIG. 39 



BNSDOCID: <EP 0793387A2_f_> 



42 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



TV MAIL SENDING 

(TYPICAL BODY CLASSIFICATION) 






GREETING LETTER 








THANK-YOU LETTER 








CONGRATULATION/ 
INQUIRY LETTER 


( SELECT^ 




INFORMING LETTER 


(i return' 



TYPICAL BODY CLASSIFICATION SCREEN 

F I G. 40 



TV MAIL SENDING 
(TYPICAL BODY LIST) 



A HAPPY. 



HOW ARE YOU?. 



( select) 

( RETURN ) 



TYPICAL BODY LIST 

FIG. 41 



43 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



TYPICAL BODY 
CLASSIFICATION 



GREETING 
LETTER 



THANK-YOU 
LETTER 



CONGRATULATION/ 
INQUIRY LETTER 
INFORMING 
LETTER 



TYPICAL BODY LIST 


• HOW ARE 

a 


YOU?. . . 


1 AM OBLIG 
THE OTHER 


ED TO YOU 
DAY 


HAPPY WEDDING TO YOU 

i 



FIG. 42 



BNSDOCID: <EP 07933B7A? I_> 



44 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



C START ^ 



DISPLAY SERVICE MENU SCREEN 



SENDING 



DISPLAY "MAIL SENDING" SCREEN 



INPUT REQUEST OF DESTINATION 
TELEPHONE NUMBER AND MAIL BODY 



SECEP 

INPUT SUPPORT REOUES1 
IF MAIL B00Y2. 

YES 



CLASSIFICATION INFORMATION 
DISPLAY OF TYPICAL BODY 



± 



TYPICAL BODY DISPLAY OF 
SPECIFIED CLASSIFICATION 



RECEIVING 

1 



EDIT BODY OF SELECTED 
TYPICAL BODY IS MANUAL 
INPUT 



TECEIVE 
^ELECTION OF SENDING^ 
LUTT0N2, 

[yes 



NO 



MAKE MAIL SENDING DATA 



z 



SEND MAIL SENDING DATA 

+" 

C RETURN } 



F I G. 43 



BNSDOCID: <EP 0793387A2.I_> 



45 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



INTERACTIVE TELEVISION 







DATA RECEIVER 










i 


r 


12 




PRINTER 




PROGRAM 




CCAWUNICATION 




CONTROLLER 




CONTROLLER 






i 




















SCREEN 
DATA 




DATA DISPLAY 


^13 




< > 


UNIT 















1 



FIG. 44 



HEADER SENDER DESTINATION 



nrtnv PRINT 

BODY PERMISSION FLAG 



MAIL 
SENDING 


1234 


0425-22-XXXX 


HELLO 


PRINT DISAPPROVE 



MAIL SENDING DATA 

FIG. 45A 



HEADER DESTINATION SENDER BODY 



PRINT 

PERMISSION FLAG 



MAIL 

RECEIVING 


1111 


HAMURA-CITY 
MIURA 


HELLO 


PRINT DISAPPROVE 



MAIL RECEIVING DATA 

FIG. 45B 



BNSDOCID- <EP 07933b7A2_l_> 



46 



EP 0 793 387 A2 



TV MAIL RECEIVING 



SENDER 



BODY 



HAMURA-CITY MIURAXX 



HELLO, Mr. KATAYAMA 



( REPLY ) 

( NEXT \ 
I MAIL ) 

(return) 



F I G. 46A 



TV MAIL REPLY 



NATION HAMURA " C,TY M,URAXX 



BODY 



THANK YOU FOR 
YOUR LETTER 



sending) 

RETURN ) 



F I G. 46B 



HEADER DESTINATION SENDER ID SENDER BODY 



MAIL. 
RECEIVING 


1111 


0423-33-XXXX 


HAMURA-CITY 
MIURA 


HELLO 



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62 

BNSDOCID: <EP 07933b7A? I > 



iiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiii 

;n) EP 0 793 387 A3 



(12) EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION 



(88) Date of publication A3: 


(^\ intrie H04N 7/173 


29.12.1997 Bulletin 1997/52 


(43) Date of publication A2: 




03.09.1997 Bulletin 1997/36 




(21) Application number: 97301344.4 




(22) Date of filing: 27.02.1997 




(84) Designated Contracting States: 


• Miura, Isamu 


DE FR GB 


1-1 Shibaura 1-chome Minato-ku Tokyo 105 (JP) 




• Katayama, Yasuko 


(30) Priority: 29.02.1996 JP 43464/96 


1-1 Shibaura 1-chome Minato-ku Tokyo 105 (JP) 


(71) Applicant: KABUSHIKI KAISHA TOSHIBA 


(74) Representative: Shindier, Nigel 


Kawasaki-shi. Kanagawa-ken 210 (JP) 


BATCHELLOR, KIRK & CO. 




2 Pear Tree Court 


(72) Inventors: 


Farringdon Road 


• Hashimoto, Koichi 


London EC1R0DS (GB) 


1-1 Shibaura 1-chome Minato-ku Tokyo 105 (JP) 





(54) Tv mail system 




Europaisches Patentamt 
European Patent Office 
Office europeen des brevets 



(57) TV mail system comprising a plurality of televi- 
sions (10) each having a receiving function capable of 
receiving broadcasting radio waves and displaying a 
program, and a mail server (20, 30) to which the televi- 
sions (10) are connected through communication lines, 
is characterized in that the television (10) has a mail 
sending function (12, 14) for making mail including at 
least destination information and the body of a mail to 
output the mail data to the mail server (20 : 30) and a 
mail receiving function (12, 14) for displaying the con- 
tents of mail data received from the mail server (20 : 30) 



together with the received mail, the mail server (20, 30) 
has a database (35) in which authentication information 
of users are registered, a receiving mail box (36) for stor- 
ing received mail data, mail boxes (37) for receivers, a 
mail distribution means (39) for distributing, to a mail box 
(37) for the receiver mail data stored in the receiving 
mail box (36) by making a reference to the authentica- 
tion database (35) and an outputting means (33) which 
sends out the mail data received from one television to 
at least one different television in corresponding with the 
destination information. 



CO 
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Q. 
LU 




FIG. 1 



Prntedby Jouve. 75001 PARIS (fPl) 



BNSDOC1D <EP 0793367A3J_> 



EP 0 793 387 A3 



European Patent 
Office 



EUROPEAN SEARCH REPORT 



Application Number 

EP 97 3G 1344 



DOCUMENTS CONSIDERED TO BE RELEVANT 



Category 



Citation ot document with indication, where appropriate. 
of relevant passages 



Relevant 
to clatm 



CLASSIFICATION Of THE 
APPLICATION (lntCI.6) 



EP 0 396 186 A (NEDERLAND PTT) 
the whole document * 

US 5 461 667 A (REM1LLARD ROGER) 
the whole document * 



1.2,4. 
3,5-14 

1-14 



H04N7/173 



TECHNICAL FIELDS 
SEARCHED (lnl.Ci.6) 



H04N 



The present search report has been drawn up tor all daims 



Placed Maref) 


0a« oi sompiaton ol ihe s*arcfi 


t*arrw#f 


BERLIN 


27 October 1997 


Greve, M 


CATEGORY OF CITED DOCUMENTS 


T : theory or pnncpie underlying the invention 




E : earlier patent documei 


% but pubfcshed on. or 


X partroulafty r»l«vaftt if taken alone 


after the Sing date 




Y . parbculutv relevant if combined wth another D. document ect* din the 


apptiMtion 


document Of the tame category 


L : document cited tor other reasons 


A : techno logical background 






0 : non-written disclosure 
P ! int£ tn difltt dooifTe#ntf 


A merroer of the same potent tamtfy, ccrretpondng 
documert 



BNSOOCID: <EP 0793387A3_I_> 



2