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U.S. Patent No. 7,614,955: Method for online game matchmaking using play style information
Issued November 10, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘955 patent describes a method for accumulating data in order to successively match users during online gaming. One way players are matched together is based upon their style of play. The system attempts to match players who are looking for similar game styles, have similar skill levels, and have similar reputations. The invention uses measurements for several different characteristics before it matches up players, including: aggressiveness, playing likeability, and trash talking. After analyzing the several factors, the system matches players based upon its determination of whether the first player is a good match for the second player.

Abstract:

A method and system for accumulating data to match and matching a user, based upon a play style and/or personal attribute, in an online gaming environment is described. One aspect of the invention provides a matchmaking system that matches players based upon a play style of the players. The system matches players who are looking for games with players who prefer similar play styles. Similarly the system can match players based upon a personal attribute of the player. The system can be built into existing general skill level and technical capabilities based matchmaking systems to provide more user desired matchmaking parameters, allowing a user to choose based upon play style, personal attribute, general skill level, and/or technical capabilities.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for matching users over a network in an online gaming environment, the method comprising steps of: entering a user into a first online game available over the network; receiving from the user by way of the network at least one response to at least one query to the user about the first online game experience following completion of the first online game by the user; determining a play style parameter of a requesting user based on the at least one response, the determined play style parameter for being employed to connect the requesting user to a second online game available over the network, the second game being different from the first online game; and connecting the requesting user to the second online game based at least in part on the determined play style parameter; the connecting being based at least in part on a collaborative filtering method that aids the requesting user in the selection of the second online game based upon evaluations of the second online game made by other users.

U.S. Patent No. 7,635,300: Damage control game program and game machine
Issued Dec. 22, 2009, to Konami

Summary:

The ‘300 patent provides a new way to treat character damage during a game. In past games, a player could heal his character by receiving a power-up (plants in the Resident Evil series).  Once these power ups were ingested, the character’s health would be fully restored. This invention features a new way to restore health—under this invention a character’s health is restored slowly based on what part of his body is injured. Thus, healing will be quicker if only one part of the body is injured, but slower if more parts of the body are hurt.

Abstract:

Game program has a procedure for renewing, for reducing a value of a life power parameter according to volume of damage received and for renewing it, a procedure for setting parameter value, for setting the value of the life power parameter reduced and renewed as a standard parameter value and for storing it in a memory, a procedure for recovering, for increasing the value of the life power parameter by a value of recovery parameter which is set on a recovery item which is instructed to be used by a player and for renewing it, a procedure for reducing, for reducing the value of the life power parameter in the memory which was increased and renewed at a predetermined reduction velocity with the passage of time and for renewing it.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A damage control game program embodied in a computer readable medium being used in a game program, for getting each character to take an action in a game world on the basis of a value of life power parameter which is set on said each character and for displaying said action on a monitor as an image, comprising: an item data file for storing a recoverable value of said life power parameter concerning a recovery item for temporarily recovering said value of said life power parameter of said character, said game program for setting a standard parameter value which shows a wounded state of said character in connection with said life power parameter, and a parameter value which shows present life power of said character; said damage control game program for executing the following procedures, a procedure for renewing life power parameter, for reducing said value of said life power parameter which is set on, said character and is stored in a memory of a computer according to a volume of damage received on said life power parameter of said character in said game world and renewing it; a procedure for setting standard parameter value, for setting said value of said life power parameter reduced and renewed by said procedure for renewing life power parameter as said standard parameter value and storing it in said memory of said computer; a procedure for natural recovery, for expressing a wounded state of said character by gradually successively recovering and renewing said standard parameter value which is stored in said memory by said procedure for setting standard parameter value at a predetermined natural recovery velocity with a passage of time up to a full state of said life power parameter of said character; a procedure for temporary recovery, for reading a value of a recovery parameter which is set on a recovery item which is instructed to be used by a player through input means out of said item data file which stores a value of said recoverable life power parameter concerning a recovery item through which said value of said life power parameter of said character can be temporarily recovered, and for increasing said value of said life power parameter of said character stored in said memory, independent of said standard parameter value by a value corresponding to a value of said read recovery parameter concerning said character who received said damage and for renewing it; a procedure for controlling said procedure for natural recovery and said procedure for temporary recovery, independently from each other; a procedure for judging wounded state, for judging whether or not said standard parameter value of said character at the time when being recovered by said procedure for temporary recovery, is in a wounded state where the value is smaller than a full parameter value of said character; a procedure for judging damage, for judging an amount of said damage received by said character from an enemy character in a battle and storing said amount of damage in a memory; a procedure for determining reduction velocity, for determining a reduction velocity according to said amount of damage stored in said memory by accessing a reduction velocity file containing a reduction velocity value of said life power parameter for each of a plurality of body portions of said character; wherein in said reduction velocity file, the reduction velocity associated with a first set of body portions is greater than the reduction velocity associated with a second set of body portions; a procedure for reducing life power parameter, for reducing said value of said life power parameter in said memory which was increased and renewed by said procedure for temporary recovery for said character, who has been judged to be in said wounded state by said procedure for judging wounded state, up to said standard parameter value at said reduction velocity which was determined by said procedure for determining reduction velocity with the passage of time and renewing it; a procedure for storing damage image data, for storing a body position of said damaged portion of said character received from said enemy character in said battle scene on a body image as damage image data for each said character; a procedure for controlling an old wound, for storing said body position of said damage with is stored in said damage image data as an old wound without erasing even if said character naturally recovers from said wounded state up to a full state of said life power parameter of said character by said procedure for natural recovery; and a procedure for displaying damage record, for displaying said old wound which has already been recovered and said damaged portion which has not yet been recovered on said monitor so as to differentiate in color and form to be displayed in response to an instruction from said player through said input means; wherein an effect of said recovery item on said life power parameter in a recovery action when said first set of body portions receive damage is smaller than an effect of said recovery item on said life power parameter in a recovery action when said second set of body portions receive damage.

Tierney v. Moschino
United States District Court, Central District of California
Case No. 2:15-cv-05900
Filed August 5, 2015


While not exactly a video game case, we thought our readers might find this of interest.

On August 5, 2015, Plaintiff Joseph Tierney sued Defendants Moschino S.p.A. and Jeremy Scott for copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition, and violation of the right of publicity.

Tierney is a graffiti artist known as "Rime", who is famous for his work entitled, "Vandal Eyes". Vandal Eyes (shown above, left) is a giant mural covering the side of a building, which Rime was asked to create by a Detroit property owner. Defendants are high-end fashion designers, who used Rime's artwork and fake signature on their clothing line, advertisements, and in media photographs, without Rime's consent. Defendants used literal copies of the Vandal Eyes mural in their Fall/Winter 2015 Collection. The Collection gained international media attention through the world when it was displayed on runways and worn by celebrities including actress Katy Perry and model Gigi Hadid.

Plaintiff alleges his reputation and career have been damaged by Defendants' unauthorized use of his artwork. Plaintiff stated that he carefully chose a target audience to display his graffiti artwork, and he deliberately did not associate with Moschino's fashion line. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants benefited from using the mural because Moschino revenues increased by about 10% since the launch of the Collection.

We will continue to monitor this case for interesting updates.

U.S. Patent No. 7,613,616: Training a user to execute a sequence of commands in a game environment by using voice control
Issued Nov. 3, 2009, to Sony


Summary:

Put away your joysticks! The ‘616 patent describes a new way to control your character—with your voice. In this invention, the user controls his character’s actions using speech commands. There are two modes described within the invention, a learning mode and a non-learning mode. During the learning mode there are three stages shown in order to control a character. During the first stage the player is presented with a list of characters he can control. Once the player says one of the character names, the second stage is activated. In the second stage the player has to select an available action from the list of available actions. After selecting an action, the third stage is activated which includes more specific commands for the user to speak. If the player selects a correct command, a notification appears and the character performs the chosen action. The other mode, the non-learning mode, differs from the first in that no menu appears for the player to select from. Instead, the player is expected to have the speech commands memorized and to have the ability to seamlessly command his character without the help menus present in the other mode.

Abstract:

In a gaming system, a user controls actions of characters in the game environment using speech commands. In a learning mode, available speech commands are displayed in a command menu on a display device. In a non-learning mode, the available speech commands are not displayed. A speaker-independent context-sensitive speech recognition module contains a vocabulary of available speech commands. Use of speech commands is combined with input from a controller device to control actions of a character or characters in the game environment.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for training a user to utter a sequence of commands in a game environment by using voice control, the method comprising: executing first instructions stored in memory to determine a context based on a state of the game environment, the first instructions executed using a processor; displaying a menu of available commands based on the context; prompting the user to issue a vocal utterance associated with an available command from the menu of available commands; receiving a vocal utterance from the user; executing second instructions stored in memory to match the received vocal utterance with an available command from the menu of available commands, whereby the matching of the vocal utterance with an available command selects the command, the second instructions executed using a processor; adding the selected command to a sequence of commands including commands selected since a previously executed complete command; and executing the sequence of commands when the sequence of commands forms a complete command.


Tomita Technologies USA LLC v. Nintendo Co.
U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
Case No. 11-cv-04256, Filed June 22, 2011
Case No. 1:14-cv-09560, Filed December 3, 2014


Back in December we covered the Federal Circuit's opinion in Tomita v. Nintendo, where the Court found that the claim term "offset presetting means" clearly invoked the means-plus-function principles of 35 USC 112 6th par. Tomita sued Nintendo in 2011 over U.S. Pat. No. 7,417,664, "Stereoscopic Image Picking Up and Display System Based Upon Optical Axes Cross-Point Information." Tomita alleged that Nintendo's 3DS game system infringed the '664 patent with its stereoscopic 3D display system which provided glasses-free 3D images.

The Federal Circuit held that the trial court improperly adopted the claim construction proposed by Tomita's expert which failed to reference the corresponding structure defined in the specification. The Court remanded the case with instructions that the lower court should properly construe the claim term as limited to the corresponding structures defined in the specification and equivalents thereof, based on the clear invocation of 35 USC 112 6th par.

Per IP Law 360, the parties recently argued their positions on proper construction of the claim terms and the issue of infringement on remand to the trial court. Tomita argued that Nintendo's 3DS products include the same structures disclosed in the '664 patent and that Nintendo's construction unnecessarily complicated the nature of the structures described therein. Nintendo argued that Tomita's patent disclosed primitive presetting means and that the 3DS products used very different components.

Tomita originally received a jury verdict in its favor February 21, 2014 awarding them over $30 million in damages. If the trial court finds that Nintendo still infringes the properly construed claims on remand, it is likely that the jury's damages will remain intact.

Prior to the Federal Circuit's order, Tomita filed an additional lawsuit against Nintendo on December 3, 2014 based on the newly launched 3DS XL. (SDNY Case No. 1:14-cv-9560). The earlier case against the regular 3DS remains pending after the remand. (SDNY Case No. 1:11-CV-04256).

We will continue to monitor this case and report when the trial court issues its opinion.



U.S. Patent No. 7,611,410: Score verification system and score verification method of online game
Issued Nov. 3, 2009, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘410 patent provides a score verification system which verifies that a score of a player in an online game is an unaltered score obtained during the game. The invention features two units: one of them receives the player’s game information as the game advances while the second unit verifies the score to insure no one tampered with the game. High scores are stored on a server where they are analyzed to make sure of their accuracy.

Abstract:

A score verification system for verifying that a score of a player having played an online game is a true score of the player. A player terminal receives a game program from an online game server, and the game is played on the player terminal. Plural players execute the same online game, and compete for high score. The score acquired by the player, together with an operation history of the player, is transmitted to the online game server. In the case where the score may be a high score, the same play is reproduced based upon the operation history received by the online game server, and the fairness of the received score is verified based on the score obtained by the reproduction.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A score verification system for preventing alteration of a score in an online game, comprising: a game program storer that stores a game program of the online game with identification information attached thereto for identifying the game program; a game transmitter that transmits the game program to a player terminal for playing the online game; a game result receiver that receives information relating to a game result from the player terminal, the information including at least the identification information for identifying the game program, a first score calculated based upon an operation of the game program by the player, and an operation history of operation commands of the player; a score calculator that reads the game program corresponding to the identification information from the game program storer and executes the operation commands based on the operation history to reproduce the operation of the game program by the player to calculate a second score; and a score verifier that compares the first score with the second score to verify whether the first score is a true score, wherein the game program records, in the operation history and at a time of receiving each operation command of the player, a frame and a time elapsed from when the frame was displayed by the game program, the frame and the time elapsed being recorded in association with each received operation command of the player, and wherein the score calculator reproduces the operation of the game program by the player based upon the frame and the elapsed time recorded in the operation history.

U.S. Patent No. 7,589,742: Random map generation in a strategy video game
Issued Sep. 15, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘742 patent seeks to make video games more interested by describing a random map generation system. The invention randomly generates a map by assigning values to a number of different elements that may appear on the map (hills, water, weapons, etc.). The generator analyzes the weights of objects, the character in play, and the situation in order to make the fairest map possible. The invention seeks to make the game play fun for the user by changing the landscape, but it is programmed to not make unfair maps which would make the playing difficult for the player’s character.

Abstract:

The generation of a random map for use in a video game may involve a random value generation function, with weighted texture and/or object values to control whether certain textures and/or objects are placed at certain locations on the map. Some locations may have no objects, or may have rivers or cliffs added. Additionally, equitable object placement for multiple players may be accomplished using object constraints. Closest point determination may be used for certain object types, while other objects may have constraints relaxed if initial placement efforts are unsuccessful. As a further addition, physical modeling of a humanoid form may be accomplished using a three-part model, where angles on the model drive the display of animation frames for the object.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer-implemented method of generating a random map at a computing system having a processor and memory, comprising the steps of the computing system performing the following: the computing system defining a plurality of elements to be distributed across a plurality of tiles on a map to be generated; the computing system assigning a plurality of weight values to said plurality of elements; the computing system using a random value function to generate a value for each of said plurality of tiles; the computing system comparing said generated value with one or more of said assigned weight values to select one of said elements for one of said tiles; and the computing system adding said selected element, comprising a first object, to said one of said tiles in the map by at least performing the following: defining one or more placement constraints for a first object to be placed on a the map, said constraints identifying an object type, and indicating a distance value to be used in placing said first object if another object of said identified object type is already placed on said map; proposing a location on said map for said first object; determining whether said proposed location satisfies said one or more constraints; and if said proposed location does not satisfy said constraints, then finding a second location on said map for said first object, wherein said second location is found based on said proposed location.

Quintal Research Group, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc.
Case No. 4:13-cv-00888
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Filed February 27, 2013; Terminated July 17, 2015

Plaintiff Quintal Research Group, Inc. filed suit against Defendants Nintendo of America, Inc. and Nintendo Company Ltd. for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,425,944. The ‘944 patent, entitled “Computerized Information Retrieval System,” relates to a portable handheld communication device for rapid retrieval of computerized information. The device connects with network computer consoles to optimize data input and output using thumb controls instead of a keyboard.

Quintal alleged that the location of the thumb-activated controls on Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld gaming device infringed the ‘944 patent.



Nintendo argued in its Motion for Summary Judgment of Noninfringement that the “ordinary meaning of ‘symmetrically arranged’ is ‘mirror image,’ such that the two thumb controls specified in Claims 1 and 9 must correspond in size, shape, and position on each side of the display screen of the handheld deck.” Claims 1 and 9 of the ‘944 patent teach the use of two thumb controls that are symmetrically arranged on each side of the display screen. The court found that one skilled in the art would understand the “symmetrically arranged” language in ‘944 patent to mean that the thumb controls are mirror images of one another.




On July 17, 2015, this case was terminated with the court’s granting of the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment of Noninfringement. The court found that Nintendo's gaming devices did not infringe the '944 patent. The judge stated that the left and right buttons on Nintendo's Game Boy devices did not infringe the asserted patent because the buttons do not correspond in shape, size, or position on each side of the centerline of the display screen.

U.S. Patent No. 7,585,225: Video game apparatus for displaying information indicating boundary between fields
Issued Sep. 8, 2009, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘225 patent describes a system where the environment of the game changes based on the player’s movement during the game. A player, when he looks around him in a game, sees the surrounding environment immediately surrounding his character. The invention calculates the distance between the player and the boundary to determine what display should be shown. Whenever his character reaches the boundary of what the character can see, the invention updates the map and a new section is loaded; this provides a seamless transition from scene to scene without the player having to wait while the new area is loaded.

Abstract:

When movement of a player character is instructed, a position and a direction of the player character after movement thereof are calculated. When the calculated position of the player character after movement thereof is in a moving-to area moved from a current area over a boundary therebetween, map data of a body of the area moved from the current area and map data of a boundary area including a part of the moving-to area are loaded into a RAM from a recording medium, and then the player character is positioned in the moving-to area to be displayed on a display screen. When the player character is positioned in the boundary area near the boundary, a boundary object is displayed at a predetermined position above the boundary in a virtual three-dimensional space.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game apparatus that executes a game which progresses by moving a player character in a virtual three-dimensional space having a field including a first field and a second field provided therein, the second field communicating with the first field via a predetermined moving path, and displays a screen showing a status of the game on a display device, the game apparatus comprising: a map data fixed storage for storing first map data including graphic data of the entire first field and a partial area of the second field near the moving path, and second map data including graphic data of the entire second field; a movement input for inputting an instruction to move the player character in the virtual three-dimensional space according to a player operation; a mover for moving the player character in the virtual three-dimensional space having the first field and the second field according to the instruction input from the movement input; a high-speed storage, having a faster data reading speed than the map data fixed storage, comprising a character data area for storing character data comprising graphic data of the player character, a map data area for storing map data corresponding to a field that includes a position to which the player character has moved, and a boundary data area for storing boundary data including graphic data of a boundary object indicating a boundary position between the first field and the second field, the boundary object not constituting the field; a map data loader for retrieving the second map data from the map data fixed storage, and for storing the retrieved second map data as a substitute for the first map data having been stored so far when the player character is moved to the second field from the first field; a positional relationship determiner for determining a positional relationship between the boundary position between the first field and the second field and a position of the player character when the player character is positioned in the first field, the positional relationship determiner including a distance determiner for determining a distance between the position of the player character and the boundary position; a boundary object layout device for laying out the boundary object at the boundary position between the first field and the second field when the player character is determined to be positioned in a predetermined range set with the boundary position being a criterion, by the positional relationship determiner; a perspective transformer for performing perspective transformation of a range of the virtual three-dimensional space including the position of the player character, onto a virtual screen from a virtual camera to generate a two-dimensional image to be displayed on the display device based upon the map data stored in the map data area and the character data stored in the character data area, and additionally the boundary data stored in the boundary data area when the boundary object is laid out; and a display controller for displaying the two-dimensional image generated by the perspective transformer on the display device, wherein the boundary object layout device comprises a distance mode changer for changing a display mode of the boundary object laid out at the boundary position in accordance with the distance determined by the distance determiner, and wherein the distance mode changer changes a transparency of the boundary data so that the transparency becomes lower as the distance determined by the distance determiner becomes shorter.

Back in January we reported a new patent case filed by White Knuckle IP against Electronic Arts over updating sports video games based on real-life events during a season. The asserted patent was U.S. Pat. No. 8,529,350. That case was actually terminated and refiled as Utah District case no. 1-15-cv-00036 in February.

From our earlier report, the patent discusses how prior art games were fixed as of the day they were released. A real-life player's outstanding performance or a major trade taking place during the season would not be reflected until the next version of the game was released. The system described in the '350 patent purports to solve this problem by downloading updates to game attributes that are based on real-life changes in players, teams, and venues.

EA filed an inter partes review (IPR) request yesterday with the USPTO to invalidate the patent (IPR2015-01595). EA argues that the '350 patent should be limited to updates applied to stadium or field parameters based on arguments made by the patentee during prosecution. Moreover, EA argues that their own earlier games teach all the features claimed in the '350 patent. EA points to the 2001 iteration of their popular FIFA soccer games and the 2000 version of their Madden football games as teaching the updating features claimed in the '350 patent. Of note is that one of the references cited by EA is a Madden 2000 Updates Website which included a "Playoff Week 1 Update" file.

At this time, the IPR has only been filed with the USPTO. The Patent Trials and Appeals Board (PTAB) will consider whether to institute the IPR based on EA's arguments. If the PTAB institutes the IPR, EA and White Knuckle will fight it out at the USPTO rather than (or in addition to) the federal courthouse in Utah.

The full IPR petition can be found at https://ptabtrials.uspto.gov/.

We will continue to watch this case for interesting developments.
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