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U.S. Patent No. 6,966,831: Method of branching flow of game
Issued November 22, 2005, to Sony


Summary: 

For all you gamers who grow tired of linear story lines without much of a story, the ‘831 patent will be appealing. The ‘831 patent provides for a story branching control method which changes the story depending upon a player’s choices in the game. The player’s successes or failures determine whether branch points exist during the predetermined period of time. The ‘831 patent gives the player an opportunity to play, explore, and control the world around him. It allows for his decisions to have a real and lasting impact on the game’s storyline and should make the game more enjoyable for the gamer.

Abstract:

Without making such a matter that, for example, a branching point where the flow of a game story is branched is notified to the user, the user is let so as to detect a timing for a hidden branching point to be present, and in dependence on whether the detection of the branching point is right or wrong, the story has a varied subsequent development.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A story branching control method for a video game whose content of a story is branched in accordance with a player's instruction, comprising the steps of: providing a branching point selectable by a user for determining a flow of the story; receiving a search instructing input for searching for the branching point; searching for the branching point for a predetermined period of time after receiving the search instructing input; determining whether the branching point exists during the predetermined period of time after receiving the search instructing input; and determining a branch destination of the story in accordance with a success or failure of determining whether the branching point exists during the predetermined period of time.

Each year we take on a Research Intern to help with ongoing case research, updating our patent database, refreshing content, and anything else that comes along.  If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resume, transcripts, and writing sample to me at my work email address.  Qualified candidates possess the following qualities:

  • Enrolled in an ABA accredited law school
  • Keen interest in video games
  • Interested to learn more about Intellectual Property law (patents, copyrights, trademarks...)
  • Does NOT have a technical background.  For reasons I won't go into here, I am unable to consider candidates who are eligible to take the patent bar.  This is a bright line rule.  No exceptions.  If you are patent eligible and are interested in a Summer Associate position, however, send your materials to dcjobs at my work's email domain.  We are still considering candidates in DC.
  • Preference will be given to candidates in the DC area.  However, we have taken on remote interns in the past.
Thanks for your interest.

U.S. Patent No. 6,829,569: Social dilemma software for evaluating online interactive societies
Issued Dec. 7, 2004, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘569 patent describes a social dilemma virtual world environment software which creates and uses social dilemma tests or exercises for measuring and analyzing online interactive societies. Whenever two or more people play online together (whether by voice or text communication), the software monitors the activities of the players in order to determine level of cooperation and trust between the group.

Abstract:

Social dilemma virtual world environment (VWE) software facilitates creation and usage of social dilemma tests or exercises for measuring and analyzing online interactive societies. An online interactive society arises whenever two or more people interact through a computer-based communication medium, which may include text or written communication, audio communication, still or motion video communication, or any combination of these communication formats. The social dilemma VWE software and the methodology of the present invention are capable of distinguishing the levels of cooperation and trust that are created by various interface and social factors within online interactive societies. Evaluating with social dilemma VWE software the effects of such social and interface factors on the degree of online cooperation allows such factors to be incorporated into the design and functionality of online interactive societies.

Illustrative Claim:

1. In a computer-readable medium, software objects of a social dilemma virtual world environment for evaluating an interactive online society of plural participants, the software objects comprising: one or more social dilemma exercise objects that, when executed on a computer, implement a social dilemma exercise between the participants and logs social factors and interface factors that can be evaluated to determine a level of success of the social dilemma exercise; and one or more computer-based communication objects that, when executed on a computer, selectively provide computer-based communication between participants in the social dilemma exercise.


U.S. Patent No. 6,926,608: Recording medium storing three-dimensional image processing program, three-dimensional image processing program, method and device
Issued Aug. 8, 2005, to Konami


Summary:

The ‘608 patent describes a system used in sports games where the camera changes depending on the action on the screen. The viewpoints are programmed to change to keep the character in the center of the screen at all times. The invention changes the camera in synch with the speed of the player, without lag. Thus, the player does not have to worry about a lagging change in the camera and will be able to control his player with a consistent view during the game. This invention is ideally used for sports games like skiing and snowboarding where a steady camera will be advantageous to the player.

Abstract:

To display an image seen from a suitable camera viewpoint, the present invention comprises a viewpoint determination section 301 that finds a position of the camera viewpoint appropriate to a control operation of determining an action of the main character (main object), which control operation is assumed to be performed by the game player; a viewpoint movement section 302 that moves the camera viewpoint from its current position to the position found by the viewpoint determination section 301; and an image display section 303 that displays an image of the main character seen from the camera viewpoint.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A recording medium which stores an executable three-dimensional image processing program that displays an image of a main object which is an object that plays a central role in the progress of a game and that moves through virtual three-dimensional space in which objects of a plurality of subject matters are arranged, as seen from a virtual camera viewpoint, and said program makes a game device function as: viewpoint determination means for setting a position of said camera viewpoint appropriate to a control operation of determining an action of the main object, said control operation being performed by the game player; viewpoint movement means for moving said camera viewpoint from a current position to the position set by said viewpoint determination means, said viewpoint movement means setting a speed of movement of the camera viewpoint in accordance with a subject of at least one of the objects which is located in a prescribed range from the main object and moving said camera viewpoint with the speed that is set while said main object is in approach to the at least one object; and image display means for displaying an image of the main object as seen from said camera viewpoint.


U.S. Patent No. 6,913,537: Recording medium and entertainment system
Issued July 5, 2005, to Sony


Summary:

The ‘537 patent allows a player to advance a game by controlling his character through a key input according to the player’s intentions. Whenever the player selects at least one command, the character acts within its designed permissible range. The permissible range of actions expands as the character increases. The patent also provides for the implication of two or more commands combined into a special command, when the combination of the tow commands meets a predefined requirement.

Abstract:

An entertainment system includes an application program recording system which record an application program which can input at least one command of operation an which the player sets the action of the character on a display screen. The command is stored in an action set frame in the unit of one operation to action set frame used to create the movements of the player character. The system further has an input, operation system where the player inputs instructions and a control system which controls the operation of the player character on the display screen based on the command from the application program recorded by the application program record system and the input operation system.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A recording medium containing a program that allows a player to advance a game by manipulating a selected character displayed on a display screen through a key input according to the player's intention, wherein said program recorded in the recording medium enables input of at least one command related to an action of said selected character so as to set up the actions of said selected character as a single operation, and wherein said recorded program enables inputs of a plurality of said commands if action points are within the permissible range of action points after said action points corresponding to said action command types are determined.

I (Ross Dannenberg) will be at GDC next week from March 2-6.  If anyone would like to meet up while there, send me a note either via my work email or through twitter (@gamelawyer).

Queen Mary University Law School is hosting an event on 24 April 2015.  Some details:

April 24, 2015
Time: 2:30pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London, 67-69 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JB

Interactive Entertainment is bursting with Intellectual Property. In this environment, creativity meets the latest technologies, thereby spawning cutting-edge law issues. This seminar will address some of the fundamental questions related to the legal nature of video games, the boundaries of protectability, and the relationship between Interactive Entertainment and Intellectual Property law, including digital exhaustion and key selling, and the issues surrounding interactivity as a form of creativity.

This seminar will provide a platform for academics, practitioners, developers and publishers to share views, exchange ideas, discuss challenges and explore solutions; in order to map the Intellectual Property issues that must to be addressed for a more appropriate promotion and protection of interactive entertainment works.

Click here for the event page.

I will be one of the speakers at the event.  Hope to see you there.

U.S. Patent No.: 6,699,127: Real-time replay system for video game
Issued March 2, 2004, to Nintendo Co. Ltd.


Summary: 

The ‘127 patents allows for real-time replay in interactive video games. The user can back up a set amount of gameplay and watch it play forward in real time. The player also has the ability to pause the replay and rotate and zoom the camera in and out to get a complete view of the player and the surrounding action. Finally, the player can adjust the playback speed and watch the previous action as slow or as fast as he wants, allowing the player full control while viewing of the previous action. Now if only Bud Selig would take the hint . . . .

Abstract:

A system and method for enabling real-time replay for videogames, wherein the player can selectively rewind the videogame to previously played points in the game in order to replay portions of the game during real-time. Inline keyframes are periodically recorded, together with the controller information, so that upon selecting the replay option, the game can be rewound to the nearest keyframe. Once rewound, the game is restored based on the keyframe and is then played back from the keyframe using the stored controller information. At any point during playback, the player can take-over the action and use the actual game controller to begin actual play of the game from that point in the playback sequence. The player can also change cameras and speed for the playback in real-time at any time during the playback.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method of providing real-time replay during gameplay in an interactive video game system, comprising: starting real-time gameplay; recording an inline keyframe at predetermined time intervals during gameplay; recording controller input from a user during gameplay; upon selection by the user of a predetemined controller input prior to the end of a game: backing-up the gameplay a set period of gameplay time from the current gameplay condition to a previous gameplay condition; using a recorded inline keyframe generally corresponding to the previous gameplay condition and the recorded controller inputs to generate and display at least a partial real-time replay of the game from the previous gameplay condition to the current gameplay condition; and enabling the user to take over the replay to begin real-time gameplay at any time during the replay and from a point in the replay where the user has taken over the replay by supplying controller input, wherein the recordings of inline keyframes and recording of controller inputs is performed based on an internal logic rate of the video game system; and further including enabling the replay to be frozen at any time during the replay and allowing the user to change at least one of camera characteristic and playback speed for the replay while the replay is frozen, and further including recording any changes to the camera characteristic or playback speed in an array of random keyframe buffers together with information that determines on which frame of the replay the recorded changes are to take effect.


U.S. Patent No. 6,846,237: Entertainment system, entertainment apparatus, recording medium, and program
Issued January 25, 2005, to Sony


Summary:

The ‘237 patent describes an entertainment system whereby a player can manually control the actions of his animated character with the push of a button. During gameplay, situations arise which require the player to act in response. When the user reacts to a specific scene, if the timing of the action is correct, the character will react in a certain way. If the time is not correct, however, the action sequence will be different. This patent has arisen in role-playing games mostly. An example that used it was Diablo.

Abstract:

An entertainment system comprises parameter changing means for permitting a user to input manipulation data by successively pressing a decision button when a button icon is displayed on a display monitor. Based on the manipulation data, the parameter changing means changes damage of a virtual enemy (e.g., monster). The parameter changing means comprises button icon displaying means for displaying the button icon on the display monitor for a predetermined period of time, accumulating means for counting the number of times the decision button is pressed for inputting manipulation data when the button icon is displayed on the display monitor, and damage calculating means for changing damage of the monster based on the counted number of times.

Illustrative Claim:

1. An entertainment system comprising: an entertainment apparatus for executing various programs; at least one manual controller for inputting a manual control request of a user to said entertainment apparatus; a display monitor for displaying an image outputted from said entertainment apparatus; and parameter changing means for permitting the user to input manipulation data by specific manipulation of said manual controller when a symbol indicating permission to input the manipulation data by said specific manipulation is displayed on said display monitor in a scene of a game, and for changing a predetermined parameter of a program presently executed by said entertainment apparatus based on the manipulation data inputted by said specific manipulation.


U.S. Patent No. 7,491,123: Video game voice chat with amplitude-based virtual ranging
Issued Feb. 17, 2009, to Nintendo


Summary:

The ‘123 patent describes a system during online multiplayer games where a player’s voice varies depending on the distance between the two characters. Thus, whenever a player’s character is in the immediate vicinity of his teammate, that teammate will be heard loud and clear. But as the distance between the two characters grows, the voice will quiet and become less clear. This invention helps the game feel more life-like in that voices vary much like they would in person.

Abstract:

The amplitude of a video game player's voice determines how far his or her message is carried to other players in the game. The range a message carries is based on the relative virtual proximity of avatars associated with said players within the virtual game environment.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A video game system comprising: an audio transducer that receives acoustical information including speech; an amplitude detector that detects the amplitude of said received acoustical information; and a messaging arrangement that selectively messages other players of said video game as a function of (a) said received acoustical information, (b) said detected amplitude, and (c) the respective relative virtual proximity of avatars within said video game that represent said players.

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