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Sweepstakes Patent Company, LLC v. Burns et al. and Mosely et al.
Southern District of Florida
Case Nos. 0-14-cv-62351 and 0-14-cv-62354 

In two new cases, plaintiff Sweepstakes Patent Company (SPC) accuses internet cafe service providers in Florida of infringing two patents, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,569,082 and 5,709,603. The complaint alleges that the internet cafes reward customers with contest entries for each purchase of access time, and that these contests infringe the '082 patent and '603 patent.

The '082 patent was filed April 6, 1995 and is generally directed to providing a player with a game piece having a destiny code. The player inputs the destiny code into a lottery game processor, and the processor provides the user with access to an interactive "lottery-type game." The processor determines whether the user wins or loses based in part on the destiny code. The user's actions may or may not influence whether the user wins, as well. The '603 patent is a continuation of the '082 and recites similar subject matter. Claim 10 of the '082 patent is referenced in the complaint and representative:
10. A lottery type game comprising:
a gaming piece, said gaming piece including a code which includes data indicating whether a player wins or loses the lottery game and an amusement game, said data being unrecognizable to the player, such that the player does not know whether the player will win or lose the games prior to play of the amusement game;
a processor for receiving said code input by the player prior to amusement game play;
said processor generating the amusement game on a display for play by the player,
said processor determining whether the player will win or lose the amusement game based upon said code; and
a display for providing an indication to the player of the amusement game win or loss based upon said code.
The complaint alleges that the defendants operate or provide software for internet cafes with a sweepstakes element. Users are provided with sweepstakes entries when they purchase internet access time (though no purchase is required).  A user may redeem their sweepstakes code on their terminal and be presented with a brief interactive game that lets the user know whether they have won in an exciting manner. According to the complaint, the outcome of the game (whether the user wins or loses) is determined based on the sweepstakes access code rather than just based on the way the user plays the game.

The sweepstakes revealers of Burns et al.'s system, according to the complaint.
It is worth noting that SPC tried to bring suit against Burns et al. earlier this year in the Middle District of Florida. The order dismissing that case revealed that inventor Kaye / SPC previously sold both patents to another company, Ingenio. As part of the transaction, Ingenio licensed the patents back to SPC. The license agreement stated that Ingenio, as licensor, must be notified of any potential patent infringement actions and must expressly provide written authorization prior to the licensee (SPC) bringing any such suit. SPC had not received written authorization in its first suit against Burns et al., and that case was dismissed in July 2014.

In the instant complaint, filed October 14, 2014, SPC alleges that is is the lawful assignee of all right, title and interest in and to the '082 patent and the '603 patent. An assignment from Ingenio to SPC was recorded with the USPTO on October 10, 2014. Thus, SPC seems to have corrected the problem with its earlier suit.

We'll provide further updates on any interesting developments in these cases.
RC3, Inc. v Bieber
Florida Middle District Court, No. 3:2012cv00193


Florida based game developer RC3 created a game, Joustin’ Beaver, in which a beaver that jousts must navigate the whirlpool of success, sign otter-graphs, and avoid the phot-hogs. Justin Bieber’s representatives did not appreciate the similarities in both name and appearance between the title character and Bieber and, in early February 2012, sent RC3 a cease and desist letter threatening legal action for the use of Bieber’s likeness in game. In response, on February 24, 2012, RC3 filed suit, seeking declaratory judgment that their game was not infringing.

Finding lack of jurisdiction, as Bieber was not domiciled in the state of Florida and the suit was not influenced by Bieber’s actions within the state, the suit was dismissed on September 17, 2012.
U.S. Patent No. 7,670,220: Racing games and other games having garage, showroom, and test drive features
Issued March 2, 2010, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘220 patent describes a racing game where players enter a showroom filled with cars from which he can select one to race. The invention also lets the player take a test drive of a car before he commits to that car. The cars in the showroom are grouped by manufacturer to help a player locate a care more easily. By showcasing the cars in a garage and allowing the user to test drive the car before committing, the invention allows the user to select a car which matches his driving style closely and thus makes the game more enjoyable for the user.

Abstract:

Racing games and other computer-implemented games having garage, showroom and test drive features are disclosed herein. In one embodiment, a method for implementing a racing game in accordance with one embodiment of the invention includes displaying a plurality of cars in a simulated showroom setting. Game players can roam freely about the showroom in first-person mode and inspect the cars in close detail. If a player desires, he or she can test drive one or more of the cars to assess its performance before competing in a racing event with the car.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer-implemented method for selecting a car in a racing game, the racing game including a race portion, the method comprising: viewing a plurality of different cars in a showroom setting, wherein the plurality of different cars may be viewed simultaneously; selecting a first car of the plurality of different cars for a test drive, wherein the first car has not been purchased, and wherein the first car may not be used to race until it has been purchased; test driving the first car; and competing in the race portion of the racing game with at least one of the first car or a second car of the plurality of different cars.

McRO, Inc. v. Namco Bandai, et al.
Central District of California
No. CV 12-10322
September 22, 2014

In a case described by the court as illustrating "the danger that exists when the novel portions of an invention are claimed too broadly," a patent on automated rules for animating lip synchronization has been found invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101. See Op. at 22.

McRO, Inc., d.b.a. Planet Blue ("McRO") brought 29 different lawsuits in the Central District of California against some of the biggest names in gaming alleging infringement of two patents related to automated methods for synchronizing an animated character's mouth with dialogue. The defendants included Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive, Namco Bandai, Konami, Sega, Square Enix, Capcom, Sony, and Activision Blizzard, among others. The court consolidated the lawsuits into two cases based on filing dates (CV 12-10322 and CV 13-1872).

All the defendants joined in filing a motion for judgment on the pleadings based on unpatentability of the claims under 35 U.S.C. 101. The defendants argued that the patents-in-suit were directed to a "fundamental, abstract animation practice," namely, "the abstract idea of rules-based synchronization of animated mouth movement.  See Op. at 12. While the court disagreed with defendants as to the abstract idea claimed, the court ultimately held that the point of novelty in the claims represented an abstract idea and thus was unpatentable under 101. See Op. at 19. Importantly, the court's analysis was primarily based on a thorough discussion in the patent of the manual processes employed in the prior art..

The two patents-in-suit were U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,307,576 and 6,611,278. Claim 1 of the '576 patent is representative and was analyzed by the court:
1. A method for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expression of three-dimensional characters comprising:
obtaining a first set of rules that define output morph weight set stream as a function of phoneme sequence and time of said phoneme sequence;
obtaining a timed data file of phonemes having a plurality of sub-sequences;
generating an intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and a plurality of transition parameters between two adjacent morph weight sets by evaluating said plurality of sub-sequences against said first set of rules;
generating a final stream of output morph weight sets at a desired frame rate from said intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and said plurality of transition parameters; and
applying said final stream of output morph weight sets to a sequence of animated characters to produce lip synchronization and facial expression control of said animated characters.
Initially, the court noted that these claims do not appear to be directed to an abstract idea on their face.  Op. at 13. Further, the court noted that the claims do not cover the prior art methods of computer-assisted, but non-automated, lip synchronization. Id. Additionally, the court cited defendant's non-infringement positions as evidence that the claims did not preempt all manners of automating lip synched animation. See Op. at 14. The court observed that, in section 101 motions, the parties positions are flipped: the patentee must argue that noninfringing alternatives exist and the defendant must argue that there are no noninfringing alternatives. Id.

In one of the clearer statements to date on 101 analysis, the court proceeded to argue that the claims must be evaluated in the context of the prior art:


Op. at 14. The court's analysis centered on identifying the point of novelty over the admitted prior art. As mentioned above, the patent contained a thorough discussion of prior art techniques whereby animators would manually set "morph weight values" to animate a character's mouth based on the dialogue. According to the court, the patentee, and the patent itself, the novelty of the claims (and the inventive step) was in the use of automated timing rules to automate the animation process:


Op. at 18 and 19. This left "an abstract idea at the point of novelty" and prevents "the development of any additional ways to use that abstract idea in the relevant field." See Op. at 19 (citing Alice Corp.Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2360 (2014)). Thus, the court found the claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101. See Op. at 18, 23.

The court observed: "One unintended consequence of Alice, and perhaps of this and other decisions to come, is an incentive for patent applicants to say as little as possible about the prior art in their applications." Op. at 19. Indeed, the patent's thorough discussion of prior art methods provided a strong argument that they had merely automated a previously manual process.

The court performed its 101 analysis by stripping out of all the prior art techniques from the claim, boiling the claim down to a point of novelty. This is also the approach used in obviousness analysis under 35 U.S.C. 103. During obviousness analysis, the difference between the claimed invention and the prior art is assessed against the skill and knowledge of one of ordinary skill in the art. The patentee in this case presented evidence of a defendant characterizing the claimed invention as "revolutionary." Such a characterization would typically carry considerable weight in obviousness analysis. However, the court stated that:


Op. at 20. Thus, it would appear that even if a non-obvious and "revolutionary" concept was presented by the point of novelty, but that concept was an "abstract idea" that prevents "the development of any additional ways to use that abstract idea in the relevant field," the claim would be patent ineligible and invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101.

The court summed up its ruling: "When examined in light of the prior art, the claims are directed to an abstract idea, and lack an 'inventive concept' 'sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [abstract idea] itself.'" Op. at 23 (citing Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2351).

We will continue to provide updates on relevant decisions on patentability under Alice.


U.S. Patent No. 7,666,079: Video game processing apparatus, a method and a computer readable medium that stores a program for processing a video game
Issued February 23, 2010, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘079 patent is designed to help the monotonous tendencies of RPG attack battles. In past RPG games, a player’s character had a choice of two kinds of battle attacks (indirect and direct attacks). A direct attack would be something physical like a sword, while an indirect attack would involve things outside of the player (magic, for example). In earlier RPG games, a player would attempt a direct or indirect attacked based on whether the enemy was within range to receive the attack. If the enemy were within range, the player’s attack would succeed. The present invention seeks to enhance the player’s gameplay by allowing for certain factors to prevent the attack from succeeding. Under this invention the player must now take into account the speed of the enemy, the enemy’s skill/moves set, and the distance between the two characters.

Abstract:

Specification of an attack for a player character is received by means of an attack specifying operation of the player. A direct attack reaction is determined in the case where it is determined that the attack hits an enemy character A. The direct attack reaction indicates a reaction of the direct attack target character that suffers the direct attack. The enemy character A is then caused to execute the determined direct attack reaction. In the case where it is determined that an indirect attack to be caused by contact between the enemy characters A, B hits an enemy character B when the enemy character A executes the direct attack reaction, an indirect attack reaction indicating a reaction of the enemy character B that suffers the indirect attack is determined. The enemy character B is then caused to execute the determined indirect attack reaction.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A video game processing apparatus that causes an image display apparatus to display a player character on an image display screen of the image display apparatus, the video game processing apparatus controlling progress of the video game by controlling an action of the player character to be displayed on the image display screen in accordance with operations by a player, the video game processing apparatus comprising: an attack specifying receiver that receives specification of an attack for the player character by an attack specifying operation of the player; a direct attack hit determiner that determines whether the attack from the player character hits a direct attack target enemy character movable on a field in the video game, when the attack specifying receiver receives the attack specification; a direct attack reaction determiner that determines a direct attack reaction in accordance with direct reaction determination information including attack content of the player character, a kind of ground level in a battle field where a battle is executed, and a weight preliminarily set as a weight of the direct attack target enemy character, when the direct attack hit determiner determines that the attack hits the direct attack target enemy character, the direct attack reaction indicating a reaction of the direct attack target enemy character that suffers the direct attack; a direct attack reaction executor that causes the direct attack target enemy character to execute the direct attack reaction determined by the direct attack reaction determiner; an indirect attack hit determiner that determines whether an indirect attack hits an indirect attack target enemy character other than the direct attack target enemy character when the direct attack target enemy character executes the direct attack reaction by the direct attack reaction executer, the indirect attack being caused by contact between the direct attack target enemy character and the indirect attack target enemy character movable on the field; an indirect attack reaction determiner that determines an indirect attack reaction when the indirect attack hit determiner determines that the indirect attack hits the indirect attack target enemy character, the indirect attack reaction indicating a reaction of the indirect attack target enemy character that suffers the indirect attack; and an indirect attack reaction executor that causes the indirect attack target enemy character to execute the indirect attack reaction determined by the indirect attack reaction determiner, wherein the direct attack target enemy character is a non-player character.

U.S. Patent No. 7,677,967: Battle school
Issued March 16, 2010


Summary:
The ‘967 patent is aptly named “Battle school” because it deals with a lesser-explored kind of game—the educational game.  The invention describes a type of game whereby two players can engage in battle against each other. Unlike traditional games, however, after a user selects an attack, he is asked a question by the other user. If the first player answers the question correctly, his character performs an effective attack. The type of question asked by the user may be pre-selected from a list, or created by the user, but it is supposed to be a question related to a certain educational topic. Interesting concept described in this patent, how it will be applied will be something to surely keep track of.

Abstract:

Educational materials are presented in the format of games such as role-playing where participants progress through game storylines within a game environment. Each game participant is assigned a game character having unique and dynamic attributes that can be modified as the character progresses through the game storylines. The characters encounter challenges and participate in game actions that require the participant to answer questions that correspond to educational materials that are contextually unrelated to the game storylines. In order to successfully modify a character's attributes, obtain possessions for the character, progress through the storyline, to be successful in battle sequences or to obtain a desired reward, the participants must correctly answer the questions they are presented. To obtain a successful result, it is also sometimes necessary for a participant to recruit other participants having different assigned characters with different attributes to collaborate and work with the participant.

Exemplary Claim:

1. A method for presenting and testing educational materials within a computer game environment in which multiple human participants play the role of assigned virtual game characters that engage in battle sequences within the game environment and wherein the success of battle attacks and defensive actions involving the assigned characters during the battle sequences within the game environment are determined by a combination of assigned strengths, weaknesses and attributes of the assigned virtual game characters, as well as types of questions asked and the answers given by the multiple human participants that reflect personal mastery of the educational materials, the method comprising: identifying a plurality of virtual game characters, corresponding to a virtual game environment, that are stored on a computing system and that each comprise a corresponding and unique set of game attributes that include at least an attack attribute and a defense attribute for participating in a battle sequence involving at least two virtual game characters within the virtual game environment; assigning a first virtual game character to a first human participant from a pool of available virtual game characters; assigning a second virtual game character to a second human participant from the pool of available virtual game characters; presenting the virtual game environment on the computing system with the first virtual game character in a storyline and that includes game actions that the first virtual game character participates in, and wherein the game actions include at least one of modifying the unique set of attributes that correspond to the first virtual game character, obtaining possessions for the first virtual game character, and/or using the first virtual game character to interact with a second virtual game character that is assigned to a second human participant; identifying rules that define battle between the first and second virtual game characters, wherein said rules define types of questions that can be asked by the first and second human participants to initiate an attack with one or more virtual weapons wielded by the first and second virtual game characters during the battle within the virtual game environment and a potential for inflicting battle damage during the attack with the one or more virtual weapons, wherein battle damage comprises a reduction of one or more character attributes, and wherein the types of questions that can be asked and the potential for damage is based at least in part on the defined attack and defense attributes of the first and second virtual game characters; presenting questions to the first human participant through the virtual game environment when the first virtual game character participates in particular game actions within the virtual game environment, wherein at least some of the presented questions are educational questions, which correspond to educational materials, and that are provided at least in part by the second human participant submitting one or more particular questions, wherein the one or more particular questions that can be submitted by the second human participant are limited to the attack attribute of the second virtual game character and are at least restricted to less than all questions that are available to be asked during battle by all of the available virtual game characters, and wherein said educational questions also correspond to one or more virtual battle attacks that are preformed with a virtual weapon and that are directed to the first virtual game character within the virtual game environment and that originate from the second virtual game character assigned to the second human participant, and wherein the first human participant defends the first virtual game character from the one or more attacks by answering said educational questions correctly; rewarding the first virtual game character with a positive outcome to the particular game action within the virtual game environment for correct answers received from the first human participant in a response to the presented questions, including at least successfully defending the first virtual game character from suffering battle damage resulting from the one or more attacks by the virtual weapon within the virtual game environment, and wherein the battle damage comprises a reduction of at least one character attribute of at least the first or second character in the virtual game environment; and assessing mastery of the educational materials by the first human participant, wherein assessing mastery of the educational materials is based on an evaluation of rewards received by the first virtual game character within the virtual game environment and by evaluating progress of the first virtual game character within the game, which includes an evaluation of whether the one or more attacks are successfully defended.


U.S. Patent No. 6,421,056: Three-dimensional image processing apparatus
Issued July 16, 2002, to Nintendo Co. Ltd.


Summary: 

The ‘056 patent set out to solve a practical problem that had existed in previous vide games. Before, if a background image (e.g., a wall) or another character came between the player and the “camera,” the player could not view his character in that three-dimensional world. In the system described here, however, if it is determined that there is a possibility of a collision between the operable object and a polygon plane of the other object, the camera position can be changed so that the other object does not exist between the operable object and the camera.

Abstract:

A three-dimension image processing apparatus includes a CPU. When the CPU detects by collision determination that another object, e.g., a wall, is existent between an operable object and a camera, it calculates such a moving angle of the camera that an eye of the camera to the operable object is not obstructed by the other object. The camera is moved in accordance with the moving angle to a position where the operable object and the other object existing in a photographed three-dimensional space are displayed on a display.

Illustrative Claim:

1. An image processing apparatus for use in displaying an image of a player controlled object and another object existing in a three-dimensional space from a predetermined point of view, comprising: an external memory for storing data of the player controlled operable object, the other object, and a predetermined program; an input device which inputs data which alters the position of the operable object in the three-dimensional space; operable object position data generating circuitry which generates player controlled object position data so as to alter the position of the player controlled object in the three-dimensional space based on the data input via said input device; three-dimensional data generating circuitry for creating three-dimensional data based on the data stored in said external memory and the operable object position data; a point of view position data generator for generating position data representative of a point of view position in the three-dimensional space for viewing the player controlled object; a detector for detecting whether or not the other object is existent between the viewing position and the current player controlled position; point of view position data altering processing circuitry for altering the point of view position data such that the other object is not existent between the point of view position and the player controlled object position when said detector detects existence of the other object; a display data generator for displaying the image of the player controlled object from a predetermined position in the three-dimensional space based on the three-dimensional data and the point of view position data; and image signal generating circuitry which outputs an image signal to said display based on the display data created by said display data creating generator.
Related Patents:

U.S. Patent No. 6,590,578
U.S. Patent No. 6,283,857
U.S. Patent No. 5,973,704


U.S. Patent No. 6,626,760: Video game apparatus and memory medium therefor
Issued September 30, 2003, to Nintendo Co. Ltd.



Summary:

The ‘073 patent allows a player to lock his character onto a non-player object with the press of a button (the ‘Z’ button when playing the Nintendo 64). Once a player presses the Z button, the camera will automatically adjust so as to give the player the best view of the object he has locked on to and thus make it easier to see or attack that object. The camera is designed to go behind the player and give him a forward-facing view of the action which allows him to see the non-player object in front of him clearer.

Abstract:

A video game apparatus includes an RCP. The RCP performs a conversion process on image data to display a player object or non-player object according to image data transferred from an external ROM to a RAM, and supplies the image signal through the display. The RCP detects whether or not there exists a non-player object at around the player object on the display in response to an operation of a Z button. If a non-player object is detected, the RCP selects the non-player object as an attention non-player object. At this time, the hypothetical camera is changed in position and photographing direction such that photographing can be made for the player object directly facing the non-player object.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A video game apparatus coupled to a display, comprising:

a first image data generator for generating first image data to display a player object;

a second image data generator for generating second image data to display non-player objects;

an image processor for supplying an image signal to said display according to at least one of said first image data and said second image data in order to display, in a virtual three-dimension space on said display, at least one of the player object and the non-player object photographed through a hypothetical camera;

a controller including a first operation member to instruct a moving direction of the player object and a second operating member that is operated when attention is to be paid by the player object to the non-player object;

a non-player object detector for detecting whether the non-player object exists or not, in response to an operation of said second operating member;

A selector for selecting as an attention non-player object the non-player object detected by said non-player object detector; and

a camera controller for changing the position of said hypothetical camera such that photographing can be made on the player object directly facing the attention non-player object selected by said selector.

Inventor Holdings, LLC v. [Multiple Defendants]
United States District Court for the District of Delaware
File Nos. 1-14-cv-01067 (Gameloft); 1-14-cv-01068 (Glu Mobile); 1-14-cv-01069 (Kabam); 1-14-cv-01070 (King.com); 1-14-cv-01071 (ngmoco); 1-14-cv-01072 (Rovio); 1-14-cv-01073 (Supercell)

In several new lawsuits filed August 19, 2014, plaintiff Inventor Holdings, LLC argues that several popular mobile games infringe newly granted U.S. Pat. No. 8,784,198.  The '198 patent claims priority dating back to February 18, 2000 and discusses providing unlock codes for unlockable "outcomes."  The patentee wasted no time in filing this lawsuit: the '198 patent was granted on July 22, 2014.

While the body of the '198 patent discusses the concept of "outcomes" at a high level and across a range of implementations, the claims of the '198 patent are directed to a mobile device providing a game with a locked outcome and associated benefit.  The benefit is provided to a user when the game receives a signal with an unlock code.  Some examples of the benefits include continued access to the game, an enhancement or modification to the game, and an advancement within the game.  

Claim 18 is representative and recites:
18. A non-transitory computer-readable medium storing instructions for directing a processor of a mobile device to perform a method, the method comprising:
     facilitating play of a game on the mobile device by recognizing inputs provided by a user via an input mechanism of the mobile device, at least one of the inputs causing progress in the game;
     receiving a signal comprising an unlock code;
     determining a locked outcome of the game;
     unlocking the locked outcome of the game using the unlock code, thereby determining an unlocked outcome;
     determining an intra-game benefit associated with the unlocked outcome; and
     providing the intra-game benefit to the user by incorporating the intra-game benefit into the game.

Some of the notable games accused here include "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood," "Clash of Clans," and "Marvel War of Heroes."  To any extent these claims are interpreted to read on unlocking content included in an installed game by sending an unlock code to the game, these cases could impact unlockable game content and microtransactions.  As both of these features have become increasingly common in video games of all sorts, this case could have an impact throughout the industry.

We'll continue to monitor these cases for any interesting developments.
Planet Bingo, LLC v. VKGS LLC (dba Video King)
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Nonprecedential -
Case No. 2013-1663
Decided: August 26, 2014

In what it called "a straight-forward application of the Supreme Court's recent holding in Alice Corp v. CLS Bank International," the Federal Circuit found a system for managing a game of bingo to be patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101.  Op. at 2.

The patents in question, US 6,398,646 and 6,656,045, generally recite storing a preferred set of numbers for a bingo player, allowing the user to play that set, and tracking the game/payouts.  Claim 1 of the '646 patent claims a system with expressly recited computer components:
1. A system for managing a game of Bingo which comprises:
(a) a computer with a central processing unit (CPU) and with a memory and with a printer connected to the CPU;
(b) an input and output terminal connected to the CPU and memory of the computer; and
(c) a program in the computer enabling:
(i) input of at least two sets of Bingo numbers which are preselected by a player to be played in at least one selected game of Bingo in a future period of time;
(ii) storage of the sets of Bingo numbers which are preselected by the player as a group in the memory of the computer;
(iii) assignment by the computer of a player identifier unique to the player for the group having the sets of Bingo numbers which are preselected by the player wherein the player identifier is assigned to the group for multiple sessions of Bingo;
(iv) retrieval of the group using the player identifier;
(v) selection from the group by the player of at least one of the sets of Bingo numbers preselected by the player and stored in the memory of the computer as the group for play in a selected game of Bingo in a specific session of Bingo wherein a number of sets of Bingo numbers selected for play in the selected game of Bingo is less than a total number of sets of Bingo numbers in the group;
(vi) addition by the computer of a control number for each set of Bingo numbers selected for play in the selected game of Bingo;
(vii) output of a receipt with the control number, the set of Bingo numbers which is preselected and selected by the player, a price for the set of Bingo numbers which is preselected, a date of the game of Bingo and optionally a computer identification number; and
(viii) output for verification of a winning set of Bingo numbers by means of the control number which is input into the computer by a manager of the game of Bingo.
The district court judge granted summary judgment of invalidity as to each claim of the '646 patent and the '045 patent.  The judge reasoned that "each method claim encompasses the abstract idea of managing/playing the game of Bingo" and that the user of a computer "adds nothing more than the ability to manage... Bingo more efficiently."  Op. at 2-3 (citing district court opinion Planet Bingo, LLC v. VKGS LLC, 961 F. Supp. 2d 840 (W.D. Mich. 2013).  Further, the judge found that the system claims employ a computer "only for its most basic functions" including "storing numbers, assigning identifiers, allowing for basic inputs and outputs, printing a receipt, displaying of numbers, and/or matching... for verification.  Op. at 3 (citing district court opinion).

Judge Hughes of the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that there is no meaningful distinction between the method and system claims in the patents.  Both sets of claims recite the same basic processes.  Op. at 4.  After observing that the claims of the patents recited selecting, storing, and retrieving sets of numbers, assigning identifiers, and comparing bingo numbers, the Court noted that "like the claims at issue in Benson, not only can these steps be 'carried out in existing computers long in use', but they also can be 'done mentally'."  Op. at 4.

Planet Bingo argued that, in practice, their systems involved "literally thousands, if not millions of preselected Bingo numbers" and that it would be impossible for the system to be carried out manually.  However, the Court noted that the claims did not require "thousands" or "millions" of sets and instead only required two sets of numbers.  The Court declined to decide "whether a claimed invention requiring many transactions might tip the scales of patent eligibility."  Op. at 5.

The Court found that the claims recited an abstract idea similar to that of Alice and Bilski.  The claims recited methods and systems for managing a game of Bingo, and the Court held that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of "solving a tampering problem and also minimizing other security risks."  Op. at 5 (quoting Planet Bingo's brief).  The Court found this idea similar to that of "risk hedging during consumer transactions" (Bilski) and "mitigating settlement risk in financial transactions" (Alice).

The Court then turned to the computer components of the claims to determiner whether they "contain an 'inventive concept sufficient to transform the claimed abstract idea in a patent-eligible application.'"  Op. at 5 (quoting Alice, citation omitted).  The Court examined the recited computer elements in the claims, dividing the generic computer components from the recited programmed functionality:


Op. at 6.  The Court determined that the claims recite a generic computer implementation of the covered abstract idea.  Id.  Ultimately, "as was the case in Alice, 'the function performed by the computer at each step of the process is purely conventional.'"  Op. at 6 (quoting Alice).

You can read the whole opinion here.

The aftermath of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International continues.  The full scope of the impact the decision will ultimately have on computer and software patent still remains to be seen.
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