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U.S. Patent No. 7,618,322: Game system, storage medium storing game program, and game controlling method
Issued Nov. 17, 2009, to Nintendo


Summary:

The ‘322 patent describes a game with a controller with an operation surface that produces an audible percussive sound when subjected to a physical impact. The controller generates audible sounds in response to an elastic deformation of the striking surface. The sounds are generated whenever a player beats on the controller and the game process is changed depending on the volume (determined by how hard the strike is) value of the operation sound.

Abstract:

A game system includes a game apparatus, and the game apparatus is connected with a monitor and a percussion-type controller. When a game player beats a first beating operation surface or a second beating operation surface, first operation data is input from the controller to the game apparatus. Furthermore, when a microphone detects an operation sound generated at a time that a beating operation is performed, second operation data including volume data is input from the controller to the game apparatus. In the game apparatus, when a magnitude of the volume data is equal to or more than the predetermined threshold value, an ability value as to an action of the player object to be executed according to a command indicated by the first operation data is changed to execute the action.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game system for displaying a game image including a player object operable by a player on a display apparatus, comprising: a controller device having an operation surface that produces an audible percussive sound when subjected to a physical impact, said controller also generating an operation data input signal in response to an elastic deformation of said surface by a physical impact; operation data detector programmed logic circuitry configured to detect one or more operation data input signals generated by said controller device in response to a beating of said operation surface of said controller device by said player; an audible sound detector that detects one or more audible percussive sounds produced by said beating upon the operation surface of the controller or by other audible percutient player actions; volume value determining programmed logic circuitry configured to determine a volume level value for an audible percussive sound detected by said sound detector; and game processing programmed logic circuitry configured to change a game process in response to an operation data input signal when both an operation data input signal and an audible percussive sound are detected as occurring together within a predetermined time period.


U.S. Patent No. 7,594,847: Squad command interface for console-based video game
Issued Sep. 29, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘847 patent provides for a squad-based game whereby the player can select characters and give commands which the computer characters will obey. The user interface contains character profiles of one or more of the multiple characters and icons associated with the character profiles that represent the current commands. The player uses the D-pad on his Xbox controller to pull up the command menu, and can then select a command which will be directed at the rest of the squad.

Abstract:

A squad command interface for a squad-based shooter video game maps character selection and command selection to actuators on a game controller. Players can select squad characters and issue a single order to multiple characters with few controller actuations.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A user interface for a squad-based shooter video game system executable by one or more processors of the video game system and displayable on a screen associated with the video game system, the user interface comprising: an indication, displayable on the screen, of current commands that are issued to individual characters of a squad of multiple characters; and an interface displayable on the screen, to enable a player to issue simultaneously a common command to a plurality of characters of the squad by actuating one or more actuators on a game controller pertaining to the video game system, wherein the plurality of characters is less than all of the multiple squad characters, and wherein the squad-based shooter video game is configured to enable the player to concurrently, with a single actuation of an individual actuator of the game controller, select the plurality of squad characters, the plurality being an integer greater than one and less than all of the multiple squad characters, and invoke a command change user interface displayable on the screen, and wherein at least a portion of the user interface is persistently visible on the screen during play of the game, and wherein said single actuation initiates display of the command change user interface on the screen in which at least a portion of the video game is viewable through the command change user interface, wherein the interface comprises: a first graphical user interface to enable player selection of the multiple squad characters; and a second graphical user interface comprising the command change user interface, wherein the second graphical user interface contains command icons of possible commands that can be issued by actuating at least one of the actuators, the command icons being arranged to map visually and spatially onto the at least one actuator.


U.S. Patent No. 7,637,817: Information processing device, game device, image generation method, and game image generation method
Issued Dec. 29, 2009, to Sega


Summary:

The ‘817 patent describes a method of playing a game with a gun-like controller which uses infrared light to accurately reflect the player’s movements by using detectable waves. The controller allows the player to move around in a three-dimensional world and have his movements accurately mapped out on the screen. Whenever a person locks the target onto an object, the screen will change to give the player the optimal view point.

Abstract:

Provided is technology enabling the generation of images of high realistic sensation upon accurately reflecting the operator's behavior. The information processing device has a controller to be used for inputting an operational instruction, and having a function of outputting a detectable wave to be used for detecting its own position and direction; a plurality of sensors for detecting the intensity of the detectable wave transmitted from the controller at mutually different positions; a position/direction calculation unit for calculating the position and direction of the controller in a real space based on the ratio of the intensity of the detectable wave detected with each of the plurality of sensors; an image generation unit for generating an image reflecting the operational instruction input with the controller, and the position and direction of the controller calculated with the position/direction calculation unit; and a display unit for displaying the image generated with the image generation unit.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A simulation apparatus, comprising: an information processing device; a monitor display connected to said information processing device; operational means connected to said information processing device, configured to be operable by a player and having radiation means which radiates a detectable wave expanding toward said monitor display; and a plurality of detection means disposed at mutually different positions along peripheries of said monitor display, each of said detection means being configured to detect intensity components of said detectable wave in three-dimensional directions; wherein said information processing device comprises calculation means which calculates positional coordinates of said operational means in a real space in front of said monitor display and an aiming direction of said operational means based on ratios of the intensity components of said detectable wave detected by said plurality of detection means at said different positions, wherein said information processing device is configured to: (a) calculate a scene including a first object and a second object in a virtual three-dimensional space; (b) display on the monitor display the scene viewed from a virtual viewpoint wherein said first object is located behind said second object when viewed from said virtual viewpoint in the virtual three-dimensional space; (c) convert, while the virtual viewpoint remains as set in (b), the calculated positional coordinates and the calculated aiming direction of said operational means in the real space into positional coordinates and an aiming direction in the virtual three-dimensional space so that a position of a virtual shooting point aiming at said first object along the aiming direction is set off the virtual viewpoint, which is set at the location as in (b), in the virtual three-dimensional space; and (d) determine if the converted aiming direction extending from said shooting point hits said first object.

U.S. Patent No. 7,621,813: Ubiquitous unified player tracking system
Issued Nov. 24, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘813 patent provides for the use of a single-name for people who wish to play online games. In Microsoft’s case, this invention applies to what we know as Gamertags, which are personalized names picked by a user whenever he registers for Xbox Live. This gamertag becomes the player’s own personal identification name, and allows other players to recognize him whenever he is online. The invention allows a player’s information to be stored under the gamertag, including all accomplishments, stats, and awards achieved during a game. The player also has the ability to have his accomplishments (such as unlocking an achievement while playing an Xbox game) tracked when he is offline. Whenever a player logs back onto Xbox Live, the accomplishments achieved when offline are uploaded to the player’s account and can be viewed and tracked by his online friends.

Abstract:

Systems and method for providing a single sign in a gaming console that associates online activity that is out-of-game/cross game, and/or online activity that is in-game, and/or activity that is offline and in-game with that account. While online, a service tracks activity of gamers and provides usage statistics in a profile. While offline, the game console tracks the player's activity via a mechanism to collect detailed information about a specific player's in-game statistics and accomplishments. The offline activity is cached and uploaded when the console connects to the online service. Players can accumulate achievements offline that are credited towards online activities.

Illustrative Claim:

1. In a gaming console, a method of providing a unique player identity, said method comprising: receiving a credential, at the gaming console, associated with a profile for a user; validating the credential; executing a videogame while the gaming console is offline, executing including executing a play of the videogame only on the gaming console; determining that an achievement associated with the videogame has been earned during the play of the videogame; caching offline user activity, at the gaming console, the offline user activity occurring during the play of the videogame; and transmitting, from the gaming console, when the gaming console is online subsequent to the play of the videogame, a signal indicative of earning the achievement to a service provider configured to publish the profile for the user in an interactive guide accessible to remote user devices, wherein the profile includes a username, a picture chosen by the user, videogame statistics accumulated while playing videogames, information indicative of affiliations of the user, and videogame achievements earned while playing videogames.

U.S. Patent No. 7,657,477: Gaming system providing simulated securities trading
Issued February 2, 2010, to SummaLP Applications, Inc.


Summary:

The ‘477 patent may be interesting to anyone who took a business course in college. The invention describes a game where the user can trade virtual stocks based on real-world market prices. Players have the option of either opening or closing a long position in the stock or opening or closing a short position in the stock. Based upon the decisions the user makes, a financial report is continuously updated and can be printed off and viewed at any time.  This invention allows a series of users (a class, for example) to join together and enter into the financial game competing against each other. The teacher, at the end of the year, can tally all the financial information to see who made the most profitable decisions.

Abstract:

A trading game allows players to engage in trading based on real-world prices of real-world securities. Simulated positions of real-world securities in player portfolios may be opened and closed in accordance with instructions provided by each player. The performance of each player may be tracked relative to an index. A tradescreen may be generated for displaying current financial information of a portfolio of a player and for entering hypothetical data to produce revised financial information. The hypothetical data may be submitted to update the portfolio of the player.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for operating a gaming system on a computer system having a server and at least one computer, the method comprising: opening and closing simulated positions of real world securities in simulated securities portfolios for a plurality of players in accordance with instructions provided by each of the plurality of players; tracking by the server or the at least one computer performances of the simulated securities portfolio of each of the plurality of players relative to one of 1) performances of the simulated securities portfolios of the other players, and 2) one or more of a securities index; maintaining a portfolio database in the server for the simulated securities portfolios for each of the plurality of players, wherein each simulated securities portfolio has current financial information associated with the respective simulated securities portfolio; receiving a request for a tradescreen from a requesting player of the plurality of players; and generating the tradescreen based on the portfolio database of the server for the requesting player for display on a computer of the requesting player, the tradescreen for displaying the current financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player and for calculating and displaying revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player, the tradescreen for entering proposed data comprising one of a proposed trade and a proposed transfer of the simulated positions of real world securities, the tradescreen for allowing the requesting player to determine if the proposed data entered into the tradescreen would produce one of a first type of result and a second type of result; providing an interface on the tradescreen for enabling the requesting player to submit the transaction corresponding to the proposed data entered into the tradescreen to update the portfolio database in the server with the revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player in an event the requesting player determines that the proposed data would produce the first type of result; and updating the portfolio database in the server with the revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player upon the requesting player submitting the transaction; wherein the revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player is based on the proposed data entered into the tradescreen and the current financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player.

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.

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