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U.S. Patent No. 6,641,481: Simplified matchmaking
Issued November 4, 2003, to Microsoft


Summary:

For those of you who play Xbox Live, the ‘481 patent (aka “Quitters Play Together”) will be right up your alley. This patent describes a method for matching users with similar backgrounds. Whenever a player logs in, an input is sent to the host whereby the information is analyzed and the player is placed into a session alongside other users determined to match the requesting player.

Abstract:

A simplified matchmaker matches users of a computer network, such as the Internet, based on the number of games the users have abandoned. A one-action input is received at a requesting client application executing on a computer connected to the computer network. Next, information that is stored within the computer is collected. The information is stored within the computer using a process that is unrelated to and separate from the one-action input received from the user. Then, at least one message is sent from the requesting client application to a host computer connected to the computer network containing information relating to a request for initiating a matchmaking process on the host computer that matches requesting user into an online interactive session along with other suitable users, such that each suitable user is connected to the computer network through a client application compatible with the requesting client application.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for matching users over a computer network, the method comprising steps of: receiving a one-action input at a requesting client application executing on a computer connected to the computer network, the one-action input being received from a requesting user associated with the requesting client application; sending at least one message from the requesting client application to a host computer connected to the computer network, the message containing information relating to a request for initiating a matchmaking process on the host computer, the matchmaking process matching the requesting user into an online session instance along with other suitable users automatically, without further input being received from the requesting user associated with the requesting client application, each suitable user being connected to the computer network through a client application that is compatible with the requesting client application; receiving at the host computer the at least one message from the requesting client application; and matching the requesting user into an online session instance with other suitable users determined to match the requesting user, wherein the step of matching the requesting user into an online session matches the requesting user during a first predetermined period of time based on information relating to at least one operating parameter of the computer on which the requesting client application is executing and at least one user-defined parameter relating to the requesting user, wherein when the requesting user has a predetermined user status with respect to the requesting client application, the step of matching the requesting user into an online session matches the requesting user during a second period of time with other users that have the predetermined user status with respect to a client application corresponding to the requesting client application, wherein the predetermined user status based on a predetermined number of abandoned games.

Jumping on the "Hey, that's me!" bandwagon, Former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega, 80, filed a lawsuit in California yesterday against video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc., alleging that Call of Duty: Black Ops II portrays him as "a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state."

In the game, a character that looks like the real Manuel Noriega and is also named Manuel Noriega assists the CIA but then betrays them. In real life, Noriega was a close US ally until the Americans became concerned with the dictator's penchant for using violence against his enemies and citizens. The US dropped ties and invaded Panama in 1989. Hat tip to The Verge for the news.

This sounds somewhat similar to Linday Lohan's recent lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive and Rock Star Games. As you may recall, Lindsay Lohan recently sued Rockstar Games and its owner Take-Two Interactive over a character in Grand Theft Auto V that she alleges is an "unequivocal" representation of her image, according to the Associated Press. The suit was filed in Manhattan, claiming that Lohan's voice and image are reproduced in the game, as well as styles directly from her clothing line. The character at issue is Lacey Jonas, a vain and demanding actress trying to escape from a group of paparazzi. Strangely enough, Jonas drew Lohan's attention despite being a fairly minor character in GTA V. It's not clear if Jonas is meant to be a direct play off of Lohan or a caricature of Hollywood stars in general, but the Grand Theft Auto series has never been a stranger to parodying anything, from businesses, to television shows, to people.  Read on at The Verge.

U.S. Patent No. 6,634,948: Game system and information storage medium
Issued Oct. 21, 2003, to Namco


Summary:

The ‘948 patent allows a second player to seamlessly join a game without affecting gameplay. Whenever a player is involved in a game, a second player can send a request to join the game. If the game request is accepted the two players will connect over the same network and the two will then be able to play the game at the same time. The invention is set up so at to create minimal lag between the joining of the two players so that the second player can join without any interfering with player one’s game experience.

Abstract:

The objective is to provide a game system and an information storage medium that enable another player to enter into a game space that a first player is playing in, at any time during the game. When a 2P player issues a request to join into a game within a first game space, while a 1P player is already playing the game in the first game space, that request is accepted. Reconstruction information for reconstructing the first game space is created and sent to a second game machine. The second game machine reconstructs the first game space based on this reconstruction information, so that the 2P player can play the game within the reconstructed game space. This enables the 2P player to join into a game within the first game space, at any time during the game.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A multi-player type of game system having a plurality of game machines that correspond to a plurality of players, said players comprising first and second players and being able to play a game together, wherein said game system comprises: means for accepting a mid-game entry request, said mid-game entry request being requested while one of said first and second players is playing a game in a first game space, and said mid-game entry request asking permission for another player to play said game together within said first game space; means for creating reconstruction information for reconstructing said first game space; means for transferring said reconstruction information from one game machine to another game machine; and means for reconstructing said first game space in another game machine, based on said reconstruction information, and for allowing said other player to play said game in the reconstructed game space.


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


Summary:

The ‘706 patent describes an image data generator which allows a player, while playing a three-dimensional game, to focus his character’s attention on non-player controlled objects with the push of a button. Whenever the button is pressed, the camera angle of the game changes to reflect the character’s new focused attention on the non-player object.

Abstract:

A video game apparatus includes a reality coprocessor. The reality coprocessor 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 reality coprocessor 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 reality coprocessor 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: an image data generator for generating first image data to display a player object; an image processor for supplying an image signal to said display according to said image data in order to display, in a virtual three-dimensional space on said display, the player object photographed through a hypothetical camera from a third person perspective; a controller including a first operating member to instruct a moving direction of the player object and a second operating member that is operable to fix the photographing direction of the player object during game play to a current direction in which the player object is oriented regardless of changes in orientation of the player object after the photographing direction is fixed, wherein the fixed photographing direction is used during real-time game play display the player object from the third person perspective.

Lindsay Lohan is suing Rockstar Games and its owner Take-Two Interactive over a character in Grand Theft Auto V that she alleges is an "unequivocal" representation of her image, according to the Associated Press. The suit was reportedly filed today in Manhattan, claiming that Lohan's voice and image are reproduced in the game, as well as styles directly from her clothing line. Take-Two did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

The character at issue is Lacey Jonas, a vain and demanding actress trying to escape from a group of paparazzi (as seen in the video above). Strangely enough, Jonas drew Lohan's attention despite being a fairly minor character in GTA V. It's not clear if Jonas is meant to be a direct play off of Lohan or a caricature of Hollywood stars in general, but the Grand Theft Auto series has never been a stranger to parodying anything, from businesses, to television shows, to people.

U.S. Patent No. 6,579,176: Computer-based growing simulation method and system
Issued June 17, 2003, to Inventec Corp.



Summary:

The ‘176 patent describes a computer-based growing simulation system used in role-playing games. Players can advance their characters automatically upon completion of certain objectives. Whenever a character fulfills the current objective, a number of points is awarded to him. With enough points the character is then progressed further in the game and upgraded. One goal of the invention is to not have a linear feel to it. Players can advance their character according to their own desires and do not have to follow a set path. In this free-roam game players move about on their own desires and complete the tasks that they want to so that the character is upgraded according to the wishes of the player, not by the computer. This free-roam style to the game also can create alternate endings since the game does not progress the same with every player. This should make the game more interesting for the RPG players.

Abstract:

A computer-based growing simulation method and system is adaptable for a game and particularly a role playing game that reflects the growth of a selected role. In the game, the system will generate many different events such as simulated environments. Each simulated environment includes simulated lifelike objects (such as views or things) and conditions or selection items for the role to behave. Each condition or selection item links or relates to a selected object. The growth journeys are shown through the role's progress in the game. The game does not progress in a fixed path or rounds format, but is determined by the behavior of the role in the game. The role's growth status is indicated by a set of corresponding parameter groups. The parameter groups will change and accumulate according to the role's growth journey. Variations of the parameter groups will reflect the player's growth journey and feelings in the real world. The invention offers diversified game content to allow players to have lifelike participation experiences.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer-based growing simulation method for a role playing game implemented on a computer having a read and write recording medium for storing data executable by the computer, an output unit linked to the computer and an input unit linked to the computer to complete the game by executing the following steps: a. providing a role library which includes: data of plurality of different roles that are presentable in visual picture images on the output unit; and basic parameter groups corresponding to every role, the parameter groups including at least one parameter, and an age parameter for every role in the game; b. providing an event library which includes: data of a plurality of different simulated environments including simulated lifelike environment objects and things which are presentable in visual picture images on the output unit; and selection item groups for any one of the roles to show behaviors accordingly including at least one selection item, any selection item being related to a selected event in the event library, wherein triggering (selecting) a selection item will cause the computer to change a role's basic parameter value in the corresponding event; c. providing a relation recording table for recording the relationship between every role and the events; d. displaying in a visualized fashion the role and the role's behaviors corresponding to the events on the output unit; e. receiving signals or commands of devices operated by players through the input unit for changing the role's behaviors or triggering a selected preceding event; and f. processing the corresponding events through the processing unit and sending processing results in visualized formats to the output unit.

Not exactly a video game case, but important the world of Copyrights nonetheless.  The decision everyone has been waiting for it out.  Today the U.S. Supreme Court held that Aereo is equivalent to a cable company, and is performing copyrighted works to the public without paying a license, and therefore they infringe the rights of copyright holders.

The court states:
...we find [Aereo] highly similar to those of the CATV systems in [previous Supreme Court cases]. And those are activities that the 1976 amendments sought to bring within thes cope of the Copyright Act. Insofar as there are differences, those differences concern not the nature of the service that Aereo provides so much as the technological manner in which it provides the service. We conclude that those differences are not adequate to place Aereo’s activities outside the scope of the Act. For these reasons, we conclude that Aereo “perform[s]” petitioners’ copyrighted works “publicly,” as those terms are defined by the Transmit Clause. We therefore reverse the contrary judgment of the Court of Appeals, and weremand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Unless there is a legislation change, that's the end of the road for Aereo as we know it.

Cloud service provides, however, can breath a sigh of relief.  The court interprets the term "the public" to apply to a group of individuals acting as ordinary members of the public who pay primarily to watch broadcast television programs.  The court further states:

We have said that it does not extend to those who act as owners or possessors of the relevant product. And we have not considered whether the public performance right is infringed when the user of a service pays primarily for something other than the transmission of copyrighted works, such as the remote storage of content. See Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 31 (distinguishing cloud based storage services because they “offer consumers more numerous and convenient means of playing back copies that the consumers have already lawfully acquired” (emphasis in original)). In addition, an entity does not transmit to the public if it does not transmit to a substantial number of people outside of a family and its social circle.
The court also states, in the Syllabus of the opinion, that in view of "the limited nature of the Court's holding, the Court does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies"

So here's my initial $.02 on this case.

Aereo will have an initial brief dampening effect on technological development, because of the psychological impact that will weigh on technologists as they are developing new technologies. In the back of their minds, they will be thinking “remember what happened to Aereo? They spent all that money and then were shut down. We don’t want that to happen to us.” However, the Court actually goes out of its way in an attempt to prevent the decision from stifling innovation by limiting its decision to the specific technology used by Aereo. The court clearly articulates that cloud service providers in general should remain unaffected by the decision, and the Court further states that in view of "the limited nature of the Court's holding, the Court does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies.” So while there may be an initial delay as technologists do a sanity check on their innovations, technology should continue to advance as usual.

The Supreme Court took a common sense approach by telling technologists not to put form over substance. This is the second time the Supreme Court has held that you can’t manipulate technology to skirt copyright laws. They said it to Grokster, and now they’ve said it again to Aereo. If you’re sitting in a technology development meeting at your company, and someone asks “how can we deploy this technology to avoid paying a license fee?”, I’d think twice about that approach, and make sure that you have legal counsel weigh in on the risks associated with that technology. Despite this, the ruling is not a death knell for technology development, and in fact reinforces the viability of cloud computing solutions in general. However, just as the Supreme Court has done here, technologists must take a common sense approach when designing new products to determine whether those products will run afoul of copyright law.

The case is American Broadcast Cos., Inc., et al. v. Aereo Inc., 573 U.S. __ (June 25, 2014).

Full opinion is here.

Aereo's CEO comments on the outcome here.

More news about the case:

Link 1: CIO.com.




U.S. Patent No. 6,604,008: Scoring based upon goals achieved and subjective elements
Issued August 5, 2003, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘008 patent describes a method for awarding points to a player in a game after the play set and met a goal for performance in the game. The player is permitted to select a goal for a level of performance that he expects to achieve during the game. A goal point counter determines a number of goal-based points that can be awarded to the player if he meets the goals he set. The subjective value of the points differs, but the points are awarded whenever a player performs a non-objective task in the game.

Abstract:

A scoring method and system for determining points in a game. Goal-based points are determined as a function of a player achieving a goal set by the player that is not predefined by the game and are used to determine the player's status in the game, such as whether the player advances to a next level. Subjective style points are awarded if the player performs feats of style that are not necessary tasks of the game, depend upon the type of game, and may include sliding, spinning, jumping, blocking an opponent, passing an opponent, and avoiding obstacles. Objective skill points may be combined with subjective style points and goal-based points. Alternatively, one of these three types of points may be modified as a function of one or both of the other two types of points.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method of awarding points to a player in a game played using an electronic device that determines points awarded to each player, comprising the steps of: (a) enabling a player to set a goal for performance in the game; (b) determining a number of goal-based points applied by the electronic device for determining a status of the player in the game, as a function of the player's performance in relation to the goal set by the player; and (c) determining subjective points applied by the electronic device in determining the status of the player in the game, as a function of the player's performance as measured against a subjective criterion.

Patent Law Update
June 20, 2014
  
Computer-Implemented Inventions: Ideas That Are Fundamental Truths And Generically Implemented Are Not Patent Eligible

In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Thomas on June 19, 2014, the Court held in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 13-298, that all the patent claims in the case, meaning all method, system and “computer-readable medium” claims, were not patent eligible.

This alert is published by Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. and is intended to provide a summary of significant developments and news related to intellectual property law. Please contact one of our attorneys by phone if we can provide more information about this subject or others related to intellectual property law. Contact information for all of our attorneys is available at www.bannerwitcoff.com/people.

If you are unable to access the hyperlink above, you may read the article on our website by pasting the following URL into your browser: http://bannerwitcoff.com/news/1114/.


© Copyright 2014 Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. The opinions expressed in this publication are for the purpose of fostering productive discussions of legal issues and do not constitute the rendering of legal counseling or other professional services. No attorney-client relationship is created, nor is there any offer to provide legal services, by the publication and distribution of this edition of IP Alert.  To subscribe or unsubscribe to Banner & Witcoff’s IP Alert, please reply to this message or contact Chris Hummel at chummel@bannerwitcoff.com.
What do pornography and patents have in common?  Read on to find out!

Today the United States Supreme Court has held, in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank Int'l, that claims drawn to an abstract idea that merely require generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.

Despite its decision, the Court gives surprisingly little guidance one what an abstract idea actually IS. As a result, there will be LOTS of commentary on this case, with a vast number of interpretations. In any event, here is how I read the tea leaves: The Court states that the framework for distinguishing patents that claim laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas from those that claim patent-eligible applications of those concepts is a two-step process.  First, you determine whether the claims at issue are directed to one of those patent-ineligible concepts. Second, if so, review the other matter in the claims to see whether the additional elements transform the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible application.   Step two of that process is a search for an 'inventive concept’. — The court states that an inventive concept is an element or combination of elements that is sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the ineligible concept itself.  Good luck with that circularity.

And so the search for an inventive concept begins.  The above definition of an inventive concept is not great.  As a result, I predict that courts (and the USPTO) will say something that amounts to: you know it when you see it, sort of like another subject matter that the Court has ruled on in the past (Hint: see Justice Stewart's concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 US 184 (1964)).

The full case cite is: Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International et al., 573 U.S. __ (2014).

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