Well its not a video game lawsuit, but interesting nonetheless. And, yes, this post could be considered shameless self-promotion. Nonetheless, I was recently quoted in USA Today in an article regarding the Facebook lawsuit, and it's even a good sound bite! Usually quotes get taken out of context or they use the quote that you wish you never said (remember the "work hard, play hard" debacle?) In any event, I thought it noteworthy, so enjoy...
United States Patent No. 6,729,954

Battle Method with Attack Power Based on Character Group Density

Issued May 4, 2004, assigned to Koei Co., Ltd.


Although the Sam Fishers, John Matrixs, Solid Snakes, and John Rambos of the world would gladly demonstrate how false this premise is, this patent contends a soldier’s attack and defense strength synergizes with the number of surrounding support soldiers. For example, a bow soldier’s attack strength is increased according to the number of surrounding bow soldiers transverse to the enemy’s army. Therefore, five archers in a line parallel to the enemy’s army would have an attack strength greater than five archers in a line perpendicular to the enemy army. This causes individual soldiers within a formation to have a variable attack/defense strength (displayed to a user by the soldier’s color). The differences in the attack/defense strength are due to changes in the soldier’s support area. The support area is defined by their relative position in the overall formation, the predefined size and shape of the support area, and the type of soldiers in the current soldier’s support area (e.g., archer, foot soldier, etc.). Additionally, different types of soldiers have support areas of different shapes. Interestingly, the patent manages to offend a plethora of game characters by capping a soldier’s attack/defense strength at a maximum value to prevent it from exceeding the strength of “an actual person.”

Exemplary Claim:

A character group battle method in which a plurality of characters that are displayed in a three-dimensional virtual space form groups of friends and enemies that battle against one another, comprising the steps of:

calculating the position of each of the characters in the three-dimensional virtual space;

calculating the character number of the other one or more friend characters existing in a predetermined region about the character; and

calculating at least one of an attack or a defense value respectively expressing at least one of an attack power or a defense strength of the character on the basis of the character number.

Courts have held that artists' copyright protection can extend beyond their literal pictorial works, and some courts have even insinuated that an artist can receive copyright expression for their artistic style, e.g., Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures Inc., 663 F.Supp. 706 (S.D.N.Y. 1987) (holding that cover artist for The New Yorker's copyright protection extended beyond literal copying of his work, and that poster for Moscow on the Hudson infringed his copyright).

The Simpsons, a popular TV show, video game, and now movie, are easily recognizable for the cartoonish style originated by its creator, Matt Groening:

Well now you, too, can look like the Simpsons. Yes, that's right, at SIMPSONIZEME.COM you can upload a picture of yourself and see what you would look like in Springfield, AS (AS=AnyState). In case you're curious, here I am in simpsonized form: is clearly "simpsonizing" people under the authority of the Simpson's copyright owner. However, it does make one wonder whether, if I had drawn the above cartoon myself, would I be liable for copyright infringement of the Simpsons' creator's style... food for thought.
Konami v. Roxor
(E.D.Tex 2007 - SETTLED)

We previously reported that Konami Corporation sued Roxor Games, Inc. in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleging patent infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and trade dress infringement, under both Federal and Texas law, regarding Konami's game Dance Dance Revolution. It appears that we won't see trial or a decision on this case, as they settled out of court as of last autumn (ok, I'm a little late posting on this... sorry). The settlement gives Konami full control of In the Groove's intellectual property rights.

More details here.
Micro Star v. FormGen Inc.
154 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 1998)

Judge Kosinski opens his opinion by positing the most poignant of questions: “Duke Nukem routinely vanquishes Octabrain and the Protozoid Slimer. But what about the dreaded Micro Star?” Duke Nukem 3D, the well known first person shooter that was distributed and owned by FormGen Inc., included an editor that enabled players to create their own levels [Editor’s Note: I once created a map duplicating two decks of a Carnival cruise ship. Regrettably, it didn’t make it onto the CD at issue]. Player-created levels could be posted onto the Internet for download by other players. Micro Star acquired 300 user-created levels, placed them onto a CD, and sold that CD commercially as Nuke It, whose packaging displayed screen shots of the new levels. FormGen threatened to sue, so Micro Star sought a declaratory judgment for non-infringement of FormGen’s copyrights in the game, while FormGen counterclaimed for a preliminary injunction against future copyright infringement by Micro Star. While the district court did grant a preliminary injunction as to the use of the screen shots, it also held that Nuke It was not a derivative work and therefore did not infringe FormGen’s copyright.

On appeal, Kozinski focused on whether Micro Star copied FormGen’s protected expression. Ultimately, the Court disagreed with Micro Star’s arguments that Nuke It was not a derivative work because the MAP files, which contain the instructions defining the custom levels, did not incorporate in a concrete or permanent form any of Duke Nukem 3D’s protected expression (i.e., the artwork rendered onto the screen). Instead, the Court found Nuke It to be a derivative work in concrete or permanent form because it was embodied onto a CD and the MAP files described in detail the audiovisual display that appears on the computer monitor. Additionally, Micro Star’s motive of financial gain worked against their position and foreclosed their ability to assert fair use protection. By selling Nuke It, the Court held, Micro Star “impinged on FormGen’s ability to market new versions of the Duke Nukem 3D story” and “only FormGen [as the owner of the copyright] has the right to enter that market.” FormGen, therefore, did not abandon their right to profit commercially from new levels by granting a license to players to freely distribute new levels to other players. Thus, FormGen received a preliminary injunction as to Nuke It’s commercial distribution. Now if only 3D Realms would hurry up and release Duke Nukem Forever, because we’re all getting a little tired their mantra “it’s done when it’s done…”

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