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Looks like Joost is in Beta. If you haven't heard of Joost, it's a potential cable TV killer from the founders of Kazaa and Skype. Like Skype, this is legit on the copyright front, and could pose a serious threat to cable and satellite TV, because this time they are catering to the desires of content providers. There was an article in the February issue of Wired, which is a pretty good read. With this new content delivery system, it will be interesting to see if they build in the capability for episodic delivery of video games as well. We'll all just have to wait and see, unless,... if you have a Joost beta token, send one my way to rdannenberg@bannerwitcoff.com.
Still trying to wrap your head around intellectual property? The following video game IP resources are provided for your use. Please keep in mind that all articles and publications are for informational purposes only, and are not intended as legal advice. Always consult an attorney with fact-specific questions if you have a specific scenario you need assistance with. Ross Dannenberg can be reached at (202) 824-3153, or rdannenberg bannerwitcoff com, and Steve Chang can be reached at (202) 824-3154, or schang bannerwitcoff com if you would like to discuss a specific issue or need legal advice.

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TOP TEN VIDEO GAME PATENTS
by Ross Dannenberg & Steve Chang

When the editors at Gamasutra asked us to prepare a list of the top ten video game patents, we initially thought "Hey, no problem, that will be easy." As we’ve dug into this in a little more detail, we realized that what we signed up for was no easy task, because there are quite a few issues that make it difficult to simply whip up a list of the top 10 video game patents.

First, what makes a patent a video game patent? Is it a video game patent if it describes video game play methods? What about hardware? Audio/video processing techniques? There are endless patents that may be utilized in some form or another when playing a video game.

Second, what determines whether a patent is a good patent or a bad patent? Its coolness factor? Financial worth? Something else entirely?

Third, how do you compare patents that cover completely disparate technologies from completely different times? How do you compare the original Pong patent with a patent for giving "kudos" based on driving style? The coup de grace then is this: how do you rank patents that each derive merit from a different one of these metrics?

The fact of the matter is you can’t, because there are many ways in which patents can be valuable. Some patents are widely licensed and bring lots of licensing revenue to its owners; other patents introduce a key technological advance that becomes an industry standard; and other patents possess a certain je ne sais quoi, the “IT” factor of a really neat idea.

Needless to say, given these complexities, this list is fairly subjective, and we would be blown away if no one disagreed with us...

Read the entire article at Gamasutra.com.
Video-game sales a record $12.5B in '06
By BARBARA ORTUTAY, Associated Press, Business Writer
, January 12, 2007

A strong December capped off a record year for the video game industry, with U.S. sales of software, hardware and accessories up 19 percent to $12.5 billion in 2006, according to market research firm NPD Group.

Read full article here.


The Federal Circuit heard oral arguments yesterday in the Immersion v. Sony appeal. As previously reported, the sole issue on appeal is Sony's allegation of misconduct by Immersion.

Sony's arguments at the hearing attempt to highlight its position that the errors of fact regarding a preexisting licensing agreement and prior art document "could have" changed the outcome of the trial had the errors been corrected, and Sony should thus be entitled to a new trial. Sony argued that it was never afforded a chance to determine whether the error was significant or not, because it never knew about a piece of "hidden" prior art. The court questioned the impact of any error on the ability of Sony to litigate the case fairly, and appears hesitant to second-guess the district court judge who witnessed the entire trial and made a judgment call based on information gathered over the course of time during the litigation.

Immersion countered that any error was immaterial and insignificant, implying that such error should not warrant a new trial. Immersion's counsel also pointed out how little significance the "hidden" prior art document played during trial (e.g., zero references to it by Sony's primary invalidity expert, zero references to it by Sony in closing arguments, etc.). The court questioned the basis for such a conclusion, because how could the hidden piece of prior art play a prominent role at trial when Sony didn't know about it?

While I personally found Sony's arguments to verge on a last ditch effort of a 5 year old whining to a parent "it's not fair," and Immersion's counsel came across a little overconfident (perhaps better prepared?), you never know how the court will rule.

It will likely be months before the court hands down its decision.
It appears that Sony's game controller woes just continue to grow. Fenner Investments Ltd. has sued Microsoft (Xbox 360), Sony (PS2), and Nintendo (Gamecube) for allegedly infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,297,751, which describes a low voltage joystick port interface. The case is Fenner Investments Ltd. v. Microsoft Corp. et al., case no. 06-cv-08, in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas. We're adding the case to our tracking list, and we'll keep you updated as we learn more.
Planet Bingo v. Gametech International
__ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Planet Bingo is the exclusive licensee of both the '289 and '786 patents. The patents claim alternative methods of playing bingo by coupling numbers with additional "indicia" or "markings," such as colors or shading patterns. These additional designations overlay a traditional bingo game to produce more winning combinations for more prizes. For example, a player may achieve a classic bingo (e.g., a straight line) and then couple that line with an additional indicator (e.g., a straight line that is also all red) to win a greater jackpot. The additional designations come into play either with markings on the bingo balls in the '289 patent or with a marked bingo flashboard in the '786 patent. The patents also specify that players might make a second, separate wager to access a progressive jackpot. In this type of bingo with wagers, the unclaimed purse in each round carries over to the next game (think Powerball). The bingo hall may also set aside a portion of this second wager to pay winners of the progressive jackpots. Gametech International came along and started producing a similar game, albeit with minor variations.

The Federal Circuit affirmed district court's decision finding non-infringement and invalidity where the district court correctly found that the defendant did not literally infringe the claims, properly refused to find infringement by equivalents, and correctly found certain patent claims invalid as anticipated by a prior art bingo game.

Planet Bingo's exclusive bingo days appear to be near an end. We include this case because the concept could be applied to networked video gaming machines in Las Vegas or elsewhere where gambling is legal.
Sorry we took a bit of a hiatus over the holidays. We're back at work, which includes blogging...

So for those following the Immersion v. Sony case regarding haptic (vibration) feedback patents owned by Immersion and Sony's alleged infringement (i.e., PlayStation 2 controllers that have vibration feedback), today the appeal is being heard by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. The oral arguments are scheduled for 3 P.M. this afternoon. We'll try to give an update afterwards, but it still will be months before a decision is likely handed down.
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