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Computer Games and Virtual Worlds: A New Frontier in Intellectual Property Law

By Ross A. Dannenberg, Steve Mortinger, Roxanne Christ, Chrissie Scelsi, and Farnaz Alemi - Editors.

Will provide publication/purchase info when available.
Every gamer has anxiously awaited this message to appear - you may have just beaten the final boss level after several unsuccessful attempts or you may have finally beaten a friend’s high score. As we all know, bragging rights are useless until you can prove it. Thus, we anxiously await this very message or something similar. While this message is often the saving grace, there are times when this message provides false security. For example, the memory may be corrupt. While displeasing enough, losing earlier progress on that particular game only adds insult to injury.

According to the Patent Office records, Nintendo may have protection on certain methods and systems that ensure that a failure to save recent data will not also result in the loss of earlier game data. On February 2, 2010, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Pat. No. 7,654,904, entitled “Game machine, backup control program of game data and backup control method.” The patent notes that “preventing [the] loss of game data obtained by progressing through a game for long hours is critical for the player.” Independent claim 9 appears to be targeted towards a method that ensures that the previous saved data from the game is not overwritten if the most recent attempt to save updated game data is not successful. The claim recites:

9. In a game machine having a nonvolatile memory, said memory including a plurality of electrically rewritable game data backup storage areas, a method of backing up game data, comprising:

generating latest game data corresponding to latest conditions in a game being played;

designating one of said game data backup storage areas that contains an oldest written game data relative to game data written in other backup storage areas as a write-objective target for storing said latest game data and, when a write attempt to a first write-objective target is unsuccessful after a predetermined number of attempts, designating another write-objective target of next oldest written data; and precluding a writing of said latest game data into said another write-objective target and prohibiting further attempts to write to said backup storage areas when an attempt in writing to said first write-objective target backup storage area is unsuccessful after a predetermined number of repeated unsuccessful attempts and said another write-objective target contains the only remaining instance of saved older game data; and

causing said game machine to display an error message indicative of an unsuccessful saving of said latest game data and/or a broken backup storage memory condition, wherein a failure of a memory element in said electrically rewritable non-volatile memory does not result in an attempt to store game data in a last remaining backup area containing older game data.
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