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U.S. Patent No. 7,695,356: Game program, game device, and game method
Issued April 13, 2010, to Konami


Summary:

The ‘356 patent describes a hand-held baseball game with interactive fielding and throwing options. In past baseball games, whenever a fielder caught the ball, the player had to press a button corresponding to the base he wished to throw the ball. Users were apt to make errors and press the wrong button in their haste. The ‘356 patent aims to reduce this error by allowing a player to press a button which corresponds to a relay player. This character will catch the ball after it is released incorrectly. Once the relay character has the ball, the user can choose the correct base to throw the ball.

Abstract:

With a game implemented by the present game program, ball dispatch origin characters will be displayed on a monitor. In addition, characters corresponding to ball dispatch destinations will be displayed on the monitor. A ball dispatch destination character will be identified when the command means is placed into contact with one of the characters corresponding to the dispatch destinations. If this occurs, a ball character will be dispatched from one of the ball dispatch origin characters to one of the ball dispatch destination characters.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer readable medium storing a game program for causing a computer to implement a game in which a moving object is dispatched from a character displayed on a touch panel type of monitor, the game program comprising: code for displaying a dispatch origin character which is a dispatch origin of the moving object; code for displaying at least one mark corresponding to a dispatch destination of the moving object on the monitor; code for identifying a dispatch destination character of the dispatch destination corresponding to the mark by allowing a control unit to recognize a coordinate of the dispatch destination character when input means is placed into contact on the monitor with the mark, and allowing the control unit to recognize the dispatch destination character on the basis of the coordinate, the dispatch destination character being set on a position which is different from the position of the mark; and code for displaying the moving object which moves from the dispatch origin character to the dispatch destination character identified, by allowing the control unit to issue signal to dispatch the moving object.


U.S. Patent No. 7,695,368: Game program, game device, and game method
Issued April 13, 2010, to Konami


Summary:

The ‘368 patent describes a method for playing a baseball game on a hand-held game system where the player has control over the swing of the character. The player can rotate their character to produce a swing and, if the timing is right, to produce a hit on the ball. The speed of the bat is determined by the rotational speed the player inputs into the character.

Abstract:

With a game implemented by the present game program, a touch panel type of monitor will be used, and a bat character displayed on the touch panel type of monitor will be rotated by a command means from a first position to a second position while the command means is in contact with the bat character. Then, the bat character will be rotated in reverse from the second position to the first position based upon the characteristics set in the bat character in response to the amount of rotation.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer readable medium storing a game program for causing a computer to implement a game in which a rotatable bat character is displayed on a touch panel type of monitor, comprising: code for allowing control unit to recognize a first coordinate of input means which is placed into contact with the monitor, and allowing the control unit to recognize a position of the bat character as a frist position in case that the control unit identifies the first coordinate with at least any one of coordinates in the bat character; code for allowing the control unit to recognize a second coordinate of the input means after movement when the input means has moved in contact with the monitor, displaying the bat character, which is rotated from the first coordinate to the second coordinate around a coordinate of a predetermined point, on the monitor, and allowing the control unit to recognize a position of the bat character after rotation as a second position; code for allowing the control unit to calculate rotation between the first position and the second position when the bat character has rotated from the first coordinate to the second coordinate and allowing the control unit to set the rotational speed of the bat character in response to the amount of the rotation; code for allowing the control unit to issue command to rotate the bat character in reverse from the second position to the first position based upon the rotational speed set in the bat character when the recognition of the second coordinate has stopped; and code for displaying the reverse rotation state of the character on the monitor when the command is issued by the control unit.


U.S. Patent No. 7,697,015: Storage medium and game device storing image generating program
Issued April 13, 2010, to Nintendo


Summary:

The ‘015 patent attempts to fix a common problem experienced by most gamers. In past games when the camera is placed directly behind a character, the player had a hard time seeing friends or enemy players unless they were in front of the character. The current invention describes a method that allows a player to spot other players or enemies with greater ease. The system gives weight to each character in a game and then attempts to balance out the weights so that all characters can be shown on the screen. The user-controlled character is given the most weight and the camera will attempt to place him in the center of the screen when possible. Friendly characters (controlled by other users) are given the second most weight and the camera angle will attempt to fit them into the screen at all times as well. Lastly, enemy (computer-controlled) characters are given the least amount of weight and the camera will place them in the view if possible, but will not drastically change the angle to accommodate them. Under this invention the camera should make playing with friends easier and should help make them game more enjoyable.

Abstract:

In accordance with a level of importance of a character, a weight is provided for the character. For example, a character operated by a player is provided with a weight heavier than those provided for other characters, and other characters are provided with the respective weights lighter than that provided for the character operated by the player. Based on the weights and positions of the characters placed in a predetermined area, a position of a sight point of a virtual camera is determined. Thus, it is possible to generate a display image in which a plurality of characters in a virtual space are placed on a screen in a balanced manner.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A storage medium for storing an image generating program which causes a computer to generate a display image used for displaying a plurality of objects placed in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional virtual space, wherein the image generating program causes the computer to perform: storing weighted values of the objects; storing positions of the objects in the virtual space; determining a barycenter of the objects based on the weighted values and the positions of the objects; and generating a display image in which the barycenter lies in approximately a center of the display image, wherein a heaviest weighted value is assigned to a player character which is operable by a player, and wherein a weighted value equal to or greater than a sum of weighted values of objects other than the player character is dynamically assigned to the player character.


U.S. Patent No. 7,698,238: Emotion controlled system for processing multimedia data
Issued April 13, 2010, to Sony Deutschland GmbH


Summary:

The ‘238 patent provides for an emotion controlled system which monitors the user’s physical parameters and changes the content of the games based on the information gathered. The game measures at least one of the following: heart rate, blood pressure, or temperature. The environment of the game changes depending on the level of interest and the emotional state of the user.

Abstract:

The present invention relates to an emotion controlled system for processing multimedia data comprising a multimedia system for presenting multimedia content to a user an emotion model means for determining the emotional state of the user during the presentation of the multimedia content and an editing unit for changing said multimedia content in accordance with the emotional state of the user in order to present the changed multimedia content by the multimedia system.The present invention further relates to a method for executing the steps on this system.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for an emotion controlled system for processing multimedia data, comprising: presenting multimedia content to a user using a multimedia system; determining physical parameters of the user during the presentation of the multimedia content using an acquisition unit, said physical parameters including at least one of heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature; changing the multimedia content relative the determined physical parameters using an editing unit, the changed multimedia content created in real time while the multimedia content is being presented; presenting the changed multimedia content using the multimedia system, said changed multimedia content having a transmission bandwidth different than a transmission bandwidth of the multimedia content, and the transmission bandwidth of the changed multimedia content depending on a level of interest of the user; and controlling an environmental device relative the determined physical parameters to intensify an emotional state of the user.


U.S. Patent No. 7,704,146: Multiply interconnectable environmentally interactive character simulation module method and system
Issued April 27, 2010, to Mattel, Inc.


Summary:

The ‘146 patent describes a hand held game much like the Tamagotchi toys that were popular over the past ten years. The system described here involves two systems which can be electrically connected to each other. The first character has different traits than the second one. The two characters have their own screens (operated by different players), but when the two systems are connected both characters appear and interact on the same screen.

Abstract: 

The present invention relates to a game, including a first module having a housing, a processor, a display operably coupled to the processor and an electrical contact positioned such that access is available to the electrical contact of the first module through the first module housing, and a second module having a housing, a processor, a display operably coupled to the processor and an electrical contact positioned such that access is available to the electrical contact of the second module through the second module housing, the electrical contact of the second module configured to contact the electrical contact of the first module, allowing the processor of the first module to communicate with the processor of the second module. Wherein when the processor of the second module is in communication with the processor of the first module, the first module display and the second module display are configured to each display a portion of a the game, each such portion configured to not overlap each other such portion.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game, comprising: a first module having a first electrical contact, a first processor and a first display, the processor configured to display a first character on the display, the character having a first set of traits; and a second module having a second electrical contact, a second processor and a second display, the processor configured to display a second character on the display, the character having a second set of traits; wherein the first electrical contact and second electrical contact are configured to electrically couple in two or more interconnection configurations, each interconnection configuration allowing the first and second processors to communicate, wherein the processor is programmed to display a first animation sequence if the first module and the second module are arranged in a first interconnection configuration, and wherein the processor is programmed to display a second animation sequence if the module and the second module are arranged in a second interconnection configuration, the second interconnection configuration being different from the first interconnection configuration, the second animation sequence being different from the second animation sequence.


U.S. Patent No. 7,713,116: Inventory management of virtual items in computer games
Issued May 11, 2010, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘116 patent provides an inventory management system to manage the display of inventory items during a computer game. In many games, a player’s inventory is vital to his success or failure in a game. The method described here allows a player to have a limited number of items he has collected to be displayed and be easily accessible. The method also allows the player to categorize his inventory as he wants. The player also has the ability to use pre-set inventory categorizations (by the developer) if he would rather use those.

Abstract:

Within a game, a filter is applied to a game inventory based on an attribute of each one of a plurality of virtual items. The filter can be player defined, game developer defined, system programmer defined, or a combination thereof. In certain versions, the virtual items that satisfy the query provided by the filter are displayed to the player. The player can thereupon access any one of the virtual items that are represented by the icons that satisfy the filtering query. In one version, the attributes of the virtual items can be changed using the filtering game inventory system.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method comprising: operating, on a computing device comprising an electronic display, a computer game inventory management system to manage display of a game inventory of a plurality of virtual objects acquired during computer game play on the computing device as a function of computer-executable instructions that configure a processor to perform operations comprising: indicating to a game player, on the electronic display during computer game play, the plurality of computer generated virtual objects in a graphical scene describer of a game display, the graphical scene describer used to illustrate a computer generated representation of a player character that is interacting with one or more characters within a virtual world in the computer game play, the player character controlled by the game player, wherein the plurality of virtual objects are configured in the computer game play: to be obtained as possessions by the computer generated representation of the player character; and to comprise one or more attributes; collecting, in the graphical scene describer of the game display, the plurality of virtual objects using the computer generated representation of the player character; indicating, on the game display, at least a portion of the collected plurality of virtual objects as being possessed with the computer generated representation of the player character; displaying, on the game display, an inventory management describer in addition to the graphical scene describer of the game display, the inventory management describer comprising: one or more filter icons that represent one or more filters; and an inventory display that is used to display the filtered plurality of virtual objects; receiving, in the computer game play, an input via an input device from the game player, the input used to activate a filter of the one or more filters, the activation comprising selecting, in the inventory management describer, a filter icon that represents the filter; filtering, upon receiving the input from the game play to activate the filter, the collected plurality of virtual objects based on their respective attributes that are assigned during the computer game play, the filtering comprising filtering the collected plurality of virtual objects that match the filter that is activated by the game player; and displaying, upon activation of the filter, a filtered portion of the collected plurality of virtual objects in the inventory display, wherein each of the filtered portion of the plurality of virtual objects in the inventory display includes at least an attribute that matches the filter, and wherein display of the filtered portion of the plurality of virtual objects based on the filter activated by the game player facilitates the game player to determine which of the plurality of virtual objects to be disposed of or used in the computer game play as the computer generated representation of the player character interacts with the one or more characters in the virtual world in the graphical scene describer of the game display.


U.S. Patent No. 7,713,126: Video game control program and video game device
Issued May 11, 2010, to Sega


Summary:

The ‘126 patent allows a player, while playing a video game, to choose between a plurality of paths. The player may select a path in advance, but he has the ability to change the path before the character gets to the selected path. The game described also includes a feature which allows the player to travel forward or backward; this prevents the game from feeling like a linear path where the player has no control

Abstract:

In a video game device which performs a video game wherein a game character or unit moves through a plurality of paths including a plurality of branch points according to an instruction of a player, a first movement control unit displays branch-direction indications enabling the player to select one of a plurality of first branch directions at a branch point on a path in the video game, so that a selected one of the plurality of first branch directions is received from the player. A second movement control unit displays preceding-branch-direction indications enabling the player to select, in advance, one of a plurality of second branch directions at a branch point on a following path in the selected first branch direction, so that a selected one of the plurality of second branch directions is received from the player.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer program computer-readably stored in a memory unit which, when executed by a computer having a processing unit, causes the computer having the processing unit to perform a video game control process of a video game wherein a game object moves through a plurality of paths in response to instructions by a player operating an input unit connected to the computer having the processing unit, the video game control process comprising: allowing the player to designate a destination which the player intends to cause the game object to reach; detecting a path from a current location of the game object to the designated destination and controlling the game object to move from the current location of the game object toward the designated destination; if the path detected from the current location of the game object includes a branch, displaying preceding-branch-direction indications in advance before the game object reaches a branch point, and enabling the player to select, in advance before the game object reaches the branch point, one of the preceding-branch directions for the branch point; and when the game object has reached the branch point, controlling the game object to move along the selected branch direction unless an instruction for selecting a branch direction different from the selected branch direction is given by the player for the branch point.


U.S. Patent No. 7,717,781: Apparatus and method for controlling clearing in a falling object game with a sequence bar
Issued May 18, 2010, to Bandai Co. Ltd.


Summary:

The ‘781 describes a computer game similar to other “falling block games” like Tetris or Columns, in which the player operates a falling object that falls in a predetermined area. The ‘781 patent differs from previous falling block games in that, unlike previous games, the blocks do not disappear immediately after a predetermined condition is met. Here, the objects are cleared after a sequence bar has passed. The sequence bar moves vertically or horizontally in sync with a music output to make the game more enjoyable for the player. The game described under the ‘781 patent also allows for unusual patterns to meet the clearing requirement. For example, if the blocks for the shape of a dog, that will be an acceptable pattern which will be cleared whenever the sequence bar moves past it. By adding these new patterns for clearing, the makers hope to keep the player entertained in new and exciting ways.

Abstract:

A computer game which makes the player operate a falling object that falls in a predetermined display area, and clears the falling object and falling stop objects by combining the falling object and falling stop objects under a predetermined condition. If falling stop objects including blocks that stop falling include a group of blocks which meet a predetermined clear condition, the group of blocks are registered as blocks to be cleared, and the control waits for a clear waiting state. Even in this waiting state, the next falling object begins to fall. After that, when a sequence bar (701) which moves vertically or horizontally in synchronism with a music output along with the progress of the game has passed the blocks to be cleared, these blocks are cleared.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer system comprising: a processor; an operation unit that makes an operation input to a game, by which a player controls a falling object that falls within a predetermined display area, and clears the falling object and falling stop objects by combining the falling object and the falling stop objects under a predetermined condition, a display unit which displays information associated with the game, a computer-readable storage unit which stores data required to execute the game and program instructions, and an audio output unit which outputs music along with progress of the game based on the stored data, wherein execution of the program instructions by the processor controls the computer system to: display the falling object at a falling start position by setting display position data of the falling object at the falling start position in the predetermined display area of the display unit; change the display position data of the falling object to move the falling object displayed on the display unit in a lower direction of the display area independently of an operation input from the operation unit; change the display position data of the falling object to move the falling object in the lower or horizontal direction of the display area in accordance with an operation input from the operation unit to the falling object; stop, when the falling object reaches a falling stop position of the display area and satisfies a falling stop condition, falling of the falling object, and displaying the falling object as a falling stop object; determine if the display position data of the falling stop object and display position data of other falling stop objects which are arranged around the falling stop object in advance satisfy clear conditions; generate, when the clear conditions are satisfied, clear object data used to register a portion of the falling stop object which satisfies the clear conditions as an object to be cleared, and storing the generated data in the storage unit; highlight the registered portion of the falling stop which satisfies the clear conditions; display a sequence bar which moves in the display area in a direction which is different from the lower direction in synchronism with the music data which is read out from the storage unit and is output from the audio output unit along with progress of the game; determine, on the basis of display position data of the sequence bar, if the sequence bar has moved past the portion of the falling stop object corresponding to the clear object data stored in the storage unit; and clear, when it is determined that the sequence bar has moved past the highlighted portion of the falling stop object corresponding to the stored clear object data, the display of the highlighted portion corresponding to said stored clear object data while maintaining the display of other portions of the falling stop object that have not been determined to satisfy the clear conditions.


U.S. Patent No. 7,717,782: Helpfulness in a virtual environment
Issued May 18, 2010, to Leviathan Entertainment, LLC


Summary:

The ‘782 patent describes a video game environment where players interact with one another and progress through the game by receiving help from other players. Players can post a request for help which can be accepted by other players. A player cannot complete the game without receiving help from other players. By requiring the players to cooperate, the makers are hoping to create a strong player community. This reminds me of a Foxtrot comic strip from a few years back mocking Grand Theft Auto: Vice City with the less-violent Nice City:


 Abstract:

A virtual game environment in which characters are allowed to give help to one another and in which the game tracks the amount of helpfulness of each character is provided. Characters may be rewarded or paid for giving help to each other. In some embodiments, help may be given in the form of advice.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method performed by a computer, the method comprising: communicating, by the computer, with a plurality of game devices to provide a virtual video game environment, wherein each game device allows at least one respective player to access the computer, wherein each of the players controls at least one player character; wherein the plurality of player characters interact with one another and wherein the virtual video game environment includes a plurality of game parameters that are completed by the player characters as the player characters progress through the game; identifying, by the computer, game parameters which can be completed by receiving help from another player character; permitting, by the computer, a first player character of the plurality of player characters to post a request for help for the other players to view; permitting, by the computer, a second player character of the plurality of player characters to accept the request for help; permitting, by the computer, the second player character to provide help to the first player character; determining, by the computer, whether the first player character successfully completes a first game parameter; providing, by the computer, a benefit to the second player character based on whether the first player character successfully completes a first game parameter; and receiving, by the computer, from the first player character a rating of the help given by the second player ch


U.S. Patent No. 7,722,048: Mini-hold ‘em games
Issued May 25, 2010


Summary:

Here’s one for all of you online poker fans. The ‘048 patent describes a virtual game of poker that a gamer could play against a friend or the computer. The patent describes a virtual Texas Hold ‘Em game where the each participant (whether computer or human) receive two cards that only they can see. Then the table shares a pool of cards while trying to make the best hand possible using the two cards each player was dealt, plus three of the cards shared by all of the players. Wages can vary based upon the betting strategy of every player. The player is also able to fold and is not forced to continue on unless he chooses to.

Abstract:

A playing card wagering game has a player hand compete against another player hand according to three-card poker rank or a player hand compete against a dealer hand. At least one or two players place a first wager on the card wagering game and an optional second side bet wager. The player hand begins with two respective hole cards and all player hands are completed with community playing cards dealt in sets of cards. Relative rank of the players' hands is determined. The first wager is resolved based upon the determined relative rank by determining which player hand(s) wins. The second wager is resolved according to rules that comprise comparing rank of each player's hand to a paytable.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method of playing a playing card wagering game in which a player hand competes against at least a dealer hand at a table according to a three-card poker rank of the player hand wherein: at least one player places a first ante wager on the playing card wagering game; each player and the dealer receives exactly two physical playing cards as hole cards viewed by only the player receiving hole cards and each player evaluating respective hole cards, while the dealer hole cards remain concealed; each player placing a second wager on the card wagering game to remain in the game or not placing a second wager and folding as a first round of wagering; after the first round of wagering, a flop of physical playing cards as an only single set of physical playing cards as community cards is provided for all players and the dealer to use in combination with respective hole cards to determine respective player at least intermediate hand rank; each player placing a third wager on the card wagering game to remain in the game or not placing a third wager and folding as a second round of wagering after viewing the flop of the only single set of community cards; after the second round of wagering, a second at least one physical playing card as a second set of community cards is provided for all players and the dealer to use in combination with respective hole cards and the flop to determine respective player at least intermediate hand rank; each player placing a fourth wager on the underlying card game to remain in the game or not placing a fourth wager and folding as a third round of wagering after viewing the second at least one physical playing card as a second set of community cards; after an ultimate number of exactly three physical playing cards as community cards have been separately provided as sets for use by each player and the dealer, and wagering has been completed, comparing player hand ranks of only three-card poker rank against a dealer hand rank of only three-card poker rank to determine a player or players with highest rank of hand as compared to the dealer, and paying such highest rank of hand against the dealer players at least 1:1 on all wagers on the card wagering game.


U.S. Patent No. 7,727,064: Interactive bingo gaming system and method
Issued June 1, 2010, to Bally Gaming, Inc.


Summary: 

The ‘064 patent describes an interactive way to play a classing game of Bingo. Each game is charged to the player at the cost of a certain number of credits. The credits can be purchased by the user before the game. The reward of wining one of the Bingo games is a certain number of credits which the player could use to play other games of Bingo. The payout of the winnings varies based upon a graduated weighing function which weighs probabilities differently based on the circumstances of the game. The riskier the gamble, the higher the payout will be. The two types of games offered are four-corner Bingo and blackout Bingo.

Abstract:

A system and method of playing an interactive bingo game. Each game session comprises a plurality of game events in which the bingo game draws at least one bingo number from a set of bingo numbers. The player is provided with one or more bingo cards. The game drawn bingo numbers are matched to the bingo cards and the player is awarded a prize according to a dynamic paytable. The dynamic paytable depends on a plurality of dynamic variables that are modified during the game session. The dynamic paytable further comprises a plurality of triggering events that are associated with a plurality of bingo patterns, and a threshold event that is engaged after one or more triggering events. The threshold event is configured to determine a plurality of prize credits awarded for each subsequent bingo pattern. For the chargeable action embodiment, the player is charged one or more credits for each of the game events and the credits that are charged are determined by said player. For the average bet embodiment, the player is only charged at the beginning of the game session.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method of playing an interactive bingo game, comprising: initiating a game session on a gaming device that comprises, a plurality of game events corresponding to the game session, a chargeable credit game condition, in which a first player selection is received for charging at least one credit for each game event; providing on a player interface, a player a bingo card having a plurality of integers configured in a grid pattern; performing the game events on the gaming device so that each game event comprises having the interactive game draw at least one bingo number from a set of bingo numbers; charging a player a quantity of credits obtained from an input component of the gaming device for each of the game events according to the chargeable credit game condition; awarding by the gaming device to said player one or more prizes according to a dynamic paytable that depends on a plurality of dynamic variables that are modified after each game event that charges according to the chargeable credit game condition, the dynamic paytable comprising, a plurality of payouts wherein each payout is associated with a corresponding game event, a plurality of triggering events wherein each triggering event is associated with one of a plurality of bingo patterns, a threshold event that is engaged after one or more triggering events, said threshold event configured to determine a plurality of prize credits awarded for each subsequent bingo pattern; repeatedly displaying each payout for the corresponding game event; repeatedly modifying the payouts during the game session for each game event so that each payout is modified according to a graduated weighting function that weighs probabilities more favorably as more game events are played during the game session; and enabling the dynamic paytable to be modified after each game event according to an equation: PAY(I)=ROI*ABET*WGT(I)*AL(IHIT)/PR(I) where, PAY(I) is a payout for a bingo pattern; ROI is an overall payback percentage; ABET is an average bet; WGT(I) is a graduated weighting function that weighs probabilities more favorably for game events that occur at the end of the said game session; AL(IHIT) is a pay allocation weighting function that determines the percentage of the total prize awarded for the bingo pattern; and PR(I) includes a probability for the next game event, wherein the next game event is the bingo number picked from the set of bingo numbers.


U.S. Patent No. 7,731,590: Creation of ranking table for competitive game
Issued June 8, 2010, to Nintendo Co. Ltd.


Summary:

The ‘590 patent describes game apparatuses that are connected in a peer-to-peer manner that allow a player to play against opponents. During gameplay the apparatuses award points to the winner of each match. These points are accumulated and tallied on a server so they can be used to match up players in the future. The apparatuses attempt to match up users with similar stats to make the game more interesting and challenging for the players. The apparatuses also rank the scores of the players so that individual players can look to see where they rank in comparison to other users.

Abstract:

Game apparatuses connected in a peer-to-peer manner play a competitive game with each other. Each of the game apparatuses stores a ranking table ranking points of multiple users based on past games of the users. When finishing playing the game, the game apparatuses respectively calculate points obtained by the respective users based on the result of the game, and update the ranking tables based on the newly calculated points. The game apparatuses transmit and receive information on the updated ranking table to and from each other. Each game apparatus integrates the ranking table locally stored with the ranking table transmitted from the other game apparatus to generate a new ranking table, and displays the new ranking table on a display device.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game apparatus, which is connectable to an other game apparatus in a peer to peer manner, for executing a competitive game with the other game apparatus having functions of executing the competitive game and generating a ranking of scores obtained in the competitive game, by causing a communicator to transmit information to, and to receive information from, the other game apparatus, the game apparatus comprising: a game executor that executes a current game of the competitive game with the other game apparatus while causing the communicator to transmit and receive information on the current game to and from the other game apparatus; a local score determiner that determines a current score obtained by a user of the game apparatus based on a result of the current game executed by the game executor; a ranking storage that stores user ranking information that ranks at least one previous score previously determined by the local score determiner in a past game of the competitive game and other scores obtained by other users in other past games of the competitive game; a ranking information obtainer that obtains opponent ranking information of an opponent user of the other game apparatus by causing the communicator to receive the opponent ranking information stored in the other game apparatus of the opponent user; a ranking integrator that integrates the current score determined by the local score determiner, the user ranking information stored in the ranking storage prior to the current game being executed by the game executor, and the opponent ranking information obtained by the ranking information obtainer, to generate new ranking information and to store the new ranking information in the ranking storage; and a ranking output that outputs the new ranking information integrated by the ranking integrator and stored in the ranking storage, wherein the ranking storage stores ranking information for a predetermined number of scores, the new ranking information, integrated by the ranking integrator, includes the predetermined number of scores, and when a number of scores to be integrated by the ranking integrator is greater than the predetermined number of scores, the ranking integrator includes a stored history ranking user selector that selects, from among scores included in the opponent ranking information, a score of a user that is included in the user ranking information that was stored in the ranking storage prior to the current game being executed by the game executor to be included in the new ranking information in priority to other scores included in the opponent ranking information.


U.S. Patent No. 7,690,997: Virtual environment with formalized inter-character relationships
Issued April 6, 2010, to Leviathan Entertainment, LLC


Summary:

The ‘997 patent provides for a virtual environment where a user is able to interact with other people in the digital world. The user can request to enter into a formalized relationship with another player. The user then has a set of appropriate actions that can be taken in relation to the other player. If the user acts inconsistently with these approved actions, the relationship between the two players is terminated. The patent seeks to create a massive multi player online game (MMOG) that is fun and enjoyable for players even though no clear winner or loser is ever established.

Abstract:

Virtual environments in which multiple characters are allowed to form relationships wherein the relationships may provide various benefits as well as obligations are described. Systems and methods for forming, monitoring, and terminating the relationships are also described.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method performed by a computer, the method comprising: providing, by a Video Game Central Server, a virtual environment accessible by a plurality of players, wherein the players are able to interact with the virtual environment and each other via characters; receiving, by the Video Game Central Server, a request from a first player character to enter into a formalized relationship with a second character; determining, by the Video Game Central Server, if the first player character is qualified to enter into a formalized relationship with a second character; creating, by the Video Game Central Server, the formalized relationship between the first player character and the second character; monitoring, by the Video Game Central Server, the actions of the first player character in the virtual environment; determining, by the Video Game Central Server, if an action taken by the first player character is inconsistent with the formalized relationship created between the first player character and the second character; automatically terminating, by the Video Game Central Server, the formalized relationship if an action taken by the first player character is inconsistent with the formalized relationship.

Brown v. Electronic Arts, Inc.
United States District Court for the Central District of California
Case No. 2:09-cv-01598

and
In re: NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litigation
(Keller, et al v. Electronic Arts, Inc.)
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Case No. 4:09-cv-01967

            On July 31, 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals filed opinions in two separate, yet similar, cases involving Electronic Arts ("EA") and two of its popular football franchises, Madden NFL and NCAA Football.  In the first case, former NFL player Jim Brown (widely regarded as one of the best NFL players of all time) filed suit against EA claiming that its use of his likeness in its Madden NFL franchise violated §43 (a) of the Lanham Act (KEY POINT: The Brown case, as decided, is based on the Lanham Act).  Keller's case, meanwhile, was a putative claim brought against EA claiming that the popular NCAA Football franchise violated  his (and others in the class) right of publicity under California Civil Code §3344 and California common law (as opposed to the Lanham Act).  At first blush, these cases seem quite similar, yet the results were drastically different.  In Brown, the Court found that EA's use of Brown's likeness was protected under the First Amendment.  However, in Keller the Court ruled that EA could not defend on First Amendment grounds and denied EA's motion to dismiss.  This all depends on whether the alleged infringing content is a trademark under the Lanham Act, or an individual's Right of Publicity.  When analyzing an infringement claim under the Lanham Act, courts primarily apply the Rogers test which focuses on the artistic relevance of the trademark (or in this case, likeness) in relation to the creative work.  Conversely, a right of publicity claim tends to be evaluated using the transformative use test which places a heightened burden on a content creator to show that a person's likeness is incidental to the overall work.

Why such different results?
           
            One might except two cases arising from nearly identical facts to have similar results, but the choice of claims is what dictated the tests applied and the differing results.  The Ninth Circuit looked to Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n to establish that videogames are protected under the First Amendment as expressive works because they, "communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player's interaction with the virtual world)."  Using this as a basis, the Court ruled that a §43 (a) Lanham Act claim fell within the Rogers test established by the California Supreme Court.  The Rogers test, established in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), is essentially a balancing test that seeks to weigh, "the public's First Amendment interest in free expression against the public's interest in being free from consumer confusion about affiliation and endorsement."  The Rogers test limits application of §43 (a) to expressive works,

[U]nless [the use of the trademark or other identifying material] has no artistic relevance to the underlying work whatsoever, or, if it has some artistic relevance, unless the [use of trademark or other identifying material] explicitly misleads as to the source or the content of the work.

In evaluating Brown's suit against EA, the district court granted EA's motion for summary judgment on grounds that Brown had not alleged sufficient facts to satisfy either condition of the Rogers test.  In order to be "artistically relevant" under the Rogers test, the trademark (or in this case a person's likeness) must merely be "above zero".  The court reasoned that because EA prides itself, and the Madden series in particular, on its expressive goals of realism that Brown's likeness has, "at least some artistic relevance to EA's work."    The Court then looked to the second prong of the Rogers test and found Brown's argument lacking.  Under the second prong, a claimant must show that a defendant was explicitly misleading consumers as to "the source or the content of the work."  In this case, EA did not explicitly mislead consumers.  Although Brown is a famous NFL player, it is highly unlikely that any players of the Madden series would believe that he was "somehow behind [the game] or that [he] sponsors [EA's] product," because he is only one out of many stars included in the game.  While there may be some consumers who are mislead, their confusion cannot be attributed to an explicit representation by EA and therefore Brown's claim does not satisfy this facet of the test.

            Had Keller and the other parties to the class action suit brought claims under the Lanham Act, the result would have been similar.  However, because Keller involved claims of statutory and common law infringement of rights of publicity, the Ninth Circuit applied another test altogether.  EA attempted to defend on the basis of First Amendment freedom of speech via a motion to strike under California's Anti-SLAPP statute.  In order to prevail under the Anti-SLAPP statute the party asserting the defense must first make a prima facie showing that the suit arises from an act made by the defendant in connection with a public issue in furtherance of the person's "right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the California Constitution."  It is uncontested that EA's Madden series satisfies this requirement in light of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n.  However, the Court denied the motion to strike because EA did not satisfy the second requirement which requires the defendant have a likelihood of success on the merits.  The reasoning for this was that under the transformative use test, the Court believed that Keller had a legitimate claim against EA.
           
            Under the transformative use test, the California Supreme Court outlined five factors which should be taken into account when assessing whether a claimant's right of publicity has been violated.  These five considerations are whether:

(1) the celebrity likeness is one of the raw materials from which an original work is synthesized; (2) the work is primarily the defendant's own expression if the expression is something other than the likeness of the celebrity; (3) the literal and imitative or creative elements predominate in the work; (4) the marketability and economic value of the challenged work derives primarily from the fame of the celebrity depicted; and (5) an artist's skill and talent has been manifestly subordinated to the overall goal of creating a conventional portrait of a celebrity so as to commercially exploit the celebrity's fame.

The Ninth Circuit focused predominantly on No Doubt v. Activision Publishing to establish that EA's use of Keller's (and the other members of the class) likeness was not a transformative use.  Specifically, the Ninth Circuit reasoned that, like in No Doubt, EA represented Keller as, "what he was: the starting quarterback for Arizona State and Nebraska, and the game's setting is identical to where the public found [Keller] during his collegiate career: on the football field."  The focus on realism relied upon in Brown v. EA ended up being to EA's detriment in Keller under the transformative use test.  Unlike the Rogers test that requires artistic relevance to only be "above zero", the transformative use test requires a defendant to go further and create a work that is more than just a direct copy of a real-life person.  EA did argue that the Rogers test should be applied in this case as well.  The court, however, denied this argument reasoning that the Lanham Act and the Rogers test are in place to protect consumers from confusion, but the right of publicity is in place to protect the celebrity.

What is the effect on the games industry?

            Both of these decisions have significant repercussions for the gaming industry.  The Madden and NCAA franchises have long provided EA with predictable returns on their investment on a year-to-year basis, the increase in litigation is beginning to prove more trouble than it's worth for EA's partners.  Last month, the NCAA announced that due to  "the current business climate and costs of litigation" it would not be renewing its contract with EA which is set to expire in June 2014.  However, this could affect more than just EA.  The Keller decision in particular opens the door to litigation if any celebrity's likeness is utilized.  While parody exceptions will still likely cover most games that choose to employ a celebrity's likeness, this case sets precedent for potential legal woes.  More than that, the Keller decision in particular is a blow to game developers in that it is the first restriction on the First Amendment protections  to come out of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n.

As always, we will monitor this case for new developments and update accordingly.
Innovention Toys v. MGA Entertainment et. al.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Case No:  07-6510 (filed in 2009)

When we last reported on this case, it was remanded from the circuit court for a determination of regarding issues of non-obviousness.  The case has since gone to trial and a jury verdict was reached on November 9, 2012.  The jury was specifically asked whether the Defendants had proven that it is highly probable that the inventions claimed in the '242 patent would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the field at the time of the invention.  The jury found for Innovention stating that the ordinary level of skill in the art covered by the '242 patent would have a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical engineering rather than the higher standard the defendants proposed.  The jury also found that there were differences between the prior art and the asserted claim of the '242 patent, again in favor of Innovention.  Lastly, after evaluating certain objective factors, the jury determined that the combination of the Laser Chess/Advanced Laser Chess teachings with the Swift patent would not have been obvious to a person having an ordinary level of skill.  The jury then went on to determine that MGAs infringement was willful, and Innovation was awarded royalty damages in the amount of $167,455 and $1,405,708 in lost profits damages.

MGA filed a post-trial motion arguing that its infringement was not willful, but was denied.  Innovention also filed a motion requesting that the Court find that the infringement was willful; that enhanced damages, attorneys' fees, costs, expert fees, and interest should be granted; and that MGA be enjoined from further infringing the '242 patent.  The court denied MGA's motion and granted Innovention's in part finding that the infringement was willful; that Innovention is entitled to treble damages; that the case was exceptional allowing for the recovery of attorney's fees; that Innovention is entitled to taxable and non-taxable costs; that Innovention is entitled to $1,573,163 in pre-judgment interest; and that Innovention is entitled to post-judgment interest.


One of the more interesting aspects of this ruling was MGA's assertion that due to the game involving optics and lasers that the level of education necessary to practice the patent made it obvious.  At first blush, MGA's assertion holds some water in that a game using lasers is probably highly technical; however, experts in the case testified that just because there is a highly technical element involved in practicing a patent does not mean that the level of skill necessary must also be high.  Since those with a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical engineering have some knowledge regarding optics and lasers, the level of skill was actually much lower than MGA claimed.  Another interesting part of the Court's order was the granting of treble damages due to the willful infringement on the part of MGA.  What is interesting is how much weight the court gave to MGA's "deplorable" behavior during litigation, citing MGA's filing of seven motions for summary judgment which were all denied as well as attempting to "frivolously" move for re-opening discovery post-trial.  The court also viewed this conduct in light of the "David-versus-Goliath" relationship between Innovention (a three-person company) and MGA a "toy behemoth with sales of $300 million in 2011."  The order granting the enhanced damages was entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on June 25, 2013.

U.S. Patent No. 7,704,134: Game program, game device, and game method
Issued April 27, 2010


Summary:

The ‘134 patent describes a baseball video game on a touch screen handheld system. A player can control the location, speed, and movement of the pitch. In traditional games, the movement and location of the ball is determined before the pitch is thrown. The player will select a location and a pitch, press the button and let it go. In this game, however, the location of the pitch is moveable until the pitcher has released the pitch.

Abstract:

With a game implemented by the present game program, an expected pass display area of a ball will be displayed on a monitor between a dispatch position of the ball and a arrival position of the ball. When a dispatch operation of a pitcher character is initiated, the contact position of a command means in the expected pass display area will be identified if the command means is placed into contact with the expected pass display area. If the contact position is moved in the expected pass display area by the command means before a character has dispatched a moving object, the contact position after movement will be identified as the final contact position. When this occurs, a ball character will be dispatched from the pitcher character to the final contact position.


Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer readable medium storing a game program for causing a computer to implement a baseball video game in which a moving object being a ball of the baseball video game is dispatched from a pitcher character displayed on a touch panel type of monitor, the game program comprising: code for setting an expected pass display area of a moving object between a dispatch position of the moving object where the pitcher character exists and an arrival position of the moving object where a catcher character exists; code for initiating a dispatch operation of the pitcher character; code for identifying a contact position of input means in the expected pass display area where the input means is placed into contact with the expected pass display area of the monitor; code for allowing the contact position to be movable in the expected pass display area by the input means until the moving object is dispatched from the pitcher character, and changing movement speed of the contact position in the expected pass display area in response to the characteristics of the pitcher character; code for identifying the contact position after movement as a final contact position; and code for dispatching the moving object from the pitcher character to the final contact position.


U.S. Patent No. 7,512,235: Multiple user authentication for online console-based gaming
Issued March 31, 2009, to Microsoft



Summary:

The ‘235 patent allows multiple users to connect to an online game through a single console. Thus, a player and up to three friends can be authenticated together when joining a multiplayer game. After the players are authenticated once, the process is sped up and the players are accepted together, without needing to be authenticated. This system also is designed to prevent cheating by authenticating the party and constantly checking for signs of cheating. If cheating is detected, the users, as a group, are kicked from the server and then marked as cheaters.

Abstract:

A console-based multi-user authentication process allows multiple users of a game console to be authenticated together in a single request/reply exchange with an authentication entity. The results of which is the possession of a single ticket that can be used to prove authenticity of multiple authentication principals to one or more online services. Also described is a handshake process that can be used to initially establish an authentication account for each game console, in which the account creation server can trust that a genuine game console is making the request.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer-readable storage medium for a game console comprising computer-executable instructions that, when executed, direct the game console to: create multiple validated user identities (U1, H1), (U2, H2), . . . , (UU, HU) composed of the multiple user identities U1, U2, . . . , UU and associated values H1, H2, . . . , HU calculated from each user's key; form a single request containing a game console identity X, a game title identity G, the multiple validated user identities, and an identity A of an online service, as follows: Request=[X, G, A, (U1, H1), (U2, H2), . . . , (UU, HU)]; and submit the request to a ticket issuing entity over a network, whereby the ticket issuing entity simultaneously authenticates each of the identities contained in the request.


U.S. Patent No. 7,530,895: Method for advancing network game by group competition
Issued May 12, 2009, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘895 patent provides for a game which includes a world map including multiple regions. The game allows players to compete against other players. Each of the players selects a character which belongs to different nations. The players connect to a network and communicate with other during competitions. Points are totaled during the game according to victories and accomplishments achieved by the players. Different tasks in the game are allotted different points. Thus, a player has the opportunity to achieve a higher point award by accomplishing one task, while receiving fewer points for completing another. Players may join together in order to earn more points during the course of the game.

Abstract:

A world map includes multiple regions. Each region includes one or multiple areas. A player causes his/her player character to belong to any nation. As a task given to the player character, a battle with an enemy character is provided on the map of each area (the battle may be waged by a party). When the, player character wins the battle in each area, predetermined points are given to a home nation of the player character participating in the battle. The points given to each home nation are totaled for each region, and a nation that dominates each region is decided according to a result of the total points.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A network game system having a server apparatus and a plurality of client apparatuses each connected to the server apparatus via a network, each of the client apparatuses comprising: a group selector that selects a group to which a player character operated in a virtual space based on a player's operation belongs, the virtual space being divided into a plurality of zones; a group information transmitter that transmits group information on the group selected by the group selector to the server apparatus via the network; an operation instructing device that instructs an operation of the player character in the virtual space based on a player's operation; an operation transmitter that transmits the operation to the server apparatus via the network; a change information receiver that receives change information indicating a change in a content of a game sent from the server apparatus; and a display controller that causes a display device to display the content of the game indicated by the change information, the server apparatus comprising: a group information receiver that receives the group information transmitted from the group information transmitter; a group register that registers groups to which each player character of the plurality of client apparatuses belongs based on the received group information; an operation receiver that receives the operation of the player character transmitted from the operation transmitter; a point calculator that calculates points corresponding to a degree of achievement of a task of each player character based on the received operation of the player character; a point totaler that, every fixed periodic judgment interval, which is independent from tasks assigned to player characters, totals the points calculated by the point calculator for each of the zones for each group to which each player character belongs; a game changer that changes the content of the game in a next fixed periodic judgment interval, which is independent from tasks assigned to player characters, based on the points totaled for each zone and for each group in a current fixed periodic judgment interval, which is independent from tasks assigned to player characters; a change information transmitter that transmits change information on the content of the game changed by the game changer to each of the plurality of client apparatuses via the network; a dominion provider that provides dominion of each zone to a dominating group having a greatest number of total points for the zone, wherein the game changer changes the content of the game according to whether dominion of each zone is provided to any one of the groups by the dominion provider so that each player character belonging to the dominating group receives an advantage within each zone dominated by the group of the player character; a point corrector that corrects the total points of each group in accordance with a number of registered player characters of each group; and a group changer that changes the group of the player characters registered in the group register based on an instruction from the client apparatus corresponding to each player character, wherein the point totaler totals the points of the player character subjected to the group change after excluding the points calculated by the point calculator before changing the group from the total points of each group, and wherein the point calculator calculates a different number of points as the points corresponding to the degree of achievement of the task, depending on whether the player character's group has dominion of the zone where the player character has accomplished the task.


U.S. Patent No. 7,532,211: Image processing device and image processing method
Issued May 12, 2009, to Sega


Summary:

The ‘211 patent allows games to have a more realistic and life-like feel to them because the movements of players have been redesigned to simulate those of actual opponents. The virtual camera is designed to provide alternate views of the action based on what is going on during the event. Whenever there are a lot of characters on the screen at the same time, the camera will be pulled out so that the most action can be seen while the player competes in the game.

Abstract:

Games are processed in a more realistic and immediate manner during image processing for soccer games and the like. Specifically, the movements of characters more accurately simulate those of actual opponents, resulting in greater game realism.The invention is an image processing device for imaging and displaying the behavior of characters modeled on opponents in virtual three-dimensional space. It is determined (S21 to S24) whether or not there exists a certain situation in which the relation to the game contents (in the centering area, for example) or the positional relation (such as distance) between characters and a target (such as opponent characters or the ball) having a relation through the game to said characters matches certain conditions, and the eyes of the characters are directed to the target (S25, S26, S28, etc.) when it is determined that the certain situation exists. The invention is especially suitable for soccer games.


Illustrative Claim:

1. An image processing device comprising: image generating means for generating a game screen representing a view seen from a virtual camera disposed in virtual space, wherein a plurality of predetermined areas are defined in said virtual space and an angle of said virtual camera is set for each of said plurality of predetermined areas; object setting means for setting an object in said virtual space; object behavior controlling means for controlling behavior of said object in said virtual space based on an operation of a player; camera angle adjusting means for adjusting an angle at which said virtual camera views said object, based on positional coordinates of said virtual camera in said virtual space; and object positional determination means for determining whether said object is located in one of said plurality of predetermined areas based on the positional coordinates of said virtual camera; wherein said camera angle adjusting means angularly adjusts said virtual camera to 0 degrees if said object positional determination means determines that said object is not located in said plurality of predetermined areas; and said camera angle adjusting means adjusts said virtual camera to the angle set for the area in which said object is located if said object positional determination means determines that said object is located in any of said plurality of predetermined areas.


U.S. Patent No. 7,549,918: Golf game system and method thereof
Issued June 23, 2009, to NHN Corp.


Summary:

The ‘918 patent provides for a golf game whereby the player can make a club selection before his shot begins. The player then can press a button which begins his shot power meter as well as a shot direction meter. Thus, the player has full control of both his shot power and the direction of his shot. Each club is programmed to have different values which means that they all differ in the kind of shots the player can make. The player needs to master each club’s abilities in order to play to his maximum ability.

Abstract:

A system and method for playing a golf game. A user is allotted with an ability value for the golf game, and a plurality of available golf clubs are provided according to the user's ability value. A request ability value referred to when requesting to use a corresponding golf club and an application ability value applied when the golf club is used are allotted to each of the golf clubs. Only when the user's ability value satisfies the request ability value allotted to a golf club can the user use the golf club. Ability points that can adjust the user's ability value are allotted to the user according to a result of the golf game, so that the user can select from a wide range of golf clubs having various characteristics. Accordingly, the user can adjust the ability value which influences the percentage of winning the golf game using the ability points allotted according to the result of the golf game, thereby enhancing the fun of the golf game.


Illustrative Claim:

1. A method of playing a virtual golf game, wherein a player of the golf game is provided a set of golf clubs, wherein each golf club set is classified with a request ability value that indicates a non-monetary ability value needed by the player, and wherein each golf club set is assigned an application ability value that indicates characteristics of golf shots by the golf clubs in the golf club set, the method comprising: allotting a non-monetary, ability value to a player of the golf game, wherein at least one attribute of the player's skill in playing the virtual golf game is based on the allotted non-monetary ability value; receiving a request for a golf club of the set of golf clubs; selectively allowing the player to use the requested golf club set based on whether the non-monetary, ability value allotted to the player is equal to or higher than the request ability value of the requested golf club; determining an adjustment value according to the application ability value associated with the golf club set; adjusting an input parameter according to the adjustment value; and determining a flight distance and location of a golf ball in response to receiving an input corresponding to the adjusted input parameter such that: (1) when neither a gamble nor an over-power gamble on a golf club is requested, the flight distance is computed according to the application ability value associated with the golf club, (2) when a gamble on the golf club is requested, the flight distance is determined based on a sum of a basic flight distance and an additional value according to the result of the gamble, (3) when both a gamble and an over-power gamble are requested, the flight distance is determined based on a sum of a basic flight distance, an additional value according to the result of the gamble, and another additional value that is based on success of the over-power gamble, and (4) upon checking a level of the player and a level of the golf club and when the player's level does not match the golf club level, the flight distance is determined based on applying a compensation value that corresponds to the difference in the player's level and the level of the golf club.

Electronic Arts, Inc. v. Textron, Inc., et al
U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
Case No. 3:2012-cv-00118, Filed on January 6, 2012


This trademark dispute arises out of Electronic Arts popular first-person shooter series, Battlefield.  Specifically, EA sought declaratory judgment stating that the game (which uses vehicles modeled after Textron’s AH-1Z, UH-1Y, and V-22 helicopters) did not infringe upon Textron’s trademarks.  However, before reaching a trial, the case was dismissed with prejudice in the wake of an out-of-court settlement agreement in early-mid 2013.
ProCloud Media Invest AB v. Paramount Pictures Corporation
U.S. District Court, Central District of California
Case No. 2:2012cv05192, Filed on June 14, 2012

ProCloud brought suit against Paramount Pictures for breach of contract and unjust enrichment after entering into a licensing agreement which would have granted ProCloud the exclusive rights to develop videogames based on Paramount’s intellectual property.  ProCloud stated that it paid a licensing fee of $500,000 to Paramount twice, once in consideration of the initial contract, and a second time when the contract was amended.  Due to the shuttering of Paramount’s Digital Entertainment division, nothing ever came from the licensing agreement.  On December 21, 2012, the Court granted a joint motion for dismissal with prejudice after the parties reached an out-of-court settlement.


OG International v. Ubisoft
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Case No.: 3-11-cv-04980-CRB, filed on October 7, 2011

This case initially came about when OG International (OGI) filed for a declaratory judgment.  OGI sought a declaration that its product Get Up and Dance did not infringe on Ubisoft’s copyright or trade dress and did not constitute unfair competition with regards to Ubisoft’s Just Dance franchise. 

When we last posted about this case, Ubisoft had been denied its motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.  Ubisoft then filed a motion to dismiss.  The motion to dismiss revolved around OGI’s claim that Ubisoft’s pre-suit demand letters did not fall within Noerr-Pennington immunity.  The court held that the letters did fall within Noerr-Pennington because the letters threatened litigation.  Furthermore, OGI claimed that the letters fall into the sham exception of the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.  The court held that this exception did not apply because the standard for the sham exception is that, “the party seeking to impose liability must establish both that the legal claim is objectively baseless and that the suit was brought for an anticompetitive purpose.”  OGI’s complaint, however, only stated the letters had false claims, which is a different concept from the “objectively baseless”.

The motion to dismiss was granted with leave to amend on October 9, 2012.  After OGI amended its complaint, the case continued.  However, as of April 25, 2013, the case has been dismissed with prejudice stemming from an apparent out-of-court settlement between the two parties.    
Case Update: Friedrich v. Marvel et al.
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Case No. 08-cv-01533, filed 2007

Originally filed in 2007, Gary Friedrich sued Marvel for infringing upon a character, Ghost Rider, that he created for the publisher. 

The District Court ruled in favor of Marvel in a motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case and holding that Marvel had ownership of the character.  Furthermore, the court found that Friedrich had infringed upon Marvel's copyright and he was ordered to pay $17,000 in damages for profits from the sale of merchandise.  The court claimed that it was unnecessary to look at whether the initial relationship was a work-for-hire relationship or not because there were two specific instances when Friedrich signed over rights to Marvel.


After the ruling, Friedrich appealed to the Second Circuit, and the case has since been remanded to the District Court for trial.  A status conference was held on June 27, 2013, to establish how the case will proceed.  As always, as the case progresses, we will update accordingly.

U.S. Patent No. 7,559,842: Game system, game control method, and recording medium for the same
Issued July 14, 2009, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘842 patent describes a system for role-playing games where the player has a wide range of characteristics which can be assigned to his character. Each characteristic carries a certain weight which factors into how much the character can grow and advance in the game. Thus, the player must take careful consideration when assigning certain characteristics to his character in order to provide the most effective combination that will lead to the best growth potential.


Abstract:

A game system provides multiple classifications of character characteristic and is capable of advancing a game by assigning the desired characteristic to a character from multiple characteristics. Two jobs, that is, a main job and a support job are selectable for a character and a fixed pattern of table configuration data is provided as characteristic value information according to the job. In addition, the table configuration data corresponding to the classification of the job is extracted and applied to a growth table for each job, and ability values of the main job and support job are weighted differently so as to achieve character characteristic having two job abilities together. Accordingly, it is possible to effectively increase the job types to be assigned to the character and to create an interesting game, while reducing necessary memory capacity.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game system, which, when executing a game by operating a character in accordance with a game program, provides a plurality of types of characteristics of the character and advances the game by assigning at least one type of characteristic to the character from among the plurality of types of characteristics, the game system comprising: a main characteristic assigning system that assigns one of the types of characteristics to the character, the assigned type of characteristic serving as a main type of characteristic of the character; a storage that stores a plurality of predetermined sequences of characteristic value information that determines characteristic values of the character for each character level, and also stores a plurality of growth pattern values of the assigned characteristic type, each of the plurality of growth pattern values corresponding to one of the predetermined sequences; an application system that extracts characteristic value information corresponding to a character level and the growth pattern values of the assigned type of characteristic from the stored characteristic value information, and applies the characteristic values of the character in accordance with the extracted characteristic value information; and a controller that controls the character according to the characteristic values applied by the application system, wherein the plurality of growth pattern values are combined based on the plurality of assigned characteristic types, wherein each of a plurality of growth patterns comprises a stored predetermined sequence of characteristic value information, each predetermined sequence representing a progression of the characteristic values corresponding to each of the assigned characteristic types, and wherein the growth pattern values are combined by weighting and adding the characteristic value information in the predetermined sequences, based on the assigned characteristic type corresponding to the characteristic value information.


In recent years there has been a push from some members of Congress to introduce what is called a "patent box" into the corporate tax system in the United States.  In essence, this patent box (named as such because it would be a box to be checked off in tax forms) would lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 10% on any profits derived from the sales of patented products.  The "patent box profit" would be calculated to take into account not only the profits from the sale of these patented goods, but also research and development costs as well.  Similar measures have been implemented throughout the world, with the United Kingdom most recently enacting a patent box that went into effect April 2013.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., has introduced this bill which she is calling the Manufacturing Innovation in America Act (H.R. 2605); she states that the goal is to keep companies from researching and developing products domestically and then outsourcing the manufacturing operations.  The Information Technology and innovation Foundation (a think tank centered around policy that encourages technological innovation) has previously argued that the United States should enact such a policy.  This will help keep the United States from, "fall[ing] behind," because it will, "effectively drive[] innovation, competitiveness, and family-wage jobs."

But how does this apply to the console and game development in the United States?  For one, it would give an incentive for console juggernauts (e.g. Microsoft and Sony) and makers of mobile platforms (Windows Phone, iOS, Android) to manufacture domestically.  Rather than outsource to control manufacturing budgets, this type of legislation might allow these manufacturers to not only create jobs domestically, but also to monitor quality control more strictly and shorten their supply chains for increased profit margins.  Secondly, this legislation could encourage more entrepreneurs to take risks by creating more products such as the Oculus VR's Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset.  With the games industry currently in flux due to the ever-increasing nature of games' budgets, this could be one way to rein in spending.  The last console cycle had console manufacturers selling at a loss to increase market penetration, with legislation such as the Manufacturing Innovation in America Act console creators could possibly recover more costs per unit sold and, in turn, pass those savings on to the consumer.

Lastly, a patent box would stimulate software developers, including game developers, to seek patents on their games. Imagine you create a wildly successful game and, before you know it, you make $1M in sales on Apple's App Store (we know, that's a "good" problem to have, right?).  Well when it comes time to pay Uncle Sam, you're looking at a 35% tax rate, or $350,000 in taxes.  Imagine, under a patent box system, if your taxes were only 10%, or $100,000!  You just banked an extra $250,000 in real money.  How about them apples.

It remains to be seen whether or not the legislation will pass; if it does, it could lead to positive repercussions in the gaming industry.

(Source: Law360)


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