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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)


Case Update: Bandspeed, Inc. v. Sony Electronics, Inc., et. al.
United States District Court for the Western District of Texas
Case No: A-11-CV-771-LY, Filed Aug. 7, 2009


This case was originally filed in 2009 over alleged patent infringement of wireless communication technology.  Bandspeed, Inc., brought suit against Sony Electronics, Nintendo of America, and Apple, Inc. (among others), claiming that their patents were being infringed upon.  The two patents in question are U.S. Patent No. 7,027,418 ("Approach for Selecting Communications Channels Based on Performance") and 7,570,614 ("Approach for Managing Communications Channels").  Since our initial report the case has been transferred to the Western District of Texas and a second, related case was filed against Acer, Inc., as well as other defendants.  The two cases have since been consolidated by the court.  The case is still in the discovery phase, and nothing new has been filed since June 18, 2012.  As the case continues to develop, we will provide updates as to its status.
RC3, Inc. v. Justin Bieber
United States District Court, Middle District of Florida
Case No. 3:2012cv00193, Filed on February 24, 2012


This cause of action for declaratory judgment arose after RC3, Inc., received a cease-and-desist letter from counsel for pop-star Justin Bieber regarding a mobile game which Bieber claimed infringed on his copyrights, trademarks, and various other intellectual property rights.  The game in question, Joustin Beaver, portrayed a beaver that need to navigate a river, fight off “Phot-hogs” and signed “Otter-graphs”.  In response to RC3’s complaint, Bieber moved for dismissal claiming lack of personal jurisdiction as well as failure to state a claim.  On September 17, 2013, the Court granted the motion for dismissal, on the grounds that there was no personal jurisdiction.  The Court’s order gave RC3 until October 15, 2012 to file a Second Amended Complaint.  However, as of October 26, 2012, RC3 had not filed an amended complaint and the Court dismissed the case and ordered the case closed.
Nintendo v. Niu
United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
Case No. c-n10-791k, filed May 11, 2010.

This case arose from copyright and trademark infringement on the part of Mr. Kevin Niu.  Mr. Niu developed and sold game copiers for Nintendo’s DS and Wii products.  These copiers allowed purchasers to copy software from a game cartridge or disc in order to fool the console into thinking that an authorized copy of the game was being played, rather than a copy.


As of July 14, 2011, a settlement agreement was reached in which Mr. Niu confessed judgment in favor of Nintendo and authorized the Court to enter judgment in the amount of $200,000.  On August 29, 2011, the Court entered a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal with Prejudice.
P.S. Products and Billy Pennington v. Activision Blizzard, et. al.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
File No: 4:13 cv 342 KGB, filed on June 5, 2013

P.S. Products and Billy Pennington are bringing suit against Activision Blizzard, Activision Publishing, and developer, Treyarch Corporation for design patent infringement.  The complaint with jury demand, filed on June 5, 2013, seeks declaratory judgment stating that Defendants are infringing upon United States Patent Letter No. US D561, 294 S ("US D561, 294 S") as well as money damages.

Plaintiffs are the manufacturers of stun guns and other personal security devices.  On February 5, 2008, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued patent no. US D561, 294 S for a "one-of-a-kind" stun gun marketed as the "Zap Blast Knuckle".  This product has a form factor similar to that of a pair of brass knuckles and is capable of discharging up to 950,000 volts.  The complaint alleges that Defendants infringed upon this patent due to the release of their massively successful game Call of Duty: Black Ops II ("Black Ops II") which contained "illegal images" of the product.  Plaintiffs maintain that Black Ops II was the highest grossing videogame of 2012 with over $1 billion in revenue.  Within the campaign of the game, players may equip "Combat Suppression Knuckles" or "Galvaknuckles" which are alleged to infringe upon Plaintiffs' patent.  These in-game weapons emit an electrical shock in the same way that Plaintiffs' "Zap Blast Knuckle" product does in reality. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants had constructive notice of the patent since it was properly filed an the applicable statutory notice requirements were satisfied.  Plaintiffs argue that by including the in-game weapons they are actively infringing upon their patent, and that they continue to do so because Black Ops II is still being produced and put into commerce.  Furthermore, by providing copies of the game to retailers, Defendants are contributing to, and inducing, patent infringement by others.  Along with a declaratory judgment affirming that Defendants are infringing, Plaintiffs seek reasonable royalties, partial profits from the game, enhanced damages for willful infringement and attorneys fees and costs.

This poses an interesting question for the court to decide.  Videogames are becoming closer and closer to photo-realism with each subsequent generation.  Along with this increased graphical fidelity, developers want to add as many realistic elements to a game as possible, but how far is too far?  Is the depiction of products created by others in reality an infringement upon a patent for a physical item?  Depending on the result, developers may need to find a way to add realism without using real-world analogs.

However, this is not that case.  The differences between the design patent and virtual good used in the game are readily apparent to even the most casual observer.  It appears that the design patent owner is trying to protect the functionality of the depicted product, which a design patent cannot do.  So we will wait until another time to get our answer.


We'll continue to monitor for this case for any developments.

U.S. Patent No. RE32,480: Electronic bingo player
Issued August 18, 1987


Summary:

For those out there who love playing Bingo with multiple cards, but find it difficult to keep track of all those numbers, the ‘480 reissue patent tries to make your life easier. The patent describes a hand-held device whereby electronic cards are loaded into the device and keep track of the player’s cards and (hopefully) winnings. Whenever a number is called, the hand-held device automatically searches the stored cards for a match. If the number is a match, the device marks it off the card for the user. If the number is the winning number, the device signals that a winning pattern has been achieved and tells the user the winning pattern so he may call out the numbers and claim his earnings.

Abstract:

An electronic bingo playing apparatus and method involve the use of a hand held portable computer having a card memory which can store the content information from a plurality of standard bingo cards. This information is entered by a keyboard. Letter/number combinations which are selected during play of the game are also manually entered by the keyboard. The program memory then directs the microprocessor to search the stored cards for a match and any winning patterns of matches. Upon detection of a winning pattern, the portable computer responds with the winning card number, as well as the particular winning pattern.


Illustrative Claim:
1. An electronic bingo playing apparatus for keeping track of a plurality of five row/five column conventional bingo cards, said apparatus comprising a hand held portable computer which includes,

a keyboard comprising a plurality of data entry keys and instruction keys,

said data entry keys including ten numerical digit entry keys .[.and five alphabetic character entry keys corresponding to respective columns of a bingo card.].,

said instruction keys including a plurality of winning pattern designation keys,

a card memory operative to temporarily store bingo card content data and played number data entered by said data entry keys,

a display operative to display numerical information,

said display comprising a five-by-five matrix including a center display unit and 24 separate numerical display units arranged about said center display unit,

a microprocessor operative to control data flow from said keys to said card memory and display and between said card memory and display, and to perform data manipulations,

and a program memory in which there is stored a software program to direct microprocessor operation,

said microprocessor being operative in a set-up mode under the direction of said software program to store in said card memory the bingo card content data which is entered by said data entry keys, and to record winning pattern information which is entered by said instruction keys, and

said microprocessor being operative in play mode under the direction of said software program to scan the keyboard thereby to read each letter/number combination which is entered by said data entry keys, to scan the card memory to identify any matches between the last entered letter/number combination and the stored card content data therein, to accumulate said matches and to signal whether any winning patterns of accumulated matches have been achieved,

said data entry keys and instruction keys thereby being capable of entering all of the input information in both the setup and play modes of the microprocessor.

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