Visit BannerWitcoff.com

U.S. Patent No. 7,500,916: Game strategy analysis tool generating a two dimensional image overlaid with telemetry data
Issued March 10, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘916 patent describes a computing network where, while one or more players play online, computer-readable media storage units collect telemetry data while the game is being played. The units then analyze this data and view location information of players throughout the game. Once the game is complete, all of the different player’s data is combined into one file to reduce redundancy. One reason behind this telemetry data collection is so that less skilled players can be matched up with more advanced players and thus will be afforded the opportunity to research the more experienced tactics. The telemetry data also collects stats throughout the game. For example, in Halo 2, the killer and the victim are recorded throughout the game and a running total of both a team score and an individual’s kill count are kept. Finally, the telemetry data is collected in order to identify and punish cheaters. Whenever a person is deemed a cheater they are effectively barred from logging back into the game.

Abstract:

Methods and systems for recording and analyzing game session telemetry data are disclosed. A game console records telemetry data during a game session of a video game. The telemetry data may include location and time information for a player character performing various events in the video game. The telemetry data is sent to a title server corresponding to the video game, and the title server analyzes the data and stores the data in a database. A user, via a web site, can subsequently query the telemetry data stored in the database for user-specified criteria. A two-dimensional image of a view of the simulated environment within the video game is generated, overlaid with the location and time-based telemetry data, and is sent to the user for review and analysis.

Illustrative Claim:

1. In a computing network which includes one or more game consoles connectable to a secure private network on which players of an online video game can log on for purposes of playing the online video game and competing with one another, one or more computer-readable media storing computer-executable instructions for performing a method for collecting player telemetry data while the game is played and for analyzing the telemetry data recorded during a game session so that less skilled players have an opportunity to research tactics of more advanced players, wherein said video game comprises a simulated environment in which the game is played, and said telemetry data comprises location information corresponding to one or more events occurring within the simulated environment, and wherein said method is comprised of steps for: at one or more of the player consoles, recording game session telemetry data by either recording at least timestamp and location data for one or more predefined events which occur while the video game is being played, or recording player inputs and periodically recording

U.S. Patent No. 7,582,010: Game machine, game program, and information storage medium
Issued Sep. 1, 2009, to Nintendo


Summary:

The ‘010 patent describes a golf game which features a shot mode where the player presses a button as a cursor moves along a gauge. The first time a player presses a button the shot is started, the second press of the button determines the shot power, and the third time the button is pressed the location for the shot is determined. The gauge is a long block shape. When the player starts the shot the cursor moves along the gauge from right to left. The player controls how hard the ball is hit by pressing the button again when the cursor moves down the gauge. The closer to the left end the player presses, the harder the shot power will be. Finally, the player can control the location of the ball by again pressing the button as the cursor moves back toward the right side of the gauge. There is a line on the gauge that if the cursor stops on it, will make the character hit the ball straight. Thus, the player is given full control over the shot power and location the ball is hit depending on his ability to time his button presses with the cursor as it moves along the gauge.

Abstract:

A game machine and a game program are provided which allow a wide variety of players to enjoy a game, represented by a golf game, in which the player performs an operation of moving an object. The present invention provides a golf game machine that displays a scene in which a player character 71 hits a ball in a game field according to a shot power and a hit location. In addition, the golf game machine displays on a display device a gauge 77 and a cursor 78 which moves on the gauge. The golf game machine adopts an auto shot operation, in which a third input is omitted in the shot operation, and a manual shot operation, which requires the third input. This allows a wide variety of players to enjoy the golf game.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A golf game machine having a dynamic shot mode selection mechanism which displays on a display device a gauge and a cursor moving on the gauge along with a scene in which a ball hit by a player character travels in a game field according to a shot power and a hit location indicated by the cursor on the gauge, and wherein different shot operation selection inputs are performed by a player during a golf game club swing operation, the golf game machine dynamic shot mode selection mechanism comprising: at least one controller having a plurality of control switches for providing a sequence of inputs to said game machine including at least a first input, a second input and a third input, wherein movement of the cursor along the gauge is initiated by the first input from the controller, the shot power is set in relation to a first detected position of the moving cursor at a time producing the second input from the controller, and the hit location is set in relation to a position of the cursor at which movement of the cursor is stopped; start cursor movement process programmed logic circuitry configured to receive said first input from the controller and start the cursor moving along the gauge in response to said first input; input processing programmed logic circuitry configured to receive, as said second input from the controller, an input by a first control switch among the plurality of control switches or an input by a second control switch among the plurality of control switches; and cursor position processing programmed logic circuitry configured to determine, as a cursor first detected position for setting the shot power, a position of a moving cursor at a time of receiving the second input from the controller when said second input is produced from said first control switch said controller, and then determining a subsequent position of the same moving cursor at a time of receiving the third input from the controller as a hit location position on the gauge at which movement of the cursor is stopped; and said cursor position detecting programmed logic circuitry also being configured to determine, as a cursor first detected position for setting a shot power, a position of a moving cursor at a time of receiving said second input when said second input is produced from said second control switch of said controller, and then automatically determining a different position on the gauge as a hit location position at which movement of the cursor is stopped, wherein different first and second control switch activation patterns are recognized by the golf game machine to enable a player to dynamically select between a plurality of different shot operation modes during each club swing operation.


U.S. Patent 7,559,834: Dynamic join/exit of players during play of console-based video game
Issued July 14, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘834 patent allows for people to join in or leave a game without having to restart the current session. The patent is exemplified most notably in squad-based shooter games where player, while attempting to achieve objectives, come and go at their on their own free will. Under the patent, whenever a new player connects a controller to the game consol, the image on the screen is split so as to allow the new player access to the game with his own screen and point-of-view. Before the new player enters the game, a menu appears informing the players that a new player is about to join. Once the new player joins into the game, he is allowed to pick from any of the available characters in the game. Whenever a player wishes to leave the game, he can do so without a problem. The player exits the game, the other plays are informed of his departure, and the artificial intelligence takes back control of the player and the game resumes.

Abstract:

A squad-based shooter video game allows players to dynamically join and leave the game, while that game is in progress, without the players having to save and restart the game. When a new player joins an in-progress game, a new squad member is allocated to the new player and the screen is split to present a viewing panel for the new player that depicts scenes from the perspective of the new squad member. When an existing player leaves the game, the screen is unsplit to remove the viewing panel for the exiting player and that player's squad member becomes part of the squad being controlled by the remaining player(s).

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method implemented at least in part by a computing device comprising: facilitating play of a game played on the computing device, the computing device comprising a physical game console, by at least one existing player; detecting, by a processor of the physical game console, while the existing player is playing the game, a join condition indicating that a new player would like to join in playing the game, wherein the join condition is generated as a result of the new player connecting a game controller to the physical game console; upon the processor detecting the join condition, the processor automatically splitting an image displayed on a physical display to present multiple viewing panels such that the existing player views action through a first viewing panel and the new player views action through a second viewing panel; and the processor facilitating play of the game by the existing player and the new player.

Tomita Tech. USA, LLC et al. v. Nintendo Co., LTD et al.
Federal Circuit
Case No. 2014-1244
(non-precedential)
On appeal from S.D.N.Y., case no. 1:11-CV-04256


Back in 2011, Tomita sued Nintendo over U.S. Pat. No. 7,417,664, "Stereoscopic Image Picking Up and Display System Based Upon Optical Axes Cross-Point Information."  Tomita alleged that Nintendo's 3DS game system infringed the '664 patent with its stereoscopic 3D display system which provided glasses-free 3D images.

US Pat. No. 7,417,664, Figure 1
In the district court case, the jury  (1) found that Nintendo infringed claim 1 of the '664 patent, (2) found claim 1 of the '664 patent was not invalid, and (3) awarded damages to Tomita.  Nintendo appealed several issues to the Federal Circuit related to claim construction issues and other points from the trial.  The Federal Circuit reversed the district court's construction of the claim term "offset presetting means" and remanded for further consideration of whether the accused product infringed under a narrower construction.

The term "offset presetting means" uses the magic words "means for" followed by a function - "offsetting and displaying said different video images based upon said video image information...."  Thus, the term is properly interpreted as invoking 35 U.S.C. 112, 6th paragraph.  Accordingly, the term is to be read as covering the corresponding structure disclosed in the specification along with equivalents thereof.  

At trial, Tomita argued that this limitation should be construed as covering a "simple circuit" that implements this function.  Tomita's proposed construction cited Figures One, Two, Three, Four through Eight, and 18 different parts of the specification totaling over 200 lines.  The district court adopted Tomita's construction.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit noted that none of the descriptions of the Figures discussed any sort of "circuit," and that the portion Tomita relied on as providing a simple circuit as structure actually describes a very detailed structure.  Stripped of this detailed structure, the Federal Circuit argued, "Tomita's interpretation is no more specific than defining 'offset presetting means' in purely functional terms."  Op. at 9.  The Federal Circuit noted that Tomita's expert had testified that the corresponding descriptions for the figures showed the structure for the claims.  However, the Court noted that the absence of structure in the cited portions of the specification could not be cured by an expert's conclusory statements to the contrary.  Id.  

The Federal Circuit held that the corresponding structure for the "offset presetting means" was a timing control unit, a signal switch, a switch control unit, and a synthesis frame memory, and equivalents thereof.  Op. at 10.  The case was remanded to the district court to consider whether Nintendo's 3DS infringed under this construction.
Catching up on some reading from last week, Ars Technica (via Video Gamer Law) reports on a new lawsuit filed by the rights holder to Patton's name and likeness against Maximum Family Games for their game "History(R) Legends of War: Patton."  The complaint alleges that the use of General Patton's name, likeness, image, and persona without CMG Worldwide's (the rights holder) consent constitutes false endorsement and unfair competition under federal law, and a violation of the California right of publicity and unfair competition under California law.

Image taken from CMG's First Amended Complaint filed December 12, 2014
CMG sets forth several aspects of the game that it believes impose on its rights.  Generally, CMG alleges, the game features General Patton's famous image, likeness, and persona, in the context for which he is most famous - namely, as a a military general from World War II.  In one interesting part, the complaint notes that players earn "prestige" and "skill" points as the game progresses, and that this reinforces that Patton's own prestige and skill are a chief selling point of the game.

This case seems similar to Lindsay Lohan's case against Rockstar over Grand Theft Auto V and Manuel Noriega's case against Activision over Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which we previously reported on.  In the Noriega case, a California court dismissed the use as "transformative" and noted that authors should be allowed to utilize historical figures in their works. (more at Video Gamer Law).

The case is CMG Worldwide Inc. v. Maximum Family Games, LLC et al, Case No. 3:14-cv-05124, N.D. Cal. (San Fransisco), filed November 19, 2014.

We'll keep an eye on this case and report any interesting developments.


U.S. Patent No. 7,591,721: Video game that imposes penalty for violation of rule
Issued Sep. 22, 2009, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘721 patent describes a video game apparatus which allows a character to move between two predetermined locations. The invention also provides for a rule storage which stores a rule which is set in accordance with updated time units. Each character in the game is given a set of rules wither permitted actions. Whenever a player moves his character in an illegal way, the degree of the violation is determined and a predetermined penalty is imposed in accord with the stored history of violations.

Abstract:

A rule (applied to a battle) is set according to a stage of the progress of a game every time the stage of the game advances. When a battle is started, either a player character or an enemy character that can execute an action is determined. When it is decided that the player character can execute the action, a player selects the action of the player character. When the action selected by the player is against a rule, a rule violation is recorded. When the result of the action of the player character is also against a rule, a rule violation is recorded. When the rule violation is recorded, a predetermined penalty is imposed on the player after the battle ends.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A video game apparatus, comprising: a movement instruction input section that inputs an instruction to move a player character between predetermined locations to which the player character can move on a map; a movement section that moves the player character between the predetermined locations in accordance with the instruction to move the player character between the predetermined locations; a time lapse section that updates a time unit of a virtual concept in the video game when the player character is moved between the predetermined locations; a rule storage that stores a rule to be set in accordance with the updated time unit; a rule judge that determines, with reference to the stored rule, a rule applicable when the video game advances, and that updates the rule based on the updated time unit; an instruction input device that inputs an instruction to advance the video game; a rule violation determiner that determines whether the determined rule is violated based on the instruction to advance the video game, wherein the rule violation determiner determines the degree of the violation of the rule when the rule violation determiner determines that the determined rule is violated; an item storage that stores items provided to the player as the video game progresses, wherein the item storage stores the items given to the player by classifying the items into groups based on a value; a penalty processor that imposes a predetermined penalty when the determined rule is violated; wherein the penalty processor deletes a predetermined item stored in the item storage to impose the penalty, the deleted item selected from a group in accordance with the degree of the violation of the determined rule; and a violation history storage that stores a history of determined violations, wherein the penalty processor imposes the predetermined penalty based on the stored history of violations.

Ubisoft Entertainment, S.A., v. Guitar Apprentice, Inc.
3:14-CV-05202
Northern District of California
Filed November 24, 2014

In a new case, Ubisoft asserts U.S. Pat. No. 8,835,736 against Guitar Apprentice.  The '736 patent is generally directed to a video game that teaches a player how to play guitar.  Unlike Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the system of the '736 patent instructs the player to strum chords using the proper strings and frets.  Claim 14 is representative and recites:


According to the complaint, Guitar Apprentice makes a product called "Guitar Apprentice Rock Roots Edition."  The accused product is not an interactive video game.  Instead, it is an instructional DVD that guides the user to play along with a song:  

Image from "How to Play Guitar Apprentice!", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vgfOtIeAeQ
The claims of the '736 patent do not appear to be limited to video games.  Instead, the independent claims recite entirely non-interactive features of displaying and "cueing."  Some dependent claims (e.g., "displaying a score of the player" in claim 3) recite more familiar features of interactive games.

Ubisoft and Guitar Apprentice are currently engaged in litigation over one of Guitar Apprentice's patents, U.S. Pat. No. 8,586,849, which is generally directed to a system for progressive instruction in playing a guitar.  See case no. 2-13-cv-02903 (W.D. Tenn., filed November 19, 2013).  Ubisoft recently filed a petition for Inter Partes Review with the USPTO regarding the '849 patent.  See IPR 2015-00298, filed November 25, 2014.

We will continue to watch this case for any interesting developments.
U.S. Patent No. 7,640,300: Presence and notification system for maintaining and communicating information
Issued Dec. 29, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘300 patent provides for a system to assist in the Xbox Live experience. The invention describes a method for grouping information for all users together to allow for easier access whenever a player is online. Anyone who has played Xbox Live knows that a user can search recent players and scan their information to learn more about them. The player also has the ability to send a friend request to these players, which will allow the user to invite them to play a game with greater ease. The system described here notifies users whenever a friend is online, sends a message to the user, or invites the user to a game. Finally, the invention allows a player to invite a friend (player two), and then player two to invite another friend (player three).

Abstract:

In accordance with one aspect, a client device is sent an indication of one or more types of information available for the client device. In response to the indication, a request is received from the client device to retrieve the information available for the client device. The information is identified and sent to the client device. In accordance with another aspect, one or more friends of the user are identified from persistent data, and a check made as to whether each of them is logged in to the system. For each of them that is logged in to the system, the user is subscribed to the friend's information and the friend is subscribed to the user's information. In accordance with another aspect, a user is allowed to be a friend of another user only if the other user is also a friend of the user.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method, comprising: loading, by a computing device, when a first user logs in to a system, persistent data for the user from a profile store; identifying, by the computing device, from the persistent data, one or more friends of the first user, the persistent data including a list of second users that the first user never wants to be friends with; identifying, by the computing device, based on an identifier associated with the first user, which of a plurality of notification servers to load the persistent data to; establishing, by the computing device, at least one notification queue for the first user; checking, by the computing device, whether any information in the profile store is to be added to the at least one notification queue; adding, by the computing device, based on the checking, information to the at least one notification queue; facilitating, by the computing device, the first user in adding a third user to the list; receiving, by the computing device, a friend invitation from the third user; sending, by the computing device, to the third user a response message to the friend invitation without notifying the first user of receipt of the friend invitation and without notifying the first user of the response message, the response message indicating that the first user has rejected the friend invitation; checking, by the computing device, whether each of the one or more friends is logged in to the system; for each of the one or more friends that is logged in to the system, subscribing, by the computing device, the first user to the friend's information and subscribing each friend to the first user's information; facilitating, by the computing device, the first user in sending a friend invitation to one of the second users or the third user; and in response to sending the friend invitation, removing, by the computing device, the invited second user or third user from the list of second users that the first user never wants to be friend with.


U.S. Patent No. 7,618,322: Game system, storage medium storing game program, and game controlling method
Issued Nov. 17, 2009, to Nintendo


Summary:

The ‘322 patent describes a game with a controller with an operation surface that produces an audible percussive sound when subjected to a physical impact. The controller generates audible sounds in response to an elastic deformation of the striking surface. The sounds are generated whenever a player beats on the controller and the game process is changed depending on the volume (determined by how hard the strike is) value of the operation sound.

Abstract:

A game system includes a game apparatus, and the game apparatus is connected with a monitor and a percussion-type controller. When a game player beats a first beating operation surface or a second beating operation surface, first operation data is input from the controller to the game apparatus. Furthermore, when a microphone detects an operation sound generated at a time that a beating operation is performed, second operation data including volume data is input from the controller to the game apparatus. In the game apparatus, when a magnitude of the volume data is equal to or more than the predetermined threshold value, an ability value as to an action of the player object to be executed according to a command indicated by the first operation data is changed to execute the action.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game system for displaying a game image including a player object operable by a player on a display apparatus, comprising: a controller device having an operation surface that produces an audible percussive sound when subjected to a physical impact, said controller also generating an operation data input signal in response to an elastic deformation of said surface by a physical impact; operation data detector programmed logic circuitry configured to detect one or more operation data input signals generated by said controller device in response to a beating of said operation surface of said controller device by said player; an audible sound detector that detects one or more audible percussive sounds produced by said beating upon the operation surface of the controller or by other audible percutient player actions; volume value determining programmed logic circuitry configured to determine a volume level value for an audible percussive sound detected by said sound detector; and game processing programmed logic circuitry configured to change a game process in response to an operation data input signal when both an operation data input signal and an audible percussive sound are detected as occurring together within a predetermined time period.


U.S. Patent No. 7,594,847: Squad command interface for console-based video game
Issued Sep. 29, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘847 patent provides for a squad-based game whereby the player can select characters and give commands which the computer characters will obey. The user interface contains character profiles of one or more of the multiple characters and icons associated with the character profiles that represent the current commands. The player uses the D-pad on his Xbox controller to pull up the command menu, and can then select a command which will be directed at the rest of the squad.

Abstract:

A squad command interface for a squad-based shooter video game maps character selection and command selection to actuators on a game controller. Players can select squad characters and issue a single order to multiple characters with few controller actuations.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A user interface for a squad-based shooter video game system executable by one or more processors of the video game system and displayable on a screen associated with the video game system, the user interface comprising: an indication, displayable on the screen, of current commands that are issued to individual characters of a squad of multiple characters; and an interface displayable on the screen, to enable a player to issue simultaneously a common command to a plurality of characters of the squad by actuating one or more actuators on a game controller pertaining to the video game system, wherein the plurality of characters is less than all of the multiple squad characters, and wherein the squad-based shooter video game is configured to enable the player to concurrently, with a single actuation of an individual actuator of the game controller, select the plurality of squad characters, the plurality being an integer greater than one and less than all of the multiple squad characters, and invoke a command change user interface displayable on the screen, and wherein at least a portion of the user interface is persistently visible on the screen during play of the game, and wherein said single actuation initiates display of the command change user interface on the screen in which at least a portion of the video game is viewable through the command change user interface, wherein the interface comprises: a first graphical user interface to enable player selection of the multiple squad characters; and a second graphical user interface comprising the command change user interface, wherein the second graphical user interface contains command icons of possible commands that can be issued by actuating at least one of the actuators, the command icons being arranged to map visually and spatially onto the at least one actuator.


U.S. Patent No. 7,637,817: Information processing device, game device, image generation method, and game image generation method
Issued Dec. 29, 2009, to Sega


Summary:

The ‘817 patent describes a method of playing a game with a gun-like controller which uses infrared light to accurately reflect the player’s movements by using detectable waves. The controller allows the player to move around in a three-dimensional world and have his movements accurately mapped out on the screen. Whenever a person locks the target onto an object, the screen will change to give the player the optimal view point.

Abstract:

Provided is technology enabling the generation of images of high realistic sensation upon accurately reflecting the operator's behavior. The information processing device has a controller to be used for inputting an operational instruction, and having a function of outputting a detectable wave to be used for detecting its own position and direction; a plurality of sensors for detecting the intensity of the detectable wave transmitted from the controller at mutually different positions; a position/direction calculation unit for calculating the position and direction of the controller in a real space based on the ratio of the intensity of the detectable wave detected with each of the plurality of sensors; an image generation unit for generating an image reflecting the operational instruction input with the controller, and the position and direction of the controller calculated with the position/direction calculation unit; and a display unit for displaying the image generated with the image generation unit.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A simulation apparatus, comprising: an information processing device; a monitor display connected to said information processing device; operational means connected to said information processing device, configured to be operable by a player and having radiation means which radiates a detectable wave expanding toward said monitor display; and a plurality of detection means disposed at mutually different positions along peripheries of said monitor display, each of said detection means being configured to detect intensity components of said detectable wave in three-dimensional directions; wherein said information processing device comprises calculation means which calculates positional coordinates of said operational means in a real space in front of said monitor display and an aiming direction of said operational means based on ratios of the intensity components of said detectable wave detected by said plurality of detection means at said different positions, wherein said information processing device is configured to: (a) calculate a scene including a first object and a second object in a virtual three-dimensional space; (b) display on the monitor display the scene viewed from a virtual viewpoint wherein said first object is located behind said second object when viewed from said virtual viewpoint in the virtual three-dimensional space; (c) convert, while the virtual viewpoint remains as set in (b), the calculated positional coordinates and the calculated aiming direction of said operational means in the real space into positional coordinates and an aiming direction in the virtual three-dimensional space so that a position of a virtual shooting point aiming at said first object along the aiming direction is set off the virtual viewpoint, which is set at the location as in (b), in the virtual three-dimensional space; and (d) determine if the converted aiming direction extending from said shooting point hits said first object.

U.S. Patent No. 7,621,813: Ubiquitous unified player tracking system
Issued Nov. 24, 2009, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘813 patent provides for the use of a single-name for people who wish to play online games. In Microsoft’s case, this invention applies to what we know as Gamertags, which are personalized names picked by a user whenever he registers for Xbox Live. This gamertag becomes the player’s own personal identification name, and allows other players to recognize him whenever he is online. The invention allows a player’s information to be stored under the gamertag, including all accomplishments, stats, and awards achieved during a game. The player also has the ability to have his accomplishments (such as unlocking an achievement while playing an Xbox game) tracked when he is offline. Whenever a player logs back onto Xbox Live, the accomplishments achieved when offline are uploaded to the player’s account and can be viewed and tracked by his online friends.

Abstract:

Systems and method for providing a single sign in a gaming console that associates online activity that is out-of-game/cross game, and/or online activity that is in-game, and/or activity that is offline and in-game with that account. While online, a service tracks activity of gamers and provides usage statistics in a profile. While offline, the game console tracks the player's activity via a mechanism to collect detailed information about a specific player's in-game statistics and accomplishments. The offline activity is cached and uploaded when the console connects to the online service. Players can accumulate achievements offline that are credited towards online activities.

Illustrative Claim:

1. In a gaming console, a method of providing a unique player identity, said method comprising: receiving a credential, at the gaming console, associated with a profile for a user; validating the credential; executing a videogame while the gaming console is offline, executing including executing a play of the videogame only on the gaming console; determining that an achievement associated with the videogame has been earned during the play of the videogame; caching offline user activity, at the gaming console, the offline user activity occurring during the play of the videogame; and transmitting, from the gaming console, when the gaming console is online subsequent to the play of the videogame, a signal indicative of earning the achievement to a service provider configured to publish the profile for the user in an interactive guide accessible to remote user devices, wherein the profile includes a username, a picture chosen by the user, videogame statistics accumulated while playing videogames, information indicative of affiliations of the user, and videogame achievements earned while playing videogames.

U.S. Patent No. 7,657,477: Gaming system providing simulated securities trading
Issued February 2, 2010, to SummaLP Applications, Inc.


Summary:

The ‘477 patent may be interesting to anyone who took a business course in college. The invention describes a game where the user can trade virtual stocks based on real-world market prices. Players have the option of either opening or closing a long position in the stock or opening or closing a short position in the stock. Based upon the decisions the user makes, a financial report is continuously updated and can be printed off and viewed at any time.  This invention allows a series of users (a class, for example) to join together and enter into the financial game competing against each other. The teacher, at the end of the year, can tally all the financial information to see who made the most profitable decisions.

Abstract:

A trading game allows players to engage in trading based on real-world prices of real-world securities. Simulated positions of real-world securities in player portfolios may be opened and closed in accordance with instructions provided by each player. The performance of each player may be tracked relative to an index. A tradescreen may be generated for displaying current financial information of a portfolio of a player and for entering hypothetical data to produce revised financial information. The hypothetical data may be submitted to update the portfolio of the player.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A method for operating a gaming system on a computer system having a server and at least one computer, the method comprising: opening and closing simulated positions of real world securities in simulated securities portfolios for a plurality of players in accordance with instructions provided by each of the plurality of players; tracking by the server or the at least one computer performances of the simulated securities portfolio of each of the plurality of players relative to one of 1) performances of the simulated securities portfolios of the other players, and 2) one or more of a securities index; maintaining a portfolio database in the server for the simulated securities portfolios for each of the plurality of players, wherein each simulated securities portfolio has current financial information associated with the respective simulated securities portfolio; receiving a request for a tradescreen from a requesting player of the plurality of players; and generating the tradescreen based on the portfolio database of the server for the requesting player for display on a computer of the requesting player, the tradescreen for displaying the current financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player and for calculating and displaying revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player, the tradescreen for entering proposed data comprising one of a proposed trade and a proposed transfer of the simulated positions of real world securities, the tradescreen for allowing the requesting player to determine if the proposed data entered into the tradescreen would produce one of a first type of result and a second type of result; providing an interface on the tradescreen for enabling the requesting player to submit the transaction corresponding to the proposed data entered into the tradescreen to update the portfolio database in the server with the revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player in an event the requesting player determines that the proposed data would produce the first type of result; and updating the portfolio database in the server with the revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player upon the requesting player submitting the transaction; wherein the revised financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player is based on the proposed data entered into the tradescreen and the current financial information for the simulated securities portfolio of the requesting player.

Sweepstakes Patent Company, LLC v. Burns et al. and Mosely et al.
Southern District of Florida
Case Nos. 0-14-cv-62351 and 0-14-cv-62354 

In two new cases, plaintiff Sweepstakes Patent Company (SPC) accuses internet cafe service providers in Florida of infringing two patents, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,569,082 and 5,709,603. The complaint alleges that the internet cafes reward customers with contest entries for each purchase of access time, and that these contests infringe the '082 patent and '603 patent.

The '082 patent was filed April 6, 1995 and is generally directed to providing a player with a game piece having a destiny code. The player inputs the destiny code into a lottery game processor, and the processor provides the user with access to an interactive "lottery-type game." The processor determines whether the user wins or loses based in part on the destiny code. The user's actions may or may not influence whether the user wins, as well. The '603 patent is a continuation of the '082 and recites similar subject matter. Claim 10 of the '082 patent is referenced in the complaint and representative:
10. A lottery type game comprising:
a gaming piece, said gaming piece including a code which includes data indicating whether a player wins or loses the lottery game and an amusement game, said data being unrecognizable to the player, such that the player does not know whether the player will win or lose the games prior to play of the amusement game;
a processor for receiving said code input by the player prior to amusement game play;
said processor generating the amusement game on a display for play by the player,
said processor determining whether the player will win or lose the amusement game based upon said code; and
a display for providing an indication to the player of the amusement game win or loss based upon said code.
The complaint alleges that the defendants operate or provide software for internet cafes with a sweepstakes element. Users are provided with sweepstakes entries when they purchase internet access time (though no purchase is required).  A user may redeem their sweepstakes code on their terminal and be presented with a brief interactive game that lets the user know whether they have won in an exciting manner. According to the complaint, the outcome of the game (whether the user wins or loses) is determined based on the sweepstakes access code rather than just based on the way the user plays the game.

The sweepstakes revealers of Burns et al.'s system, according to the complaint.
It is worth noting that SPC tried to bring suit against Burns et al. earlier this year in the Middle District of Florida. The order dismissing that case revealed that inventor Kaye / SPC previously sold both patents to another company, Ingenio. As part of the transaction, Ingenio licensed the patents back to SPC. The license agreement stated that Ingenio, as licensor, must be notified of any potential patent infringement actions and must expressly provide written authorization prior to the licensee (SPC) bringing any such suit. SPC had not received written authorization in its first suit against Burns et al., and that case was dismissed in July 2014.

In the instant complaint, filed October 14, 2014, SPC alleges that is is the lawful assignee of all right, title and interest in and to the '082 patent and the '603 patent. An assignment from Ingenio to SPC was recorded with the USPTO on October 10, 2014. Thus, SPC seems to have corrected the problem with its earlier suit.

We'll provide further updates on any interesting developments in these cases.
RC3, Inc. v Bieber
Florida Middle District Court, No. 3:2012cv00193


Florida based game developer RC3 created a game, Joustin’ Beaver, in which a beaver that jousts must navigate the whirlpool of success, sign otter-graphs, and avoid the phot-hogs. Justin Bieber’s representatives did not appreciate the similarities in both name and appearance between the title character and Bieber and, in early February 2012, sent RC3 a cease and desist letter threatening legal action for the use of Bieber’s likeness in game. In response, on February 24, 2012, RC3 filed suit, seeking declaratory judgment that their game was not infringing.

Finding lack of jurisdiction, as Bieber was not domiciled in the state of Florida and the suit was not influenced by Bieber’s actions within the state, the suit was dismissed on September 17, 2012.
U.S. Patent No. 7,670,220: Racing games and other games having garage, showroom, and test drive features
Issued March 2, 2010, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘220 patent describes a racing game where players enter a showroom filled with cars from which he can select one to race. The invention also lets the player take a test drive of a car before he commits to that car. The cars in the showroom are grouped by manufacturer to help a player locate a care more easily. By showcasing the cars in a garage and allowing the user to test drive the car before committing, the invention allows the user to select a car which matches his driving style closely and thus makes the game more enjoyable for the user.

Abstract:

Racing games and other computer-implemented games having garage, showroom and test drive features are disclosed herein. In one embodiment, a method for implementing a racing game in accordance with one embodiment of the invention includes displaying a plurality of cars in a simulated showroom setting. Game players can roam freely about the showroom in first-person mode and inspect the cars in close detail. If a player desires, he or she can test drive one or more of the cars to assess its performance before competing in a racing event with the car.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A computer-implemented method for selecting a car in a racing game, the racing game including a race portion, the method comprising: viewing a plurality of different cars in a showroom setting, wherein the plurality of different cars may be viewed simultaneously; selecting a first car of the plurality of different cars for a test drive, wherein the first car has not been purchased, and wherein the first car may not be used to race until it has been purchased; test driving the first car; and competing in the race portion of the racing game with at least one of the first car or a second car of the plurality of different cars.

McRO, Inc. v. Namco Bandai, et al.
Central District of California
No. CV 12-10322
September 22, 2014

In a case described by the court as illustrating "the danger that exists when the novel portions of an invention are claimed too broadly," a patent on automated rules for animating lip synchronization has been found invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101. See Op. at 22.

McRO, Inc., d.b.a. Planet Blue ("McRO") brought 29 different lawsuits in the Central District of California against some of the biggest names in gaming alleging infringement of two patents related to automated methods for synchronizing an animated character's mouth with dialogue. The defendants included Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive, Namco Bandai, Konami, Sega, Square Enix, Capcom, Sony, and Activision Blizzard, among others. The court consolidated the lawsuits into two cases based on filing dates (CV 12-10322 and CV 13-1872).

All the defendants joined in filing a motion for judgment on the pleadings based on unpatentability of the claims under 35 U.S.C. 101. The defendants argued that the patents-in-suit were directed to a "fundamental, abstract animation practice," namely, "the abstract idea of rules-based synchronization of animated mouth movement.  See Op. at 12. While the court disagreed with defendants as to the abstract idea claimed, the court ultimately held that the point of novelty in the claims represented an abstract idea and thus was unpatentable under 101. See Op. at 19. Importantly, the court's analysis was primarily based on a thorough discussion in the patent of the manual processes employed in the prior art..

The two patents-in-suit were U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,307,576 and 6,611,278. Claim 1 of the '576 patent is representative and was analyzed by the court:
1. A method for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expression of three-dimensional characters comprising:
obtaining a first set of rules that define output morph weight set stream as a function of phoneme sequence and time of said phoneme sequence;
obtaining a timed data file of phonemes having a plurality of sub-sequences;
generating an intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and a plurality of transition parameters between two adjacent morph weight sets by evaluating said plurality of sub-sequences against said first set of rules;
generating a final stream of output morph weight sets at a desired frame rate from said intermediate stream of output morph weight sets and said plurality of transition parameters; and
applying said final stream of output morph weight sets to a sequence of animated characters to produce lip synchronization and facial expression control of said animated characters.
Initially, the court noted that these claims do not appear to be directed to an abstract idea on their face.  Op. at 13. Further, the court noted that the claims do not cover the prior art methods of computer-assisted, but non-automated, lip synchronization. Id. Additionally, the court cited defendant's non-infringement positions as evidence that the claims did not preempt all manners of automating lip synched animation. See Op. at 14. The court observed that, in section 101 motions, the parties positions are flipped: the patentee must argue that noninfringing alternatives exist and the defendant must argue that there are no noninfringing alternatives. Id.

In one of the clearer statements to date on 101 analysis, the court proceeded to argue that the claims must be evaluated in the context of the prior art:


Op. at 14. The court's analysis centered on identifying the point of novelty over the admitted prior art. As mentioned above, the patent contained a thorough discussion of prior art techniques whereby animators would manually set "morph weight values" to animate a character's mouth based on the dialogue. According to the court, the patentee, and the patent itself, the novelty of the claims (and the inventive step) was in the use of automated timing rules to automate the animation process:


Op. at 18 and 19. This left "an abstract idea at the point of novelty" and prevents "the development of any additional ways to use that abstract idea in the relevant field." See Op. at 19 (citing Alice Corp.Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2360 (2014)). Thus, the court found the claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101. See Op. at 18, 23.

The court observed: "One unintended consequence of Alice, and perhaps of this and other decisions to come, is an incentive for patent applicants to say as little as possible about the prior art in their applications." Op. at 19. Indeed, the patent's thorough discussion of prior art methods provided a strong argument that they had merely automated a previously manual process.

The court performed its 101 analysis by stripping out of all the prior art techniques from the claim, boiling the claim down to a point of novelty. This is also the approach used in obviousness analysis under 35 U.S.C. 103. During obviousness analysis, the difference between the claimed invention and the prior art is assessed against the skill and knowledge of one of ordinary skill in the art. The patentee in this case presented evidence of a defendant characterizing the claimed invention as "revolutionary." Such a characterization would typically carry considerable weight in obviousness analysis. However, the court stated that:


Op. at 20. Thus, it would appear that even if a non-obvious and "revolutionary" concept was presented by the point of novelty, but that concept was an "abstract idea" that prevents "the development of any additional ways to use that abstract idea in the relevant field," the claim would be patent ineligible and invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101.

The court summed up its ruling: "When examined in light of the prior art, the claims are directed to an abstract idea, and lack an 'inventive concept' 'sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [abstract idea] itself.'" Op. at 23 (citing Alice, 134 S. Ct. at 2351).

We will continue to provide updates on relevant decisions on patentability under Alice.


U.S. Patent No. 7,666,079: Video game processing apparatus, a method and a computer readable medium that stores a program for processing a video game
Issued February 23, 2010, to Square Enix


Summary:

The ‘079 patent is designed to help the monotonous tendencies of RPG attack battles. In past RPG games, a player’s character had a choice of two kinds of battle attacks (indirect and direct attacks). A direct attack would be something physical like a sword, while an indirect attack would involve things outside of the player (magic, for example). In earlier RPG games, a player would attempt a direct or indirect attacked based on whether the enemy was within range to receive the attack. If the enemy were within range, the player’s attack would succeed. The present invention seeks to enhance the player’s gameplay by allowing for certain factors to prevent the attack from succeeding. Under this invention the player must now take into account the speed of the enemy, the enemy’s skill/moves set, and the distance between the two characters.

Abstract:

Specification of an attack for a player character is received by means of an attack specifying operation of the player. A direct attack reaction is determined in the case where it is determined that the attack hits an enemy character A. The direct attack reaction indicates a reaction of the direct attack target character that suffers the direct attack. The enemy character A is then caused to execute the determined direct attack reaction. In the case where it is determined that an indirect attack to be caused by contact between the enemy characters A, B hits an enemy character B when the enemy character A executes the direct attack reaction, an indirect attack reaction indicating a reaction of the enemy character B that suffers the indirect attack is determined. The enemy character B is then caused to execute the determined indirect attack reaction.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A video game processing apparatus that causes an image display apparatus to display a player character on an image display screen of the image display apparatus, the video game processing apparatus controlling progress of the video game by controlling an action of the player character to be displayed on the image display screen in accordance with operations by a player, the video game processing apparatus comprising: an attack specifying receiver that receives specification of an attack for the player character by an attack specifying operation of the player; a direct attack hit determiner that determines whether the attack from the player character hits a direct attack target enemy character movable on a field in the video game, when the attack specifying receiver receives the attack specification; a direct attack reaction determiner that determines a direct attack reaction in accordance with direct reaction determination information including attack content of the player character, a kind of ground level in a battle field where a battle is executed, and a weight preliminarily set as a weight of the direct attack target enemy character, when the direct attack hit determiner determines that the attack hits the direct attack target enemy character, the direct attack reaction indicating a reaction of the direct attack target enemy character that suffers the direct attack; a direct attack reaction executor that causes the direct attack target enemy character to execute the direct attack reaction determined by the direct attack reaction determiner; an indirect attack hit determiner that determines whether an indirect attack hits an indirect attack target enemy character other than the direct attack target enemy character when the direct attack target enemy character executes the direct attack reaction by the direct attack reaction executer, the indirect attack being caused by contact between the direct attack target enemy character and the indirect attack target enemy character movable on the field; an indirect attack reaction determiner that determines an indirect attack reaction when the indirect attack hit determiner determines that the indirect attack hits the indirect attack target enemy character, the indirect attack reaction indicating a reaction of the indirect attack target enemy character that suffers the indirect attack; and an indirect attack reaction executor that causes the indirect attack target enemy character to execute the indirect attack reaction determined by the indirect attack reaction determiner, wherein the direct attack target enemy character is a non-player character.

U.S. Patent No. 7,677,967: Battle school
Issued March 16, 2010


Summary:
The ‘967 patent is aptly named “Battle school” because it deals with a lesser-explored kind of game—the educational game.  The invention describes a type of game whereby two players can engage in battle against each other. Unlike traditional games, however, after a user selects an attack, he is asked a question by the other user. If the first player answers the question correctly, his character performs an effective attack. The type of question asked by the user may be pre-selected from a list, or created by the user, but it is supposed to be a question related to a certain educational topic. Interesting concept described in this patent, how it will be applied will be something to surely keep track of.

Abstract:

Educational materials are presented in the format of games such as role-playing where participants progress through game storylines within a game environment. Each game participant is assigned a game character having unique and dynamic attributes that can be modified as the character progresses through the game storylines. The characters encounter challenges and participate in game actions that require the participant to answer questions that correspond to educational materials that are contextually unrelated to the game storylines. In order to successfully modify a character's attributes, obtain possessions for the character, progress through the storyline, to be successful in battle sequences or to obtain a desired reward, the participants must correctly answer the questions they are presented. To obtain a successful result, it is also sometimes necessary for a participant to recruit other participants having different assigned characters with different attributes to collaborate and work with the participant.

Exemplary Claim:

1. A method for presenting and testing educational materials within a computer game environment in which multiple human participants play the role of assigned virtual game characters that engage in battle sequences within the game environment and wherein the success of battle attacks and defensive actions involving the assigned characters during the battle sequences within the game environment are determined by a combination of assigned strengths, weaknesses and attributes of the assigned virtual game characters, as well as types of questions asked and the answers given by the multiple human participants that reflect personal mastery of the educational materials, the method comprising: identifying a plurality of virtual game characters, corresponding to a virtual game environment, that are stored on a computing system and that each comprise a corresponding and unique set of game attributes that include at least an attack attribute and a defense attribute for participating in a battle sequence involving at least two virtual game characters within the virtual game environment; assigning a first virtual game character to a first human participant from a pool of available virtual game characters; assigning a second virtual game character to a second human participant from the pool of available virtual game characters; presenting the virtual game environment on the computing system with the first virtual game character in a storyline and that includes game actions that the first virtual game character participates in, and wherein the game actions include at least one of modifying the unique set of attributes that correspond to the first virtual game character, obtaining possessions for the first virtual game character, and/or using the first virtual game character to interact with a second virtual game character that is assigned to a second human participant; identifying rules that define battle between the first and second virtual game characters, wherein said rules define types of questions that can be asked by the first and second human participants to initiate an attack with one or more virtual weapons wielded by the first and second virtual game characters during the battle within the virtual game environment and a potential for inflicting battle damage during the attack with the one or more virtual weapons, wherein battle damage comprises a reduction of one or more character attributes, and wherein the types of questions that can be asked and the potential for damage is based at least in part on the defined attack and defense attributes of the first and second virtual game characters; presenting questions to the first human participant through the virtual game environment when the first virtual game character participates in particular game actions within the virtual game environment, wherein at least some of the presented questions are educational questions, which correspond to educational materials, and that are provided at least in part by the second human participant submitting one or more particular questions, wherein the one or more particular questions that can be submitted by the second human participant are limited to the attack attribute of the second virtual game character and are at least restricted to less than all questions that are available to be asked during battle by all of the available virtual game characters, and wherein said educational questions also correspond to one or more virtual battle attacks that are preformed with a virtual weapon and that are directed to the first virtual game character within the virtual game environment and that originate from the second virtual game character assigned to the second human participant, and wherein the first human participant defends the first virtual game character from the one or more attacks by answering said educational questions correctly; rewarding the first virtual game character with a positive outcome to the particular game action within the virtual game environment for correct answers received from the first human participant in a response to the presented questions, including at least successfully defending the first virtual game character from suffering battle damage resulting from the one or more attacks by the virtual weapon within the virtual game environment, and wherein the battle damage comprises a reduction of at least one character attribute of at least the first or second character in the virtual game environment; and assessing mastery of the educational materials by the first human participant, wherein assessing mastery of the educational materials is based on an evaluation of rewards received by the first virtual game character within the virtual game environment and by evaluating progress of the first virtual game character within the game, which includes an evaluation of whether the one or more attacks are successfully defended.


U.S. Patent No. 6,421,056: Three-dimensional image processing apparatus
Issued July 16, 2002, to Nintendo Co. Ltd.


Summary: 

The ‘056 patent set out to solve a practical problem that had existed in previous vide games. Before, if a background image (e.g., a wall) or another character came between the player and the “camera,” the player could not view his character in that three-dimensional world. In the system described here, however, if it is determined that there is a possibility of a collision between the operable object and a polygon plane of the other object, the camera position can be changed so that the other object does not exist between the operable object and the camera.

Abstract:

A three-dimension image processing apparatus includes a CPU. When the CPU detects by collision determination that another object, e.g., a wall, is existent between an operable object and a camera, it calculates such a moving angle of the camera that an eye of the camera to the operable object is not obstructed by the other object. The camera is moved in accordance with the moving angle to a position where the operable object and the other object existing in a photographed three-dimensional space are displayed on a display.

Illustrative Claim:

1. An image processing apparatus for use in displaying an image of a player controlled object and another object existing in a three-dimensional space from a predetermined point of view, comprising: an external memory for storing data of the player controlled operable object, the other object, and a predetermined program; an input device which inputs data which alters the position of the operable object in the three-dimensional space; operable object position data generating circuitry which generates player controlled object position data so as to alter the position of the player controlled object in the three-dimensional space based on the data input via said input device; three-dimensional data generating circuitry for creating three-dimensional data based on the data stored in said external memory and the operable object position data; a point of view position data generator for generating position data representative of a point of view position in the three-dimensional space for viewing the player controlled object; a detector for detecting whether or not the other object is existent between the viewing position and the current player controlled position; point of view position data altering processing circuitry for altering the point of view position data such that the other object is not existent between the point of view position and the player controlled object position when said detector detects existence of the other object; a display data generator for displaying the image of the player controlled object from a predetermined position in the three-dimensional space based on the three-dimensional data and the point of view position data; and image signal generating circuitry which outputs an image signal to said display based on the display data created by said display data creating generator.
Related Patents:

U.S. Patent No. 6,590,578
U.S. Patent No. 6,283,857
U.S. Patent No. 5,973,704


U.S. Patent No. 6,626,760: Video game apparatus and memory medium therefor
Issued September 30, 2003, to Nintendo Co. Ltd.



Summary:

The ‘073 patent allows a player to lock his character onto a non-player object with the press of a button (the ‘Z’ button when playing the Nintendo 64). Once a player presses the Z button, the camera will automatically adjust so as to give the player the best view of the object he has locked on to and thus make it easier to see or attack that object. The camera is designed to go behind the player and give him a forward-facing view of the action which allows him to see the non-player object in front of him clearer.

Abstract:

A video game apparatus includes an RCP. The RCP performs a conversion process on image data to display a player object or non-player object according to image data transferred from an external ROM to a RAM, and supplies the image signal through the display. The RCP detects whether or not there exists a non-player object at around the player object on the display in response to an operation of a Z button. If a non-player object is detected, the RCP selects the non-player object as an attention non-player object. At this time, the hypothetical camera is changed in position and photographing direction such that photographing can be made for the player object directly facing the non-player object.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A video game apparatus coupled to a display, comprising:

a first image data generator for generating first image data to display a player object;

a second image data generator for generating second image data to display non-player objects;

an image processor for supplying an image signal to said display according to at least one of said first image data and said second image data in order to display, in a virtual three-dimension space on said display, at least one of the player object and the non-player object photographed through a hypothetical camera;

a controller including a first operation member to instruct a moving direction of the player object and a second operating member that is operated when attention is to be paid by the player object to the non-player object;

a non-player object detector for detecting whether the non-player object exists or not, in response to an operation of said second operating member;

A selector for selecting as an attention non-player object the non-player object detected by said non-player object detector; and

a camera controller for changing the position of said hypothetical camera such that photographing can be made on the player object directly facing the attention non-player object selected by said selector.

Inventor Holdings, LLC v. [Multiple Defendants]
United States District Court for the District of Delaware
File Nos. 1-14-cv-01067 (Gameloft); 1-14-cv-01068 (Glu Mobile); 1-14-cv-01069 (Kabam); 1-14-cv-01070 (King.com); 1-14-cv-01071 (ngmoco); 1-14-cv-01072 (Rovio); 1-14-cv-01073 (Supercell)

In several new lawsuits filed August 19, 2014, plaintiff Inventor Holdings, LLC argues that several popular mobile games infringe newly granted U.S. Pat. No. 8,784,198.  The '198 patent claims priority dating back to February 18, 2000 and discusses providing unlock codes for unlockable "outcomes."  The patentee wasted no time in filing this lawsuit: the '198 patent was granted on July 22, 2014.

While the body of the '198 patent discusses the concept of "outcomes" at a high level and across a range of implementations, the claims of the '198 patent are directed to a mobile device providing a game with a locked outcome and associated benefit.  The benefit is provided to a user when the game receives a signal with an unlock code.  Some examples of the benefits include continued access to the game, an enhancement or modification to the game, and an advancement within the game.  

Claim 18 is representative and recites:
18. A non-transitory computer-readable medium storing instructions for directing a processor of a mobile device to perform a method, the method comprising:
     facilitating play of a game on the mobile device by recognizing inputs provided by a user via an input mechanism of the mobile device, at least one of the inputs causing progress in the game;
     receiving a signal comprising an unlock code;
     determining a locked outcome of the game;
     unlocking the locked outcome of the game using the unlock code, thereby determining an unlocked outcome;
     determining an intra-game benefit associated with the unlocked outcome; and
     providing the intra-game benefit to the user by incorporating the intra-game benefit into the game.

Some of the notable games accused here include "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood," "Clash of Clans," and "Marvel War of Heroes."  To any extent these claims are interpreted to read on unlocking content included in an installed game by sending an unlock code to the game, these cases could impact unlockable game content and microtransactions.  As both of these features have become increasingly common in video games of all sorts, this case could have an impact throughout the industry.

We'll continue to monitor these cases for any interesting developments.
Planet Bingo, LLC v. VKGS LLC (dba Video King)
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Nonprecedential -
Case No. 2013-1663
Decided: August 26, 2014

In what it called "a straight-forward application of the Supreme Court's recent holding in Alice Corp v. CLS Bank International," the Federal Circuit found a system for managing a game of bingo to be patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101.  Op. at 2.

The patents in question, US 6,398,646 and 6,656,045, generally recite storing a preferred set of numbers for a bingo player, allowing the user to play that set, and tracking the game/payouts.  Claim 1 of the '646 patent claims a system with expressly recited computer components:
1. A system for managing a game of Bingo which comprises:
(a) a computer with a central processing unit (CPU) and with a memory and with a printer connected to the CPU;
(b) an input and output terminal connected to the CPU and memory of the computer; and
(c) a program in the computer enabling:
(i) input of at least two sets of Bingo numbers which are preselected by a player to be played in at least one selected game of Bingo in a future period of time;
(ii) storage of the sets of Bingo numbers which are preselected by the player as a group in the memory of the computer;
(iii) assignment by the computer of a player identifier unique to the player for the group having the sets of Bingo numbers which are preselected by the player wherein the player identifier is assigned to the group for multiple sessions of Bingo;
(iv) retrieval of the group using the player identifier;
(v) selection from the group by the player of at least one of the sets of Bingo numbers preselected by the player and stored in the memory of the computer as the group for play in a selected game of Bingo in a specific session of Bingo wherein a number of sets of Bingo numbers selected for play in the selected game of Bingo is less than a total number of sets of Bingo numbers in the group;
(vi) addition by the computer of a control number for each set of Bingo numbers selected for play in the selected game of Bingo;
(vii) output of a receipt with the control number, the set of Bingo numbers which is preselected and selected by the player, a price for the set of Bingo numbers which is preselected, a date of the game of Bingo and optionally a computer identification number; and
(viii) output for verification of a winning set of Bingo numbers by means of the control number which is input into the computer by a manager of the game of Bingo.
The district court judge granted summary judgment of invalidity as to each claim of the '646 patent and the '045 patent.  The judge reasoned that "each method claim encompasses the abstract idea of managing/playing the game of Bingo" and that the user of a computer "adds nothing more than the ability to manage... Bingo more efficiently."  Op. at 2-3 (citing district court opinion Planet Bingo, LLC v. VKGS LLC, 961 F. Supp. 2d 840 (W.D. Mich. 2013).  Further, the judge found that the system claims employ a computer "only for its most basic functions" including "storing numbers, assigning identifiers, allowing for basic inputs and outputs, printing a receipt, displaying of numbers, and/or matching... for verification.  Op. at 3 (citing district court opinion).

Judge Hughes of the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that there is no meaningful distinction between the method and system claims in the patents.  Both sets of claims recite the same basic processes.  Op. at 4.  After observing that the claims of the patents recited selecting, storing, and retrieving sets of numbers, assigning identifiers, and comparing bingo numbers, the Court noted that "like the claims at issue in Benson, not only can these steps be 'carried out in existing computers long in use', but they also can be 'done mentally'."  Op. at 4.

Planet Bingo argued that, in practice, their systems involved "literally thousands, if not millions of preselected Bingo numbers" and that it would be impossible for the system to be carried out manually.  However, the Court noted that the claims did not require "thousands" or "millions" of sets and instead only required two sets of numbers.  The Court declined to decide "whether a claimed invention requiring many transactions might tip the scales of patent eligibility."  Op. at 5.

The Court found that the claims recited an abstract idea similar to that of Alice and Bilski.  The claims recited methods and systems for managing a game of Bingo, and the Court held that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of "solving a tampering problem and also minimizing other security risks."  Op. at 5 (quoting Planet Bingo's brief).  The Court found this idea similar to that of "risk hedging during consumer transactions" (Bilski) and "mitigating settlement risk in financial transactions" (Alice).

The Court then turned to the computer components of the claims to determiner whether they "contain an 'inventive concept sufficient to transform the claimed abstract idea in a patent-eligible application.'"  Op. at 5 (quoting Alice, citation omitted).  The Court examined the recited computer elements in the claims, dividing the generic computer components from the recited programmed functionality:


Op. at 6.  The Court determined that the claims recite a generic computer implementation of the covered abstract idea.  Id.  Ultimately, "as was the case in Alice, 'the function performed by the computer at each step of the process is purely conventional.'"  Op. at 6 (quoting Alice).

You can read the whole opinion here.

The aftermath of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International continues.  The full scope of the impact the decision will ultimately have on computer and software patent still remains to be seen.
< Previous     Home     Next >

Get the Patent Arcade App

Get the Patent Arcade App
Available now for iOS

Search This Blog

Recognition

Buy your copy today!

Buy your copy today!
ABA Legal Guide, 2d Ed.

Ross Dannenberg

Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly
Archives

Blogroll

Data Analytics

Copyright ©2005–present Ross Dannenberg. All rights reserved.
Visit BannerWitcoff.com