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U.S. Pat. No. 6,992,654:  System and method for providing user input to character animation
Issued January 31, 2006, to Electronic Arts Inc.



Summary:

This EA patent involves systems and methods for providing user input to character animations. The inputs are processed in real-time and allow for improved user control and visual feedback on the movement being animated. Whenever a player uses a joystick to move, one of a list of animations is selected and the figure on the screen reacts instantaneously to the command, created a seamless movement on the screen.

Abstract:

The present invention provides a system that increases a user's control over character animation. Time-dependent signals are accepted from a user input device. The input is processed in real-time such that the user's input can be used to directly control the animation of an animated character. For example, the animation of a three-dimensional rendered character swinging a golf club in a golf game can be changed in mid-swing according to the user's operation of an input device. In general the system accepts user continuous and real-time user input. The user is given improved control and visual feedback on the movement being animated. One embodiment of the invention includes an analog input module, a control state machine module and an animation state machine module. The analog input module is configured to receive user analog input (e.g., from an analog joystick) related to animated character display and to normalize the user analog input to create a normalized user analog input.

Illustrative Claims:

1. A system for providing user input for animated character display on an animation display system comprising: an analog input module configured to receive user analog input related to animated character display and to normalize the user analog input, thereby creating normalized user analog input; a control state machine module configured to receive normalized user analog input from the analog input module and create a time-based state based on the received normalized analog input, the time-based state modeling an intent of the user with respect to the animated character; and an animation state machine module configured to receive the time-based state from the control state machine module and to create a list of animations and at least one blending percentage for combining the list of animations based on the time-based state, and providing the list of animations and at least one blending percentage to the animation display system.

7. A method for providing user input for animated character display on an animation display system comprising: receiving user analog input related to animated character display and normalizing the user analog input, thereby creating normalized user analog input; creating a time-based state based on the normalized analog input, the time-based state modeling an intent of the user with respect to the animated character; preparing a list of animations and at least one blending percentage for combining the list of animations based on the time-based state, and providing the list of animations and at least one blending percentage to an animation display system for controlling character animation.

For the first time since 2009, new patent lawsuit filings declined in 2014 from the previous year. Lawsuits dropped by 13 percent, a significant shift from the numbers of cases over the previous five years, caused in part by the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Alice ruling, according to a new study released Wednesday by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has quietly adopted a rule that will increase pleading standards for filing patent lawsuits. In an order in late April, the high court without comment adopted changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that were approved in September by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. and will take effect Dec. 1. unless they are modified by Congress, which is considering bills that would raise patent pleading standards even beyond what the new rule requires.

The rule changes cover several areas, but one is of particular concern in patent litigation: the abolition of Rule 84, which provides model forms that attorneys can rely on in several situations, including Form 18, a model patent complaint.

On Form 18, a plaintiff is required to include include little more in a patent complaint than the name and number of the patent and an allegation of infringement. The Judicial Conference said that such model complaints are outdated.
The elimination of Form 18 would just subject patent complaints to the pleading standards established by the Supreme Court in its landmark Twombly and Iqbal decisions, which require plaintiffs demonstrate that their claims are plausible, rather than simply putting the defendant on notice of the claim.

More on the topics over at Law360.com.


U.S. Patent No. 6,923,722: Game system and game program for providing multi-player gameplay on individual displays and a common display
Issued August 2, 2005, to Nintendo Co., Ltd.

Summary:

The ‘722 patent will appeal to all those who love playing multi-player games. It involves a game system that provides individualized maps for each of the different players of a game. For example, if player number one is on the first floor, his map will reflect that while player two on the second floor will have the second floor map. The two maps contain at least one connection point whereby players can switch floors and maps. Whenever one of the players is located in the area of the other player, they will appear on a sub-map. This allows players to find each other or enemies with greater ease.

Abstract:

A game system with a high entertainment value, in which a plurality of player character are played by a plurality of players, and a game program for such a game system are provided. A plurality of individual displays provided to players and a common display commonly provided to all players are provided. Each player character is moved between a first game map and a second game map upon satisfaction of a predetermined condition. A player character located on the first game map and at least a part of the first game map are displayed on the common display. A player character located on the second game map and at least a part of the second game map are displayed on an individual display provided to a player operating that player character.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game system to be played by a plurality of players, the game system including a plurality of operating mechanisms provided to the players, a plurality of individual displays provided to the players, and a common display commonly provided to the players, wherein a plurality of player characters appearing on game maps are controlled by each corresponding player operating each corresponding operating mechanism, the game system comprising: first game map data storage locations which store data for displaying a first game map; second game map data storage locations which store data for displaying at least one second game map; an inter-game-map movement control processing mechanism which moves the player characters individually between the first game map and the second game map upon satisfaction of a predetermined condition; common display control processing mechanism which displays player characters located on the first game map and at least a part of the first game map on the common display; and individual display control processing mechanism which displays a player character located on the second game map and at least a part of the second game map on an individual display provided to a player operating the player character located on the second game map.

In a second major case decided today, the 9th Circuit held that there is no independent copyright held by a performer in a motion picture (film, TV, etc.) work.

As reported by Law360, in an en banc decision the full Ninth Circuit on Monday overturned a highly-controversial panel decision that forced Google Inc. to pull an anti-Islam video from YouTube, calling it a ‘dubious’ copyright ruling that gave short shrift to the First Amendment.

The appeals court’s reversal came in the closely-watched case of Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress who sued Google after receiving death threats based on her role in the incendiary “Innocence of Muslims” — the same film that allegedly sparked riots in the Middle East in 2012.

“[Plaintiff's] theory … would enable any contributor from a costume designer down to an extra or best boy to claim copyright in random bits and pieces of a unitary motion picture without satisfying the requirements of the Copyright Act,” the court wrote. “Putting aside the rhetoric of Hollywood hijinks and the dissent’s dramatics, this case must be decided on the law.”

This is a good day for copyright law.  A decision the other way would have sent Hollywood into disarray and turned the film industry on its head, creating a new threat that countless actors could hold copyright owners hostage for vast sums of unpaid royalties.  This case is also important for video game developers who have hired actors as part of the creation process.

Despite the negative impact the opposite decision could have had, that's not WHY this is a good decision.  Rather, a movie, television show, video game, or any other audiovisual work is ultimately the vision a single person (e.g., the director) or entity (e.g., the video game developer or publisher).  Allowing actors a copyright right in their individual performances would, by implication, mean that the director does not actually have ultimate control to decide what is and is not included within a film or video game.  But that's the not the reality.  The reality is that the director, if she doesn't like the actor's performance, requires the actor to reshoot the scene until the actor's performance is what the director wants the performance to be.  Today's case reaffirms that principle.
May 18, 2015: Today the Federal Circuit decided the appeal in the first Apple v. Samsung case, upholding a majority of Apple's damages award, namely, damages attributable to patent infringement.  However, the court reversed the damages attributable to trade dress protection, ultimately finding that Apple's uregistered trade dress in its older iPhones was functional and therefore not protectable under trade dress law:
Apple has failed to show that there was substantial evidence in the record to support a jury finding in favor of non-functionality for the unregistered trade dress on any of the [required] factors. Apple fails to rebut the evidence that the elements in the unregistered trade dress serve the functional purpose of improving usability. Rather, Apple focuses on the “beauty” of its design, even though Apple pursued both “beauty” and functionality in the design of the iPhone. We therefore reverse the district court’s denial of Samsung’s motion for judgment as a matter of law that the unregistered trade dress is functional and therefore not protectable.
On the up side, the Federal Circuit's decision is a strong win for patent rights, and design patent rights in particular.  

What's the relevance to video and computer games?  Consider this.  Video game designers often rely on trade dress to protect the look and feel of the game as a brand or source indicator, in addition to relying on copyright protection.  However, to the extent the trade dress is essential to the use or purpose of the video game or it affects the cost or quality of the video game, then a court could ultimately find that the trade dress is functional and therefore not protectable.  The result?  In order to ensure that you are fully protecting your computer game, design patents for important user interface features should not be overlooked.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. et al, Case 14-1335, Fed. Cir. May 18, 2015.  Read the full decision here.

U.S. Patent No. 6,955,605: Episodic delivery of content
Issued October 18, 2005, to Electronic Arts Inc.


Summary:

The ‘605 patent describes a method of episodically delivering entertainment content for a reality-based game to a plurality of users. An initial episodic game module is delivered, then subsequent episodic game modules are delivered at periodically scheduled intervals. The players can have the new content sent to them via email, or they may be given a website which will house the new content to be downloaded. Once downloaded, the player will be free to play the new episode just like they had the previous content.

Abstract:

A system, method, and apparatus are provided that allow episodic delivery of entertainment content to a user. More specifically, an application module is created with episodic content technology, which can be purchased as a CD-ROM or downloaded from a remote server. The application module contains a current episode of the game and a technology shell to allow future episodes to be downloaded and executed. The entertainment content delivery system is implemented through a centralized server that provides new episodes of the content available for downloading at regularly scheduled intervals to the users' computers. The current instantiation of the application module segregates technology components from content components of the application module to allow independent modification of either. Technological advancements are incorporated as they occur into the new episodes and are executed by the application module. An Internet-enabled game using the entertainment content delivery system communicates with users through various mechanisms, including e-mail, voice mail, fax machines, web sites, and the like.

Illustrative Claims:

1. A method of episodically delivering entertainment content for a reality-based game to a plurality of users, the method comprising: delivering an initial episodic game module to a plurality of user computers using a first transport mechanism, wherein the initial episodic game module comprises an initial set of technology for enabling an initial episode of content on a user computer; and delivering subsequent episodic game modules at periodically scheduled intervals to at least one user, wherein each subsequent episodic game module includes a content component, and wherein the content component of at least one of the subsequent episodic game modules comprises one of a clue or a task to be completed by the user and is delivered to the at least one user using a second transport mechanism different from the first transport mechanism.

17. A method of episodically delivering entertainment content to a plurality of users comprising: delivering an initial episode of content, wherein the initial episode comprises an initial set of technology for enabling an initial episode of content; delivering subsequent episodes at periodically scheduled intervals to at least one user; identifying a relevant current event news story; creating a false news story related to the identified news story, wherein the false news story links the content of the episode to the identified news story; and transmitting information regarding the current event news story to at least one user to provide additional information related to the episode content.

19. A method of episodically delivering entertainment content to a plurality of users comprising: delivering an initial episode of content, wherein the initial episode comprises an initial set of technology for enabling an initial episode of content; delivering subsequent episodes at periodically scheduled intervals to at least one user, wherein an episode requires a video file to be played by a user; and incrementally delivering data comprising the video file as part of a plurality of episodes to a user.

We get asked... often... what sorts of names are best for your video game.  This post isn't a treatise on how to name your video game.  This post is a poster child for what NOT to name a product.  Never go with a generic or descriptive name.  Despite use of the word "brand" on the box, these guys chose a very BAD name:


U.S. Patent No. 6,843,726: Game system
Issued Jan. 18, 2005, to Konami


Summary:

The ‘726 patent describes a game system in which a player uses a voice input device (ex. a microphone) to give commands which are followed on the screen. The user gives vocal commands based on text which appears on the screen. Once the command is spoken the digital character acts out the player’s command. Another aspect of the invention is that the player can receive instructions or commands from the game in which he must control his character to obey. Thus, the microphone acts as both a way to communicate actions to the character on the screen as well as a way to act out the commands he is given.

Abstract:

A game system is provided with a converting means including a voice input member, such as a microphone, for allowing the game player or his/her friend to input voices and for converting the inputted voices into electrical signal data, a sound data storage for storing the electrical signal data obtained by the conversion together with predetermined sound-relating data corresponding to contents of instructions, a sound generator for generating voices from the corresponding electrical signal data when a game player makes a motion in response to the content of instruction, and a device for evaluating a game result based on the content of instruction. Accordingly, a sound output type game system which can provide more interesting and enjoyable games can be realized.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A game system in which a game player makes motions in response to contents of instructions displayed on a display screen, the game system generating predetermined sounds corresponding to the contents of instructions, the game system comprising: voice converting means having a voice input member for inputting voices of the game player in association with a game and for converting the voices input through the voice input member into electrical signal data; storage means for storing the electrical signal data obtained by the voice converting means together with predetermined sound-relating data corresponding to the contents of instructions; motion detecting means for detecting at least one of a hitting motion and a swinging motion of the game player; and sound generating means for generating reproduced voices from the corresponding electrical signal data corresponding to the voices of the game player previously inputted by the game player based on either of the hitting and swinging motions of the game player corresponding to the contents of instructions when the game player makes the motions in response to the contents of instructions.

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