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U.S. Patent No. 6,881,149: Entertainment system, entertainment apparatus, recording medium, and program
Issued Apr. 19, 2005, to Sony

Summary:

The ‘149 patent describes a method used in video games where the main character can easily identify and target enemy characters. The invention calls for a rectangular navigation mark which is displayed over a designated monster on the screen. Whenever the main character approaches the enemy, the navigation mark signals that the player is close and begins emitting a light which draws the player’s attention to it. This invention should make the game easier by assisting the player in finding enemies to battle. Once the player has located the enemy he can then target the enemy and press buttons which will correspondingly produce an attack on the enemy.

Abstract:

When a main character enters a battle, a rectangular navigation mark is displayed over a designated monster on a display monitor. When the main character approaches the monster, the navigation mark rotates and gets smaller until it is converged into a targeting point on the display monitor. When the navigation mark is converged into a targeting point, light is emitted from the navigation mark on the display monitor. An additional attack of the main character can be performed against the monster if a user presses a decision button at the best timing, right when the light is emitted from the navigation mark.

Illustrative Claim:

1. An entertainment system comprising: an entertainment apparatus for executing various programs; at least one manual controller for inputting a manual control request of a user to said entertainment apparatus; and a display monitor for displaying an image outputted from said entertainment apparatus, said entertainment apparatus comprising: means for performing a first process of moving a navigation mark displayed on said display monitor in a predetermined direction as time advances; means for performing a second process of calculating a time difference between a point of time when said navigation mark reached a predetermined position and a point of time when said user inputted manipulation data via said manual controller; and means for generating an event and successively repeating said first process and said second process if the time difference is within a predetermined time, wherein said event is generated for changing a parameter of a single character.

Acceleration Bay LLC v. Activision Blizzard, Inc.
U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware
ded-1-15-cv-00228
Filed March 11, 2015

A new complaint alleges that Activision Blizzard is violating several networking patents in regard to their realm-spanning multiplayer in games like World of Warcraft, Destiny, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Plaintiff Acceleration Bay accuses Activision Blizzard of infringing U.S. Pat. No. 6,701,344 entitled “Distributed game environment”; U.S. Pat. No. 6,714,966 entitled “Information delivery service”; U.S. Pat. No. 6,732,147 entitled “Leaving a broadcast channel”; U.S. Pat. No. 6,829,634 entitled “Broadcasting network”; U.S. Pat. No.  6,910,069 entitled “Joining a broadcast channel” and U.S. Pat. No. 6,920,497 entitled “Connecting a broadcast channel.” The patents, dating back to July 2000, describe a method of broadcasting data by creating a mesh network among participants. According to the disclosure, previous methods relied on creating a root node through which information passes. The system described solves this problem by having each participant send information to three or more neighbors, who then send information on in kind, creating a mesh network.


U.S. Pat. No. 6,701,344 Fig. 1

The patents are all related, share figures, and incorporate one another by reference. The patent claims are directed to sending information through a plurality of connections to neighbors, who then pass the information on further. The patents were originally assigned to the Boeing Company, but the assignment was transferred to Acceleration Bay on March 6, 2015. The complaint was filed by Acceleration Bay five days later on March 11, 2015.

The problem addressed by the patents seems to stem from limitations in peer-to-peer networking solutions to multiplayer games. The patents suggest a model whereby data “hops” from one user to another, ultimately in a mesh network, rather than through a dedicated server (thus, removing server bottlenecks). The claims recite methods of information sharing in particular environments and according to particular models. For example, claim 1 of the ‘344 patent recites “A computer network for providing a game environment for a plurality of participants, each participant having connections to at least three neighbor participants... further wherein the network is m-regular… and further wherein the number of participants is at least two greater than m thus resulting in a non-complete graph.” The other patents recite similar language.

The accused products include Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, Destiny, and Call of Duty game franchises. The complaint generally alleges that these game franchises make use of peer-to-peer networking to connect users in multiple “realms” for shared multiplayer experiences.

As with other video game patents recently, the claim language described may be subject to attack based on 35 U.S.C. 101 for allegedly claiming an abstract idea in a mathematical model for an arrangement of network participants, particularly in light of the heightened standards set forth by Alice. In addition, assuming the patent is valid, the plaintiff will need to show that the defendant’s communications conforms to the specific mathematical models claimed.

We’ll continue to watch this case for any interesting developments.


Thanks to Josh Davenport for his help with this post.

U.S. Patent No. 6,966,831: Method of branching flow of game
Issued November 22, 2005, to Sony


Summary: 

For all you gamers who grow tired of linear story lines without much of a story, the ‘831 patent will be appealing. The ‘831 patent provides for a story branching control method which changes the story depending upon a player’s choices in the game. The player’s successes or failures determine whether branch points exist during the predetermined period of time. The ‘831 patent gives the player an opportunity to play, explore, and control the world around him. It allows for his decisions to have a real and lasting impact on the game’s storyline and should make the game more enjoyable for the gamer.

Abstract:

Without making such a matter that, for example, a branching point where the flow of a game story is branched is notified to the user, the user is let so as to detect a timing for a hidden branching point to be present, and in dependence on whether the detection of the branching point is right or wrong, the story has a varied subsequent development.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A story branching control method for a video game whose content of a story is branched in accordance with a player's instruction, comprising the steps of: providing a branching point selectable by a user for determining a flow of the story; receiving a search instructing input for searching for the branching point; searching for the branching point for a predetermined period of time after receiving the search instructing input; determining whether the branching point exists during the predetermined period of time after receiving the search instructing input; and determining a branch destination of the story in accordance with a success or failure of determining whether the branching point exists during the predetermined period of time.

Each year we take on a Research Intern to help with ongoing case research, updating our patent database, refreshing content, and anything else that comes along.  If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resume, transcripts, and writing sample to me at my work email address.  Qualified candidates possess the following qualities:

  • Enrolled in an ABA accredited law school
  • Keen interest in video games
  • Interested to learn more about Intellectual Property law (patents, copyrights, trademarks...)
  • Does NOT have a technical background.  For reasons I won't go into here, I am unable to consider candidates who are eligible to take the patent bar.  This is a bright line rule.  No exceptions.  If you are patent eligible and are interested in a Summer Associate position, however, send your materials to dcjobs at my work's email domain.  We are still considering candidates in DC.
  • Preference will be given to candidates in the DC area.  However, we have taken on remote interns in the past.
Thanks for your interest.

U.S. Patent No. 6,829,569: Social dilemma software for evaluating online interactive societies
Issued Dec. 7, 2004, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘569 patent describes a social dilemma virtual world environment software which creates and uses social dilemma tests or exercises for measuring and analyzing online interactive societies. Whenever two or more people play online together (whether by voice or text communication), the software monitors the activities of the players in order to determine level of cooperation and trust between the group.

Abstract:

Social dilemma virtual world environment (VWE) software facilitates creation and usage of social dilemma tests or exercises for measuring and analyzing online interactive societies. An online interactive society arises whenever two or more people interact through a computer-based communication medium, which may include text or written communication, audio communication, still or motion video communication, or any combination of these communication formats. The social dilemma VWE software and the methodology of the present invention are capable of distinguishing the levels of cooperation and trust that are created by various interface and social factors within online interactive societies. Evaluating with social dilemma VWE software the effects of such social and interface factors on the degree of online cooperation allows such factors to be incorporated into the design and functionality of online interactive societies.

Illustrative Claim:

1. In a computer-readable medium, software objects of a social dilemma virtual world environment for evaluating an interactive online society of plural participants, the software objects comprising: one or more social dilemma exercise objects that, when executed on a computer, implement a social dilemma exercise between the participants and logs social factors and interface factors that can be evaluated to determine a level of success of the social dilemma exercise; and one or more computer-based communication objects that, when executed on a computer, selectively provide computer-based communication between participants in the social dilemma exercise.


U.S. Patent No. 6,926,608: Recording medium storing three-dimensional image processing program, three-dimensional image processing program, method and device
Issued Aug. 8, 2005, to Konami


Summary:

The ‘608 patent describes a system used in sports games where the camera changes depending on the action on the screen. The viewpoints are programmed to change to keep the character in the center of the screen at all times. The invention changes the camera in synch with the speed of the player, without lag. Thus, the player does not have to worry about a lagging change in the camera and will be able to control his player with a consistent view during the game. This invention is ideally used for sports games like skiing and snowboarding where a steady camera will be advantageous to the player.

Abstract:

To display an image seen from a suitable camera viewpoint, the present invention comprises a viewpoint determination section 301 that finds a position of the camera viewpoint appropriate to a control operation of determining an action of the main character (main object), which control operation is assumed to be performed by the game player; a viewpoint movement section 302 that moves the camera viewpoint from its current position to the position found by the viewpoint determination section 301; and an image display section 303 that displays an image of the main character seen from the camera viewpoint.

Illustrative Claim:

1. A recording medium which stores an executable three-dimensional image processing program that displays an image of a main object which is an object that plays a central role in the progress of a game and that moves through virtual three-dimensional space in which objects of a plurality of subject matters are arranged, as seen from a virtual camera viewpoint, and said program makes a game device function as: viewpoint determination means for setting a position of said camera viewpoint appropriate to a control operation of determining an action of the main object, said control operation being performed by the game player; viewpoint movement means for moving said camera viewpoint from a current position to the position set by said viewpoint determination means, said viewpoint movement means setting a speed of movement of the camera viewpoint in accordance with a subject of at least one of the objects which is located in a prescribed range from the main object and moving said camera viewpoint with the speed that is set while said main object is in approach to the at least one object; and image display means for displaying an image of the main object as seen from said camera viewpoint.

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