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On January 30, 2018, Barbaro Technologies, LLC (“Barbaro”) sued Niantic, Inc. (“Niantic”) for the alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,373,377 and 8,228,325. Barbaro’s asserted patents are generally directed to integrating real-world information (e.g., a real-world geographic location) with an augmented reality environment. Barbaro specifically asserts that both Niantic’s Pokémon GO and Ingress infringe the asserted patents.


Claim 1 of the ’377 Patent reads:

1. A method of integrating real-time information into a virtual thematic environment using a computer system including a client and a server, comprising:
   providing a graphics user interface (GUI) module for use in the client system;
   providing a quantum imaging environment (QIE) module in one of the client or the server system;
   providing a digital logic library in one of the client or the server system;
   providing a primary application in the client system;
   providing a first user interface that is associated with the primary application;
   sending a request for first real-time information via the QIE module to the world wide web;
   obtaining the first real-time information via the world wide web;
   downloading the first real-time information from the world wide web into the primary application;
providing access to the first real-time information within the virtual thematic environment via the first user interface;
   providing at least one secondary application within the primary application at the client system;
   sending a request for second real-time information via the QIE module;
   obtaining the second real-time information via the world wide web;
   downloading the second real-time information into the secondary application;
   enabling a user to access the at least one secondary application through the first user interface; and
   enabling the user to control the at least one secondary application through a second user interface.

Niantic, which was spun off from Google, Inc. (“Google”), may have been aware of the Barbaro patents as early as 2006. Per Barbaro, around October 26, 2006, Barbaro sent Google’s Deputy General Counsel a copy of patent publications that led to the issuance of Barbaro’s asserted patents. Google, Inc. allegedly acknowledged the letter but “refused to discuss the matter before the patent issued.” No further detail regarding exchanges between Barbaro and Google are provided in the complaint.

This is case 2:18-CV-00773 in the District Court for Central District of California.  We will track it and keep you apprised of significant updates.
On January 17, 2018, U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez of the District of New Jersey dismissed all patent infringement claims asserted by Joseph Scibetta (a/k/a “Bankers & Brokers”) (“Scibetta”), against Slingo, Inc. and RealNetworks, Inc. (collectively, “Slingo”).  The reason: none of Scibetta’s patents survived scrutiny 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Scibetta is the owner of various intellectual property rights relating to a card and casino game called “BANKERS & BROKERS.”   U.S. Patent No. 6,220,597, one of the patents asserted in the case, describes the game in detail:

1. A method for playing a wagering card game comprising the steps of:
   Providing a shuffled stack of playing cards where the cards are touched only by the dealer during the game comprising at least one deck thereof;
   providing a planar game playing surface comprising a plurality of separately delineated areas adapted for the placement of bets;
   establishing odds for payout of winning bets placed in any of the aforesaid plurality of separated and delineated areas;
   establishing an initial order of play where players are designated as first player, and so on to a last player;
   initiating a round of play by a first player establishing a bet by placing a wager in a designated space on the table near a pot designated and marked onto a surface for displaying a face-up side of a card dealt to each said player;
   dealing a stack of six face-down cards as a player's pot concealing the faces of each dealt card from each player and a dealer, to the first player and any other player in the game;
   dealing a stack of six face-down cards, concealing the faces of each dealt card from each player and the dealer, to the dealer as a dealer's pot;
   then, only the dealer turning the dealer's pot over and turning over the pots over for each player one at a time;
   then the dealer immediately determining a player's winning status or loss status by comparing a face-up card dealt to each player and a now face-up card dealt to the dealer in the dealer's pot;
   after comparing a dealer's face-up card to a player's face-up card, paying any winning bets placed by each player in the game;
   collecting the played or turned up cards from each pot after bets are paid and placing these cards in a discarded cards designated area on the table;
   determining whether the turned-up dealer's card matches the corresponding turned-up player's card, whereby at any time during the game or before the dealer may imposed step of disqualifying and discarding any got touched by a player.

The other asserted patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 6,626,433, 7,331,580, 7,618,044, and 7,857,314) are similar.

Slingo is alleged to have distributed an unlawful copy of BANKERS & BROKERS on their website slingo.com, which was later acquired by RealNetworks, Inc. The alleged copy of BANKERS & BROKERS is reproduced below (as retrieved from archive.org).



On December 12, 2016, Slingo moved to dismiss Scibetta’s case.  Among other assertions, Slingo claimed that all of Scibetta’s patents were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

The Court agreed. With regard to Alice step one, the Court noted that Scibetta’s asserted patent claims were substantially similar to the “method of conducting a wagering game” patent found invalid in In re Smith, 815 F.3d 816 (Fed. Cir. 2016), cert. denied sub nom., Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc. v. Lee, 137 S.Ct. 453 (2016).  Indeed, the Court noted that “there is no meaningful distinction between, on the one hand, the unpatentable abstract idea found in In re Smith and, on the other hand, the method and system claims here.”  Per the Court, the fact that some claims recited, among other things, a “‘means’ for identifying player/dealer positions” did not “change the fact that [BANKERS & BROKERS] stems from a patent ineligible abstract idea.”

With regard to Alice step two, the Court found that BANKERS & BROKERS “reflects well-understood, routine, and conventional wagering activity” such that “Plaintiffs made no technical improvement on the original abstract idea of a card wagering game using a standard deck of cards.”  The mere implementation of such a game on a computer did not change the Court’s analysis: “the claims do nothing more than simply describe the application of the game-related abstract ideas to a generic computer system.”

Scibetta’s case is not doomed.  Scibetta still has a viable claim for misappropriation against Slingo.  Moreover, while Scibetta’s trademark and unjust enrichment claims were also dismissed by the Court, the claims were dismissed without prejudice and largely based on pleading deficiencies.  As such, Scibetta will be afforded an opportunity to amend and supplement his complaint.

This case illustrates the difficulties of enforcing patents that, despite their presumption of validity, were granted prior to the Alice decision when the USPTO was using a different standard of examination.  A trend is appearing where the presumption of validity applied to those patents by courts appears to be inherently lower than that given to more recently granted patents.  Scibetta asserted five patents, and not one survived a motion to dismiss.  Those looking to acquire patent portfolios, for example, should be particularly wary of purchasing patents which may look great but may face significant hurdles during enforcement.  Sometimes, a single strong patent is worth more than a hundred unenforceable ones.

On January 12, 2018, photographer Christopher Sadowski sued IGN Entertainment, Inc. (“IGN”) for copyright infringement.  The copyright in question: a photograph of the Pokémon GO homepage on Sadowski’s cell phone, similar to (but not the same as!) the stock photo shown below.


Sadowski licensed his photograph to the New York Post for a July 12, 2016, article regarding a man who got caught cheating on his girlfriend through Pokémon GO.  It appears that IGN may have infringed Sadowski’s copyright by using the image when discussing the New York Post article in an IGN Hungary article titled “6 Crazy Pokémon GO Stories.”  The image is absent from IGN’s U.S. version of the article.

However, Sadowski’s case may have an Achilles' heel.  Because Niantic and Nintendo have intellectual property rights in their game (including the login screen), Sadowski’s photograph is arguably a derivative work, and his copyright would thereby extend only to the “material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work.”  That’s not likely to be much.  Moreover, whatever minimal copyright Sadowski has in his photo “does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material.”  Lastly, protection for a derivative work using someone else’s material in which copyright subsists does not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully (e.g., without the appropriate license).  In other words, there’s a fair argument that Sadowski’s photograph rights are only as good as Nintendo and/or Niantic will allow them to be.

Sadowski’s case against IGN is a cautionary tale for Internet content creators. While many questions about the applicability of fair use on the Internet exist, it remains a bad idea to use images from other websites–even news websites–without appropriate permission.  Indeed, a royalty free version of the exact same photo exists and could have saved IGN a lot of grief.
On January 8, 2018, Epic Games, Inc. (“Epic”) continued its legal crusade against alleged Fortnite hackers by suing Yash Gosai, a resident of Auckland, New Zealand, for copyright infringement, breach of contract, and conversion.



 In previous cases (which we discussed here, here, and here), Epic sued alleged cheaters in Fortnite, generally targeting those distributing methods of cheating in-game. In this suit, Epic alleges that Gosai distributed an exploit which allowed players to obtained “V-bucks” (in-game currency) for free, stating: “[p]layers who use exploits to avoid paying for items in Fortnite are stealing from Epic.”

Like its previous suits, Epic used the YouTube DMCA notification/counter-notification process to acquire jurisdiction over Gosai.
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