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Infernal Technology, LLC et al v. Crytek GmbH
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
Docket No. 2-18-cv-00284, filed July 10, 2018

On July 10, 2018, Infernal Technology and Terminal Reality (Infernal) filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas alleging that Crytek GmbH (Crytek) infringed upon U.S. Patent Nos. 6,362,822 (the '822 Patent) and 7,061,488 (the '488 Patent). The two patents relate to lighting and shadowing methods in computer graphic simulations.

Image from the '822 Patent, Fig. 2.

Claim 1 of the '822 Patent reads:
A shadow rendering method for use in a computer system, the method comprising the steps of:

providing observer data of a simulated multi-dimensional scene;

providing lighting data associated with a plurality of simulated light sources arranged to illuminate said scene, said lighting data including light image data;

for each of said plurality of light sources, comparing at least a portion of said observer data with at least a portion of said light data to determine if a modeled point within storing at least a portion of said light image data associated with said point and said light source in a light accumulation buffer; and then

combining at least a portion of said light accumulation buffer with said observer data; and

displaying resulting image data to a computer screen. ('822 patent, col 12, lines 4-21).

Infernal claims that Crytek's utilization of video game engine "CryEngine" allegedly infringes the asserted patents. According to the Complaint, Crytek used the allegedly infringing game engine to develop the Crysis series, Warface, Ryse: Son of Rome, The Climb, and Robinson: The Journey.

Typically, the next step for a defendant in this situation is to petition the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) for an Inter Partes Review (IPR), but the '822 and '488 Patents have already survived an IPR because of earlier litigation. In 2015, Infernal sued Electronic Arts for patent infringement. EA responded by petitioning the PTAB for an IPR; however, the PTAB found the '822 and '488 Patents to be "Not Unpatentable." EA settled the lawsuit after the PTAB's decision. Crytek can still petition for an IPR of the asserted patents, but will likely have to use different prior art that the art used by EA or provide a good reason why the Board got it wrong the first time around.

If this seems like deja vu that is because Infernal filed complaints similar to the Crytek Complaint against Microsoft in April and against Activision Blizzard in May. To read our blog post on the Microsoft case click here.  We will continue to monitor all three of these cases and provide updates when possible.

Bethesda Softworks LLC v. Behaviour Interactive, Inc., et al
United States District Court for the District of Maryland
Docket No. 8:18-cv-01846-RWT, filed June 21, 2018
 
On June 21, 2018, Bethesda Softworks filed a complaint in the District of Maryland against Behaviour Interactive and Warner Bros. alleging their Westworld mobile game infringes Bethesda's copyrights in Fallout Shelter. According to the Complaint, Behaviour used Bethesda's copyrighted source code from Fallout Shelter to develop a Westworld mobile game for Warner Bros., which, they allege, not so coincidentally ended up being suspiciously similar to Fallout Shelter. The Complaint also alleges that Behaviour breached a non-disclosure agreement and misappropriated trade secrets in doing so.
 
According to the Complaint, in 2014 Bethesda hired Behaviour to help develop Fallout Shelter. The Complaint states that Behviour assigned all rights in Fallout Shelter to Bethesda. Then in 2018, Warner Bros. hired Behaviour to develop a game similar to Fallout Shelter but based on Westworld. Warner Bros. released the Westworld game on June 20, 2018. Bethesda notice some similarities, and subsequently filed this lawsuit.
 
To prove copyright infringement, a plaintiff must show the defendant had access to the copyrighted work, and that there is a substantial similarity between the two works. Behaviour likely had access to Fallout Shelter's source code from when it developed the game for Bethesda. However, even access can be inferred if the similarities between two works are so similar that there is no reasonable explanation for the similarities except that one is a copy of the other. Proving substantial similarity for source code can be tricky because separating the non-protectable ideas from protectable expression is difficult. Most courts use the "Abstraction-Filtration-Comparison" test to filter out non-protectable ideas from both works, which can leave a plaintiff with thin copyright protection. Here, Bethesda bases its claim that Behaviour copied the source code on the fact that the Westworld game has the same "bugs" or "glitches" that Fallout Shelter had at release. The presence of the same bugs in alleged infringing software has been used in the past to prove infringement. It will be interesting to see if the Court agrees with Bethesda's point of view.
 
While the primary focus of Bethesda's Complaint is the source code, Bethesda is also claiming that Behaviour copied the artistic style and gameplay elements of Fallout Shelter. The biggest obstacle for Bethesda with these claims will likely be showing that Behaviour copied protectable expression and not just ideas or a scènes à faire of a game or genre. Even when the Complaint compares the artistic or gameplay features of the two games it does so to establish that those features were a result of the copied source code.

Not unexpectedly, Warner Bros. responded by saying that Bethesda's accusations are baseless and "as surprising as they are unsubstantiated." This case is still developing so we will provide updates as soon as possible.
 
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