×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Patent Markings May Spell Trouble For Activision

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the almost-rocket-docket dept.

Patents 82

eldavojohn writes "If you pick up your copy of Guitar Hero and read the literature, you'll notice it says 'patent pending' and cites a number of patents. A group alleges no such patent pends nor are some of the patents applicable. If a judge finds Activision guilty of misleading the public in this manner, they could become liable for up to $500 per product sold under false patent marking. The patents in question seem to be legitimately Guitar Hero-oriented, and little is to be found about the mysterious group. The final piece of the puzzle puts the filing in Texas Northern District Court, which might be close enough to Texas Eastern District Court to write this off as a new kind of 'false patent marking troll' targeting big fish with deep coffers."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

82 comments

Hold On a Moment... (3, Funny)

mano.m (1587187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242864)

I invented trolling for false patent markings (patent pending).

Re:Hold On a Moment... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31266144)

Well, tough shit, cause I invented invention itself! (Patent #3735928559.)

Oh, and green is house. Because I say so. Just as coocoo is tetracell white. Also because I say so. And I own you like a slave. Because I said so.

</delusional-“IP”-“owner”>

Someone zoned out... (3, Insightful)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242888)

Guess someone in the patents-cubicle zoned out and forgot to follow up on his email properly..

"Oh those patents, yes, they're sent off..."
"What are those patentnumbers, we need them for printing.."
*searches inbox on 'patent issue'* "Here's a list, let me put it in excel for you.."
"kthx!!"

Re:Someone zoned out... (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242986)

Guess someone in the patents-cubicle zoned out and forgot to follow up on his email properly..

"Oh those patents, yes, they're sent off..." "What are those patentnumbers, we need them for printing.." *searches inbox on 'patent issue'* "Here's a list, let me put it in excel for you.." "kthx!!"

I have no expertise even remotely in this area but, as the submitter, I looked up all the patents mentioned in the claim. A lot of them seem to do with specifics about the controllers like the drum set, guitar or even the mixing board for DJ Hero. But basically each seems to cover many aspects of how these input systems allow the user to 'learn' and how the played track is replayed over the recorded audio. Take 5739457 [google.com] for instance, it seems to focus entirely on the electronic drum sets of Guitar Hero. I think what happened here was that the patent markings were put on every single dust jacket for several Guitar Hero products -- regardless of whether or not they came with the hardware to play the game. So you go pick up your stand alone disc of Guitar Hero and there's no plastic drum with it because you bought just the disc or maybe the guitar-only distribution. That was about as far as I could see them going with these claims. That the person buying that may be confused that the product they bought is covering patents that promise something grander than what they bought.

A really interesting implication for anyone that makes hardware. What if all XBox packs had the same generic patent markings and the arcade came with patent markings for the headset and wireless attachment (not included in arcade)?

Should this sort of thing be prosecutable? Should Acitivision really get any sort of judgment against them for this level of carelessness?

It's the DrumMania patent (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243028)

So you go pick up your stand alone disc of Guitar Hero and there's no plastic drum with it because you bought just the disc or maybe the guitar-only distribution.

The 457 patent also appears to be a software patent covering the method of play of Konami's DrumMania. The Guitar Hero and Band Hero games from World Tour on contain code implementing the DrumMania methods, even if the controller isn't bundled.

Re:Someone zoned out... (2, Interesting)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243416)

Oh yes... Activision should get a judgment, but only for 500$ times the number of unique boxes the "Patent Compliance Group, Inc." actually bought for their own use, and they did prove they did actually bought in the filing. (and a copy of a box is not an extra offense i should think)

Like the advertising clause, it is not for every copy of a advertisement, it is once for all the copies.

And even then, the judgment should be paid to the US state, not to some private lawyer team.

As state in the comments before, the patents are for devices that are not included in the games. I think the provision for stating false patent information is to balance some of the patent rights. Trying to extend the patents to computer software is exactly what a tech work should not want to happen.

Re:Someone zoned out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246084)

Oh yes... Activision should get a judgment, but only for 500$ times the number of unique boxes the "Patent Compliance Group, Inc." actually bought for their own use, and they did prove they did actually bought in the filing. (and a copy of a box is not an extra offense i should think)

Like the advertising clause, it is not for every copy of a advertisement, it is once for all the copies.

And even then, the judgment should be paid to the US state, not to some private lawyer team.

As state in the comments before, the patents are for devices that are not included in the games. I think the provision for stating false patent information is to balance some of the patent rights. Trying to extend the patents to computer software is exactly what a tech work should not want to happen.

Funny how when the RIAA sues an individual, they try to make they pa for every copy in existence, now and in the future...

Corporations should be subject to the same laws as people. After all, maybe the plaintiff bought and resold the guitar hero kits to their friends over and over and over. Each of those is an infringement.

Corporate death penalty (revocation of charter) should also apply.

Re:Someone zoned out... (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31273230)

"Funny how when the RIAA sues an individual, they try to make they paÿ for every copy in existence, now and in the future... "

No. YOu are wrong. RIAA just want want statutory damages. Not a amount that is based on real damages.

Re:Someone zoned out... (2, Insightful)

joetomato (1073508) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245262)

Should this sort of thing be prosecutable? Should Acitivision really get any sort of judgment against them for this level of carelessness?

Absolutely not - who as a consumer goes to a store, copies down the patent numbers, goes home to look them up then buys the product solely based on what they find, completely ignoring the much more obvious "CONTROLLER SOLD SEPARATELY" warning?

Re:Someone zoned out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243436)

Well the first patent, "5,739,457" (filed in 1996 published 1998) has 36 claims, of which 4 are independant (claims 1, 18, 24, 33), and is basically for Guitar Freaks (Konami arcade 1998).

Claim one and 18 have money validation units. Claim 24 has speakers and a display. Claim 33 has a cabinet.

Guitar hero hardware/software does not have any of those items. Perhaps a patent lawyer might know better if you can include stuff (like television) that is not part of the sold system in the claims.

At least it does have the word "plurality" almost often enough to be a real patent :-)

Re:Someone zoned out... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243472)

Claim one and 18 have money validation units.

Then they apply to any such game with paid downloadable songs.

Maybe they used ... (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242988)

... numbers from Patent Hero, the newest game from Activision - you play along with the patent process but aren't really applying for them?

You hold the pen. You fill out the forms. You are the Patent Hero!

Re:Maybe they used ... (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243294)

Sure, but to test the game you need some input from patent specialists, who are way to expensive for a video game.

Re:Maybe they used ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243540)

Apparently you don't know the personality of us patent attorneys. We love to play the kind of game where you type the same phrase repetitively and redundantly, over and over. Heck, just look at the Claims on modern patents to see how we can restate the same thing with minor variations 21 times.

Re:Maybe they used ... (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244022)

Sure, but to test the game you need some input from patent specialists, who are way to expensive for a video game.

That's why you need Specialist Hero ... sorry, I just couldn't resist. ;-)

Re:Maybe they used ... (1)

drkim (1559875) | more than 4 years ago | (#31257024)

I'm looking forward to Harmonix new "Patent Hero - Band" in which you, and a group of friends, can simulate playing "Patent Hero"

Sorry - I just can't help it sometimes...

a nutty form of anti-patent troll (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242990)

As the article notes, these have become common lately. Groups going under names like the one here, "Patent Compliance Group", spend their time digging through product literature looking for "patent pending" claims, and then dig to see if a patent really is pending. In some small percentage of cases, it isn't, and they hope to make enough money on those to justify the endeavor.

I mean, I don't like false advertising, but somehow this particular cure seems even worse than the relatively minor disease of a game claiming it has a patent pending when it doesn't. Given that anyone can file a patent for pretty much anything, it's not like "patent pending" is worth much as a claim anyway.

Go for it! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243260)

"Patent pending" is enough for some people to think they shouldnt use the idea at all.
"Patent pending" is enough to hinder innovation and stifle creativity.
If someone can go after these companies marking everything as "patented", even with false claims, I say go for it.

Our forefathers must be heating up in their graves as their rolling per minute increases.
Who are these pricks anyway, patenting stuff. It's like nobody else should come up with an idea, because that has never happened before.
Total and utter pricks and fools, because the economy and innovation is hurting because of patents.

Re:Go for it! (4, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245576)

Um, no, patent pending is the opposite of stifling creativity.

Patents stifle creativity. Patent pending lets you know what patents to look up.

Society needs to be warned about pending patents, so that people won't waste their time developing something identical, and then learn it is patented. That is much most stifling of creativity than 'Here is a list of things you should look up before developing a product like this'.

You can argue that patents are bad, but you cannot possibly argue that 'knowing patents exist before spending time and money developing a product' is bad.

I'm actually amazed it's any sort of crime, and it certainly shouldn't be per instances. It's the equivalent of printing 'may contain peanuts' on food that does not, in fact, contain peanuts.

I mean, an argument can be made that an overkill 'patent pending' use can result in the person being unable to find the actual relevant patent by throwing too much chaff in there, but these patents are relevant...if you're using the software you purchased, you're using the patents. You're just using them on the hardware you bought separately. The government should just order them to correct the error.

Re:Go for it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31255456)

The argument for forcing companies to mark their products correctly is that they are in the best position to determine if a patent they own or have licensed covers the product. Patent pending doesn't tell you anything because the patent application that is pending could be pre-publication (i.e., before 18 months after the earliest priority date) and no one would be able to find it.

Re:Go for it! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31256156)

patent pending doesn't tell you anything - rarely are published patent numbers put on a product AND a patent application may not even be findable for the first 18 months of its existence because it hasn't published yet.

I fail to see how something sitting at the patent office waiting to be reviewed help society, but after it is examined and granted it then stifles creativity. In fact, by your argument, the issued patent number itself tells you exactly what to look up to see what's has been covered; "patent pending" doesn't do that.

Actually, your argument is backward - someone may have a patent pending, but that doesn't mean they'll ever get a patent on it. Arguably they are preventing people from developing a similar product, yet currently have no right to block people.

Re:a nutty form of anti-patent troll (3, Interesting)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243684)

What a great way to collect "taxes". Did anyone ever questionned the fact that these groups may be funded by the government to deter false "patent pending" claims?

I mean, I don't think this is so bad that they are funded by the USPTO, but at least, they could be more transparent and simply say what they are.

And since I'm pretty sure that no money go in the pockets of those groups when they deter a false "patent pending" claim, I'm also pretty sure that they do not have a dime to fund their research. So who would do this job for free?

Re:a nutty form of anti-patent troll (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244948)

What a great way to collect "taxes". Did anyone ever questionned the fact that these groups may be funded by the government to deter false "patent pending" claims?

I mean, I don't think this is so bad that they are funded by the USPTO, but at least, they could be more transparent and simply say what they are.

And since I'm pretty sure that no money go in the pockets of those groups when they deter a false "patent pending" claim, I'm also pretty sure that they do not have a dime to fund their research. So who would do this job for free?

OK maybe this isn't the most paranoid conspiracy theory I've read about, but it is one of the more illogical. Why would the government bother to setup a shadowy organization to sue in situations like this when there is no reason not to use more above-board means. Anyone, including government employees on their own time, can file a civil suit like this! As for the profit motive, maybe there isn't one. Perhaps this is actually a group of concerned citizens who see themselves in the same light as the EFF. Alternatively, perhaps there is a profit motive, but they are only targeting Guitar Hero because it's a very well known and profitable game and this group has no intention of going after other such cases.

False (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246856)

What you state is wrong, the USPTO could never "fund" such an entity. They are simply a newer form of a patent troll. Why? Because there is money to be made. See how the free market (read: capitalist) approach works so much better than a solely government run (read: socialist) approach?
 
You have people who have a job and making money independently, with no loss to the government/commonwealth, compared to if the USPTO ran it the government would be spending millions for a much less efficient solution.

Re:False (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31248294)

Don't forget that Bush (capitalist) is gone and that Obama (socialist) is in... So his theory holds!

If they're trolls, so are the EFF (4, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31242992)

The final piece of the puzzle puts the filing in Texas Northern District Court, which might be close enough to Texas Eastern District Court to write this off as a new kind of 'false patent marking troll' targeting big fish with deep coffers.

Troll? Hardly. The Electronic Frontier Foundation routinely files lawsuits like this one on the public's behalf. Compare PCG's lawsuit against alleged patent fraud to EFF's investigations and other actions against alleged copyfraud [eff.org]. So what's the big difference between a "false patent marking troll" and EFF?

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (2, Insightful)

machine321 (458769) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243134)

Slashdot tells us to love EFF, and hate patents. Besides, that's copyright, which we're supposed to hate except the GPL, and this is patents. I know it's complicated, but you've got to keep track!

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (-1, Flamebait)

tgd (2822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243296)

Careful, the Slashbots don't like mirrors held up to them.

You may get modded as a troll or flaimbait or something in retribution.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (-1, Offtopic)

Silicon Jedi (878120) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243542)

Or you can karma whore by going against groupthink, causing the groupthink to mod you up to prove they are all individuals.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (4, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243320)

Slashdot doesn't tell you anything. Slashdot is a collection of individuals. Some of them tell you one thing, others tell you something different.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (0, Offtopic)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243380)

Slashdot is a collection of individuals. Some of them tell you one thing, others tell you something different.

Until you get to moderation. For each comment, moderators and metamoderators can choose to promote or bury it, with cause (Insightful, Flamebait, etc.) or without cause (*rated). The "consensus" or "groupthink" on Slashdot can be observed from what comments get routinely modded up and what comments get modded down. The editors can influence this consensus by banning moderators.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (1, Insightful)

Lostlander (1219708) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243590)

I think you may be confusing groupthink with people who are bored or really have so little to do that they bother to moderate.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244666)

You can adjust your settings to ignore moderation scores so no comments would be "promoted" or "buried". Digg has this setting also (just in case you were confusing the two. You see, digg is the site where comments get "buried", not /.).

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244590)

I think his comment went over you like a cement cloud.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245660)

Slashdot is a collection of individuals. Some of them tell you one thing, others tell you something different.

We are Slashcutus of Borg. Resistance is futile.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246102)

How does slashdot tell us to love the EFF? Tell me please. I want to know about this love!

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243332)

So what's the big difference between a "false patent marking troll" and EFF?

EFF doesn't file in Eastern Texas. In my opinion, anyone who files for a case related to patents and copyrights in Easter Texas does it to take advantage of the sham court system they have established there.

Also, from what I can tell, EFFs purpose of suing isn't to line their own pockets, but to strike down invalid patents and patent claims because it stifles innovation. That difference in intent is striking, isn't it?

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (3, Informative)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243386)

Neither did this group - they're filing in Northern Texas ;)

On behalf of some developer, possibly (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243504)

Also, from what I can tell, EFFs purpose of suing isn't to line their own pockets, but to strike down invalid patents and patent claims because it stifles innovation.

How do you know the plaintiff in this case isn't acting on behalf of some video game developer that wants to make another guitar game?

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (2, Informative)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243344)

So what's the big difference between a "false patent marking troll" and EFF?

Well, the obvious difference is that most of the EFF actions in the article you linked to involve them defending people who have actually received DCMA takedowns, C&Ds or similar nastygrams from the people dubiously claiming copyright infringement.

By contrast, if Activision have actually been threatening people over their (allegedly) false patent claims then TFA neglects to mention it.

Defending Roxor, for instance (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243454)

Well, the obvious difference is that most of the EFF actions in the article you linked to involve them defending people who have actually received DCMA takedowns

Activision produces Guitar Hero series under license from Konami, owner of patent rights in the Guitar Freaks and DrumMania franchises. Konami already managed to sue Roxor Games into oblivion for In the Groove, a spiritual sequel to Dance Dance Revolution.

Re:Defending Roxor, for instance (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243970)

Well, the obvious difference is that most of the EFF actions in the article you linked to involve them defending people who have actually received DCMA takedowns

Activision produces Guitar Hero series under license from Konami, owner of patent rights in the Guitar Freaks and DrumMania franchises. Konami already managed to sue Roxor Games into oblivion for In the Groove, a spiritual sequel to Dance Dance Revolution.

Well, if the "Patent Compliance Group, Inc." is defending Roxor, or if they are going after Konami, or if the patent that Roxor violated is one that PCG asserts is being falsely claimed then show me, and I'll happily concede the point.

Meanwhile, I don't think anybody is crying bitter salty tears for Activision. However the existance of IP "bounty hunters" looking to profit from anybody who steps on the cracks in the legal pavement, whether or not anybody has actually been damaged, is not good news for anybody.

Going after Activision in order to go after Konami (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244150)

Well, if the "Patent Compliance Group, Inc." is defending Roxor, or if they are going after Konami

If PCG is working on behalf of a video game developer, then my first guess is that PCG is 1. going after Activision for Activision's patents and 2. going after Activision for the patents it licensed from Konami as a first step toward going after Konami.

Re:Going after Activision in order to go after Kon (3, Informative)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245672)

Okay, to recap what is actually happening for insane people who have no reading comprehension: No one is going after any patents whatsoever.

Some extraneous 'patent pending' numbers were printed on software boxes. No one has even slightly indicated that anyone would attempt to 'enforce' said patent-printing mistakes, or that other people wish to use said patents on their software, because the patents do not even relate to software.

Again: There are no actual patents involved at all. The 'offense' was a box that asserted that various pending patents applied to it, when they clearly do not, and no one is even slightly asserting they do. No one is attempting to enforce any patents, no one is attempting to strike down any patents. The patents mentioned will remain valid (For the things they actually apply to) even if this suit succeeds.

Apparently, falsely claiming you have a patent pending is a civil liability, as is claiming a pending patent applies to something it doesn't, and groups have arisen to run around suing people for this. This is the story of one of those groups.

Re:Going after Activision in order to go after Kon (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245894)

No one is attempting to enforce any patents, no one is attempting to strike down any patents.

Yet. There are three ways it can play out:

  • Activision can prove in court that its product is patented, and the scope of the patents owned or licensed by Activision becomes clear to competitors.
  • Activision can fail to prove that its product is patented, and the scope of the patents owned or licensed by Activision becomes clear to competitors.
  • Activision can leave it ambiguous, and the anti-patent troll responds: "Grant $developer a license to your game's patents, or we'll seek class action status for every box that you've ever listed a patent on."

Re:Going after Activision in order to go after Kon (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31248018)

Man, your reading comprehension is terrible.

There are no actual patents involved in this case, period. There can be no judgement for or against a patent in this case, because there are no patents involved. No patent will be "clarified" accept to say that yes it does exist (or at least its application exists) or no it doesn't, and yes it does apply or no it doesn't apply. That's it. Nothing is going on with the patent itself, at all.

What is involved is a statement of patents pending which, if there were no such patents pending, is fraud.

So the possibilities are as follows:
- The plantif can prove that there were not applications pending for all of the "patent pending" statements on the box, or that the pending patents did not actually apply to the game. If they do, Activision can be hit for fraud and end up paying $500 for each copy of the game they sold.
- The plantif can fail to prove that there were no applications pending for some patent statements or fail to prove that the patents do not apply. In that case, the little fly goes away.

If Activision attempts to "leave it ambiguous" they will almost certainly lose. The burden is on the plantiff, but it's pretty easy to prove just about anything if the defense doesn't fight back.

Re:Going after Activision in order to go after Kon (2, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31255216)

Man, your reading comprehension is terrible.

Indeed. This entire discussion is a rather blatant example of the failure of moderation. Half the people here seem to think we're actually discussing whether a patent is valid or not.

Actually discussing whether or not the large fine makes sense in this day and age, when it's fairly easy to look up patents, is another thing, as is whether or not it should apply if you do it accidentally, and a real discussion we could actually be interesting.

Likewise, an argument could be made that you should have to lists patents required to use a device on said device even if the device itself doesn't use the patent. (You can replace 'device' with 'software'.)

If you really truly need a patent to do something with what you buy, like if you need to use a patented device to put fuel in your car, I would argue that it would actually make sense to require the car, as well as the fuel device, to state that. This isn't how the law works, and thus that argument won't really help Activision, but it would make sense.

Or, for perhaps a more relevant example, some companies have taken to patenting hardware interfaces. But they can patent just the cable, and hence stop people from making compatible cables, while not patenting the plug itself, and hence not having to notify people on their device.

Hence I might build and sell my own cable and be in violation of patent law, even after I've looked up the patents on the device itself. Yes, in theory, I could be in violation of patents for all sorts of things, but the point is that companies should be required to inform me, a purchaser of their stuff, all the patents that are relevant, even if, strictly speaking, they don't apply to the stuff itself. Perhaps some sort of 'See also' patent list.

But almost all the people here seem to think this is some actual patent dispute, so heaven forbid we have an actual relevant discussion. Ugh.

Re:Going after Activision in order to go after Kon (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245990)

PCG is going after several companies, including Timex, Brunswick, and Wright Medical. This type of lawsuit is essentially an extortion scheme, though IANAL.

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (1)

smartr (1035324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245848)

uhh... I don't think it's hard to tell the difference between a nonprofit consumer protection group like the EFF fighting fraudulent claims of ownership based on complaints and a mysterious "Patent Compliance Group, Inc." that seems to hunt for supposed fraudulent patent claims. To me, that's apples and oranges (yes they're both fruit!). I don't know how they come off thinking Activision Blizzard is making these claims for the "purpose of deceiving the public", and I further don't see how this group should be entitled to compensation. If the state was going after ATVI, or this was some class action suit, this might make some vague sense... I mean, even if Activision is guilty of breaking this act, how has PCG possibly been harmed in any way?

Re:If they're trolls, so are the EFF (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245968)

If the state was going after ATVI, or this was some class action suit, this might make some vague sense

The latter might happen. See my other comment [slashdot.org].

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243108)

they could become liable for up to $500 per product sold

What you mean is, "they will be liable for up to a $5 credit towards Activision titles per product sold", right? That's how it always seems to pan out.

What about software? (1)

idontusenumbers (1367883) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243162)

If hardware is required to have related patents listed on the product, shouldn't software need these markings? What a mess that would spell.

Software already has patent markings (4, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243432)

If hardware is required to have related patents listed on the product, shouldn't software need these markings? What a mess that would spell.

Until Unisys's LZW patent expired, every major non-free paint program had "Licensed under U.S. Patent 4,558,302 and foreign counterparts" in its about box.

New from Activision... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243266)

Barney Frank's Cocksucker Hero! Guess what the controller is shaped like?

Re:New from Activision... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243942)

my guess would be, a mouth?

Just sayin

Activision Rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31243794)

Activision Rocks on. This material is copyright protected

false patent marking troll? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243820)

Are they a 'false patent marking troll' for going after Activision? Or is Activision the troll for covering their products with misleading patent information? Or are they both trolls? Seems like it should be some sort of patent regulatory body that prosecutes such things; what are they up to?

Re:false patent marking troll? (2, Informative)

camg188 (932324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244346)

It's a money grab, a shakedown. Patent Compliance Group filed a "qui tam" action.
Qui tam is a writ whereby a private individual who assists a prosecution can receive all or part of any penalty imposed (from wikipedia).

Does anyone have any info on Patent Compliance Group, Inc.? Even though they are incorporated, I can't find any information about them, like who is on their board and where they are located.

one or more (2, Interesting)

CockMonster (886033) | more than 4 years ago | (#31243904)

"Covered by one or more of the following patents..." seems to me they have their ass covered

Re:one or more (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31248782)

The law doesn't work that way. Misrepresentation is misrepresentation, and if interstate comerce is involved it's fraud.

Now, that doesn't mean you leave out the ass covering statement, because they might be able to show that they did not intend to mislead anybody, and it was just a mistake that was missed. That can work, because intent is 9/10 of the law, but is by no means a given, they will still have to fight for it and hard.

You've got to remember that just because someone wrote it down doesn't make it so. It's the same thing with EULA's, they talk a good game, but in fact a lot of what is in there is completely unenforceable. They can say they can change the EULA whenever they want, but that doesn't mean they can change it whenever they want and still have it apply to you.

The flip side, of course, is that if they never make the claim they'll never get away with it, so they put all the useless unenforceable crap in there anyway, just in case.

qui tam (2, Interesting)

camg188 (932324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244130)

I was wondering why a third party would be bringing legal action against Activision for allegedly violating federal patent law because it seemed to be a criminal, not a civil case. Then I look up the definition of "qui tam"
Qui tam is a writ whereby a private individual who assists a prosecution can receive all or part of any penalty imposed (from wikipedia).

Can someone make sense of this story? (2, Interesting)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244702)

So Activision is being sued because they put "patent pending" on a product that doesn't actually have a patent pending. Ok, with you so far.

But then the summary adds this:

The patents in question seem to be legitimately Guitar Hero-oriented, and little is to be found about the mysterious group.

If there are patents in question, then ... why are they being sued? Either they have pending patents or they don't, right?

Re:Can someone make sense of this story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31244866)

Just because your claims are wrong, doesn't mean you can't sue someone. Or it's possible TFA is wrong and some of the patents aren't applicable, or there's something marginal about one of them.

Re:Can someone make sense of this story? (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245400)

If there are patents in question, then ... why are they being sued?

Because, although the patents were "valid", they referred to articles not included in the box (such as patents on the drum set, on a box that contained only the software and the guitar).

Re:Can someone make sense of this story? (2, Informative)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245918)

The pending patents are for hardware, not software. They cannot apply to a box of software people purchase.

Okay, everyone seems to be very ignorant here, and the article isn't explaining this, so I guess I have to give a damn history lesson:

The US government requires that you put notification of patent use on things you sell. (Either your own patent, or something you've licensed from someone else.)

That is fine for issued patents, but what about pending patents? Remember, you can use something for up to a year before filing a patent on it, and you do have some amount of protection when patents are pending.

Ergo, you should have to put pending patent notifications, so people can look those up, too, and not waste their time building something that's going to be in violation of a patent in two months.

Well, the problem then arose. You see, actual patents are easy to look up. Patent lawyers could have copies of the entire set, you could go to a law courthouse in state capital, etc.

Pending patents, OTOH, are real bitch to find. Only the patent office has those. So some enterprising people who couldn't, or didn't bother, to get patents, just went around putting 'patent pending' on everything, resulting in other people unable to figure out what, exactly, was patented. Or they could keep resubmitted a rejected patent, and it remain 'pending'.

Hence, at some point, falsely claiming to have patents pending, or actually having one pending, but unrelated to what you put it on, was made criminal and you can be fined for it.

Those laws don't really make any sense anymore, but are still there.

Re:Can someone make sense of this story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31256356)

Your heart is in the right place, but you are very misinformed.

The "pending patents" aren't identified at all - only the issued patents are marked on the boxes, along with a generic additional "and patent applications pending." The case is based on that the patents that are marked do not apply to the products in the box. I won't go into the actual merits of the claims.

With respect to how to find patents, to look up any patent since 1976 or any published pending application since 2000, go to http://patft.uspto.gov/ [uspto.gov]

You can search by number, or keyword, or assignee, or a whole host of other terms.

Also, there is no requirement to mark your products - if you don't mark, it can limit your damages received to the time the infringer actually knew of your patents, but there is no requirement to mark your products. Doing so satisfies the notice requirement by serving as constructive notice of your patent so you can get damages back to when you marked not just when they knew about it, but again, there's no requirement.

Lastly, for pending patent applications, you have very limited rights - mainly you can recover damages for the period between publication and issuance of the patent IF the patent issue with claims that are very similar to those of the published application. Otherwise, you have no rights at all until the patent issues.

The laws actually do make sense - the patentee (or applicant) is in the best position to determine if their product is covered by a patent or an application. The government imposes this burden on them so that they are careful when they mark. If they mark with the intent to deceive the public, they are liable - half to the government and half to the entity "protecting" the public by bringing the lawsuit. Of course this particular case and those like it are money grabs, but that is the intent behind the statute. The hard part, thankfully, is proving that the patentee had to intend to decieve the public, which is pretty difficult absent a smoking gun email or an extended period of false marking. "Oops, we screwed up, but did it in good faith" can be a defense if it is bolstered by actual good faith efforts.

Re:Can someone make sense of this story? (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31260384)

Erm, in what manner am I very misinformed?

The only thing I said wrong was the US government requires you to mark your patents, which, as you pointed out, they don't, that's just required to collect more damages.

I fail to see how that makes me 'very misinformed'. I should have said that they require you to do that 'to actually collect any damages from infringement'. Otherwise they will just assert they didn't know, and as long as they stop when you notify them, they are fine. Without it, copycats can flood the market until you write each one a letter.

So, yes, in theory, you don't have to put patents on a product. In practice, however, you do, if you ever intend on suing people for cloning your product. Or they will say 'Oh, that's patented? Now that I know, I'll stop.' and you get nothing.

I think you also decided I was wrong about how hard pending patents are to find, but I was giving a history lesson...pending patents used to be very hard to find. Patents themselves used to be almost as hard.

Hence it's illegal to mark something as having patents pending when it does not. And it's illegal to mark something as applicable to a patent when it is not.

Re:Can someone make sense of this story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31269904)

You started out giving a history lesson, but you repeatedly used the present tense:

You see, actual patents are easy to look up. Patent lawyers could have copies of the entire set, you could go to a law courthouse in state capital, etc.

This all makes it sound like you have to do legwork to find patents. You don't.

Pending patents, OTOH, are real bitch to find. Only the patent office has those

Google and several other sites index the patent office's publications and you can easily find them on the web or the PTO's website.

You never said it "used" to be hard - you said it is hard. Big difference.

The pending patents are for hardware, not software. They cannot apply to a box of software people purchase.

You're wrong here too because a number of the patents have - along with their apparatus claims - method claims and computer-readable medium claims, which can cover software.

Lastly, there is no marking requirement for patents with method claims, so you can get damages without marking something (because the patent is on the method and there isn't actually anything to mark)

So again, your heart was in the right place, but you were wrong on just about every point you made. If this offends you, well, do more research next time. I wouldn't mind - I mean you are trying to help other people understand it - but time and again people read +X Informatives and take it as gospel. Then it gets regurgitated later and spreads and spreads.

Look at the repeated assertion on /. that EULAs are unenforceable. Total bunk, and not based on any court decisions. And every time I've seen it, I ask for a citation and never get one. Why? Because ProCD v. Zeitenberg and Hill v. Gateway say the exact opposite. Yet IT IS LAW here on slashdot, because somebody said it once and it got repeated over and over.

So I have little tolerance or sympathy for people authoritatively being flat out wrong here.

It's worse in germany (3, Informative)

s-whs (959229) | more than 4 years ago | (#31244924)

This reminds me of the 'Abmanhnungen' in Germany. In both cases it's gaming the system and should be severely punished...

For many years in Germany attorneys have gamed the system, related to what you are allowed and not allowed to do esp. when selling something. These 'people' have for example scoured ebay ads, and when they found say a missing telephone number or missing note on how to undo the deal for a business seller, they sent such a 'Mahnung'. Not for free obviously, no, with an invoice for payment (for their own time/effort!). Yes, you will have to pay... It gets even worse. Suppose you've got an old magazine with old demo software disk on it and put it on ebay.de (as a German, I don't think you can be touched if not), then you'd better check there are no programs on there that are now forbidden. DVD copying software for example that circumvents the protection scheme is no longer allowed since several years.

People have been sent a 'Mahnung' for putting a mag with such no longer allowed software on ebay, and had to pay large amounts of money to such 'scammers'. You think you get a few euros, but you have to pay many hundreds. Nice.

These people are the worst kinds of assholes around just as the guy I mentioned in a previous posting, 'Pieter Lakeman' (who created a foundation supposedly to help clients of the DSB bank with supposedly bad loans, but in reality this foundation just pays his 300 euro/hour salary and there were hardly any bad loans anyway; He then influenced people to take away their money from DSB which led to its collapse. Nice!), and I consider them to be legal scammers.

See for one notorious guy, who was sentenced to jail for other things, this page (it didn't end well for him and I don't think many people will give a damn, he was really hated as one can see in many forums...): http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%BCnter_Freiherr_von_Gravenreuth [wikipedia.org]

"Sad" news: Günter von Gravenreuth dead at 61 (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245358)

I just read some "sad" news on Slashdot - The infamous lawyer Günter Freiherr von Gravenreuth [gravenreuth.de] was found dead in his Munich student club this morning. He gave himself the deadly shot just as police special units looking for him were busting down the doors. I'm sure nobody in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't receive any of his "Abmahnungen", there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly a German icon. He will not be missed.

Now, don't anybody dare to mod this as offtopic!

Something had to give... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245468)

Most people who play Guitar Hero don't realise that Konami (UUDDLRLRBABAStart?) did all of this guitar and drum game stuff almost 10 years before Activision with games called GuitarFreaks and DrumMania.

A few years back back when R0x0r Games, a company noted for making linux based games, decided to make their own DanceDanceRevolution knock-off game, titled 'In The Groove', they got sued by Konami. Since then, I believe they had to sell the ITG franchise off to a Korean company named Andimiro, who got away with making a DDR clone called 'Pump It Up' for years.

Konami was well ahead of everyone with patenting all of the technology for the various controllers. It's how they've been able to sue other game companies making these clone games.

"Patent Pending" has no legal effect (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245486)

Stamping "Patent Pending" on a product has no legal effect. It just makes you feel good.

Re:"Patent Pending" has no legal effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246052)

Actually it does have a legal effect, but only if you don't *actually* have a pending patent on said product.

Re:"Patent Pending" has no legal effect (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31254046)

I disagree. Speech on products is highly regulated and printing a false claim on your product SHOULD be actionable. Printing patent pending while not actually having a patent pending is misleading. Patents are legal instruments, do not invoke them trivially.

Re:"Patent Pending" has no legal effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31256228)

Stamping "Patent Pending" on a product has no legal effect. It just makes you feel good.

you have no idea what you are talking about.

It is absolutely misleading and intentionally deceiving the public, and this is exactly what PCG is basing its claim on.


35 U.S.C. 292 False marking.

(a) Whoever, without the consent of the patentee, marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with anything made, used, offered for sale, or sold by such person within the United States, or imported by the person into the United States, the name or any imitation of the name of the patentee, the patent number, or the words "patent," "patentee," or the like, with the intent of counterfeiting or imitating the mark of the patentee, or of deceiving the public and inducing them to believe that the thing was made, offered for sale, sold, or imported into the United States by or with the consent of the patentee; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any unpatented article the word "patent" or any word or number importing the same is patented, for the purpose of deceiving the public; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any article the words "patent applied for," "patent pending," or any word importing that an application for patent has been made, when no application for patent has been made, or if made, is not pending, for the purpose of deceiving the public - Shall be fined not more than $500 for every such offense.

(b) Any person may sue for the penalty, in which event one-half shall go to the person suing and the other to the use of the United States.

Emphasis mine - you are wrong. Please stop talking because you aren't a lawyer and god forbid someone will think you know something about this

Please don't compare North Texas to East Texas (1)

gravis777 (123605) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246890)

While we are one big state of Palin-worshiping Bible-thumping pro-life conservatives, I find the insenuation that those of us from North Texas just want to hunt and fish insulting. We care about cows, oil, airlines and fighter jets here.

Overzealous IP claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31247408)

Companies seem to think that aggressively asserting their IP rights in writing is the first step towards keeping people from infringing. (Probably not.) Sometimes they seem to think that they're entitled to state those rights in the strongest terms possible, even when it strains the limits of accuracy. It reminds me of the excessive and demonstrably false copyright notices that are spoken over sports broadcasts—I'll pick on the NFL:

This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience, and any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited. [emphasis added]

So, for one thing, they are lying by denying the existence of fair use. It's not that any use of the telecast is prohibited, only those uses not permitted under the fair use clause. But that's not as bad as this bullshit about "any [...] descriptions or accounts of the game." Any at all? Including my own? If I'm watching the game on TV and blogging about it, that's illegal?

I hate to suggest picking just one company to make an example of, but... they should make an example of Activision. These are big companies with full-time lawyers. They can afford to not lie.

keyword: UP TO $500 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31255298)

The US court system recently decided that $500 is only a maximum per item sold, and a judge could decide on any lesser amount. Based on precedent, the fine would probably be more like a fraction of a dollar per unit.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...