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IBM Patents Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Movies

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the I've-seen-this-one-before dept.

Movies 187

An anonymous reader writes "IBM, whose former patent boss is in charge of the USPTO these days, and which claims to support patent reform, has just been awarded a patent on choose-your-own-adventure style movies, despite plenty of prior art. Whatever happened to fixing the patent system, rather than continuing these mistakes?"

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Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (3, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594664)

The idea of a branch-menu based book may be old, but the idea of a branch-based movie theater experience is new. Sure, it's easy to join digital video files to run back to back, but to branch to a different film segment without there being a visible gap is quite the work of art. Notice the gaps between the previews/ads that are shown before you get to the ones that are already on the movie's film.

This is a lot more than a film strip you saw at school. This is 24 frames per second and you've got to get the right film for the "choice" up there in fractions of a second. This is a patent on IBM's way of making this work, you could easily come up with another way.

Yup (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594730)

That other way is called a "video game." Such as Indigo Prophecy, Resident Evil 4, or Heavy Rain. There's not enough to distinguish between a real-time adventure game and this concept. Just because you put it in a theatre doesn't make it patentable. That's just making the screen bigger and adding more participants.

Re:Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33594882)

Just because you put it in a theatre doesn't make it patentable.

Just because you put "on the web" doesn't make it patentable. Oh shit, it does. That's the state of the USPTO.

This broken patent doesn't surprise me, and it shouldn't surprise you.

Re:Yup (1)

zmaragdus (1686342) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594990)

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is another good example of a "choose-your-own-ending" game.

Re:Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595056)

I'd use Dragon's Lair (1983) as a better example, which was a "movie" played from a laser disc that had multiple endings based on the player's input.

Laserdisc based Dragon's Lair game ... (4, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595468)

Dragon's Lair, mid 1980s? It was a coin operated video game that basically played animated scenes from a laserdisc. Your inputs decides which way things forked at key points.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon's_Lair [wikipedia.org]

Re:Laserdisc based Dragon's Lair game ... (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595644)

Don't forget it's sci-fi partner in quarter theft: Space Ace

Re:Laserdisc based Dragon's Lair game ... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33596002)

Your inputs decides which way things forked at key points.

'Your' is singular. The patent is about a number of people voting to take paths, not a single person choosing.

Re:Yup (1)

tycoex (1832784) | more than 4 years ago | (#33596156)

I also thought of Heavy Rain the second I read this headline.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33594834)

If you're in a cinema showing ads, it's likely a slide projector type setup (for rural places) or it's digital (for urban places). The projectionist at most splices the trailers and maybe 2 or 3 rolls for the actual film (hopefully in the right order, I've seen plenty done incorrectly). If it's digital, they barely do shit. As a former theatre manager, projectionists are the most overpaid and underworked people in the building.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (4, Informative)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595064)

Ahem, Scourge of Worlds - A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure (2003) would like a word here.

http://www.amazon.com/Scourge-Worlds-Dungeons-Dragons-Adventure/dp/B00009KU8L [amazon.com]

From the description: Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons and Dragons Adventure is not a film sequel to Dungeons and Dragons (2000), but the DVD equivalent of an interactive role-playing novel. There are over 900 short digitally animated sequences, leading every so often to a choice to be made with the remote control, resulting after about 90 minutes in one of four possible endings.

Sorry IBM, your prior art is sitting in a card board box in my basement.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595296)

That's a swing and a miss at a prior art claim... a DVD is digital video, and this concerns doing it with film.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

suutar (1860506) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595374)

The patent does not use the word 'film' anywhere. It does, however, use 'storyline recorded on an electronic medium'.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

suutar (1860506) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595390)

But the claims do include specifics like 'with some weighting factor based at least on ticket price', so nothing for home use is going to be a match. This is very specifically aimed at theaters.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

Kalidor (94097) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595638)

I don't know about DVD's , but I remember various educational films in school doing this when LaserDisc came out and got paired with barcode scanners to scan jumps in a book that came with the LaserDisc.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595360)

Yep, exactly the same thing. Oh, except for the bits about multiple people, and voting, and weighting votes on characteristics such as ticket price, and saving the generated story arcs, etc etc. In other words, it is exactly the same except that everything in the patent is different from your 'prior art'. Maybe you should actually READ THE PATENT instead of idiotic flamebait summaries before posting your wonderful insights.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595586)

It _doesn't_ have to be the same thing. Patents are supposed to be non-obvious to an expert in the field.

You have a movie where the viewer can use a remote to choose the movie's path. Now imagine that instead of 1 viewer, you have some dozens. How would you let them choose the path? Letting people vote is completely obvious and should not be patentable. Charging an extra for that feature shouldn't either.

The patent also seems light on specific implementation details, it's completely generic[1]. If it was a specific system, I could understood, but this seems too vague and non-obvious.

But then again, IANAPL (I'm Not A Patents Lawyer).

[1] "It is to be understood that the specific embodiments of the invention that have been described are merely illustrative of certain applications of the principle of the present invention. Numerous modifications may be made to the system, method, and service for showing and selecting diverging storylines using branching techniques described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention."

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (2, Informative)

next_ghost (1868792) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595154)

Actually this kind of branched movie was done as far back as 1985 in Czechoslovakia in a television series Rozpaky kuchare Svatopluka. When the series aired for the first time, the story would stop at certain points for then-live transmission where Josef Dvorak (the starring actor of the series) would ask the viewers to vote for one of two possible alternatives in the story. Both live audience in the studio and TV viewers could vote, the former with a voting box that was passed around, the latter by turning lights on and off. An engineer from central power control would then announce which alternative caused a bigger power drain (got more votes) and the story would continue with the alternative chosen by TV viewers. Reruns of the series today show the story chosen by viewers in 1985.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595202)

That is awesome. Did they release a DVD with multiple angle support or something that would let you see the other choices?

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595414)

Not that I know of. Google found an article from 2006 which says that a DVD of this series would be released soon but nothing else.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595856)

Prior art exists. What about Board games with video that displays current progression's of the game? An example is Clue derivatives. If they are patenting the computational process for distributing such games rapid fire, its a bit different than patenting the idea.

Re:Next movie you go to, thank your projectionist. (3, Informative)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595952)

Disney did this years and years ago. I remember a ride in Disneyworld that was a 3D theater ride. Toward the end, it would let you choose how to get home, whether it was through space, plane, etc. The theater would choose by pushing one of several buttons on the armrest and the winning sequence would play. It has been done.

Choose your own adventure movies? (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594698)

Didn't we used to call those "Video Games"?

I remember a short lived period from the late 90's where "interactive movies" tried to revive the adventure game. Wouldn't this be the same thing but with more footage?

Re:Choose your own adventure movies? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594722)

Obligatory link to FMV games. Ahhh the 90s... How I DON'T miss that genre.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_motion_video_based_game [wikipedia.org]

Re:Choose your own adventure movies? (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594930)

Obligatory link to FMV games. Ahhh the 90s... How I DON'T miss that genre.

I said it was short lived (and for a very good reason).

Shame about the adventure game though, I DO miss that genre.

Re:Choose your own adventure movies? (1)

snookerhog (1835110) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594968)

I am watching a choose your own adventure movie right now.

it's called real life and it's in 3D

Re:Choose your own adventure movies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595082)

it's called real life and it's in 3D

It's in 3D, but at least on my version you need to special glasses to get the full effect, which is just lame. And the ending totally sucks. Plus you have to go through pointless grinding for gold 8 hours a day just to get to the good parts, which, on days when you're lucky enough to have them happen, usually don't last more than 20 minutes (and are also mostly grinding, themselves).

Re:Choose your own adventure movies? (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595216)

Well, at least there's no stupid Walmart sales policy or M rating or whatever to prevent you from slaughtering children or dogs. That part is at least awesome, but I see what you mean about the grinding.

Re:Choose your own adventure movies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595352)

No, instead they have this system called Consequences(TM) and that's how you get the tougher bosses to spawn.

Re:Choose your own adventure movies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595302)

I was thinking "Dragon's Lair" as well.

because (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594712)

Whatever happened to fixing the patent system, rather than continuing these mistakes?"

What happens is that every time a big company gets hit with patent lawsuits, they learn from it, patent a lot of stuff, and turn around and start making money off the system (IBM, Apple, Sun, Microsoft.....Sun wasn't even the sue-happy type, and they still made a ton off patents). So they don't feel motivated to try and change things anymore. Why should they? Then you have guys like Amazon, and their one-click patent, who pay lip-service to patent reform, but in practice they defend their stupid patent every chance they get.

There's more (1)

QuantumBeep (748940) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594720)

The simple essence of "Choose your own adventure" is only a small part of the patent.

If you RTFP, you'll find voting mechanisms, pricing models, variable vote weighting based on a pricing model, and a proposed rating system.

I think they deserve the patent.

Re:There's more (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594798)

The simple essence of "Choose your own adventure" is only a small part of the patent. If you RTFP, you'll find voting mechanisms, pricing models, variable vote weighting based on a pricing model, and a proposed rating system. I think they deserve the patent.

Really? What's the inventive step? This appears to me to be a business method patent (Claim 1), with a software patent thinly layered over it (Claim 11 -- which is basically "software which does the stuff in claim 1"). The worst of all worlds, so to speak.

Re:There's more (1)

QuantumBeep (748940) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595062)

You're stretching all logical thinking to mean "software patent". It's a real strain, I'm afraid.

Speaking of prior art (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594732)

Re:Speaking of prior art (1)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595848)

And don't forget Mr. Payback [suntimes.com] .

Re:Speaking of prior art (1)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595860)

Oh yeah, and I'm Your Man [imdb.com] .

Why can't we have better slashdot editors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33594736)

The editor claims lots of previous work in this area. I challenge him to find something that does all this. It maybe that there is previous literature but there isn't a huge amount. Basically the editor doesn't know what a patent is. It's about the claims not the area the patent is in. You can patent something if there is no previous literature that does everything in the claim. If someone has left out one thing here then that doesn't stop the patent.

Here's the first claim.

1. A method for selecting a logical branch in a storyline among a plurality of available storyline branches on a computing device, based on voters' votes, comprising: obtaining and accumulating, the votes from the voters on a computing device for at least one of the plurality of available storyline branches, during the presentation of the storyline; selectively excluding votes, using the computing device, based on voter characteristics from the accumulated votes for a specific storyline branch; multiplying, using the computing device, at least one received vote by a weight factor based on voter characteristics, the weighting factor being based on at least ticket pricing; calculating, using the computing device, a total for the accumulated and weighted votes; and determining, using the computing device, a winning tally that corresponds to one of the plurality of available storyline branches; selecting and presenting, using the computing device, at least one of the available storyline branches with the winning tally as a future storyline branch during the presentation of the storyline, and generating, using the computing device, a media version matrix specifying a selected storyline having a particular set of logical branches selected by the voting for later use and retrieval, by recording each selected corresponding storyline branch of the plurality of available storyline branches on the computing device.

Re:Why can't we have better slashdot editors? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594796)

As I posted just above you, Tender Loving Care [imdb.com] . Not to mention Phantasmagoria [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Why can't we have better slashdot editors? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595054)

I'd say Meet Me in St. Louis was the first choose your own adventure movie. You watch some, then depending on when you fall asleep and wake up, you get a different story (not a different plot, though- there isn't really one).

Re:Why can't we have better slashdot editors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33596114)

Oh damn, I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of Phantasmagoria (or the sequel) for years. Never played it, but always got the compulsion it was a pretty decent representation of both the medium and the genre.

Suggestions?

Re:Why can't we have better slashdot editors? (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595318)

Rozpaky kuchare Svatopluka, TV series, 1985, Czechoslovakia. When the series first aired, the TV viewers could vote for one of two alternatives by turning lights on and off. An engineer from central power control would then announce the result in then-live transmission and the story would continue with the alternative chosen by viewers. If you watch a rerun of this series, you'll find out it actually covers all the claims because the reruns include then-live footage from 1985 (no more voting) and there was live audience in the studio who voted using a voting box whose votes didn't actually count.

Re:Why can't we have better slashdot editors? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595658)

You can patent something if there is no previous literature that does everything in the claim.

No, it also must be non-obvious to an expert in the field. If you asked almost any person "how would you implement DVD choose your own adventure to Theaters", how many would say "let people vote and choose the path based on what the majority chose"?

Except maybe for the vote weighting based on ticket pricing, the rest seems pretty obvious.

Also, shouldn't patents define specific implementations, not high level concepts? No actual implementation is specified, it's all abstract.

they did this in silent steel and Flash Traffic: C (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594740)

They did this in silent steel and Flash Traffic City of Angels.

We're all adults here (2, Interesting)

Geccoman (18319) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594776)

Isn't the porn industry already doing this? I mean, I HEARD they are already doing this.

Re:We're all adults here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33594856)

What happens? Do you set the blowjob scene on replay? Not a whole lot of depth to porn....

Re:We're all adults here (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595072)

"Not a whole lot of depth to porn....

You obviously have never seen a John Holmes porno ;-)

Re:We're all adults here (1)

cappp (1822388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595176)

Blame the internet! Or at least blame the internet browsing habits of wankers of every description. There's an interesting NYTimes article [nytimes.com] on the changing nature of porn, specifically the significant shrinkage of already under-endowed narrative. A relevent snippet reads

The pornographic movie industry has long had only a casual interest in plot and dialogue. But moviemakers are focusing even less on narrative arcs these days. Instead, they are filming more short scenes that can be easily uploaded to Web sites and sold in several-minute chunks. “On the Internet, the average attention span is three to five minutes,” said Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment. “We have to cater to that.”

and

But interest in DVDs has fallen sharply, Mr. Fishbein said, because the Internet has made it easy to watch snippets of video. Mr. Fishbein estimated that pornographic DVD sales and rentals in the United States generated $3.62 billion in 2006 but had fallen as much as 50 percent since then. He says the slump has made some companies reluctant to share sales figures, so his estimates are getting rougher.

I don't know about the rest of you but that sounds about right - I haven't sat through a pizza-delivery scenario in it's entirety in ages.

Re:We're all adults here (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595292)

The only pizza delivery scenario I've sat through is the one with me waiting for an actual pizza delivery.

Re:We're all adults here (2, Insightful)

cappp (1822388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595380)

That's just one of many ways to know that you're not a pornstar.

Re:We're all adults here (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595048)

Isn't the porn industry already doing this? I mean, I HEARD they are already doing this.

Fast forwarding to the money-shot isn't considered 'choose-your-own-adventure'.

Re:We're all adults here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595256)

Do people actually watch those? I for one feel physically sick when watching the obligatory bukkake scene in every porn video. It's disgusting, and embarrassing.

Re:We're all adults here (2, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595336)

Rule 34, man.

Re:We're all adults here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595606)

ohh Ray!

Prior Art (2, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594782)

As usual, the common mistake is made of claiming that the patent is for "choose-your-own-adventure movies". Like any patent, it's for a particular method of displaying and running a choose-your-own-adventure movies (or rather, a class of similar methods).

I'm curious what examples of prior art there are, and whether they actually fall under the claims made in the patent, or if they're simply similar int hat both are "choose-your-own-adventure"-type presentations.

Re:Prior Art (2, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595810)

Exactly. The summary was clearly written as a troll of the patent system, and attempts to prevent a rational fact-based discussion by misinterpreting the patent and ignoring how the law works. In order to even start having a discussion of this patent on its merits, you have to read the claims:

----

1. A method for selecting a logical branch in a storyline among a plurality of available storyline branches on a computing device, based on voters' votes, comprising:

obtaining and accumulating, the votes from the voters on a computing device for at least one of the plurality of available storyline branches, during the presentation of the storyline; selectively

excluding votes, using the computing device, based on voter characteristics from the accumulated votes for a specific storyline branch;

multiplying, using the computing device, at least one received vote by a weight factor based on voter characteristics, the weighting factor being based on at least ticket pricing;

calculating, using the computing device, a total for the accumulated and weighted votes; and

determining, using the computing device, a winning tally that corresponds to one of the plurality of available storyline branches;

selecting and presenting, using the computing device, at least one of the available storyline branches with the winning tally as a future storyline branch during the presentation of the storyline, and

generating, using the computing device, a media version matrix specifying a selected storyline having a particular set of logical branches selected by the voting for later use and retrieval, by recording each selected corresponding storyline branch of the plurality of available storyline branches on the computing device.

----

Just remember, before you say, OMFG THAT'S OBVIOUS, you have to find references that teach all of those limitations, and if you have to use more than one reference, you have to have a rationale for combining those references.

"Come play with us." (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#33594786)

Linda, you're absolutely fantastic!

(google it)

Re:"Come play with us." (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595110)

It is a line from the screenplay for Fahrenheit 451

If you want... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33594850)

...Calculon to race to the laser gun battle in his hover-Ferarri, press 1...

Re:If you want... (1)

dasdrewid (653176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595522)

For the less Futurama inclined: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raging_Bender [wikipedia.org]

The crew goes to see "All My Circuits, The Movie", which is a choose your adventure movie controlled by little PDA devices, which seems to cover about half the claims in this patent.

The new things in the patent (to me) are: weighting votes by ticket price, pre-weighting and/or post-rating specific viewings for branches more appropriate for children or adults, and letting you record the choices you made so that if you come back or later by the DVD, you can (try to) make the same choices again. Interesting, not super exciting, and certainly doesn't get in the way of all those open-source choose-your-own-adventure movie projection systems and films coming down the pipeline...

Re:If you want... (1)

GuruBuckaroo (833982) | more than 4 years ago | (#33596116)

This is exactly what came to mind when I saw the headline.

Prior art? Be specific, please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33594902)

From here, it looks like yet another case of reading the abstract of the patent, noting that you've seen something fitting that description before, and blagging about how it's a ridiculous patent with prior art. One of slashdot's more incautious editors (well, yeah, that's all of them, but you know what I mean) then approves it without a second thought, and a thousand nerds join in the comments, but nowhere along the line did anyone consider the actual claims of the patent (y'know, the part that's legally significant). Got a problem with patents? Fine -- so do I, the way things are. But don't lie about it, and don't make deliberately uninformed statements so you can't know it's a lie -- that's still lying in my book -- and if your ignorance of the patent claims is not deliberate, well START READING THEM!

Since we've got folks going on about prior art, someone presumably can cite an extant choose-your-own-adventure movie where (just from looking at the first claim) the storyline is controlled by audience voting (basic), where some votes are automatically discarded "based on voter characteristics", and votes are weighted by a factor "based on voter characteristics, the weighting factor being based on at least ticket pricing" (yeah -- pay twice as much, get twice (or 10x, or 0.5x) as much say in the adventure!); otherwise everyone saying prior art needs STFU & GTFO -- while you can certainly argue this should fail obviousness or some such, unless you can actually name prior art that fully covers a claim of the patent, just don't fucking field that argument!

Re:Prior art? Be specific, please... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595108)

Since we've got folks going on about prior art, someone presumably can cite....

You'd think, but because they don't understand that adding a detail like "on the internet" or "on a portable music player" makes a patent less broad and not more broad, you're not going to have an interesting conversation about it.

Re:Prior art? Be specific, please... (5, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595178)

You are correct, this isn't just 'choose your own adventure movies'.

But it doesn't actually seem deserving of a patent anyway.

someone presumably can cite an extant choose-your-own-adventure movie where (just from looking at the first claim) the storyline is controlled by audience voting (basic), where some votes are automatically discarded "based on voter characteristics", and votes are weighted by a factor "based on voter characteristics, the weighting factor being based on at least ticket pricing" (yeah -- pay twice as much, get twice (or 10x, or 0.5x) as much say in the adventure!)

I give you: Larry the Lobster [wikipedia.org] .

someone presumably can cite an extant choose-your-own-adventure movie

It's a 'motion picture' under the law, so it's a 'movie', even though broadcast on TV. Check.

the storyline is controlled by audience voting (basic)

Check.

where some votes are automatically discarded "based on voter characteristics"

People outside the US can't vote because they can't call 1-900 numbers. Check. (I'm not sure you can patent the ability to not count a vote, anyway.)

the weighting factor being based on at least ticket pricing" (yeah -- pay twice as much, get twice (or 10x, or 0.5x)

You get as much vote as you pay for, although you don't have a 'ticket' per se. Indeed, you can select how much you pay in real time, instead of having to do it in advance under IBM's method.

And that's just one example, the earliest. There's examples using pre-recorded [wikipedia.org] video if that's somehow relevant, and other examples using free voting.

SSDD (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33594936)

My brief tenure at IBM (circa 8 years ago or so) made me realize the company that once was the great giant of the industry had become a pissing match between MBA's and PHDs as to who could get the most patent applications on their wall.

Same shit, different day. Someone probably is 1 patent closer to winning a bonus.

This isn't a patent on choose-your-own-adventures (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595008)

Although it is equally stupid. It appears to be a patent on voting for the outcome, including stuff like having people charges for a vote.

So, it's essentially a patent for an 'interactive movie', except with a group of voters deciding the outcome. This exact premise has been used in science fiction before, which should be enough to deny it a patent.

In fact, it's actually been done over TV before, even with the 'pay for a vote' aspect. American Idol does a version of it, but it's been done with prerecorded stuff before, which people could call in and influence one way or another. For [wikipedia.org] example [wikipedia.org] . Or a very early [wikipedia.org] live example.

I'm not certain how something that happened in 1982 over television should be patentable simply because it's in a movie theater.

But someone needs to find a scifi story that has people go into a movie theater and picking what story they want to see by voting with buttons on their chair. Hell, early scifi had that stuff all the time, before it was clear that home media consumption would take off. People were always going to movie theaters and whatnot.

Re:This isn't a patent on choose-your-own-adventur (2, Informative)

mrsurb (1484303) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595386)

Futurama - S02E08 - Raging Bender. The crew go to a movie theatre and vote for what Calculon should do next. The result: Tedious Paperwork [futurama-madhouse.com.ar]

Re:This isn't a patent on choose-your-own-adventur (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595394)

You do understand that when you patent something, you are patenting a specific implementation of the idea, not the idea itself? Like for example, you don't patent "a clock" but you could patent a portion of a "clock mechanism" that is implemented in a unique non-obvious way.

I don't want to defend dumb patents, or the USPTO, but at the same time, everyone here seems to only consider what they think they see at the surface.

What is the specific implementation system / method of what they are claiming and has anyone done this before? If so, is this an improvement on that prior system?

You CAN get patents for improving prior inventions, and there is nothing wrong with that if you are the first to come up with that non-obvious improvement.

Re:This isn't a patent on choose-your-own-adventur (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595712)

Sounds to me they don't specify any concrete implementation system. At least I can't see it, and in the end they say:

It is to be understood that the specific embodiments of the invention that have been described are merely illustrative of certain applications of the principle of the present invention. Numerous modifications may be made to the system, method, and service for showing and selecting diverging storylines using branching techniques described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Which sounds to me like they're patenting the idea and covering all possible implementations.

Re:This isn't a patent on choose-your-own-adventur (3, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595602)

Just to pluck out one thing you said...

This exact premise has been used in science fiction before, which should be enough to deny it a patent.

There's a concept called "non-enabling prior art".
Sure, science fiction stories have been written describing time travel, cold fusion, AI, teleportation, etc. Go build them - after all, you've got that "prior art". Wait, they don't fully describe everything sufficient to enable someone skilled in the art to build those things? Ah. Then they're "non-enabling" prior art, and are only "prior art" for the few bits they do enable - in other words, the broad concept. You couldn't patent: "A method for time travel comprising (a) traveling through time." because there would be prior art for that, but you could certainly patent a method that went beyond the mere musings of authors.

Re:This isn't a patent on choose-your-own-adventur (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33596118)

in other words, the broad concept. You couldn't patent: "A method for time travel comprising (a) traveling through time." because there would be prior art for that, but you could certainly patent a method that went beyond the mere musings of authors.

And you sir are not truly familiar with US Patent System.

lulz (1)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595046)

When I see IBM and choose your own adventure movies all I can think of is a new interface for sys admins. Brings a whole new meaning to "adventure."

Sorry but to me all IBM does is mainframes.

Patents (3, Informative)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595068)

I suggest that everyone view this talk [swpat.org] regarding patents and open source software. It focuses on how open source developers can maneuver around patents, but also provides a lot of information regarding how patents can be better understood. After viewing this presentation, I've realized how moronic a lot of posts on Slashdot regarding patents truly are.

After watching the video and examining the patent [uspto.gov] it seems rather trivial to dance around it. It's a completely stupid thing to patent, but it isn't going to impede anyone who develops something similar.

Re:Patents (1)

altavatar (1541573) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595500)

You can dance around a patent all you want. Much harder to dance around the patent lawsuit though.

Re:Patents (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595682)

I suggest you watch the talk. It specifically addresses how open source software can make themselves an undesirable target for patent litigation. Essentially it boils down to creating an non-infringing implementation and screaming about it from the rooftops if you get sued. Who the hell wants to draw attention to the fact that there's an easy way around a specific patent if they're the holder? It's much better to threaten litigation and have everyone live in fear than it is to bring it and be wrong.

It honestly wouldn't surprise me if this patent was created to end-around some other existing patent that's also equally silly just so IBM can implement something while keeping the sharks at bay. If you read the actual claims of the patent they're specific enough that they could be avoided fairly trivially, but you might end up stepping on some other patent in the minefield accidentally.

Yeah, software can be reduced to mathematics, but some of it is pretty fucking brilliant. I don't dismiss the thought that software should be completely non-patentable, but I think almost everyone would agree the current situation is entirely out of hand and that some new guidelines should be developed. I don't think that everyone (or necessarily anyone) will be satisfied by software patent reform, but it's hard to imagine an end result worse than the current situation.

The important new claims (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595070)

I skimmed through the claims. I've seen and participated in public showings of technology that covers most of this. Some commenters mentioned the Dragon's Lair laserdisc arcade game, which I was never very good at. I've also seen interactive stories (both pre-recorded and realtime rendered) where the audience votes at various points in the story; sometimes it was computer vision based, and sometimes we had devices with voting buttons (including our own cell phones). Students in Carnegie Mellon's ETC have created a number of public demonstrations along these lines. But the important claims in this patent that I haven't seen before are:

- Your individual vote's weighting is based on your ticket price
- The total story arc that the audience voted for is saved for future viewing
- The audience votes on the total story arc, so that future audiences can pick the most popular arc

That's where to start looking for prior art. I don't remember whether prior art has to exist for all claims or just one claim in order to invalidate the patent, but Claim 1 describes the entire setup with all of these parts.

Re:The important new claims (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595456)

Oh come on. This is not a mechanism. This is a joke, except it's not. The "prior art" is called "polling the body." It goes like this:

"Hello people. Would you like to march over the river, or through the mountains? Raise your hands if mountains. Oh, you slaves in the back-- don't bother raising your hands, I know you're slaves. Oh-- General What'syourname. Yes thank you for the campaign contribution. Well yes, of course, the mountains sound good, but ... Senator Moneymoneymoneybags, good to see you again! Yes, that was some fun hunting on your ranch last week! How's the wife? Oh, don't worry about the spear-in-my-arse thing, anyone can make a bad throw... river? Why of course! Everyone's all right with the river today, which Senator Moneymoneymoneybags here who voted for a chariot and food for everyone in the Imperial Guard wants us to do, right? Everyone? "

Re:The important new claims (1)

dasdrewid (653176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595540)

On the other hand, it means you have to have *all* of these parts to infringe on the patent. I can't think of any prior art for the things you picked up, but as long you as you, say, weigh votes based on something other than ticket price (if you weight them at all), then I don't think you'd be infringing.

The only useful parts I can see in this patent are the thing about pre-weighting all choices towards child/adult friendly options based on the time of the showing and allowing people to take a record of the story arc so that they can try re-choosing it at a later showing or at home on DVD. That is, of course, you find the entire idea of choose-your-own-adventure movies useful at all, but that's a whole other discussion...

Re:The important new claims (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595654)

I skimmed through the claims. I've seen and participated in public showings of technology that covers most of this.

It costs only $2,250 to initiate an ex parte reexamination, and you can submit any evidence you have of those "public showings of technology that covers most of this". I'm sure if it's that good that Slashdotters would be willing to pony up a few bucks each to invalidate this patent. And you've got several months, so start a Paypal account.
Of course, if you don't, then we're going to have to take your claim with a huge grain of salt. Lots of people have claimed to invented something after a patent has already issued. For example, I totally invented hybrid cars back when I was a kid. They should pay me royalties. Where's my free money?

Re:The important new claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33596038)

you can submit any evidence you have of those "public showings of technology that covers most of this" [...] so start a Paypal account.Of course, if you don't, then we're going to have to take your claim with a huge grain of salt.

No need to be a dick about it. I already told you which university department created several of them, so don't act like I made completely vague claims. Now go start your own PayPal account for it. I have better things to do.

Here's the ETC's BVW worlds page: http://bvw.etc.cmu.edu/content/worlds

2009's "Etch-a-sketch" shows audience voting with devices at 1:15 and 2:15, to control what is effectively an interactive movie.
2007's "Story Machine" (3 videos) uses audience voting devices specifically to select story branches in a movie.

It's possible that some of the past ETC projects have done something along these lines too. Several of these interactive movies were in the Earth Theater at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. I don't know whether all of these below are necessarily relevant to the patent, but they're starting points:
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/archive.php
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/crowd/start.html
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/earth_theater/cycle_1/
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/earth_theater/pirates/
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/earth_theater/cycle3/
http://getinlinegames.com/ETC/
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/sweetdreams/
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/goldstars/
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/gktw/
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/globalimagination/project.html
http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/magicmirror/

Evil Genius Designs is the corporate incarnation of Get In Line, linked above. They may have done something with an interactive story, but I don't know for certain.

Re:The important new claims (1)

GSV Eat Me Reality (1845852) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595908)

  Good points. I have to ask, however, that if the base idea of the patent can be shown to have prior art, shouldn't that invalidate the rest of the patent, regardless of embellishments? Shouldn't the patent applicants at least show that they have something new to contribute, and be required to patent just that aspect or aspects that can be shown to be original?

  Lately it's becoming fairly widely recognized that many if not most patents already reflect ideas that if not already thought of in detail, have prior art in substance. In the field of copyrights this is viewed as "derivative works". Perhaps the same thing should apply to patents.

GSVEMR

Re:The important new claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33596030)

Informative, hmmm.

When I was trained as patent examiner at the patent office, we were told that 'inventive' was not a concoction of trivial items into a claim; whatever the number of such items. Inventiveness, though, was to be constituted if those trivial elements resulted in an unexpected result, that would differ from a mere linear combination.
While I agree that a number of features in the application are not a priori found in prior art,
- Your individual vote's weighting is based on your ticket price
is a business decision of the most trivial type.
- The total story arc that the audience voted for is saved for future viewing
it is obvious, if not mandatory, at least in 2010 (and also in the year of filing, 2003), that the decisions by the audiences be recorded
- The audience votes on the total story arc, so that future audiences can pick the most popular arc
is probably the most 'inventive' part of all. Is there any unexpected result to be made out by doing this? I don't see any.

There was a rather ground-breaking decision by, if memory serves right, by some Supreme or Federal Court some years ago about some patent on car breaks. I don't have it here available as of now, though I seem to remember that they disallowed the patent based on the argument that implementing a well-known technology from the old times of mechanical implementation in modern hard-/software does not render it inventive by default.
What we see here, is a well-known technology: Let the viewer decide on the further plot at specific times; combined with a voting system based on participation fee, and storing the decisions for further use. Now, come on, patent office. If this is really patentable, probably all of us could have a patent or two under the belt without effort.

Dragon's Lair? Time Traveler? Mad Doc McCree? (1)

mykos (1627575) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595102)

FMV games are now patented? I guess since IBM and the USPTO weren't around in the 80s and 90s, so they wouldn't remember.

Dragons Lair (1)

notanother1 (1791938) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595118)

anyone remember that game or any of the other 'laserdisc' style games which did the equivalent of emulating a laserdisc remote with arcade buttons?

Re:Dragons Lair (1)

jewishbaconzombies (1861376) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595546)

Remember them, hell I've got 2 of those (Dragon's Lair and Time Traveler) in my living room right now.

I guess IBM is going to sue me to the cleaners now.

Check out http://dragons-lair-project.com/ [dragons-lair-project.com] for more laser history and info

What happened? Disney (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595284)

In answer to your question, what happened was Disney and the corporitization of copyrights and patents beyond their original usage and terms for the profit of others and not society as a whole.

In other words - Disney.

This is the United Socialist States (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595406)

Prior art? Rule of law? What the heil are you talking about?

The point of patent law at this point is to earn CEOs money to pay for their private jets to go to Thailand to pay for their private...

Shear Madness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595410)

Sounds like Shear Madness [wikipedia.org] .

"The ending of the play is different every night as the audience members hear clues, question the characters and then vote on who they think is guilty."

It's referred to as the longest (or second longest) running play, though according to Wikipedia, that's crap.

What constitutes "obvious"? (1)

starseeker (141897) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595424)

Can anyone point me to a good explanation of what is actually meant by this requirement for a patent (per wikipedia):

A patent may not be obtained though the invention ... if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. (35 U.S.C. 103 (A))

I would think that many of these questionable patents we see would run afoul of this requirement, regardless of other concerns. They seem to be using a rather low estimate of "ordinary skill" in the art for most things computer - it almost feels more like any idea at or above "ordinary" innovation in an industry is OK. When innovation and new ideas are the norm in an industry, I would hope the bar for non-obvious would be correspondingly higher.

Of course, all the financial and political incentives are geared toward granting more patents and letting the courts sort things out - I doubt many political figures would even consider not-for-profit innovation and development as legitimate or sane activities. I wonder some days if the state of the patent office isn't more a symptom of how our society values (or doesn't value) non-monetary pursuits and motives - if the only legitimate activities involve money, why not grant the patents and let them get sorted out? That way someone always makes money, even if its only the lawyers and the patent system - if they protect the non-commercial not-for-profit intellectual commons, who makes money there? Maybe I'm too cynical, but with even academic institutions diving head first into the "monetizing of knowledge" the ideal of knowledge for its own sake gets kinda hard to find.

Re:What constitutes "obvious"? (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595686)

Just to pluck out one thing you said...

When innovation and new ideas are the norm in an industry, I would hope the bar for non-obvious would be correspondingly higher.

So, say you had a brand new industry that was really cutting edge - let's say high energy physics, nanotechnology, or (if it should ever happen) cold fusion... Because "innovation and new ideas" would be the norm during those first few steps, the inventors shouldn't get patents because the bar for what's non-obvious should be "correspondingly higher"?

Dragon's Lair isn't even close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33595474)

Saying Dragons Lair will invaldate his patent is like saying an automobile would invalidate a patent for a plane with wheels. Just because both have wheels and a propulsion unit isn't enough.

It is a sad state of affairs that the readership of slashdot doesn't have enough savvy to read the claims (which actually define the invention),but instead, really upon a headline to determine what the patent is about.

The actual claim langauge is reproduced below. For IBM not to get a patent, the USPTO would have to prove that the prior art taught EVERY SINGLE ONE of these limitations. Teaching 99 out of 100 isn't enough.

A method for selecting a logical branch in a storyline among a plurality of available storyline branches on a computing device, based on voters' votes, comprising: obtaining and accumulating, the votes from the voters on a computing device for at least one of the plurality of available storyline branches, during the presentation of the storyline; selectively excluding votes, using the computing device, based on voter characteristics from the accumulated votes for a specific storyline branch; multiplying, using the computing device, at least one received vote by a weight factor based on voter characteristics, the weighting factor being based on at least ticket pricing; calculating, using the computing device, a total for the accumulated and weighted votes; and determining, using the computing device, a winning tally that corresponds to one of the plurality of available storyline branches; selecting and presenting, using the computing device, at least one of the available storyline branches with the winning tally as a future storyline branch during the presentation of the storyline, and generating, using the computing device, a media version matrix specifying a selected storyline having a particular set of logical branches selected by the voting for later use and retrieval, by recording each selected corresponding storyline branch of the plurality of available storyline branches on the computing device

Re:Dragon's Lair isn't even close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33596170)

Your comment reads as if you were in the patent business. Hats off!
At least your reformulation of claim 1, that is.

No, I stand corrected. You must be in the patent business, since your explanation reflect actually the misery of the current affairs of the relevant patent offices, most of all USPTO: Anything that isn't anticipated 100% is patentable. Nothing any longer about 'inventive step', 'obvious', or all that nonsense, ain't it?
I kind of like your redraft of claim 1, though. I for one would be inclined to grant it, because it contains sufficient limited, disclosed, implementation that cannot be anticipated from the prior art. It needs to be noted, though, that we don't discuss your wording of the invention here, but the wording of IBM granted by the USPTO, erroneously as I surmise, since it contains nothing but an anticipated concept of various storylines, somehow rolled out in a cinema in a rather obvious business method.

Why the outrage? (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595584)

It doesn't seem to me to be a contradiction for IBM to support patent reform but be a vigorous player in the patent system as is. In fact, it would be foolish for them to abstain as they will simply be trampled on by others.

Johnny Mnemonic: The Interactive Action Movie sony (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595706)

Johnny Mnemonic: The Interactive Action Movie was made by sony and was good for it's time!

Priort Art - "Terminal Time" (1)

Laser Lou (230648) | more than 4 years ago | (#33595786)

The audience-driven video project, Terminal Time [terminaltime.com] combines audience voting (by applause) with video, so it may count as prior art.

Prior art (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#33596058)

Peep shows.

Why have a patent office? (1)

S77IM (1371931) | more than 4 years ago | (#33596162)

If the goal of the patent system is to encourage inventors to publish descriptions of their inventions, so that everyone can benefit from their discoveries, why do we need an office to approve them? Why not just allow inventors to publish whatever they want, in a suitably widespread publication, and claim patent protection? We would only need experts to review the worthiness of patents when there is some sort of dispute -- and the civil court system has been set up to handle these sorts of expert-witness-based trials for years. (Granted, this aspect of the civil court system leaves a lot to be desired, but it still sounds like it'd be more effective than the bloated, bureaucratic bottleneck we have today.)

  -- 77IM

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