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Are Video Game Patents Next?

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the this-could-get-scary dept.

The Almighty Buck 443

MarcOiL writes "Gamasutra is running an article titled It's Just a Game, Right? Top Mythconceptions on Patent Protection of Video Games where two IP lawyers try to convince the videogame industry of patenting everything in sight: ideas, technical contributions, etc. They show as an example a Microsoft patent on Scoring based upon goals achieved and subjective elements. They also have created a weblog, The Patent Arcade, to promote their business. Will this be the real end of innovation in videogames?"

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yes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693015)

no doubt

Re:yes (1)

spectre_240sx (720999) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693123)

It could be a good thing, too. Maybe this way we wont have 50 incarnations of the same goddamn game like we do now.

Re:yes (2, Insightful)

Adrilla (830520) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693196)

No, you'll just have one company making 50 incarnations of the same goddamn game, and no motivation to change that.

ugh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693016)

"where two IP lawyers try to convince the videogame industry of patenting everything in sight: ideas, technical contributions, etc. "

Q. What do you have when you have 2 lawyers buried up to their necks in cement?

A. Not enough cement.

Re:ugh (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693125)

A2. Not enough lawyers.

Re:ugh (2, Funny)

nathanh (1214) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693208)

A3. Hockey practise.

Re:ugh (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693147)

IMHO We should track them down and beat them to death with a teaspoon. Or giving them The Eternal Wedgie (superglue in underpants, then perform regular wedgie, hold until dry) is acceptable too.

Re:ugh (1)

PooR_IndiaN (876413) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693162)


I'm sure i could get you some cow dung from India to make up for not having cement ;~)

Re:ugh (1)

edbulldog (851508) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693269)

Don't worry, there's still the shovel... >;D

What a great article! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693017)

... although I only got as far as "Registration Required"...

Aren't they already here? (4, Interesting)

mopslik (688435) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693026)

I thought I remembered seeing a Slashdot story or post about Namco holding a patent on "displaying a mini-game while the actual game is loading" not too long ago.

Re:Aren't they already here? (5, Funny)

Game Genie (656324) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693102)

Too bad nobody has patented "really frickin slow load times". Perhaps I should get the patent and then refuse to licence it. That would save us all a lot of trouble.

Re:Aren't they already here? (1, Offtopic)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693181)

If you don't like the load times, buy a GameCube. I find that most games display no noticable load times, and that games that do, only show minimal load time. I find that PS2 and X-Box have terrible load times. I hope the next-gen systems all solve this problem. Or at least that Nintendo will keep the load times low.

Re:Aren't they already here? (3, Insightful)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693119)

Surely there's oodles of prior art back on the old 8-bits?

I fondly remember invaderload on Alpha Centauri!

Yes, they're already here (5, Interesting)

Stunning Tard (653417) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693168)

I saw that on slashdot last week with 'A Gamers' Manifesto' [pointlesswasteoftime.com]

From the essay:
Patents. Did you know there's a patent held by some microscopic software company on spherical camera controls in realtime 3D, and they're starting to level lawsuits against EVERYONE? Did you ever wonder what happened to force feedback, controllers that push your hands around so you can feel the action in the game as well as see it (we're talking real force feedback, not controllers that vibrate like pagers)? Somebody has a patent, that's what. Did you know you can't have mini-games during a loading screen because of patent law?

Prior art available (4, Informative)

FromWithin (627720) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693198)

That patent can probably be killed with prior art. The Commodore 64 had "Mix-E-Load" during loading of the cassette version of Thalamus' Delta in 1987. This had music playing and would let you mess with the tracks, changing the bass line, drum beat, etc. and letting you mix your own music.

A year later, in 1988, the Mastertronic game Kane 2 had a Space Invaders game (called Invade-A-Load) that you played while the main game was loading. Again, this was on the cassette version.

These can be played by downloading the relevant .TAP files [64.no] and loading them into an emulator such as x64 [viceteam.org] .

Anyway, back on-topic, most of the classic games in existence would not be with us had game companies been patenting stuff like these mutants are suggesting.

Re:Prior art available (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693289)

It depends. The title of a patent alone gives no clues at all about whether prior art exists. It might achieve this in a totally different way.

And Invade-A-Load was the best version of space invaders EVER!

Video games... (1)

danheskett (178529) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693027)

Video gaming is a huge industry, bigger than music, bigger than movies, bigger than cellphones.

Freaking huge. Gigantic. Teens, young adults, adults dumping - THROWING - disposable income at the latest, the greatest, the trendy, the hip, the best.

It's too big for the major players to f*$@ up. If a minor player tries to get these patent stuff racheted up the big boys will crush them - and crush them fast and/or acquire them.

Re:Video games... (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693055)

Video gaming is a huge industry, bigger than music, bigger than movies, bigger than cellphones
Jesus, is that true? It's not completely implausible, but it doesn't sound very likely. Do you have the numbers?

Re:Video games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693111)

Its a bit of an exaggeration... videogame sales beat movie ticket sales by a slim margin last year. Then they were crushed into the ground by DVD sales, VHS sales, rental revenue, license/promo goods, pay-per-view, broadcast contracts, and all the other money movies make not reflected by the box office.

Re:Video games... (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693122)

In 2004 the video game industry peaked 7.4 billion, but I've also heard it peaking 10 billion.(Source from http://www.theesa.com/ [theesa.com]

Nevertheless, if it hasn't already surpassed the movie industry, it will very soon I'm sure.

Re:Video games... (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693240)

The US takes $10 billion per year in ticket sales alone, and that's not counting DVD rentals & sales. Counting all those, worldwide, the figure's going to be an order of magnitude larger.

I am still surprised that video games make that much money though...

Re:Video games... (2, Insightful)

Spad (470073) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693060)

You mean until EA starts patenting everything in sight.

Re:Video games... (1)

playingwithknives (886490) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693070)

So, if someone patents the concept of 2 players using avatars to fight each other no one can ever release a Streetfighter game again? (without paying royalties that is) a patent of 2 people controlling a team of avatars playing a sport = no more sports er ....i mean... "EA Games"? A patent on a game controlling a vehicle driving round a track having a race destroys that genre too ?

Re:Video games... (4, Interesting)

Nytewynd (829901) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693175)

You can't patent general ideas. Someone might be able to patent a specific implementation of a fighting game, or the software to render the fighters quickly. They couldn't patent 2 guys fighting in a game.

As far as team games, we're getting close to being screwed already. I think EA has exclusive rights to the NFL next year. That means if you want to play as the World Champion New England Patriots, you will only be doing it in an NFL game. That is terrible since ESPN NFL2K5 was better than Madden to me. Now we will have ESPN Football2K6 with fake teams. Half of the fun is being your team with your players.

Re:Video games... (1, Funny)

fr0dicus (641320) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693216)

Half of the fun is being your team with your players.

Speaks volumes about the gameplay...

Re:Video games... (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693262)

At least sega won't be able to drop in the latest roster/stats into Football2K6 and pretend it is a new game. I could give two shits about an updated "Western Whizzies" roster. Now they will actually have to improve their game, and perhaps *gasp* not release every damn year. Granted they aren't likely to even stay in the football game business at all. And EA is just going to be dropping in rosters for some time to come, maybe some minor tweaks here and there. Damn I'm glad I don't care about football games.

Re:Video games... (1)

bobtodd (189451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693270)

> the World Champion New England Patriots

*snicker* 'World'. What a joke.

Re:Video games... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693083)

Video gaming is a huge industry, bigger than music, bigger than movies, bigger than cellphones.

Says who? The movie and cell phone industry are FAR larger than the video game industry. The music industry is actually kind of pathetic, but they make a great loss-leader for the electronics companies.

Re:Video games... (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693205)

Hate to break it to ya, but Sony's already had to pay $90million to Immersion, a "minor player" who claimed a patent on the Dual Shock pad.

It's going to go the same way as the software industry is headed: everyone's infringing everyone else's patents so the only way to ensure your own safety is to have enough patents that you could turn them against the attacking party. This has the side effect of killing any small company who doesn't have a portfolio big enough to be a threat.

Nintendo's been doing it for years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693032)

The really cool thing about it is, if you ever wanted to know how a zapper works (schematics and all), just look-up the patent.

What's next? (1)

Moskie (620227) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693040)

Patenting filming techniques? Writing styles? Facial expressions?

Re:What's next? (2, Informative)

highwind81 (862971) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693142)

According to this wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] , obvious patent should be rejected.
Even if an applicant's claim for an invention is novel (i.e. not taught by a single prior art reference), a patent can still be denied to the applicant if the claimed subject matter would have been obvious to someone else skilled in the technical field of the invention. The purpose of forbidding patents on obvious technologies is to prevent a person from obtaining exclusive rights to what is effectively already in the possession of the public, even if documentation of the exact form of the applicant's embodiment happens to be lacking.

it goes one stating the following
The standard of obviousness and its application are more subjective and controversial than that of novelty. If the requirements are set very high, virtually nothing is patentable. Similarly if the requirements are very low, all kinds of trivial inventions can receive patents.

what do I think? I think the idea of petent is a selfish act. And every selfish act should be discouraged. So yeah... I dont like patents... Only way to truly own anything is to give it away. But enough of my dogma... I just hope nintendo would revitalize the industry... One can hope... right? ^^;;

Re:What's next? (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693167)

jestures,(gangs could sue one another)
Political compain strategies.
accents (for actors)
colors
fashions
dance moves (I guess MJ missed the boat!)

Re:What's next? (0)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693176)

Kinda to the tune of the Lone Ranger...

Trumpets....

Prior art, prior art, prior art, art, art
Prior art, Prior art, prior art, art, art
Prior art, Prior art, prior art, art, art
Prior artttttttttt prior art, art, art,

Lawyers - shoot them, hunt them, kill them
Blow them up with dynamite....
Lawyers - shoot them, hunt them, kill them
Blow them up with dynamite....

Hi-ho Silver!

D&D as Prior Art? (3, Insightful)

ect5150 (700619) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693042)

I would imagine any D&D would be prior art in a general games category? MSoft wasn't exactly the first company to get into games. I'm not sure how they can get a pantent on how points are awarded. Any D&D DM has subjective power to award points, and MS didn't exactly put D&D out there.

Re:D&D as Prior Art? (3, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693096)

I would imagine any D&D would be prior art in a general games category?
Then they'll just add the words "using a computer" to each of their claims.

Re:D&D as Prior Art? (2, Insightful)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693195)

I would imagine any D&D would be prior art in a general games category? MSoft wasn't exactly the first company to get into games. I'm not sure how they can get a pantent on how points are awarded. Any D&D DM has subjective power to award points, and MS didn't exactly put D&D out there.

You seem to have missed the key prhases: "on the internet" or "using a computer". Those two phrases alone make the idea new and unique and prior art becomes moot... Atleast that's how it seems these days...

Re:D&D as Prior Art? (1)

quintiusc (878597) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693218)

The patent specifically mentions an "electronic device." While there have been electronic games that do most of what the patent claims it also talks about allowing players to set their own goals and award points based on whether those goals are accomplished or not.

Parts of it are covered elsewhere but the patent as a whole hasn't been done yet from my knowledge. I don't see how a scoring method can be moved completely unchanged from a paper and dice based game to an electronic game and get patented. It doesn't take any ingenuity to do that.

Re:D&D as Prior Art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693247)

The micro$oft claim is that the method of awarding points is based on "the certain flair" of the players rather than achieving a specific goal. So there is a slight twist other than just adding the word computer.

That said they are the fulcrum of evil and should be smote from the earth.

Stand up and fight! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693045)

I always read about gamers who aren't interested in software patents because they generally stick to the Windows world where patents don't affect them much, but this could change all of that. If you're a gamer, it's time to get educated about what's going on in the software patent world and join the fight.

Plot patents, too? (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693046)

Our informal review of the records at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) revealed a relative dearth of patent applications for the film industry, especially considering how technology-dependent the film industry is, and given its size in terms of annual sales. Why is that? Patents, by their very nature, grant the right to exclude your competitors from stealing the fruits of your labor, and yet this powerful tool appears to be overlooked by the majority of the industry.

So, who will be the first to patent the three act structure, the mismatched buddy pairing and so on? Just think how much money EON would have made if they'd only had the sense to patent Spy movies with fancy gadgets?

Ask Slashdot (4, Funny)

_Hellfire_ (170113) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693048)

Will this be the real end of innovation in videogames?"

Yes.

Wow that was an easy Ask Slashdot!

Re:Ask Slashdot (0)

alexhs (877055) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693210)

>>Will this be the real end of innovation in videogames?"

>Yes.

No. It was a loooong time ago.

They don't have to stifle innovative new games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693057)

It's already been happening for the past few years. Originality? Hello? Juat about ever game coming out these days is either a shooter, a run/jump/collect, racing or a fighting game.... Whoopie! (not)

Re:They don't have to stifle innovative new games. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693126)

a shooter, a run/jump/collect, racing or a fighting game

Hmmm, I've got it! A game where you crawl around, can't shoot, can't jump, and can't pick up anything, with no combat or excessive speed.

I think Apple had this one first. It was called Amazeing.

Perhaps I'm missing something... (4, Insightful)

agraupe (769778) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693061)

But if there are patents on videogames, would it not stimulate the production of original games? If you couldn't make a game based on a certain set of ideas, wouldn't you be forced to create an original game?

Note: I don't agree with software or videogame patents, because I think they screw the consumer in the end by providing a crappy product, at likely a high price. But still, that last sentence made no sense.

Re:Perhaps I'm missing something... (1)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693152)

I think the real issue here is the ability of taking something and building on it. What if someone had patented the First-Person Shooter concept? If we're lucky they put out something like Doom, if not, we get Smurf-Hunting or some such, and now we may be locked out of a idea that has a lot more to give.

Re:Perhaps I'm missing something... (2, Insightful)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693157)

You don't have to actually produce an implementation of the idea in a patent IIRC (obviously, IANAL). You just have to show that you are taking steps towards an implementation, not that you actually produce one. So, if Duke Nukem Forever contained patented software components, it could be argued that they are making an attempt to bring an implementation to market, hence the patents on those ideas would still be valid.

Re:Perhaps I'm missing something... (2, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693273)

But if there are patents on videogames, would it not stimulate the production of original games? If you couldn't make a game based on a certain set of ideas, wouldn't you be forced to create an original game?

As unpopular an opinion as it is now a days, the good creative content is often built on older creative content. For instance, we couldn't have had hl/hl2/cs with out id and doom.

Interesting mental exercise: Imagine a world where ID DID patent Doom and it's methods.

Imagine patents on books. Or, more telling, on scientific works. That's what this amounts to: Creating games and the like are creative, but also utilize a very scientific method of using the work of others to further your own.

Incidently, this is also why everyone is against software patents. It will kill our software design industry.

Prior Art? (1)

Game Genie (656324) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693065)

They show as an example a Microsoft patent on Scoring based upon goals achieved and subjective elements.

In other news all sports leagues must pay a royalty to M$ in order for the score to be kept. Opponents of licensing Microsofts innovative idea of "earning points in a competition" contend "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

fscked (1)

UlfGabe (846629) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693068)

None of this can possibly be patentable!

can it?

for instance, lighting, different weapons, weapons with 2 modes, reloading animations, running animations, reflections in water/mirrors/shiny things, monster AI, physics engine, shaders, control layout?!?

What would be patentable?

Re:fscked (1)

Tjoppen (831002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693199)

Everything under USPTO's apparatus for large scale sub-ferrum elemental fusion.

Re:fscked (1)

fr0dicus (641320) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693238)

If they are, they'd be held by Nvidia/ATi and usage would be thoroughly encouraged :)

while i am not a bit hater of (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693073)

software patents such as most of /., i do think this is a totally bad idea (and i don't see how it would go through)

I think this more than anything would really stiffle innovation. the whole gaming industry moves so fast that it wouldn't seem worth it to waste money on patents. you would think they would want to crank out the next product to garner more earnings than sit on one idea for to long.

but then again, that is logical

Patents (2, Insightful)

oskard (715652) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693078)

Patents are provided to people of the United States (and other countries) to hold a 'temporary monopoly' on a product or idea. They are used to encourage developers to create things without their ideas being stolen. This enhances the level of development in the country as a whole, and is good for our economy and society.

However, video games don't give back the same benefits as say, food, energy and transportation. A fellow programmer once said to me "What if someone had a patent on the First Person Shooter?" Imagine how dead development would be in the video game genre!

Re:Patents (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693236)

It already is dead. Because all anybody produces i First Person Shooters. Patents might actually increase development because developers would actually be forced to think of new ideas.

Re:Patents (1)

oskard (715652) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693254)

Yeah there seem to be a few people on /. with that thought too. I agree, but patents may also kill the amount of releases in games. Granted, every game released will probably be good an innovative.

Yea right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693079)

Which is why proper force feedback is in every game that uses a joystick eh.

Oh wait, no it isn't. There is a patent that stops people doing that without paying royalties.

Patents in video games are so crap because there is hardly anything that is really really genius and needs protecting.

Internal regulation (1)

StefanoB (775596) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693086)

My guess: the game industry decided not to claim any patents and let every game company earn some money.
Now the lawyers want some money too :-(.

Stefano

Surrender all hope ye who enter here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693088)

Innovation is already dead.

Most all original ideas will be crushed as they cannot be proven to make money. Patent effects have already killed a number of great advancements.

I have given up hope and now serve the bland game producing overlords.

John Carmack won't be happy with this :( (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693091)

Patents are a bad thing. I fully agree with John Carmack on that and I applaud him for releasing all his engines for free.

The End of Innovation? Maybe a New Beginning... (1)

dwm (151474) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693092)

Disclaimer: Software patents are bad and stupid.

However...

I suspect that an increase in patents on game software features might promote innovation in games, since it might be harder to just spit out yet another first-person shooter without getting sued.

Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693163)

With patents, there would be one single FPS, one single RTS, etc until the patents expire 20 years later.

If this happened at the beginning of the games industry, we would still be waiting for Pac-man.

My New Patent (1)

Nytewynd (829901) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693093)

I am going to go out and get a patent for plumbers jumping on mushroom people. That would be the best idea ever.

I can see it now. (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693098)

Nintendo Patents use of the words Mario, Luigi, Link, Princess and the use of a directional pad or joystick on a controller.

How screwed up the industry would be.

Re:I can see it now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693194)

They've already got their specific style of d-pad patented. Why do you think no other system has the same style d-pad as the NES/SNES/N64/GB/GBC/GBA?

Re:I can see it now. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693267)

I'm pretty sure all their characters fall under trademark laws. That's why you don't see Mario and Zelda games on XBox.

The MS patent in question (1)

GodBlessTexas (737029) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693101)

Is it just me, or does that patent seem to apply to Project Gotham Racing? What is interesting is that the game was only published by MS, but was developed by Bizzare Creations. And there are similar elements in Fable.

Re:The MS patent in question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693164)

Never mind all the Tony Hawk games..

Re:The MS patent in question (1)

GodBlessTexas (737029) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693166)

Also, this is interesting because Project Gotham was published by MS, but it was developed by Bizarre Creations. Did MS require Bizarre Creations to give up their IP in order to be published to the console? PC game developers have different options when it comes to bypassing the regular brick and mortar distribution system, but console games are contorlled rather exclusively by the manufacturers, and there's a good bit of money to be made in the games for those platforms.

up against the wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693107)

That's it. IP lawyers now have a free pass to the head of the line.

Yes (1)

Aldric (642394) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693108)

It would greatly reduce innovation. It's just lawyers trying to drum up business though, so we don't need to worry yet.

"Righteous Patents!" (2, Informative)

jarbo (29923) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693120)

Declares Ross Dannenberg, Esq., aided by a swank free and open source [binarybonsai.com] layout.

....siiiiiiiigh.

Signed,
Human Capacity for Lameness is Apparently Inexhaustible, Esq.

I hope not. (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693127)

Will this be the real end of innovation in videogames?"

I REALLY hope not

My Patent: (-1, Offtopic)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693129)


I would just like to take this moment to announce that I have succesfully patented [uspto.gov] video game violence.

Everybody owes me money.

^_^

How to solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693137)

Somebody needs to patent breathing as a way to sustain life whereby life is a business method that enables you to use semantics in order to profit from extending patent protection way beyond the point of stupidity. Then refuse to license the patent and insist on damages consistant with willful infringement.

Counterargument: We may be patent lawyers but we can't help but breath.
Answer: Yet you mouthbreathers expect software developers like me to find non-infringing work arounds?

The french game studios said "NON". (1)

Lejade (31993) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693149)

The french association of Game Producer (APOM) has already taken position against software patents in an open letter to the former French Minister.

Here's a slightly improved Google translation for the french impaired :

Position of the APOM on directive COM(2002)092 relating to the patentability of the "inventions implemented by computer"

Mister the Prime Minister,

The APOM is the French association of producers of multi-media works. It gathers 80 percent of the French producers of video games, an industry which employs many designers, programmers, and creators of high level whose competence is internationally recognized. The APOM is very worried by the current proposal for a European directive on the "inventions implemented by computer", more commonly called "directive on software patentability ". After careful reading, it appears to us that the initial text proposed by the Commission [ 1 ], as well as the version resulting from the working group on the intellectual property of the Council [ 2 ], would be extremely detrimental to our industry.

Indeed, the major part of the process of creation of multi-media works, such as for example video games, consists in developping and processing, in a single and original way, a combination of simple elementary ideas.

To authorize the privatisation of these elementary ideas, as the texts of the Commission and the Council allow, would not have any inciting effect on innovation and creation, but instead, would put every developper under the threat of possible attacks in counterfeit of such software patents. In the United States already, the toxicity of software patents on the innovation and SME innovation are more and more recognized [ 3 ], and were the subject of a report of the Federal Trade Commission [ 4 ]. Bill Gates himself recognized explicitly that software patents are harmful to innovation, and that they are a monopolistic weapon that Microsoft must exploit in order to preserve its dominant position [ 5 ].

Legalization by Europe of software patents would have the same noxious effect, and would put European SME under the threat of the software patents already granted in great number by the European Patent Office to large non-European companies, for the moment fortunately invalid in front of the courts, such as a patent on the "progression bar" [ 6 ], used in almost all the software, or the patent on the breeding and the control of virtual creatures [ 7 ]. These patents and of others, granted by the OEB in spite of their manifest absence of technical nature, illustrate clearly that it is impossible to make a conceptual distinction between "technical" and "non-technical" software, and that any allegedly restrictive legalization of the brevetage of intellectual methods will inevitably lead to total software patentability, which constitutes a serious threat for multi-media and software creation.

The APOM considers that copyright/right of author, supplemented by the rights on models and trademarks, is amply sufficient to protect works multi-media. These rights make it possible to protect the creators against infringment, while not putting legal hurdles to the creation of new works.

The APOM is thus very satisfied with the form of the directive voted by the European Parliament, which, by limiting the patentable subject-matter to the sole innovations having a material effect, wether they make use of a computer or not, prevents in effect the appropriation of intellectual methods, the building blocks of software creation. The APOM is also pleased with the parliamentary amendments relating to interoperability, which prevent the creation of abusive monopolies on data formats and the communications protocols necessary to the handling of sounds and images such as in network games.

The APOM considers that, within the framework of the support plan for the creators of video games, as decided by Mr. the Prime Minister, it is essential that the French government guarantees the freedom of creation by supporting the directive voted by the European Parliament.

In the hope that you will grant a very detailed attention to this pressing threat we remain sincerely yours,

APOM

[1]http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market /e n/indprop/comp/com02-92fr.pdf [eu.int]

[2] http://register.consilium.eu.int/pdf/en/04/st07/st 07230.en04.pdf [eu.int]

[3] http://www.researchoninnovation.org/swpat.pdf [researchoninnovation.org]

[4] http://www.ftc.gov/opp/intellect/020227trans.pdf [ftc.gov]
See in particular the testimony of R. Jordan Greenhall, CEO of DivxNetworks, on the 27 february 2002.

[5]http://ftp.std.com/obi/Bill.Gates/Challenges. an d.Strategy [std.com]

[6]http://l2.espacenet.com/dips/viewer?PN=EP3941 60 &CY=fr&LG=fr&DB=EPD [espacenet.com]

[7]http://l2.espacenet.com/dips/viewer?PN=EP3941 60 &CY=fr&LG=fr&DB=EPD [espacenet.com]

Very Sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693158)

But I have already patented the idea of posting articles and submitting replies.

You can all move along now. Nothing here to see.

Please send checks to me if you want to continue this obvious patent infringement.

Lawyers suck. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693159)

That just goes to show you when lawyer's get involved, the shit is going to hit the fan, mostly because in the end it's not about their clients, but their own pocketbook that will benefit. See any class action lawsuit where they get the bulk of the money to "distribute" the winnings of the case.

Incidently, I heard over 95% of congress being laywers.....

Imagine if the original LineTo algorithm got patented or if id software patented everything they did, we'd still be darkages in terms of graphics.

"If I have seen further [than certain other men] it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." -Newton

I think an excellent comparison is this (2, Interesting)

Council (514577) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693161)

Can you patent plot elements in books?

source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12693185)

It's Just a Game, Right?
Top Mythconceptions on Patent Protection of Video Games

[NOTE: This article addresses the sometimes controversial area of software patents from a lawyer's perspective, and in relation to this, we're asking a new Question Of The Week to run alongside this piece: "Do you agree with the concept of patenting specific video game concepts, either game design ideas or technical innovations?".]

The video game business is no game: it's a business, and a large one at that. In 2004, the video game industry sold over $6.9 billion worth of games for game consoles, portable devices, and personal computers.2 Throw in the additional amounts spent on the consoles themselves, extra game controllers, and other peripherals, and it becomes easy to see that the stakes are enormous. Not surprisingly, competition is fierce. Companies spend millions of dollars developing new and innovative games, and everyone is looking for an angle to secure a larger portion of the video game market. In the video game industry the slightest edge can translate into serious dollars. For example, industry giant Electronic Arts recently secured an exclusive license from the National Football League, making EA the only supplier of authentic NFL football games for the near future. As another example, film director John Woo (Mission Impossible 2), who made popular the slow motion movie special effect turned video game resource, recently started his own video game development company, Tiger Hill Entertainment, and immediately teamed up with video game publisher Sega. With all this money being invested in video games, why haven't more video game developers been turning to patents to help give them a competitive edge?

Our informal review of the records at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) revealed a relative dearth of patent applications for the video game industry, especially considering how technology-dependent the video game industry is, and given its size in terms of annual sales.3 Why is that? Patents, by their very nature, grant the right to exclude your competitors from stealing the fruits of your labor, and yet this powerful tool appears to be overlooked by the majority of the industry. In an effort to answer this question, we set out below to dispel what we see as the top myths surrounding patent protection of video games, and hope to encourage innovative game developers to take steps to protect their valuable innovations.

Myth #1. Video games are just computer programs, and you can't patent those, right?

Many in the industry feel that games are simply software, and that they cannot be patented. This is untrue. To the contrary, patents may be obtained on "anything under the sun that is made by man,"4 and computer programs are no exception. Indeed, the Patent and Trademark Office has expressly stated that "computer programs embodied in a tangible medium, such as floppy diskettes, are patentable subject matter."5 This means that you can patent that game disc, or the computer system's memory that has the game software loaded. You can also patent a method or process performed by a game, as instructed by the object code executing on a computer or game console.

Several savvy game developers have recognized this, and patents have recently been issuing on a number of now-popular video game concepts and peripherals. Can you name the patented game (answers appear at the end of this article)?:

1. United States Patent No. 6,604,008, entitled "Scoring based on goals achieved and subjective elements," and assigned to Microsoft Corp., describes a method of determining points to be awarded to a player, where the points are based in part on style. (Hint: Speed through the town of a certain caped crusader)
2. United States Patent No. 6,695,694, entitled "Game machine, game device, control method, information storage medium, game distribution device and game distribution method," and assigned to Konami Corporation, describes a game method that detects whether a player has placed his/her foot on a plurality of step positions, and calculates an amount of energy consumed by the player. (Hint: Groovy!)
3. United States Patent No. 6,200,138, entitled "Game display method, moving direction indicating method, game apparatus and drive simulating apparatus," and assigned to Sega Enterprises, Ltd., describes a game method in which movable objects automatically move away from an approaching character. (Hint: Fare approaching!)
4. United States Patent No. 6,729,954, entitled "Battle method with attack power based on character group density," and assigned to Koei Co., Ltd., describes a method of calculating attack or defense strength of a character based on its proximity to other characters in a three-dimensional battlefield. (Hint: Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, anyone?)

U.S. Des. Pat. D452,282

You can even get patent protection on purely ornamental designs associated with games. These patents, known as "design patents," protect ornamental aspects of items, such as the distinct appearance of a game console (U.S. Design Patent No. D452,282) or an onscreen icon (U.S. Design Patent No. D487,574).

The bottom line here is if you can make it, you can patent it. Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry, with millions being spent on development, and the fruits of that labor can certainly be protected by a U.S. patent.

Myth 2. Ok, even if you can patent computer programs, my video game is based on old stuff, and is nothing new.

All inventions nowadays build on the work of others, and this myth is just a classic example of selling yourself short. Inventions come in all shapes and sizes, and if your game does nothing more than add one novel concept to a mountain of old game concepts, that novel concept may be patentable. So, for example, if your video game is an automobile racing game, you might use familiar concepts such as turbo boosting your car, damaging your car when collisions occur, and displaying a racer's progress on a map of the race track. However, maybe your particular racing game has a novel way of granting or implementing the boost; maybe your game has a unique way of handling or showing damage; or maybe your game uses a novel approach to displaying the race track progress. Whatever novel aspect you've added, if that aspect is something that will help set your game apart from others, and help sell your game in the marketplace, then that novel aspect may be protectable by a patent.

Indeed, if your game is different from other games in any way, then you have possibilities for a patent covering those differences as inventions. The invention need not even be something immediately apparent to the player. Perhaps your software algorithm takes an approach that maximizes the available resources of a game console, or performs certain functions faster. Maybe your game uses a novel method of loading and discarding content to avoid load times during gameplay, or has a novel control scheme. If it will help you sell the game, it is probably worth protecting by patent.

Myth 3. The patent process is slow, and the industry is fast - by the time the patent issues, it will be worthless.

True, a typical patent application can take three years or more to endure the examination process and emerge from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office as an issued U.S. patent. However, recent developments have quickened the rate at which you can have patent rights. In 1999, Congress amended the patent laws to provide so-called provisional rights6 that can afford you protection beginning just 18 months after you file your application (sometimes even sooner). Of course, there are steps one needs to take to preserve those rights, and your patent application still has to eventually issue as a patent, but these provisional rights can give your patent application "teeth" far sooner than the patents of old. If you time it right, and get your patent application process moving early enough in the video game development cycle, you might begin to have provisional rights at the same time as your game's release.

The length of the examination process is a well-known concern, and the PTO has taken steps to speed up its examination process by setting a timeline for acting on applications. If the PTO fails to meet the deadlines in its timeline, your resulting patent may actually be given extra time to add on to its enforceable term to make up for the delay. Who knows, if your game concept catches on, those extra days/months of term at the "back end" of the patent term may be extremely valuable.

Additionally, this may be another example of selling yourself short. Many inventions are broader in scope than the particular embodiment first produced by the inventor, and a good patent attorney can help an inventor identify the true, full scope of the idea that has been invented. So if the industry happens to slightly modify your original idea, a patent covering the broader concept may still encompass those modifications. Furthermore, many innovative game ideas last far longer than the few years that a patent takes to issue - concepts such as the mouselook control scheme, "rag doll" physics, and real-time resource gathering simulations will likely be around for many many more years, and that next great concept might just be lurking in your next game.

Myth 4. I'd never sue someone for patent infringement anyway - the courts are too slow and lawyers are too expensive.

You don't have to sue someone to benefit from your patent. Being able to say "this game is protected by a U.S. patent" can do wonders for marketing, attracting investors and financing, and can give your company negotiating credibility, leverage and strength in the marketplace. You may choose to simply license your patent to others, collecting licensing fees in the process (and making the patent pay for itself). A patent portfolio is also a good defensive tool. Competitors, who will no doubt take advantage of the patent process for themselves, will think twice about suing you if there's a threat of you suing them back (i.e., a countersuit). Remember, the best defense is often a good offense.

Of course, sometimes you do have to sue to enforce your patent rights. However, that suit does not always have to be lengthy, and does not always have to be costly. Some forums (e.g., the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and the International Trade Commission, to name two) are well-versed in patent litigation mechanics, and can handle cases relatively quickly. Additionally, legal fees can be included in the damages sought in a patent infringement suit, and some attorneys may agree to take your infringement case on a contingency basis (meaning they get paid only if you win the suit).

Myth 5. The "spirit of innovation" works best when there is a free market of ideas, and consumers are better off if video games are not patented.

A classic argument among those who feel that the entire patent system should be abolished. You might want to make that argument to your representative in Congress, because unless the Constitution is amended to do away with patents, they're here to stay. In drafting the Constitution, our founding fathers recognized that the best way to promote progress in the "useful arts" was to reward inventors who come forward and share their inventions with the public by granting them a limited period of exclusivity in which they can exploit the fruits of their labor.7 In other words, discouraging slavish copying encourages innovation.

This debate is largely academic - the patent system is here now, and it's here to stay. Most important to the game developer, however, is the fact that there are others in the industry who will inevitably seek more and more patent protection on their own game ideas. The annals of patent history are full of examples of individuals who lost out, in some cases losing out big, to others in the business who took advantage of patent protection. Indeed, the history of video games bears this out. Ralph Baer is largely credited as the father of video games, having conceived of creating video games in 1966, and making millions for the game Pong. Baer was meticulous in his recordkeeping, and took advantage of the patent system to help develop his fledgling business. However, four years earlier, another individual named Steve Russell finished work on his own computer game: Spacewar. Unfortunately for him, Russell did not seek patent protection on his concept, and did not document his development efforts as well as Baer. We will never know how history may have been rewritten had Russell sought patent protection on Spacewar.8 The moral of the story is simple: you should act to protect your inventions.

Myth 6. It costs a lot of money to even get a patent in the first place, and I can't afford that.

True, patents don't come cheap. But when you compare the costs of obtaining a patent to the amount of money often spent on development of modern computer games, it's a reasonable expense for the protection it can provide.9 There are also approaches you can take that are less expensive, and still don't require you to entirely give up on the patent system. For example, game developers can implement simple internal procedures, and educate their engineers, on how to recognize potentially patentable innovations in their games. Relatively inexpensive patentability searches can be performed, where a search is conducted to see if your particular concept is already out there in the public domain, or in someone else's patent. These approaches are less expensive than pursuing a full-blown patent on all of your potentially patentable ideas, and they at least give your company a chance at identifying and pursuing key innovations.

***

Video game innovations will play a large role in determining who shares in the ever-growing multi-billion-dollar video game industry. As more and more companies enter the market, and spend more and more resources developing those innovations, protecting those innovations will become even more critical. We hope this article has been helpful in dispelling some of the myths surrounding patents and video games, and we encourage all software game developers to take their intellectual property rights to heart. For more helpful articles and research information on various aspects of patent law, feel free to check out PatentArcade.com, a site dedicated to intellectual property protection of video games.

Last, but not least, we have the answers to our "name the game" questions:

1. This patent relates to games that reward players with style points for achieving feats with panache, such as Microsoft's Project Gotham Racing® II for the Xbox. 10

2. This patent relates to games that include a workout mode for a dance pad, such as Konami's Dance Dance Revolution®.11 Incidentally, Konami recently filed a lawsuit against Roxor Games for allegedly infringing another one of Konami's patents on the Dance Dance Revolution game.12

3. This patent relates to computer characters who scramble out of the way of your taxi in Sega Enterprises' game, Crazi Taxi®.13

4. This patent relates to battlefield strength and morale, as used in Koei's Dynasty Warriors® series of games.14

End Notes

1 Ross and Steve are Shareholders with the law firm Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. in Washington, DC. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and should not be attributed to either Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. or to any of its clients. This article is for information purposes only, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship with anyone.

2 M. Richtel, "Video Game Industry Sales Reach Record Pace in 2004," New York Times, January 19, 2005 .

3 By comparison, the U.S. toothbrush industry is estimated to make $1.9 billion in sales in 2005 for manual and power toothbrushes (a fraction of the video game industry), but our search found nearly the same number of patents that mentioned "toothbrush" (4600) as those mentioning "video game" (4873). Dental industry estimate obtained from Euromonitor Market Research; patent searches conducted at www.uspto.gov.

4 Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 309 (1980).

5 In re Beauregard, 35 USPQ2d 1383 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (the PTO's concession is reported in the decision for this case).

6 35 U.S.C. 154(d), enacted Nov. 29, 1999.

7 U.S. Const. Art. I, 8 "The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

8 For an excellent discussion of this history, see The Ultimate History of Video Games, by Steven Kent, Three Rivers Press (2001).

9 It has been reported that Id Software spent in the order of $15M to develop Doom III, whereas a typical patent application can be prepared and filed for around $10k-$15k, with perhaps another $3k-$5k spent per year in responding to actions by the patent examiner. See Hermida, A, "Long Awaited Doom 3 Leaked Online," BBC News, World Edition, August 2, 2004 , printed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3527332.stm [bbc.co.uk] . Cost estimates of obtaining patents varies. See, e.g., http://www.depts.ttu.edu/transferandintellectualpr operty/faq.html [ttu.edu] .

10 Project Gotham Racing and Xbox are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.

11 Dance Dance Revolution® is a registered trademark of Konami Corporation.

12 Konami v. Roxor Games, 2-05CV-173 (E.D. Tex, filed May 9, 2005 ).

13 Crazy Taxi® is a registered trademark of Sega Enterprises, Ltd.

14 Dynasty Warriors® is a registered trademark of Koei Corporation.

__________________________________________________ ___

Innovation Death (1)

hugg (22953) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693187)

Yes, innovation will suffer because the smaller shareware/freeware/demoware players will be fed up with the whole patent business and go raise goats or something ... while the big players trade patents with one another to make the same three games they've made for the past ten years. The big boys won't even have the little guys to copy ideas from! EA, Sony, and Microsoft are no doubt salivating at the thought of complete idea-monopoly of whatever the next big genre is (MMOFPSRPGRTSSimChess?).

You are in a maze of twisty little legal passages, all alike.

preemptive strike (1)

new death barbie (240326) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693192)

I happen to hold the patent on "The use of electronic computing devices for the purposes of entertainment."

...and just as soon as one of these game companies actually makes something that's entertaining, man, I'm all over their ass....

M.A.M.E. as prior art (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693193)

With some 2000 unique titles not counting clones and cheap knockoffs, it's hard to imagine there still exist gameplay elements, scoring methods, objectives, etc that haven't been tried. Don't forget that up to 1984 they tried absolutely everything in arcade games. Not to mention all those Atari, Intellevision, NES, etc games. That said, I'm sure there's something out there that hasn't been done before, but we all know the industry has a very hard time finding those nuggets. Not really an area I'd expect someone to "patent everything".

Trivia question: what was the first arcade game to feature a "punch" button?
How about the first solid-object polygon game? How many years before the 2nd one?

This is an important issue. (0)

Jakeypants (860350) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693209)

W00t! Finally someone is here to dispel these ginormous mythconceptions!

Patents need a longer duration (2, Funny)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693214)

Lets face it - Patent holders, as technical intellectual property creators, have been falling behind the protections afforded to their artistic bretheren! Copyright holders now have an entire century to reap the benfits, adn for their offspring to reap the benefits, of their labors. It seems wholely unfair to limit patents to such short terms as 14 years (20 for non-design).

I believe patents should be perpetual. Once you create it it should be your forever! And you children and your childrens children. We have seen my the slow - nay, slowing pace (based on patents per dollar spent on healthcare)- of patent applications and inventions in the 20th century that patent protection does not provide the needed impetus for our truly creative technical experts to advance the sciences.

There are numerous cases of inventors who could have changed the world, but insted of licencing their technology, compaies just waited until the patents ran out, and the used those iventions with no compensation to the creative mind whatsoever.

This must stop. We all must rise up and demand perpetual patents now.

(aren't you glad there isn't a _really_ organized lobby for patent holders like there is for performance artists?)

Duke Nukem Forever? (1)

p0 (740290) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693217)

I hope Duke Nukem Forever makes it before that!

IS this a good idea? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693220)

Actually realising a company has an patentable idea is an expensive proposition. Last time I worked for a company that had a patent policy, any new ideas were run past their legal team. Full time legal teams are not cheap. A multinational microchip company can afford them but games studios are a lot smaller. Programmers have to be taken off their project, it all adds up.

Most compnaies will remove an idea if it turns out its patented. It's clearly no longer going to be a major feature since it's been done before. usually there's another way to do this.

Alternatively they might not realise they have infringed your patent. If you charge them enough to justify the cost of getting the patent in the first place, they're quite likely to fold. Games companies do this a lot.

I suspect that this will work a lot better for the larger publishers. But really it seems like more of a way to push out smaller players.

Might not really happen... (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693222)

The gaming industry knows that this will only kill them off. They have had a taste of it in the controler market already and really didn't like it. True frce feedback was pretty much killed off because of this. They also know that patents on games will kill their chances of getting people to play a new genere of games (if and when that happens) as many people do not like the steep learning curves that different generes produce and will simply not purchase a game...

Nooo (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693227)

I hope EA doesn't read this. Probably too late already.

What do you call a hundred dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

A good start.

Re:Nooo (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693251)

There was a really sad bus crash in texas. There were fifty lawyers on board and every single one died slow and painful deaths. It was REALLY sad. As the bus was only half full.

No more stealth porn browsing (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693234)

"When viewing images, tab icons now display thumbnails of the displayed image."

I bet someone's mom/wife suggested this feature... ;)

Great (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693237)

Will this mean you can patent elements of films - such as (assuming you had prior art) the 24 'spit screens' view, or the fade/dissolve, or perhaps subtitles, the count-down bomb-timer that stops at 1 second, the use of camera shake in a war film, the idea of sequels and prequels, books-to-films, the screen kiss!? Whats next? perhaps you could patent the use of light and shadow in paintings?

Human patents? (-1, Redundant)

brontus3927 (865730) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693253)

What happens when cloning becomes mainstream? Will we have to patent ourselves to make sure someone doesn't make unauthorized copies of ourselves?

Educate the examiners (1)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693259)

If we want to avoid "obvious" patents, then we need to educate the patent examiners so they understand the state of the art. Obvious ideas and ones clearly found in other's prior art should not get patents, but it is up to the examiner to decide that. Perhaps someone will create a database of prior art and historical innovations that patent examiners can use to weed out the bad patents.

If an idea is not in the prior art and a couple of geeks can't quickly imagine/document the idea for the database, then perhaps it is worthy of a patent.

Games Patents? (1)

Timbo (75953) | more than 9 years ago | (#12693275)

What do you mean "next"? They're already here.

Patent 1 [uspto.gov]
Patent 2 [uspto.gov]
Patent 3 [uspto.gov]
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