In the business of video games, intellectual property is critical to success, and Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks are the bricks with which your IP portfolio is built. The Patent Arcade is the web’s primary resource for video game IP law, news, cases, and commentary.

Manchester United Alleges Trademark Infringement through Third-Party Mods to Football Manager

Manchester United Football Club Ltd. v. Sega Publishing Europe Ltd. and Sports Interactive Ltd.
Claim number: IL-2018-000085
Filed August 2018

On May 22, 2020, football club Manchester United asked a London judge for permission to amend its lawsuit that alleges that Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive (“SI”), the publisher and developer of soccer team management video game Football Manager, infringed Manchester United’s trademarks. The proposed amendments directly target third-party mods which Manchester United alleges infringe Manchester United trademarks.

In its original filings, Manchester United alleged that Sega and SI have infringed its trademark by using its name throughout the game. Manchester United also alleged that Sega and SI’s use of a generic striped crest next to the Manchester United name, instead of its official trademarked crest, deprived Manchester United of its right to license its club crest to Sega and SI. Manchester United’s amended claims further allege that Sega and SI supported the use of third-party mod add-ons to the game which allow players to replace the generic striped crest with Manchester United’s trademarked crest. Sega and SI claim that they have not encouraged these mods and cannot control the actions of third-party mod providers, but Manchester United provided screenshots of the defendants’ website and that of a website selling third-party mods for the game, showing references on each to the mod site being approved and affiliated with Sega and SI.

Manchester United has likened Sega and SI’s alleged support of the third-party mods for Football Manager to one person selling unlabeled handbags, and another selling Gucci labels, that when combined create a counterfeit product.

In response to Manchester United’s complaints, Sega and SI have argued that including the “Manchester United” name in Football Manager is a legitimate reference to the team in a football context. Indeed, Sega and SI assert that they have used the term “Manchester United” in their games since 1992 without complaint by Manchester United.

The judge reserved judgment on the addition of the new claim to a later date.

U.S. Patent no. 10,029,177: System and method for a videogame with a secondary metagame

Issued July 24, 2018 to Activision Publishing, Inc.
Priority Date November 5, 2013

U.S. Patent No. 10,029,177 (the '177 Patent) relates to videogames featuring a secondary metagame. This invention attempts to combine the benefits provided by handheld platforms with those of traditional gaming platforms. A computer-implemented method is provided which tracks a player's score in a videogame. When a certain score is reached in the videogame then a corresponding score is displayed in the metagame. Upon reaching certain score benchmarks in the videogame the player will be awarded certain bonuses in the metagame. The advent of new handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets allows for the integration of these handheld devices into the traditional videogame console framework. This allows for new ways to engage with games and increase playtime associated with them.

A videogame playable on a traditional gaming platform has an associated metagame playable on a handheld “second screen” device. In some embodiments, a player's performance in the videogame affects the player's performance in the metagame.

Illustrative Claim:
1. A computer-implemented method for providing a metagame associated with a primary videogame, comprising: entering a first entity into the metagame associated with the primary videogame, the metagame comprising a plurality of entities competing to achieve one or more metagame objectives where the metagame is active during gameplay of a portion of the primary videogame and the metagame determines a game state of the metagame based on actions that occur during gameplay of the portion of the primary videogame; determining one or more performance metrics associated with a performance of the first entity in the primary videogame; for each metagame objective, calculating a score for the first entity, the score being based on a scoring algorithm that uses at least one of the determined performance metrics of the first entity; determining that the first entity has achieved a predefined score in a metagame objective; in response to determining that the first entity has achieved the predefined score in the metagame objective: changing the scoring algorithm of the metagame objective; and awarding a bonus to the first entity in the primary videogame.

Pokemon Go Developer Niantic Wins Battle Over 3D Virtual Thematic Environment Patent

Barbaro Technologies, LLC v Niantic, Inc.
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Case No. 18-cv-02955-RS
Filed January 30, 2018

In an update to a previously reported suit, Niantic, developer of Pokemon Go and Ingress, has defeated part of Barbaro Technologies, LLC’s US Patent No. 8,228,325 (the “325 Patent”) on an interactive virtual thematic environment. The Court, ruling on a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Niantic, found that Claims 1, 3, and 6 of ’325 Patent were invalid under Section 101 of the Patent Act because they claim unpatentable subject matter.

The ’325 Patent relates to integrating real world location data into a three-dimensional virtual thematic environment (“3D VTE”). The Court held that the ’325 Patent was patent-ineligible. Particularly, the Court found that the ’325 Patent was directed to the result of integrating real world data with a virtual environment, rather than the specific method of so integrating the two. In other words, the Court found that, while the ’325 Patent details a multitude of embodiments of the claimed result, it does not improve on any of the existing technologies used to achieve the claimed result.

Barbaro argued that the claims in the ’325 Patent recited patent-eligible subject matter because integrating real world data into a 3D VTE is a “uniquely technical problem.” The Court disagreed, pointing to examples from before the Internet, like board games based on world maps and architectural models of real-world locations, which allow user interaction. The Court also noted that Barbaro did not provide technological details for its claimed invention, instead referring to the use of “standard” technologies.


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