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.

U.S. Patent No. 10,636,217: Integration of tracked facial features for VR users in virtual reality environments


Issued April 28, 2020 to Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.
Priority Date: September 30, 2016




Summary:
U.S. Patent No. 10,636,217 (the ’217 Patent) relates to tracking the facial feature movements of the user of a head mounted display (HMD) to an avatar of that HMD user that can be viewed by other HMD users. The ’217 Patent details a method of detecting an HMD user’s eye gaze and mouth movements with eye gaze sensors and cameras on the HMD. A virtual face is generated for the HMD user’s avatar using the captured eye gaze and mouth movements. The position and size of an HMD user’s nose may also be detected and used to capture facial feature expressions along with eye gaze and mouth movements. Using this data, a face is generated for the avatar that approximates the facial movements of the HMD user. Other players may see the generated virtual face of an HMD user when they are all in a perspective that allows line of sight or a viewable angle of the virtual face. 

Abstract:
A method for rendering a virtual reality (VR) scene viewable via a head mounted display (HMD) is provided. The method includes detecting eye gaze of a user using one or more eye gaze sensors disposed in a display housing of the HMD. And, capturing images of a mouth of the user using one or more cameras disposed on the HMD, wherein the images of the mouth include movements of the mouth. Then, the method includes generating a virtual face of the user. The virtual face includes virtual eye movement obtained from the eye gaze of the user and virtual mouth movement obtained from said captured images of the mouth. The method includes presenting an avatar of the user in the VR scene with the virtual face. The avatar of the user is viewable by another user having access to view the VR scene from a perspective that enables viewing of the avatar having the virtual face of the user. Facial expressions and movements of the mouth of the user wearing the HMD are viewable by said other user, and the virtual face of the user is presented without the HMD.

Illustrative Claim:
1. A method for rendering a virtual reality (VR) scene viewable via a head mounted display (HMD), comprising, detecting eye gaze of a user using one or more eye gaze sensors disposed in a display housing of the HMD; capturing images of a mouth of the user using one or more cameras disposed on the HMD, the images of the mouth include movements of the mouth; capturing sensor data for a nose of the user when wearing the HMD; generating a virtual face of the user, the virtual face including virtual eye movement obtained from the eye gaze of the user and virtual mouth movement obtained from said captured images of the mouth, the virtual face including a virtual nose that is modeled based on the sensor data of the nose of the user; and presenting an avatar of the user in the VR scene with the virtual face, the avatar of the user being viewable by another user having access to view the VR scene from a perspective that enables viewing of the avatar having the virtual face of the user, such that facial expressions and movements of the mouth of the user wearing the HMD are viewable by said other user, the virtual face of the user being presented without the HMD.

Updates on Epic Games’ Antitrust Battle: Fight Over Witnesses and UK Expansion


Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc.
Filed August 13, 2020
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Case No. 3:20-cv-05640
AND
Epic Games, Inc. v. Google LLC
Filed August 13, 2020
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Case No. 3:20-cv-05671




The United States District Court for the Northern District of California will hear Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc. in an in person trial beginning on May 3rd. In its suit, which we previously covered here, Epic Games (“Epic”) alleges that Apple Inc. (“Apple”) violated antitrust law by requiring that developers only distribute iOS apps through Apple’s App Store and that developers use Apple’s In-App Purchase platform for all in-app purchases, for which it charges a 30% commission fee. Epic filed the lawsuit after its game Fortnite was removed from Apple’s App Store following the addition of an option to buy Fortnite’s in-game currency “vBucks” directly from Epic in order to circumvent the 30% commission that Apple charges developers. Epic is also suing Google LLC ("Google") on similar grounds for its Google Play store practices, but a trial date has not yet been set.

The case against Apple is already heating up after Apple requested the judge block Epic from calling three witnesses it disclosed on March 12th, even though Apple waited until April 7th to raise the issue. Apple alleged that Epic violated Rule 26, which requires parties to disclose the identities of parties testifying in their defense. Judge Gonzalez Rogers denied Apple’s request for sanctions, noting that even if Epic had violated Rule 26, the appropriate remedy would have been giving Apple the opportunity to depose the witnesses, not to block them from testifying. The three witnesses at issue are Vivek Sharm, the Vice President of Facebook Gaming, Lori Wright of Microsoft, and Benjamin Simon of Yoga Buddhi Co. 

Judge Gonzalez Rogers also warned that “the failure to produce relevant documents, including documents relevant to the individual testifying witness, to both parties (here, to Apple) will be factored into the individual witness' credibility, and, if necessary, may warrant the striking of testimony.” 

Epic is also taking its antitrust battle abroad. On February 22nd, the Competition and Appeal Tribunal in London said that Epic cannot bring competition claims against Apple because most of the alleged anti-competitive behavior occurred in the United States. However, Epic may bring competition claims in a United Kingdom court against Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., because it has subsidiaries in Ireland that may have committed competition violations. The London judge only allowed claims alleging that the Google Play store’s developer distribution agreement violates U.K. laws against anti-competitive agreements and abuse of a dominant position, and rejected claims about Google’s mobile app distribution agreement and technical restrictions placed on apps. 

On March 30th, Epic instead filed a complaint with the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) supporting the CMA’s existing investigation into Apple’s rules regarding app distribution on the App Store and mandatory in-app purchase system. Spotify prompted that investigation with its complaint alleging that Apple gives itself an unfair advantage with those rules. 

Apple is also under investigation by the EU’s European Commission for possible antitrust violations for its distribution rules, mandatory in-app purchase system, and Apple Pay policies. 

These lawsuits are ongoing, and we will provide updates on interesting developments over the course of the litigation.

Supreme Court Rules Google’s Copying of Oracle’s Java SE API is Fair Use


Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc.
Case No. 18-956
United States Supreme Court
Decided April 5, 2021 




 

On April 5th, in what is generally considered a “win” for the software community at large, the United States Supreme Court decided Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., and ruled that Google’s reuse of portions of Oracle’s Java SE API was fair use under U.S. Copyright Law.

Google copied declaring code, which is shorthand code that initiates an existing computer program. However, Google did not copy any of those computer programs (referred to as implementing code) from the Sun Java API. Rather, Google rewrote Java’s implementing code to be more efficient for mobile devices.

Notably, this is the most comprehensive Supreme Court case to date dealing with fair use as it pertains to computer software. In its decision, the Court started off by addressing the second fair use factor, Nature of the Copyrighted Work. The Court found that declaring code is primarily organizational and inextricably bound up with implementing code that is copyrightable, but was not copied by Google. This weighed in favor of fair use. Next, the Court analyzed the first fair use factor, Purpose and Character of the Use. It found that because Google rewrote the implementing code in order to create new products, the use was transformative, which favors fair use. The Court then analyzed the third fair use factor, Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used. It found that although Google copied 11,500 lines of code, Google also rewrote millions of lines of code out of the Java package that is itself millions of lines of code. Because this amount of copying was for a transformative purpose, it also favors fair use. Finally, the Court analyzed the fourth fair use factor, Market Effects. It found it was unlikely that Sun could successfully enter the smartphone market, and that Google’s Android mobile operating system using portions of Sun’s Java API is in a different market than Sun’s Java for desktops and laptops. This analysis of the market effects also weighed in favor of fair use.

While the software at issue in this case was not video game software itself, this case still has relevance to the video game industry. Any developer that uses or exposes APIs should understand the distinction between declaring code and implementing code, and assess what is and is not permissible under the fair use guidelines the Supreme Court has set forth.

For more detailed coverage and analysis of this case, please read this writeup by Banner Witcoff attorneys Ross Dannenberg and Shawn O’Dowd. If you have any questions about whether your use or exposure of an API raises copyright concerns, reach out to a qualified intellectual property attorney to discuss your specific situation.


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