Salt Lake City, Utah. June 2, 2016. U.S. District Judge Jill N. Parrish granted Electronic Arts Inc.’s motion to dismiss, saying that Utah-based White Knuckle Gaming LLC cannot sue for patent infringement because the patent at issue — which describes a method for updating sports videos games to reflect real-world changes like statistics, athlete appearances and uniforms — covers an abstract idea and does not include any additional elements that transform the claim into patent-eligible material.
“It is a longstanding business practice in the video game industry to update sports video games parameters to reflect real-world developments,” Judge Parrish wrote.
According to Judge Parrish, the patent doesn’t have any additional elements that transforms the abstract idea into an inventive concept because it doesn’t rely on anything other than generic computer equipment in order to be accomplished.
“The court holds that the patent is drawn to a patent-ineligible abstract idea, and merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that idea into a patent-eligible invention,” Judge Parrish wrote.
The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent Number 8,540,575 titled “Method and System for Increased Realism in Video Games.” One interesting thing about this case is the length of the claims that were invalidated. For example, representative claim 1 reads:
1. A game medium configured to provide a sports video game in conjunction with a video game machine, the sports video game including video game rules and video game character parameters, the video game character parameters including video game character performance parameters associated with individual video game characters, the game medium being configured to cause the video game machine to perform a method comprising:
loading video game data stored by the game medium into a random access memory of the video game machine for playing the video game, the video game data including the video game rules and a particular video game character performance parameter associated with a particular individual video game character associated with a particular real-life sports athlete, wherein the particular video game performance parameter is based at least in part on a real-life performance of the particular real-life sports athlete playing in one or more real-life sporting events, the particular video game character performance parameter affecting the manner in which the particular individual video game character performs in the sports video game;
during a single sports season, receiving a series of updated video game character performance parameters from a data server via a network including the Internet, wherein each of the updated video game character performance parameters in the series is based at least in part on one or more different real-life performances of the particular real-life sports athlete in one or more sporting events performed during the single sports season;
updating the sports video game with each of the updated video game character performance parameters received, wherein each update changes the manner in which the particular individual video game character performs in the sports video game such that the particular individual video game character more closely simulates real-life performance attributes of the particular real-life athlete in the sports video game; and
enabling a user to control the particular individual video game character in the sports video game using a video game controller connected to the video game machine.
This is a case that will be closely and heavily scrutinized in the wake of Alice v. CLS Bank. Many practitioners will use this case as more fodder to try to read the tea leaves in the winds of change that is Federal jurisprudence on patent-eligible subject matter.
White Knuckle Gaming will likely appeal. Along with the McRO case currently pending at the Federal Circuit, this could be another pertinent case in the world of video game patents.