The re-performance of a song for use in a video game pursuant to a non-exclusive synchronization license does not, without more, violate the original artists’ right of publicity, even if the artists are referenced, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan held Jan. 22 (Romantics v. Activision Publishing Inc., E.D. Mich., No. 07-14969, 1/22/08).Activision recorded a new version of the song for use within Guitar Hero. When players encountered the song, it came with the subtitle “as made famous by the Romantics.” The Romantics said that this was a violated their right of publicity, was unfair competition under the Lanham Act, and constituted unfair competition. The court disagreed.Read more here.
From IP Law360:
MGA Entertainment, makers of the popular Bratz dolls, will hand over $13.2 million to video game company Ubisoft Entertainment, after an arbitrator ruled that Ubisoft had not violated the
Bratz trademark but MGA had violated a contract between the two companies.
Ubisoft had obtained a license from MGA for the right to make video games based on the Bratz franchise in the spring of 2002.
But in 2003, MGA purported to terminate the license under the claim that Ubisoft had failed to release a “substantial number” of the games in Europe, which was one of the provisions in the licensing agreement.
Ubisoft argued that it had not breached the license and continued to make Bratz video games. MGA promptly sued, alleging copyright infringement for producing the Bratz games without a license and breach of contract.
Ubisoft counter-sued for invalid termination of the licensing agreement. The case then went to arbitration.
Last year, the arbitrator decided that Ubisoft had been correct and the termination was wrongful. It awarded Ubisoft the $13.2 million in lost profits, attorneys’ fees and interest.
Unsatisfied with the verdict, MGA then challenged the award in a Los Angeles county court. However, that motion was later denied. MGA agreed to pay the award in late-December 2007. The judgment order was entered on Feb. 8.
More more information, read the full article here.
Lonestar Inventions LP v. Nintendo of America Inc., case no. 6:07-cv-00261 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
This lawsuit between patent-holding company Lonestar Inventions LP and gaming conglomerate Nintendo Inc. will play out in mediation after a federal judge ordered the two companies to try their case before a mediator on Thursday, Dec, 13, 2007. Texas-based Lonestar first sued Nintendo in June, alleging that the company’s popular Wii video game console infringed on a patent titled “High capacitance structure in a semiconductor device.”
C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., et al. — F.3d —, 2007 WL 2990366, 84 U.S.P.Q.2d 1328 (8th Cir. 2007)
In a much watched case, on October 16, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decided C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., et al., regarding whether it is ok for fantasy sports operators to use professional athletes’ names and historical statistics without a license from the players, the players association and/or the relevant league. In this case, the sport is baseball, but the ruling can be applied across the board to any fantasy sports league. In this case, the Eighth Circuit held that C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. (“CBC”), a provider of online fantasy baseball products, could use the names of and statistics of Major League Baseball (“MLB”) players without a license from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P. (“Advanced Media”), a MLB holding company to whom The Major League Baseball Players Association (“the Players Association”) had granted the exclusive right “to use baseball players’ names and performance information ‘for exploitation via all interactive media.’” Slip. Op. at 3. MLB and Advanced Media unsuccessfully argued that CBC’s use of player names and statistics was a violation of the players’ rights of publicity, copyright infringement, and breach of contract, among other theories. The court held that the fantasy sports operator’s actions were protected under the First Amendment.
In 1995, the Players Association first granted CBC a license to use the names of MLB players and their corresponding statistics in fantasy baseball games. In 2002, the Players Association granted CBC a renewed license, which gave CBC the rights to use “the names, nicknames, likenesses, signatures, pictures, playing records, and/or biographical data of each player” in connection with CBC’s fantasy baseball products. Slip. Op. at 3. When this renewed license expired in 2005, however, the Players Association did not grant CBC another renewed license. Instead, the Players Association granted the exclusive right “to use baseball players’ names and performance information ‘for exploitation via all interactive media’” to Advanced Media (the MLB holding company mentioned above). Id. After Advanced Media received this exclusive license from the Players Association, it approached CBC and proposed a license under which CBC could promote fantasy baseball games on MLB.com, but could not continue offering its own fantasy baseball products. CBC subsequently brought this declaratory judgment lawsuit, seeking a court decree that it could continue to use the names of and statistics related to MLB players without a license from Advanced Media.
At issue in this case was whether MLB could exercise exclusive control over the fantasy baseball business by limiting others’ access to factual player information (i.e., names and statistics). In order to exercise this control, MLB, acting through the Players Association and Advanced Media, tried to establish that CBC’s use of the names of MLB players and their corresponding statistics violated rights of publicity, was copyright infringement, and was a breach of the previous licensing contract. At the trial court level, MLB argued that CBC was violating the baseball players’ individual rights of publicity, which are protected under state law (Missouri state law in this case, pursuant to federal jurisdictional rules). Although the trial court held that MLB failed to establish these state-law rights, the Eighth Circuit reversed this determination and found that state-law rights of publicity were implicated. However, the Eighth Circuit further held that First Amendment considerations (i.e., the “right to use information that is available to everyone”) trumped these state-law rights. Significantly, in deciding that these state-law rights “must give way” to First Amendment considerations, the Eighth Circuit characterized the baseball players’ names and their corresponding statistics as information that is “readily available in the public domain.” Slip. Op. at 7. Because MLB (or anyone else for that matter) cannot exercise exclusive control over information in the public domain, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of CBC, thus allowing CBC to continue using MLB players’ names and statistics without a license.
(Earlier in the case, MLB and Advanced Media also tried to argue that the use of player names and statistics was an infringement of one or more copyrights owned by MLB. MLB argued that it owned a copyright in the compilation of names and statistics. The court didn’t buy it and indicated that the names and statistics were public domain factual information.)
So for those of you running your own fantasy sports sites (or at least fantasy baseball sites), the decision in this case means that you can make use of the same information as CBC (i.e., player names and statistics) without obtaining a license from the relevant professional sports league. However, you should still consult a lawyer regarding your particular situation, because the ruling in this case involves some complicated interactions between state and federal law, and perhaps could have been decided differently by a different court with respect to the rights of publicity issues.
Word on the street is that MicroUnity and Sony Computer Entertainment America have settled their ongoing patent dispute regarding Sony’s PlayStation products. The two companies have asked for a 30-day stay of all deadlines in the pending litigation in the Eastern District of Texas so they can put the finishing touches on their settlement agreement. MicroUnity first filed the lawsuit against Sony in November 2005, accusing the Japanese company of infringing 10 patents with its Sony Playstation 2, Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable game consoles. The patents cover various semiconductor integrated circuits and system processes that MicroUnity claimed were used to make the various Sony products.
Sony was sued over its use of an ice cream truck and clown character in its Twisted Metal video game series. Sony has 6 games in the series, but only the last one, “Small Brawl” depicts an ice cream truck with a label of “Frosty Treats” on the side. Frosty Treats alleged that their mark “Frosty Treats” was protectable under trademark law and consumers would think Frosty Treats was affiliated with the games. Frosty Treats sells frozen deserts out of ice cream trucks. Their vans have a 9” X 4” decal on the rear of the truck with “Frosty Treats” in pink capital letters. The trucks also have a clown pointing his finger saying “watch cars-cross at rear” so children will cross at the rear of the truck. Twisted Metal depicts a devious clown driving an ice cream truck (named Sweet Tooth or Needles Kane), a purple-nosed, black-eyed clown on the side of a remote control truck and a clown head on the antenna of the remote control truck. The court held that the clown in Twisted Metal had “virtually no resemblance to Safety Clown.” Even Frosty Treat’s CEO admitted there was no resemblance. He stated at his deposition, “They don’t look the same way, but . . . if the Safety Clown had a brother who was nasty and mean, it would look somewhat like Sweet Tooth.”The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court holding that the mark “Frosty Treats” was not protectable, the clown graphic was not likely to cause consumer confusion, and Frosty Treat’s mark or trade dress was not being diluted. The court found “Frosty Treats”, which had never been registered was at the most, a descriptive mark without a secondary meaning, and not protectable as a trademark. While Frosty Treats conducted a survey to prove secondary meaning, they were unsuccessful. The court found Sony’s survey of 204 children and 200 adults who couldn’t remember the names of any ice cream trucks more convincing. The court noted that the use of a clown on ice cream trucks is not novel. Many ice cream trucks have clown designs. Even though the ice cream truck in Small Brawl depicted Frosty Treats on the ice cream truck, the court held that “no reasonable juror” could find that the trade dress of Frosty Treats and the depictions in Twisted Metal were not similar, nor was Sony trying to pass off the Frosty Treat’s mark as its own.
MDY Industries, LLC v. Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. et al.United States District Court, District of ArizonaCase No. 2:2006cv02555, Filed October 25, 2006 On October 25, 2006, MDY Industries, LLC (“MDY”) filed a declaratory judgment action against Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (“Blizzard”) and Vivendi, SA (“Vivendi”), Blizzard’s parent company, in the U.S. District Court in Arizona seeking, among other things, a decree from the court that MDY has not violated any of Blizzard’s intellectual property rights relating to the “World of Warcraft” video game. MDY sells a software application called “WoW Glider” (also known as “Glider”) that essentially automates game play in Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. This automation, however, violates Blizzard’s Terms of Service for World of Warcraft, a fact that MDY actually admits in the “Frequently Asked Questions” portion of the Glider website. See http://mmoglider.com/FAQ.aspx#G3. In addition to allowing gamers to feel like lawless rebels, Glider appeals to World of Warcraft players because World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) in which players must spend a great deal of time playing in order to “level up” their characters. Although it would seem strange that gamers would want to find a way to play less, the leveling in World of Warcraft is really only a part of the game, and a tedious part at that. Indeed, once a player reaches the maximum level, he or she can begin playing the “end game” content that is typically more challenging and dynamic than the other game content. Moreover, in addition to automating leveling, Glider also automates some of the other more tedious tasks in World of Warcraft, such as “grinding” reputation and “farming” gold, by automatically and repeatedly killing certain computer-controlled enemies. Glider accomplishes this automation by simulating the keystrokes and mouse movement that would normally be the control input from the player. Thus, instead of playing World of Warcraft for hours to level, grind, or farm, a player can configure Glider to perform whatever tasks he or she desires, and then leave Glider to play accordingly. As Blizzard sees it, however, Glider allows players to cheat by gaining an unfair advantage over others, thus detracting from everyone else’s gaming experience. Unfortunately for Blizzard, Glider was more than a mere demon that could be baninshed, and so they resorted to legal action to stop this alleged cheating. According to MDY’s complaint, representatives for Blizzard and Vivendi appeared unannounced, (as if by magic?), at the private residence of Michael Donnelly, the sole member of MDY according to Blizzard, on the morning of October 25, 2006. At this confrontation, the Blizzard and Vivendi representatives allegedly accused MDY of copyright infringement, Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) violations, and interference with the contractual relationships between Blizzard and World of Warcraft users. The Blizzard and Vivendi representatives also presented Donnelly with a complaint against him and MDY that included all of these charges, and threatened to file this complaint in a federal court in California if he did not comply with their demands. In imminent apprehension of being sued, MDY brought this declaratory judgment action against Blizzard and Vivendi the same day. Notwithstanding whether Glider’s violation of the Terms of Service for World of Warcraft is interference with contractual relationships, the real issue in this lawsuit is whether Blizzard can prevent MDY from distributing Glider. Indeed, in February 2007, Blizzard filed an answer to MDY’s complaint in which Blizzard asserted counterclaims against MDY seeking injunctive relief and money damages. In these counterclaims, Blizzard argued that it is entitled to an injunction and money damages against MDY based on, among other things, copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and trafficking in technology designed for the purpose of circumventing copyright protection systems in violation of the DMCA. MDY filed an answer to Blizzard’s counterclaims in March 2007 in which MDY denied most of Blizzard’s accusations and raised various affirmative defenses to all of Blizzard’s counterclaims. As of August 2007, this case is in discovery under a protective order and will remain in fact discovery until January 25, 2008. For now, World of Warcraft players can still use Glider to do their virtual dirty work (as long as they are willing to risk being banned from World of Warcraft for a Terms of Service violation, that is).Thanks to Rajit Kapur for his assistance with the preparation of this case summary.
(E.D.Tex 2007 – SETTLED)
We previously reported that Konami Corporation sued Roxor Games, Inc. in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleging patent infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and trade dress infringement, under both Federal and Texas law, regarding Konami’s game Dance Dance Revolution. It appears that we won’t see trial or a decision on this case, as they settled out of court as of last autumn (ok, I’m a little late posting on this… sorry). The settlement gives Konami full control of In the Groove‘s intellectual property rights.
Micro Star v. FormGen Inc.
154 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 1998)
Judge Kosinski opens his opinion by positing the most poignant of questions: “Duke Nukem routinely vanquishes Octabrain and the Protozoid Slimer. But what about the dreaded Micro Star?” Duke Nukem 3D, the well known first person shooter that was distributed and owned by FormGen Inc., included an editor that enabled players to create their own levels [Editor’s Note: I once created a map duplicating two decks of a Carnival cruise ship. Regrettably, it didn’t make it onto the CD at issue]. Player-created levels could be posted onto the Internet for download by other players. Micro Star acquired 300 user-created levels, placed them onto a CD, and sold that CD commercially as Nuke It, whose packaging displayed screen shots of the new levels. FormGen threatened to sue, so Micro Star sought a declaratory judgment for non-infringement of FormGen’s copyrights in the game, while FormGen counterclaimed for a preliminary injunction against future copyright infringement by Micro Star.
While the district court did grant a preliminary injunction as to the use of the screen shots, it also held that Nuke It was not a derivative work and therefore did not infringe FormGen’s copyright. On appeal, Kozinski focused on whether Micro Star copied FormGen’s protected expression.
Ultimately, the Court disagreed with Micro Star’s arguments that Nuke It was not a derivative work because the MAP files, which contain the instructions defining the custom levels, did not incorporate in a concrete or permanent form any of Duke Nukem 3D’s protected expression (i.e., the artwork rendered onto the screen). Instead, the Court found Nuke It to be a derivative work in concrete or permanent form because it was embodied onto a CD and the MAP files described in detail the audiovisual display that appears on the computer monitor. Additionally, Micro Star’s motive of financial gain worked against their position and foreclosed their ability to assert fair use protection. By selling Nuke It, the Court held, Micro Star “impinged on FormGen’s ability to market new versions of the Duke Nukem 3D story” and “only FormGen [as the owner of the copyright] has the right to enter that market.” FormGen, therefore, did not abandon their right to profit commercially from new levels by granting a license to players to freely distribute new levels to other players.
Thus, FormGen received a preliminary injunction as to Nuke It’s commercial distribution. Now if only 3D Realms would hurry up and release Duke Nukem Forever, because we’re all getting a little tired their mantra “it’s done when it’s done…”
Today the Free Software Foundation released version 3 of the GNU General Public License. The new version of the license contains a lengthy patent license provision, copied below, that users should be aware of. Given that GNU GPLv3 might apply to some code used in your game, you should read it and make sure you understand all its ramifications. Give us a call if you need legal representation regarding open source contract issues, and we can discuss your situation.
A “contributor” is a copyright holder who authorizes use under this License of the Program or a work on which the Program is based. The work thus licensed is called the contributor’s “contributor version”. A contributor’s “essential patent claims” are all patent claims owned or controlled by the contributor, whether already acquired or hereafter acquired, that would be infringed by some manner, permitted by this License, of making, using, or selling its contributor version, but do not include claims that would be infringed only as a consequence of further modification of the contributor version. For purposes of this definition, “control” includes the right to grant patent sublicenses in a manner consistent with the requirements of this License. Each contributor grants you a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free patent license under the contributor’s essential patent claims, to make, use, sell, offer for sale, import and otherwise run, modify and propagate the contents of its contributor version. In the following three paragraphs, a “patent license” is any express agreement or commitment, however denominated, not to enforce a patent (such as an express permission to practice a patent or covenant not to sue for patent infringement). To “grant” such a patent license to a party means to make such an agreement or commitment not to enforce a patent against the party. If you convey a covered work, knowingly relying on a patent license, and the Corresponding Source of the work is not available for anyone to copy, free of charge and under the terms of this License, through a publicly available network server or other readily accessible means, then you must either (1) cause the Corresponding Source to be so available, or (2) arrange to deprive yourself of the benefit of the patent license for this particular work, or (3) arrange, in a manner consistent with the requirements of this License, to extend the patent license to downstream recipients. “Knowingly relying” means you have actual knowledge that, but for the patent license, your conveying the covered work in a country, or your recipient’s use of the covered work in a country, would infringe one or more identifiable patents in that country that you have reason to believe are valid. If, pursuant to or in connection with a single transaction or arrangement, you convey, or propagate by procuring conveyance of, a covered work, and grant a patent license to some of the parties receiving the covered work authorizing them to use, propagate, modify or convey a specific copy of the covered work, then the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it. A patent license is “discriminatory” if it does not include within the scope of its coverage, prohibits the exercise of, or is conditioned on the non-exercise of one or more of the rights that are specifically granted under this License. You may not convey a covered work if you are a party to an arrangement with a third party that is in the business of distributing software, under which you make payment to the third party based on the extent of your activity of conveying the work, and under which the third party grants, to any of the parties who would receive the covered work from you, a discriminatory patent license (a) in connection with copies of the covered work conveyed by you (or copies made from those copies), or (b) primarily for and in connection with specific products or compilations that contain the covered work, unless you entered into that arrangement, or that patent license was granted, prior to 28 March 2007. Nothing in this License shall be construed as excluding or limiting any implied license or other defenses to infringement that may otherwise be available to you under applicable patent law.—end of provision—
U.S. Supreme Court, April 30, 2007
While technically not a video game case, this landmark Supreme Court case just (expectedly) rocked the patent world. The technology: drive by wire for automobiles. The issue: when is an invention nonobvious? The answer: don’t know for sure, but we DID learn a little more about when an invention IS obvious–whenever the invention is merely the combination of known elements with predictable results.
This case will have a ripple effect in the patent world, regardless of technology area. No longer is the Federal Circuit’s “Teaching, Suggestion, Motivation” test the BMOC. While the TSM test is one way to determine obviousness, it is by no means the ONLY way to do so. The KSR case is a welcome relief for all those who have been advocating that it’s too easy to get a patent under the Federal Circuit’s TSM regime, but at the same time the post-KSR era will experience higher prosecution costs and less certainty regarding patentability of any invention (at least in the short term, until some clarity is provided through subsequent caselaw).
How does this apply to video game patents? Folks have been criticizing patents for years by saying that the USPTO is granting patents to combinations of known ideas and concepts, including game play patents where the claimed “invention” is a combination of known elements found in previous video games. Such patents were being granted because there was no prior art that explicitly or implicitly suggested the combination, even when each of the combined elements was being used in its normal manner, i.e., providing predictable results. No longer will that be the case. Instead, the price of poker, i.e., the “inventiveness” required to get a patent, just went up, and more will be required of game developers before a patent will be granted for a game play concept.
There will be many who relish in the nuances of the KSR opinion’s text, and provide lengthy analysis regarding its mantras, so I won’t go into all that here. But I will provide some notable quotes:
- “If a person of ordinary skill can implement a predictable variation, §103 likely bars its patentability.”
- “a court must ask whether the improvement is more than the predictable use of prior art elements according to their established functions.”
- “Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress and may, in the case of patents combining previously known elements, deprive prior inventions of their value or utility.”
- “A person of ordinary skill is also a person of ordinary creativity, not an automaton.”
The entire opinion may be found here. Happy reading!
As everyone knows by now, Sony settled with Immersion for about $150M. So while the primary issues have been decided, there is still a little cleaning up to do. Namely, there was a third party involved in the litigation, Internet Services, LLC (ISLLC), which claimed it had some rights in the Immersion patents via a license from Immersion, and thererfore ISLLC should be entitled to some of that $150M. The district court initially dismissed all of ISLLC’s claims, and ISLLC appealed. Today the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss ISLLC’s claims, confirming that ISLLC lacks standing to sue Sony based on its limited license to the Immersion patents.
The full decision can be found here.
While not directly related to video games, this case may have some applicability to the game world, given the convergence of service providers and MMOs (think Linden Labs). In a solid win for the service providers/content providers (think YouTube or MySpace, or Second Life!), a federal appeals court has largely rejected Perfect 10’s claim that a service provider violated laws by linking to sites that improperly posted its images. The March 29, 2007, decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling that CCBill “reasonanly implemented” a noninfringement policy under the DMCA, and was therefore not liable for widespread copyright infringement by numerous web sites that it linked to.
The case is Perfect 10 v. CCBill, __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. March 29, 2007).
As reported on Gamespot:
Nearly three years ago, Midway released Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, a third-person stealth-action game and–alongside The Suffering and Roadkill–one of a handful of then-recent original intellectual properties the company had brought to market. However, a Los Angeles County screenwriter is now claiming that the intellectual property wasn’t all that original…
The case is Crawford v. Midway Games Inc., C.D. Cal., Docket 2:07-cv-00967-FMC-JC
We’ll start tracking this case and let you know of any significant developments.
Alas, Sony has agreed to fork over $150M to Immersion to settle their ongoing patent dispute. The deal ends a five year battle including allegations of fraud and misconduct after a jury initially awarded Immersion $82M in damages. With the very real threat of an injunction hanging over its head, Sony settled. Most likely because the PS3 is still not selling as well as Sony has hoped, and Sony can’t afford to have its still-selling-like-hotcakes PS2 yanked from store shelves.
Bragg v. Linden Lab, E.D. Pa. (Pending)
Well I had some initial reservation about including this case on our tracking list, given that it wasn’t a “pure” IP case. However, in today’s day and age, virtual property is the new IP, so we’re adding the case to our tracking list, and will keep you posted. In the meantime, here is a link to a nice summary of the proceedings thus far.
The Federal Circuit heard oral arguments yesterday in the Immersion v. Sony appeal. As previously reported, the sole issue on appeal is Sony’s allegation of misconduct by Immersion.
Sony’s arguments at the hearing attempt to highlight its position that the errors of fact regarding a preexisting licensing agreement and prior art document “could have” changed the outcome of the trial had the errors been corrected, and Sony should thus be entitled to a new trial. Sony argued that it was never afforded a chance to determine whether the error was significant or not, because it never knew about a piece of “hidden” prior art. The court questioned the impact of any error on the ability of Sony to litigate the case fairly, and appears hesitant to second-guess the district court judge who witnessed the entire trial and made a judgment call based on information gathered over the course of time during the litigation.
Immersion countered that any error was immaterial and insignificant, implying that such error should not warrant a new trial. Immersion’s counsel also pointed out how little significance the “hidden” prior art document played during trial (e.g., zero references to it by Sony’s primary invalidity expert, zero references to it by Sony in closing arguments, etc.). The court questioned the basis for such a conclusion, because how could the hidden piece of prior art play a prominent role at trial when Sony didn’t know about it?
While I personally found Sony’s arguments to verge on a last ditch effort of a 5 year old whining to a parent “it’s not fair,” and Immersion’s counsel came across a little overconfident (perhaps better prepared?), you never know how the court will rule.
It will likely be months before the court hands down its decision.
It appears that Sony’s game controller woes just continue to grow. Fenner Investments Ltd. has sued Microsoft (Xbox 360), Sony (PS2), and Nintendo (Gamecube) for allegedly infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,297,751, which describes a low voltage joystick port interface. The case is Fenner Investments Ltd. v. Microsoft Corp. et al., case no. 06-cv-08, in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas. We’re adding the case to our tracking list, and we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.
Planet Bingo v. Gametech International
__ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. 2006)
Planet Bingo is the exclusive licensee of both the ‘289 and ‘786 patents. The patents claim alternative methods of playing bingo by coupling numbers with additional “indicia” or “markings,” such as colors or shading patterns. These additional designations overlay a traditional bingo game to produce more winning combinations for more prizes. For example, a player may achieve a classic bingo (e.g., a straight line) and then couple that line with an additional indicator (e.g., a straight line that is also all red) to win a greater jackpot. The additional designations come into play either with markings on the bingo balls in the ‘289 patent or with a marked bingo flashboard in the ‘786 patent. The patents also specify that players might make a second, separate wager to access a progressive jackpot. In this type of bingo with wagers, the unclaimed purse in each round carries over to the next game (think Powerball). The bingo hall may also set aside a portion of this second wager to pay winners of the progressive jackpots. Gametech International came along and started producing a similar game, albeit with minor variations.
The Federal Circuit affirmed district court’s decision finding non-infringement and invalidity where the district court correctly found that the defendant did not literally infringe the claims, properly refused to find infringement by equivalents, and correctly found certain patent claims invalid as anticipated by a prior art bingo game.
Planet Bingo’s exclusive bingo days appear to be near an end. We include this case because the concept could be applied to networked video gaming machines in Las Vegas or elsewhere where gambling is legal.
Sorry we took a bit of a hiatus over the holidays. We’re back at work, which includes blogging…
So for those following the Immersion v. Sony case regarding haptic (vibration) feedback patents owned by Immersion and Sony’s alleged infringement (i.e., PlayStation 2 controllers that have vibration feedback), today the appeal is being heard by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. The oral arguments are scheduled for 3 P.M. this afternoon. We’ll try to give an update afterwards, but it still will be months before a decision is likely handed down.