There’s an interesting article on Law360 today:
Virtual-World Conflicts Lead To Real-World Suits.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Law360, New York (June 08, 2010) — As the market for online games expands and the debate over who has the right to control the virtual content heats up, website operators, their users and third parties could find themselves locked in real-world legal battles.Disputes stemming from ownership of virtual property and operators’ terms of service agreements are starting to pop up more often, leading intellectual property experts to speculate that they may become the next hot-button issues to be played out in the courts.
The complete article can be found here.
This patent claims “A squad-based shooter video game [that] allows players to dynamically join and leave the game, while that game is in progress, without the players having to save and restart the game. When a new player joins an in-progress game, a new squad member is allocated to the new player and the screen is split to present a viewing panel for the new player that depicts scenes from the perspective of the new squad member. When an existing player leaves the game, the screen is unsplit to remove the viewing panel for the exiting player and that player’s squad member becomes part of the squad being controlled by the remaining player(s).”
According to Co-Optimus, “[f]rom the patent description, timing and pictures, it appears to be for the 4 player co-op game Brute Force from the original Xbox… Other details in the patent include the ability to switch between squad members on the fly, AI controlled squad mates when not in player control, and hardware details of how it functions.”
It will be interesting to see if Microsoft licenses or asserts this patent against developers of other squad-based games using split-screen where players can join and drop out, or whether they decide to just keep this one in their portfolio.
Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is a three-day game festival for tabletop, videogame, and PC gamers. They call it a festival because in addition to dedicated tournaments and freeplay areas They’ve got nerdcore concerts, panel discussions, the weekend-long Omegathon event, and an exhibitor hall filled with booths displaying the latest from top game publishers and developers.
I will be speaking on a panel with Seth Krauss (GC of Take Two Interactive), Greg Boyd (attorney), and Thomas Buscaglia (the self-proclaimed “Game Attorney”). It will be a lively discussion of hot legal issues, including events ripped from the headlines to intellectual property to anything else the audience wants to discuss.
Learn more about Penny Arcade Expo and Registration here: http://www.paxsite.com/registration.php.
An entertainment licensing company has begun legal combat with bankrupt video game producer Midway Games Inc. over the licenses for movies, television shows, live action productions and other properties based on the blockbuster game “Mortal Kombat.”Threshold Entertainment Inc. filed an adversary complaint Wednesday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware challenging Midway’s proposed $33 million sale of substantially all of its assets, including all previously released titles and games based on the hit Mortal Kombat series, to Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. That deal was announced in late May.Threshold claims that it holds perpetual exclusive rights to develop derivative works in film and television based on Mortal Kombat as well as rights to licenses on certain characters that appear in both the video games and the films and TV series based on them.
Its a peripheral issue, so I doubt we’ll track it closely, but will let you know if anything significant comes of it…
Here’s the complaint.
Today the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case Bilski v. Doll. As many readers may know, the case In re Bilski is the case in which the Federal Circuit court of appeals held that business methods are not patentable unless: 1) they transform matter into a different state or thing, or 2) they are tied to particular machine. This will be the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed statutory subject matter under 35 U.S.C. sec. 101 since the 1981 case of Diamond v. Diehr where the Court held that the execution of a physical process, controlled in part by the running a computer program, was patentable.
It will take some time for the case to go through the briefing stage, and then to schedule oral arguments, before the Court will render a decision. In view of the fact that the Court is about to recess for the summer, we probably won’t get a decision on this case until late 2009 or early 2010. We’ll keep you posted nonetheless, as this case could have a major impact on patents for video games and other interactive entertainment and media.
On this day in history, as reported by Wired.com, on May 26, 1981, the USPTO granted the first pure software patent, U.S. Patent No. 4,270,182, to Satya Pal Asija. Video games are computer software, so the ‘182 patent really was a groundbreaker for the industry. The software was a natural-language-interface program called Swift-Answer, an acronym for the contrived name Special Word-Indexed Full-Text Alpha-Numeric Storage With Easy Retrieval.
1) Square Enix reportedly kills Chrono Trigger fan project based on alleged copyright infringement.
The San Francisco Chronicle ran a nice article today about virtual law, including quotes from yours truly. The high point (at least in MY opinion):
But some attorneys set up virtual offices in the world as a kind of advertisement. Intellectual property specialists Banner & Witcoff did just that, and their virtual presence led to their attorney Ross Dannenberg representing one of the highest-profile virtual law cases so far. Like the sex bed case, the Sailor’s Cove case was not unlike many real-world disputes: It was an ownership conflict based on an alleged oral contract. Dannenberg represented two users who assisted a virtual real estate developer in running a large group of islands in Second Life called Sailor’s Cove. When the three parted ways, Dannenberg argued that the owner had previously made his two managers full partners and co-owners in the venture. But the owner of record claimed full ownership. The case was settled out of court, with Dannenberg’s clients receiving a financial settlement.
You can read the entire article here.
On April 10, 2009, Nadya Suleman, who became famous in January when she gave birth to octuplets, filed a pair of trademark applications at the USPTO. She wants to use the mark for disposable diapers, cloth diapers, dresses, pants, shirts and entertainment in the nature of ongoing television programs in the field of “varity” [sic].
Sounds logical, right?
The only problem is that Austin, Texas-based Super Happy Fun Fun Inc. had already filed an application on March 12 for OCTOMOM for computer game software; downloadable mobile entertainment software such as ring tones, screen savers and wallpaper graphics; toy action figures and accessories; puppets; balloons; chess sets; golf balls; snowboards; and even Christmas tree ornaments.
Super Happy Fun Fun, Inc.’s trademark application is serial number 77689864.
Nadya Suleman’s trademark applications are serial numbers 77711852 and 77711827.
On a related note…
If you haven’t already heard, the four men connected to The Pirate Bay, the world’s most notorious file sharing site, were convicted by a Swedish court Friday of contributory copyright infringement, and each sentenced to a year in prison.
Pirate Bay administrators Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Peter Sunde were found guilty in the case, along with Carl Lundström, who was accused of funding the 5-year-old operation.
In addition to jail time, the defendants were ordered to pay damages of 30 million kronor ($3.6 million) to a handful of entertainment companies, including Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Bros, EMI and Columbia Pictures, for the infringement of 33 specific movie and music properties tracked by industry investigators…
Read more at WIRED.com.
Cloud computing has been a hot topic lately. Just ask Dell, whose application to register the trademark CLOUD COMPUTING was refused because the term is already generic. Amazon, Google, and other service providers also offer cloud computing services. More recently, however, at GDC 2009 OnLive.com made their public launch. On it’s web site, OnLive has this to say:
OnLive is launching the world’s highest performance Games On Demand service, instantly delivering the latest high-end titles over home broadband Internet to the TV and entry-level PCs and Macs. Founded by noted technology entrepreneur Steve Perlman (WebTV, QuickTime) and incubated within the Rearden media and technology incubator, OnLive spent seven years in stealth development before officially unveiling in March 2009. OnLive, together with its Mova subsidiary, lies directly at the nexus of several key trends, all of which are reshaping the way we think about and use digital media:
- The shift to cloud computing, displacing the limitations, cost and complexity of local computing;
- An explosion of consumer broadband connectivity, bringing fast bandwidth to the home;
- Unprecedented innovation, creativity and expansion within the video game market.
Pioneering the delivery of rich interactive media to the home, OnLive will change the way that entertainment applications are created, delivered and consumed.
Anyone who stopped by OnLive’s booth at GDC got a real treat. Solid game play and no lag (let’s hope it stays that way when millions of people start playing at once, instead of 20 people in the booth).
And perhaps (not?) coincidentally, on the same day that OnLive made their public debut, Sony filed a new trademark application for PS CLOUD.
It looks like cloud gaming is here, folks. I can’t wait to see how this plays out…
It appears that congress is again going to try to pass patent reform legislation. Rather than recreate the wheel, and based on other deadlines I have today, feel free to read the summary article over at Patently-O. Dennis does a fine job summarizing it and provides copies of the house and senate versions of the bill (which are somewhat different–so this might take a while… again).
Sorry for the short post, but I at least wanted to get the information out there.
–In what is considered the first event of its kind, Santa Clara University School of Law is holding an open house in the virtual world of Second Life on Jan. 22.
Visitors to Second Life, an Internet-based universe where real-life users assign themselves as cartoon characters and go to virtual, animated locations, will travel virtually to Santa Clara Island to see the school.
The event is designed to attract potential students and emphasize the law school’s close ties with the technology industry in the Silicon Valley area of California.
“We need to meet prospective law students where they are, and more and more, we find potential law students on various online arenas, including virtual worlds,” said Julia Yaffee, senior assistant dean of external relations, in a press release.
Hosting the two-hour event that begins at 6 p.m. West Coast time is Jeanette Leach, dean of admissions. She will attend as her own self-created avatar character, Penny Canucci. Second Life residents — who total 15 million — can tour the school and see a video of Dean Donald Polden as himself, not an avatar. Visitors also can ask admissions staff questions and get information about applying to the school.–
Kudos to Santa Clara Law School for this unique event. I’ll probably stop by and check it out, too, so be on the lookout for my avatar (Aviator Kidd).
You know, I’ve been waiting for over a year since I first heard about Guitar Rising, a Guitar Hero style video game that you can play with a REAL guitar. It seems to be the holy grail of interactivity–if you win the game, you have ACTUAL SKILLS you can use in real life to play an instrument. But it never seems to come to fruition. As of this morning, Guitar Rising’s web site still hasn’t changed or been updated to give us any glimmer of hope that a release is forthcoming.
Well it seems someone has now beaten them to the punch: Disney. Yes, THAT Disney. Disney’s Guitar Star will be directed towards tweens at first, but if you can really play it with any guitar, then I might just pick up a copy myself and plug in my own axe. The software with a bundled 3/4 length guitar will be about $200, and available starting summer ’09, but at least its a start!
Now I DO wonder what Gibson thinks about this, in view of their patent portfolio that they are asserting against Activision and the court’s recent claim construction in that case…
Either way, Disney has the money to take a license or defend a lawsuit, so hopefully this product will actually see the light of day!
The Patent Arcade is sad to report that we have lost one of our own. Steve Davidson, a friend, colleague, and groundbreaking attorney in the video game and virtual world fields, passed away unexpectedly this morning, December 2, 2008. Steve completed 35 years as an attorney at Leonard, Street and Deinard law firm where he was a pioneer of technology law, speaker at law conferences around the world and arbitrator and mediator for intellectual property disputes. He was a past president of the International Technology Law Association and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. Steve and I worked together on the American Bar Association’s Special Committee for Computer Gaming and Virtual Worlds, and we valued highly his insight, suggestions, leadership, and support.
Funeral service THURSDAY (12/4/08) at 1 PM, BETH EL SYNAGOGUE, 5224 W. 26th St., St. Louis Park. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Sholom Home Auxiliary or donor’s choice. SHIVA at the family residence Thursday evening at 7 PM. Hodroff-Epstein 612 871-1234.
Our thoughts go out to Steve’s family. He will be missed by us all.
Its not every day that we get to report TRADEMARK news, so this is a refreshing change from the norm. On Nov. 11, 2008, the United States Patent & Trademark Office granted what is believed to be the first trademark registration for a user’s avatar as an indication of the source of goods & services. Registration number 3,531,683 is for Computer programming services, namely, content creation for virtual worlds and three dimensional platforms. The interesting part, however, is the mark itself (pictured at left), which is an actual avatar in the virtual world of Second Life. The mark was registered on the Principal Register, meaning that the mark inherently has secondary meaning as a source of origin of goods and/or services (i.e., the mark is not generic or descriptive). The description of the mark reads: “The color(s) black, white, green, peach and blue is/are claimed as a feature of the mark. The color blue appears in the wings and the hair accessories. The color green appears in the shirt and skirt. The color black appears in the hair, eyes, eyebrows, lips, glasses, necklace, bra, waistband, in the striped pattern on the arms and stockings, as well as the toe and calf areas of the boots. All the elements of the drawing are also outlined in black. The color white appears in the eyes, the striped pattern on the arms and legs, as highlights on the black toes of the boots, on the front of the boots, and in the laces. The color peach appears in the skin.”
As the boundary between virtual world and real world continues to blur, trademark owners are now more likely than ever to consider enforcing trademark rights across real/virtual world boundaries. It’s also nice that the USPTO considers use of a trademark in a virtual world to be a use in interstate commerce (a requirement for obtaining a federal trademark registration, because federal trademark rights originate under the commerce clause of the United States Constitution).
Score 1 for virtual world IP rights.
The stories just keep on flowing. Who knew that divorce could lead to a virtual killing, and subsequent arrest for hacking? Read the story here. In short, a 43-year-old Japanese woman killed her online husband’s digital persona because she was so angry that his avatar “divorced” her avatar in the online game Maple Story. The woman obtained the man’s login credentials while their avatars were happily “married,” and she allegedly logged in with his credentials and killed off his avatar after learning of the virtual “divorce.” She has been arrested on suspicion of hacking (i.e., logging in to a computer system without authorization).
From the AP wire:
October 21, 2008. AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – A Dutch court has convicted two youths of theft for stealing virtual items in a computer game and sentenced them to community service.Only a handful of such cases have been heard in the world, and they have reached varying conclusions about the legal status of “virtual goods.”The Leeuwarden District Court says the culprits, 15 and 14 years old, coerced a 13-year-old boy into transferring a “virtual amulet and a virtual mask” from the online adventure game RuneScape to their game accounts.”These virtual goods are goods (under Dutch law), so this is theft,” the court said Tuesday in a summary of its ruling.Identities of the minors were not released.The 15-year-old was sentenced to 200 hours service, and the 14-year-old to 160 hours.
So this blog tracks video game IP law updates, but here is a morsel that I just had to comment on: Sandra Day O’Connor (yes, THE Sandra Day O’Connor, i.e., the first woman ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court) is collaborating with Parsons The New School For Design on an online, interactive civic education project for seventh- and eighth-graders, and recently gave a presentation on the topic at the Games for Change conference (hosted at Parsons).
O’Connor said that the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 has “effectively squeezed out civics education” from public schools. “We can’t forget that the primary purpose of public schools in America is to produce citizens who have the skills and knowledge to sustain our form of government,” she said. “Public education is the only longterm solution to preserving an independent judiciary and constitutional democracy.” That’s why, O’Connor said, she wanted to work alongside James Paul Gee (a prof at UW-Madison) to create Our Courts, which will begin rolling out in September 2009.Read more here, at Wired.com.