Well it was really only a matter of time. When an industry gets large enough, we need awards to distinguish the good from the bad. MMOs and Virtual Worlds are the latest addition to the awards fray, with “live” ceremonies to be held in Second Life and Entropia Universe.
I guess it’s true: IP begets IP.
Linden Labs recently added voice capabilities to Second Life. Their beta test went public in March, and commentary has been, for the most part, positive. Voice is a natural extension for MMO games, and introduces new IP issues that will eventually crop up, e.g., voice theft. Digital voice means you can capture someone else’s voice relatively easily. Could you create a voice synthesizer based on someone else’s speech patterns and tone? Just a thought. In any event, Second Life just got a whole lot more interesting for the rest of the world who doesn’t already spend every waking moment as an avatar…
(Fortune Magazine) — May 14, 2007: Free software is great, and corporate America loves it. It’s often high-quality stuff that can be downloaded free off the Internet and then copied at will. It’s versatile – it can be customized to perform almost any large-scale computing task – and it’s blessedly crash-resistant.
There’s a shadow hanging over Linux and other free software, and it’s being cast by Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500). The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. And as a mature company facing unfavorable market trends and fearsome competitors like Google (Charts, Fortune 500), Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won’t be free anymore.Read full story here.
Needless to say, this applies to free and open source software (FOSS) games as well.
From the April 2007 ABA Journal, citing the U.S. Department of Justice special report:
Of the 7,445 vicil intellectual property lawsuits filed in 2002:
- 140 (1.9%) made it through trial and received a trial verdict.
- In 83 cases (59.3%) the plaintiff won.
- In 53 of the 83 cases, the reward included money.
- Overall median damages award was $965,000
- Median damages in patent cases was $2.3M
- Median damages in copyright cases was $159,000
- Median damages in trademark cases was $84,500
Looks like Joost is in Beta. If you haven’t heard of Joost, it’s a potential cable TV killer from the founders of Kazaa and Skype. Like Skype, this is legit on the copyright front, and could pose a serious threat to cable and satellite TV, because this time they are catering to the desires of content providers. There was an article in the February issue of Wired, which is a pretty good read. With this new content delivery system, it will be interesting to see if they build in the capability for episodic delivery of video games as well. We’ll all just have to wait and see, unless,… if you have a Joost beta token, send one my way to email@example.com.
Video-game sales a record $12.5B in ’06
By BARBARA ORTUTAY, Associated Press, Business Writer, January 12, 2007
Read full article here.
There have been quite a few distributed computing projects over the years. Sony’s plan is perhaps the most ambitious yet. The PS3 has a Cell Broadband Engine (CBE) chip, the same used in IBM’s new supercomputer. PS3 owners will be able to download a small program to their PS3 to allow scientists to use the PS3’s downtime for scientific research, turning what would previously have taken years to calculate into mere months, or less! Don’t worry though, if the PS3 is running a game, the distributed computing process is suspended so you don’t get any lag, thereby causing you to get fragged.
As you may recall, we took quite a bit of flack from the software developer community on Slashdot for our previous article published by Gamasutra. Some of the comments had to deal with the patent system in general, but many of the comments were directed to patent quality, or the alleged lack thereof. Yes, many people claim that the video game patents we mention are a bunch of hogwash, invalid as can be, etc., etc., etc.,
The USPTO has made overtures regarding farming out patent searches, and opening up prior art for public commentary in the hopes of improving patent quality. One web site has beat them to the punch, so it appears. WikiPatents.com aims to provide “public patent clarity” and claims to contribute to the US patent system by commenting on issued patents and (soon) published U.S. applications. The website appears to operate similarly to previous proposals, as a public sounding board for the relevance of prior art cited against a patent, and a venue to comment on the alleged validity of a patent. WikiPatents.com posts information about issued patents, and expects members of the public to provide commentary on the relevance of the prior art as it may or may not apply to the validity of the patent.
Now the question is: will the public respond? Do enough people care AND have the time to review prior art and comment on issued claims and published applications? Will members of the public even appreciate that what is described is not necessarily what a patent claims? Will patent examiners begin to use this as a resource during their examination procedures, even if informally? Will WikiPatents.com (or other sites like it) improve patent quality? There will certainly be the extremists on both sides that chime in one way or the other, but only time will tell if the site is a success…
Not even having time to revel in its recent victory in the C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media lawsuit (No. 4:05-CV-00252 (E.D. Mo.)) regarding the use of player names and statistics in fantasy sports games, the Fantasy Sports industry is under attack again. This time, for gambling.
The controversial question: Are these pretend sports just another form of gambling? That’s what a man claims in a lawsuit that alleges that media including the ESPN cable network, CBS and The Sporting News are getting away with illegal gambling by hosting pay-to-play fantasy leagues, complete with big cash prizes and wide-screen TVs.
At the heart of his complaint is that fantasy sports — a $1.5 billion industry with more than 15 million players — are games of chance, not skill, and therefore qualify as gambling. Read more here.
An interesting twist, for sure.
It appears the Sony/Immersion dispute is not over. As you may know, Immersion makes vibration technology for game controllers. The Northern District of California held that Sony infringed Immersion’s patents, and awarded Immersion $82 million as a reasonable royalty. Sony has appealed the case to the Federal Circuit, making only one argument–that Immersion hid evidence. Sony’s appeal brief contains its allegations. I’m working on compressing it so I can upload it, but in the meantime you’ll have to get it from the court, or send me an email and I will forward it along. Interesting reading…
Mountain View, Calif.-based Ageia Technologies Inc., is the first to offer a specialized computer chip — called “PhysX” — designed to give video games a better sense of reality, as dictated by Newtonian physics. How will this affect games? For example, carve a wrong turn in the deep powder of the video game “Stoked Rider: Big Mountain Snowboarding” and you’d better brace for an avalanche of swirling white snow engulfing everything as it crashes down the mountainside.
This will pose interesteding gaming possibilities as developers strive to create more realistic games, and hopefully we will see a new wave of video game innovation along with it.
WARNING: Shameless plug to follow!
While not technically video game related, I have been quoted in an article on ABC News regarding the litigation/issue in Norway regarding Apple’s iTunes/iPod tie. While, as with any quote, it is a little misstated by the reporter (not me!), it nonetheless gets the point across. Is there a solution that Norway can forge, or does it face losing iTunes altogether? On the other hand, would Norwegians rather have iTunes, but be restricted to playing songs downloaded from iTunes only on an iPod?
This is an issue that Apple is facing more and more, and one that certainly will take some time to resolve. We’ll keep you posted.
A co-owner of a Hollywood video game store that caters to celebrity clients on Wednesday pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to violate federal copyright laws by selling Xbox video game consoles modified to play pirated games.
Interesting sound bite: “We’re like the Heidi Fleiss of video games,” said Jones, referring to the famed “Hollywood Madam.” He added that his supporters have stood by throughout the ordeal and that he plans to open a bigger, better store in another Los Angeles location.
Read more here.
In a logical extension of the MMO genre, a young Company, Electric Sheep, is helping big customers create a presence inside “Second Life,” the popular virtual world in which people can do or build just about anything they can imagine and socialize with others anywhere in the real world.
Electric Sheep can help you out to customize an island, or what in Second Life is called a “sim”–a 16-acre piece of land that users can buy and do with what they like. Now there is a new party in the fight over who owns this virtual IP: Linden Labs (creator or Second Life), Electric Sheep (or some other third party developer), or you. Better read those contracts closely…
The Red Cross has begun to take it a little more seriously that game developers’ use of the Red Cross emblem has been rampant in years past. The Red Cross recently wrote an open letter to the video game industry, requesting a dialogue to discuss the proper and legal uses of the Red Cross emblem (if any). The letter was addressed to a law firm, but no specific games were mentioned. Rather, the letter mentions that the practice of illegally using the Red Cross emblem has been widespread, and the Red Cross is seeking to curtail such use in the future.