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Friend of the blog Tom Hamer, of European IP firm Kilburn & Strode, recently posted an article exploring patent filing trends at the EPO related to video game technologies.  He found that the EPO granted 245 video game patents in 2020 (up from 235 in 2019), and published 415 video game patents in 2020 (up 8% over 2019).  As part of the review, he identified three technology areas with upward trends:





  1. AR/VR controllers that incorporate cameras and light sensors.
  2. Management and protection of an online playerbase and community.
  3. Tech that facilitates esports and video game streaming.




These trends certainly align with what we’re seeing in US patent activity.  The full article includes several examples of interesting patents in each area.  You can read the article here.




Electronic Arts Pledges to Share Innovative Technologies Which Help Disabled Gamers


Electronic Arts (“EA”) has pledged to help breakdown barriers for players with disabilities or medical issues through sharing technologies which help such individuals. EA has promised to not enforce its patent rights in (as of 9/8/2021) five patents, in hopes of these technologies being used by other developers to accommodate players. The only exception to this rule is if someone files a lawsuit against EA, it reserves the right to defensively terminate the pledge for only that party/individual.

This decision by EA to share technologies which help accommodate disabilities could help make the gaming space more accessible. It also comes at a time in which there has been a recent influx in patents which help accommodate disabilities or medical issues in gaming. An example of a similarly helpful patent (which we will cover soon) is U.S. Patent No. 10,977,872, which allows graphical style modification and is assigned to Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.

“Patent pledges” like this are seen as ways to make beneficial technologies available to other industry players while still reserving defensive rights. For example, Tesla made a pledge in 2014 to allow anyone to use their patented technologies for electric vehicles, so long as they have not come after Tesla or any third parties with their own patent infringement claims on electric vehicles.

Overall, decisions like this may benefit the gaming community in becoming a more inclusive place. Experiences once unavailable to some may become available, and sharing technologies may mean that individuals will have access to more game experiences outside of just one publisher.

 

Check back here for future posts covering game related patents, trademarks, copyrights, and more!

U.S. Patent No. 6,251,010: Game machine apparatus and method with enhanced time-related display of pokemon-type characters


Issued June 26, 2001, Nintendo Co., Ltd., Game Freak Inc., and Creatures Inc.
Filed: May 18, 2000 (claiming priority to August 26, 1999)




Overview:

U.S. Patent No. 6,251,010 (the ‘010 patent) relates to varying the likelihood for a character to appear in a particular territory based on the time of day. The ‘010 patent details a player object moving within a displayed territory to encounter a character, the player object being able to potentially encounter several different characters. There is a clock generating time information and time related criteria is evaluated using the time information from the clock, varying the likelihood of a character to appear in said territory.



The ‘010 patent is likely exemplified in a great many Pokémon games, and is how the same area can have different Pokémon spawn at different times of day.

 

Abstract:

A game machine of a type that a player object is moved on a map to encounter with a character includes a program storage storing a game program, a clock at least clocking a time, an operation device for operating the player object, and an image processor for varying a display image based on the operation of the operation device. The game program storage stores a program for varying an appearance condition of the character appearing on the game map based on time information of the clock.

 

Illustrative Claim:

  1. A game machine for executing a game program of a type having an associated display wherein a player object is moved within a displayed territory to encounter a character, comprising: a program storage for storing a game program; a clock for generating time related information; an operation control member actuated by a player for controlling the display of a player object; and a processor for executing said program to vary a displayed image based on the operation of said operation control member, wherein said game program storage stores a program for evaluating a time related criteria using said time related information, and for varying the likelihood for a character to appear on the game display in a portion of said territory based at least in part on the evaluation of said time related criteria.


 

 


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