In the business of video games, intellectual property is critical to success, and Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks are the bricks with which your IP portfolio is built. The Patent Arcade is the web’s primary resource for video game IP law, news, cases, and commentary.

U.S. Patent No. 8,795,086: Referee mode within gaming environments


Issued August 5, 2014, to Red 5 Studios, Inc.
Filed/Priority to July 20, 2012




Overview:

U.S. Patent No. 8,795,086 (the ‘086 patent) relates to a referee mode for a user in a video game, likely a sports game. The ‘086 patent details a mode of gameplay providing referee control over a gaming environment by establishing a referee role. The game environment has numerous players and the referee role is only available to an end user who has completed and passed an examination establishing proficiency in the game. The referee can enforce player selected rules, and may have to pay a fee for the position. The referee position also gives the player powers to pause and control the game so they may review the game. The ‘086 patent could allow a player who would normally be occupying a spectator position to instead be involved with the game, so long as the player is qualified.

 

Abstract:

Systems and methods for providing referee control over game play within a gaming environment are provided herein. Exemplary methods may include establishing a referee role that allows an end user to exert referee control of game play relative to a competition, within a gaming environment, between a plurality of participants, establishing referee rights for the referee role, the referee rights being made available only to the end user upon which the referee role has been conferred; and, conferring the referee role upon the end user.

 

Illustrative Claim:

  1. A method for providing referee control over game play within a gaming environment, the method comprising: establishing a referee role that allows an end user to exert referee control of game play relative to a competition, within the gaming environment, between a plurality of participants, the referee role established using a networked gaming system running on a server; establishing referee rights for the referee role using the networked gaming system, the referee rights being made available only to the end user upon which the referee role has been conferred; qualifying the end user for the referee role by requiring the end user to complete and pass an examination to establish proficiency in the game, the examination comprising questions regarding referee commands in response to a hypothetical gaming scenario; and conferring the referee role upon the end user using a referee mode module.

U.S. Patent No. 10,953,322: Scaled VR engagement and views in an e-sports event


Issued March 23, 2021, to Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC
Filed/Priority to February 28, 2018



Overview:


U.S. Patent No. 10,953,322 (the ‘322 patent) relates to promoting an immersive e-sports event experience to boost engagement by customizing distribution of an e-sports event to remote viewers. The ‘322 patent details a method of providing engagement and viewership to e-sports by, collecting information from a live e-sport event, generating statistics about players within the e-sport based on that information, and generating a display that presents the event from a perspective of an in-game camera. The generated display is also modified for a remote viewer using the generated statistics, including implementing the display within an augmented reality environment and adjusting the perspective of the in-game camera to follow at least one of the in-game elements based on a preference of the given remote viewer. The ‘332 patent could help e-sports be an overall more engaging and better experience for viewers and allow some viewers to enjoy e-sports in augmented or virtual reality.


 


Abstract:


The present disclosure describes methods and systems directed towards providing scaled engagement and views of an e-sports event. Instead of providing the same distribution of live e-sport event data to all remote viewers of a live e-sports event, features associated with e-sports gaming network could be used to customize the distribution of live e-sport event data to promote immersive viewer experience. The enhanced immersion can also be carried out in a virtual reality or augmented reality setting. The features would be capable of providing additional information, different views, and a variety of different commentators for the e-sports event so that the viewer can be more engaged when viewing the particular e-sports event. With the increased engagement from remote viewers, the distribution of live e-sports event data can also be further modified for monetization by incorporating advertisements as well.


 


Illustrative Claim:



  1. A method for providing scaled engagement and views of a live electronic sport (e-sport) event, the method comprising: collecting information from a live e-sport event that includes one or more in-game elements; generating statistics about players within the live e-sport event based on the collected information; generating a display that presents the live e-sport event from a perspective of an in-game camera using the collected information from the live e-sport event, wherein the generated display is associated with the generated statistics; modifying the generated display for a remote viewer using the generated statistics, wherein modifying the generated display includes implementing the live e-sport event to be displayed within an augmented reality environment and adjusting the perspective of the in-game camera to follow at least one of the in-game elements in accordance with a preference of the remote viewer; and distributing the modified display to a user device of the remote viewer.


Lawsuits Against Cheaters and Hackers Recently Became a Little Harder


Van Buren v. United States
Case No. 19-783
Filed: December 18, 2019 (writ of certiorari)


The Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision on June 3, 2021, regarding the meaning of the phrase “exceeds authorized access” in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”). 18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(2). The case arose when the FBI caught ex police sergeant Nathan Van Buren misusing a law enforcement database to search a license plate for personal gain. The majority found that someone “exceeds authorized access” under the CFAA, when that person accesses a computer with authorization but then access information from off-limit areas of the computer. In 2020, in Sandvig v. Barr, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia determined that merely violating a site’s terms of use cannot create liability under the CFAA.  This meant that Van Buren was not guilty of violating the CFAA even though he used the database for personal gain (which was against police policy) because he was an authorized user of the database.

The CFAA was written in 1984 and amended in 1986, so the majority found that the law was dated and did not account for how computers are used in 2021. Prior to this lawsuit there were two definitions of the CFAA applied by courts, a broad definition and the aforementioned narrow definition.

The government argued for the broad definition, which would define “exceeds authorized access” as having been violated when Van Buren used the data base for personal purposes. The majority disagreed with this argument because of the phrase “not entitled to so obtain,” in the statute, taking that to mean it is not an offense if one would be entitled to obtain the information in their normal usage and rejecting an evaluation of purpose in finding violations. 18 U.S.C. §1030(e)(6). Van Buren argued that the broad reading would over criminalize people and that “exceeds authorized access” applies only to obtaining information to which a person’s access does not extend. The majority agreed with Van Buren and expressed worries that under the broader definition the CFAA would criminalize conduct of almost all Americans, for example when someone would use their work computer to check the news. Using the broader definition would also allow site owners to criminalize activity merely by amending their terms of use. Thus the narrow definition became controlling.

The three dissenters disagreed strongly with the majority, finding the majority to have gone against well-established property law concepts, namely that entitlement to use of another’s property is circumstance specific. The dissenters emphasized that a computer is given with particular circumstances required of its usage, and that the purpose of one’s use can change an authorized action to an unauthorized one. The dissent also argued that statutes are supposed to be read as the enacting congress understood it, not modernized in the way the majority did. In defense of the broad interpretation, the dissent argued that there were limitations in the statute which stopped over criminalization, such as a strict intentional mens rea and that the act only applied to information stored in the computer, thus inapplicable to internet access. The dissent also argued the removal of the word “purpose” in the 1986 amendment of the CFAA implied congress was broadening the scope of the CFAA, not removing a circumstantial inquiry. Further, the dissent was harsh towards the majority’s worries about potential over-prosecution under the broad definition and compared it to not enforcing the correct interpretation of a statute because it would criminalize taking a grain of sand from a national mall. 40 U.S.C § 8103(b). The dissent ends on the note that what Van Buren did, to them, is clearly illegal.

Unfortunately for game developers, the majority’s definition also narrows the use of the CFAA in suing hackers and cheaters. The CFAA under the broader definition was a tool for game developers against hackers and cheaters, because under a circumstantial inquiry hackers and cheaters were likely exceeding authorized access according to a game’s terms of use. Under the narrower definition, the hackers and cheaters would have to extend beyond an area of a computer they were authorized to use, to somewhere they were never authorized to access, to raise a CFAA issue. Of course, this does not mean that lawsuits against cheaters and hackers are impossible or will end, there is just one less tool in a game developer’s arsenal.

Check back here for future posts about game related lawsuits and patents!


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