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Patents Games

Patent Markings May Spell Trouble For Activision 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the almost-rocket-docket dept.
eldavojohn writes "If you pick up your copy of Guitar Hero and read the literature, you'll notice it says 'patent pending' and cites a number of patents. A group alleges no such patent pends nor are some of the patents applicable. If a judge finds Activision guilty of misleading the public in this manner, they could become liable for up to $500 per product sold under false patent marking. The patents in question seem to be legitimately Guitar Hero-oriented, and little is to be found about the mysterious group. The final piece of the puzzle puts the filing in Texas Northern District Court, which might be close enough to Texas Eastern District Court to write this off as a new kind of 'false patent marking troll' targeting big fish with deep coffers."
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Patent Markings May Spell Trouble For Activision

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  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @06:51AM (#31242888)

    Guess someone in the patents-cubicle zoned out and forgot to follow up on his email properly..

    "Oh those patents, yes, they're sent off..."
    "What are those patentnumbers, we need them for printing.."
    *searches inbox on 'patent issue'* "Here's a list, let me put it in excel for you.."
    "kthx!!"

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @07:06AM (#31242986) Journal

    Guess someone in the patents-cubicle zoned out and forgot to follow up on his email properly..

    "Oh those patents, yes, they're sent off..." "What are those patentnumbers, we need them for printing.." *searches inbox on 'patent issue'* "Here's a list, let me put it in excel for you.." "kthx!!"

    I have no expertise even remotely in this area but, as the submitter, I looked up all the patents mentioned in the claim. A lot of them seem to do with specifics about the controllers like the drum set, guitar or even the mixing board for DJ Hero. But basically each seems to cover many aspects of how these input systems allow the user to 'learn' and how the played track is replayed over the recorded audio. Take 5739457 [google.com] for instance, it seems to focus entirely on the electronic drum sets of Guitar Hero. I think what happened here was that the patent markings were put on every single dust jacket for several Guitar Hero products -- regardless of whether or not they came with the hardware to play the game. So you go pick up your stand alone disc of Guitar Hero and there's no plastic drum with it because you bought just the disc or maybe the guitar-only distribution. That was about as far as I could see them going with these claims. That the person buying that may be confused that the product they bought is covering patents that promise something grander than what they bought.

    A really interesting implication for anyone that makes hardware. What if all XBox packs had the same generic patent markings and the arcade came with patent markings for the headset and wireless attachment (not included in arcade)?

    Should this sort of thing be prosecutable? Should Acitivision really get any sort of judgment against them for this level of carelessness?

  • by machine321 (458769) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @07:28AM (#31243134)

    Slashdot tells us to love EFF, and hate patents. Besides, that's copyright, which we're supposed to hate except the GPL, and this is patents. I know it's complicated, but you've got to keep track!

  • Go for it! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @07:50AM (#31243260)

    "Patent pending" is enough for some people to think they shouldnt use the idea at all.
    "Patent pending" is enough to hinder innovation and stifle creativity.
    If someone can go after these companies marking everything as "patented", even with false claims, I say go for it.

    Our forefathers must be heating up in their graves as their rolling per minute increases.
    Who are these pricks anyway, patenting stuff. It's like nobody else should come up with an idea, because that has never happened before.
    Total and utter pricks and fools, because the economy and innovation is hurting because of patents.

  • by digitig (1056110) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:01AM (#31243320)
    Slashdot doesn't tell you anything. Slashdot is a collection of individuals. Some of them tell you one thing, others tell you something different.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:04AM (#31243332) Homepage Journal

    So what's the big difference between a "false patent marking troll" and EFF?

    EFF doesn't file in Eastern Texas. In my opinion, anyone who files for a case related to patents and copyrights in Easter Texas does it to take advantage of the sham court system they have established there.

    Also, from what I can tell, EFFs purpose of suing isn't to line their own pockets, but to strike down invalid patents and patent claims because it stifles innovation. That difference in intent is striking, isn't it?

  • Also, from what I can tell, EFFs purpose of suing isn't to line their own pockets, but to strike down invalid patents and patent claims because it stifles innovation.

    How do you know the plaintiff in this case isn't acting on behalf of some video game developer that wants to make another guitar game?

  • by Lostlander (1219708) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:33AM (#31243590)
    I think you may be confusing groupthink with people who are bored or really have so little to do that they bother to moderate.
  • by joetomato (1073508) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:07AM (#31245262)

    Should this sort of thing be prosecutable? Should Acitivision really get any sort of judgment against them for this level of carelessness?

    Absolutely not - who as a consumer goes to a store, copies down the patent numbers, goes home to look them up then buys the product solely based on what they find, completely ignoring the much more obvious "CONTROLLER SOLD SEPARATELY" warning?

  • Re:Go for it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['rbo' in gap]> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:33AM (#31245576) Homepage

    Um, no, patent pending is the opposite of stifling creativity.

    Patents stifle creativity. Patent pending lets you know what patents to look up.

    Society needs to be warned about pending patents, so that people won't waste their time developing something identical, and then learn it is patented. That is much most stifling of creativity than 'Here is a list of things you should look up before developing a product like this'.

    You can argue that patents are bad, but you cannot possibly argue that 'knowing patents exist before spending time and money developing a product' is bad.

    I'm actually amazed it's any sort of crime, and it certainly shouldn't be per instances. It's the equivalent of printing 'may contain peanuts' on food that does not, in fact, contain peanuts.

    I mean, an argument can be made that an overkill 'patent pending' use can result in the person being unable to find the actual relevant patent by throwing too much chaff in there, but these patents are relevant...if you're using the software you purchased, you're using the patents. You're just using them on the hardware you bought separately. The government should just order them to correct the error.

  • Man, your reading comprehension is terrible.

    Indeed. This entire discussion is a rather blatant example of the failure of moderation. Half the people here seem to think we're actually discussing whether a patent is valid or not.

    Actually discussing whether or not the large fine makes sense in this day and age, when it's fairly easy to look up patents, is another thing, as is whether or not it should apply if you do it accidentally, and a real discussion we could actually be interesting.

    Likewise, an argument could be made that you should have to lists patents required to use a device on said device even if the device itself doesn't use the patent. (You can replace 'device' with 'software'.)

    If you really truly need a patent to do something with what you buy, like if you need to use a patented device to put fuel in your car, I would argue that it would actually make sense to require the car, as well as the fuel device, to state that. This isn't how the law works, and thus that argument won't really help Activision, but it would make sense.

    Or, for perhaps a more relevant example, some companies have taken to patenting hardware interfaces. But they can patent just the cable, and hence stop people from making compatible cables, while not patenting the plug itself, and hence not having to notify people on their device.

    Hence I might build and sell my own cable and be in violation of patent law, even after I've looked up the patents on the device itself. Yes, in theory, I could be in violation of patents for all sorts of things, but the point is that companies should be required to inform me, a purchaser of their stuff, all the patents that are relevant, even if, strictly speaking, they don't apply to the stuff itself. Perhaps some sort of 'See also' patent list.

    But almost all the people here seem to think this is some actual patent dispute, so heaven forbid we have an actual relevant discussion. Ugh.

  • Re:Go for it! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:26AM (#31256156)

    patent pending doesn't tell you anything - rarely are published patent numbers put on a product AND a patent application may not even be findable for the first 18 months of its existence because it hasn't published yet.

    I fail to see how something sitting at the patent office waiting to be reviewed help society, but after it is examined and granted it then stifles creativity. In fact, by your argument, the issued patent number itself tells you exactly what to look up to see what's has been covered; "patent pending" doesn't do that.

    Actually, your argument is backward - someone may have a patent pending, but that doesn't mean they'll ever get a patent on it. Arguably they are preventing people from developing a similar product, yet currently have no right to block people.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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