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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 Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['ish' in gap]> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:06AM (#31242990)

    As the article notes, these have become common lately. Groups going under names like the one here, "Patent Compliance Group", spend their time digging through product literature looking for "patent pending" claims, and then dig to see if a patent really is pending. In some small percentage of cases, it isn't, and they hope to make enough money on those to justify the endeavor.

    I mean, I don't like false advertising, but somehow this particular cure seems even worse than the relatively minor disease of a game claiming it has a patent pending when it doesn't. Given that anyone can file a patent for pretty much anything, it's not like "patent pending" is worth much as a claim anyway.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:06AM (#31242992) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Troll? Hardly. The Electronic Frontier Foundation routinely files lawsuits like this one on the public's behalf. Compare PCG's lawsuit against alleged patent fraud to EFF's investigations and other actions against alleged copyfraud [eff.org]. So what's the big difference between a "false patent marking troll" and EFF?

  • by leuk_he (194174) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:15AM (#31243416) Homepage Journal

    Oh yes... Activision should get a judgment, but only for 500$ times the number of unique boxes the "Patent Compliance Group, Inc." actually bought for their own use, and they did prove they did actually bought in the filing. (and a copy of a box is not an extra offense i should think)

    Like the advertising clause, it is not for every copy of a advertisement, it is once for all the copies.

    And even then, the judgment should be paid to the US state, not to some private lawyer team.

    As state in the comments before, the patents are for devices that are not included in the games. I think the provision for stating false patent information is to balance some of the patent rights. Trying to extend the patents to computer software is exactly what a tech work should not want to happen.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:15AM (#31243432) Homepage Journal

    If hardware is required to have related patents listed on the product, shouldn't software need these markings? What a mess that would spell.

    Until Unisys's LZW patent expired, every major non-free paint program had "Licensed under U.S. Patent 4,558,302 and foreign counterparts" in its about box.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:17AM (#31243454) Homepage Journal

    Well, the obvious difference is that most of the EFF actions in the article you linked to involve them defending people who have actually received DCMA takedowns

    Activision produces Guitar Hero series under license from Konami, owner of patent rights in the Guitar Freaks and DrumMania franchises. Konami already managed to sue Roxor Games into oblivion for In the Groove, a spiritual sequel to Dance Dance Revolution.

  • by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:45AM (#31243684) Homepage
    What a great way to collect "taxes". Did anyone ever questionned the fact that these groups may be funded by the government to deter false "patent pending" claims?

    I mean, I don't think this is so bad that they are funded by the USPTO, but at least, they could be more transparent and simply say what they are.

    And since I'm pretty sure that no money go in the pockets of those groups when they deter a false "patent pending" claim, I'm also pretty sure that they do not have a dime to fund their research. So who would do this job for free?
  • one or more (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CockMonster (886033) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:09AM (#31243904)
    "Covered by one or more of the following patents..." seems to me they have their ass covered
  • qui tam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by camg188 (932324) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:27AM (#31244130)
    I was wondering why a third party would be bringing legal action against Activision for allegedly violating federal patent law because it seemed to be a criminal, not a civil case. Then I look up the definition of "qui tam"
    Qui tam is a writ whereby a private individual who assists a prosecution can receive all or part of any penalty imposed (from wikipedia).
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:14AM (#31244702)

    So Activision is being sued because they put "patent pending" on a product that doesn't actually have a patent pending. Ok, with you so far.

    But then the summary adds this:

    The patents in question seem to be legitimately Guitar Hero-oriented, and little is to be found about the mysterious group.

    If there are patents in question, then ... why are they being sued? Either they have pending patents or they don't, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:39AM (#31244948)

    What a great way to collect "taxes". Did anyone ever questionned the fact that these groups may be funded by the government to deter false "patent pending" claims?

    I mean, I don't think this is so bad that they are funded by the USPTO, but at least, they could be more transparent and simply say what they are.

    And since I'm pretty sure that no money go in the pockets of those groups when they deter a false "patent pending" claim, I'm also pretty sure that they do not have a dime to fund their research. So who would do this job for free?

    OK maybe this isn't the most paranoid conspiracy theory I've read about, but it is one of the more illogical. Why would the government bother to setup a shadowy organization to sue in situations like this when there is no reason not to use more above-board means. Anyone, including government employees on their own time, can file a civil suit like this! As for the profit motive, maybe there isn't one. Perhaps this is actually a group of concerned citizens who see themselves in the same light as the EFF. Alternatively, perhaps there is a profit motive, but they are only targeting Guitar Hero because it's a very well known and profitable game and this group has no intention of going after other such cases.

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