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Zynga and Blizzard Sued Over Game Patent 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the swinging-for-the-fences dept.
eldavojohn writes "Thinking about developing a game involving a 'database driven online distributed tournament system?' Well, you had better talk to Walker Digital or risk a lawsuit, because Walker Digital claims to have patented that 'invention' back in 2002. The patent in question has resulted in some legal matters for the makers of 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Call of Duty: World at War, Blur, Wolfenstein, DJ Hero 2, Golden Eye 007, World of Warcraft and its expansions, Mafia Wars, and many others.' Walker Digital (parent company of said it's not sure how much damages are going to be, and requested that through discovery in the court. If you think Walker Digital is not a patent troll, check out their lawsuit from two months ago against Facebook for using privacy controls Walker Digital claims to have patented. It would seem that any online competitive game that uses a database to select and reward contestants in a tournament could potentially fall under this patent — of course, those with the deepest coffers will be cherrypicked first."
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Zynga and Blizzard Sued Over Game Patent

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  • Unclear Intentions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pinkushun (1467193) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:14AM (#34774738) Journal

    Software patents confuse the hell out of me. I mean, reading the patent abstract, it sounds like it could apply to any of thousands of database driven multiplayer tournament systems (games).

    Case in point: I write database driven business applications, and is essentially just reading + writing data, similar to the abstract. Objects have statuses (scores) which pivot around a status hierarchy (levels) which determines if an object can move to the next level (game progression). Certain actions and events are even restricted by the ownership of certain properties and items (inventory/magic items/stats). This abstract could apply to many different softwares.

    It pisses me off how this abstract reads just like it's own name. I wonder if it was filed by drunk 5-year olds...

  • by GF678 (1453005) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:29AM (#34774804)

    If I were the judge presiding over this case, the first thing I'd do is ask Walker Digital to explain why it took eight years before they decided to start suing publishers/developers, despite there being a number of games released earlier which supposedly infringed on their patent. If they couldn't reasonably explain the delay in such a way as to allay my suspicious that they simply wanted to hold off litigation until they had a lot of guys to go after for maximum returns, I'd tell them (in legal speak of course) to fuck off.

    But I am no lawyer of course, and I have no idea if it would be as simple as that.

  • by arivanov (12034) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:53AM (#34774880) Homepage

    There is nothing illegal in waiting for as long as you want as far as patents are concerned.

    It is standard practice to wait for companies that are still developing their business cases and products until they can be visited by the lawyers. The approach is originally attributed to IBM. It left all the PC clone manufacturers start their business, develop it for up to a year or two prior to being visited by two nice guys in suits with a briefcase containing patents, IPR agreement and an NDA which specified that the visit was to be kept secret.

    They made a significant portion of their early PC revenue from that racket until they ran into Compaq.

    IMO, allowing this practice is one of the problems with the current patent system. Most "trolls" use patents that have been developed by other companies, stayed in the war chest for a decade or so and have been deemed to outlive their usefulness so they can be sold. If there are clear and reasonable timeframes for discovery, filing, etc the entire troll business model will go away. There will be a side benefit that companies will start disclosing what they are actually using internally in their software and hardware to ensure that that they comply to the "disclosure" timeframe and the troll cannot claim "discovery" after the "invention" has been out in the field for 15 years.

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:20AM (#34775262)

    I wonder if anyone has tried or even contemplated suing the Patent Office for awarding overly broad and obvious patents. There would not be so much trouble if the Patent Office actually did their job and denied these kinds of patents.

  • Re:Poor Zynga (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:26AM (#34775298) Homepage

    Nobody forces you to play a game. Zynga have made a lot of money by giving people games that they voluntarily want to play and, in some cases, buy. Just because it's not *your* (or my) type of game, doesn't mean they are somehow inherently the antithesis of gaming. I don't understand people that pay monthly subscriptions to play crappy click-fest MMORPG's just to get to the next "virtual" level but it's hard to say that they are the "bane" of gaming.

    I spent a small fortune on Steam over Christmas, on an already bursting-at-the-seams account. I got 75 new games for less than the price of a Wii. Do you know what I ended up playing the most (without intending to) and what I ended up gifting to friends who also wouldn't get off it? Flight Control HD. It's a flash-like game where you draw flight-paths for cartoon planes to have them land at their relevant airport runway without hitting each other. I could write it in a few hours in any programming language that lets you manipulate pixels or draw bitmaps. Thing is, I have extracted more gaming value from that than expensive, new, 3D, top-range FPS with advanced physics, realistic graphics and online gaming. If you go by hours-of-entertainment-per-price, it rates extremely highly. My previous big-value-purchase? Altitude. Fly a little 2D plane around while shooting other people doing the same. (And no, I'm not plane-obsessed in any way - they just happen to both be fun games). It cost me £3 and I've played 200+ hours and even set up my own server for it. Grand Theft Auto IV? I got it on the Steam Christmas sales because it worked out to be about 3 pounds, but even GTA 3 was only 10-15 hours of play for me and cost about £30 at the time (I didn't even buy GTA 3, someone else gifted it to me). I haven't even bothered to download it yet - I'll leave it until I'm bored of the other 74 games I bought this Christmas and have nothing else to play. There are *very* few big name, "complex" games that can give me value anywhere near a little mess-around game. And if that value is present, even when I *can* see it (e.g. Half-Life 2 when it first came out) it has to work REALLY hard to get me to part with my money.

    I don't think I played any Zygna titles except for Farmville and that was mostly to see what the fuss was about (I was late to Facebook but eventually succumbed to using it as an online photo gallery, and - mainly to prove a point - in a week of playing Farmville for free for 10 minutes a day I had something valued about 10 times what my closest "obsessive" friends had managed in years with their DLC purchases... it was just a matter of seeing what provided the greatest return on investment without actually spending *real* money to buy things). I don't play their games, I find them a bit too simplistic and boring and aimed towards making profit. But hell, I've played many more worse games that cost lots of *real* money.

    Zygna are making money from people who are willingly parting with cash and giving it to them rather than to companies like Valve - there's a reason for that. Without Zygna, they *wouldn't* be giving their money to Valve or other high-end-gaming producers anyway. They haven't *ruined* gaming, they've just found a niche that most people who consider themselves serious gamers (if ever there was a contradiction in terms, that's it) don't like. Good luck to them - they aren't hurting anyone. But if they could stop everyone else from spamming my Facebook page with crap by default, that would be nice too.

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. -- Francis Bacon