Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Worlds.com Sues NCSoft For Infringing Patent Related to Virtual Space Interaction

Worlds.com, suffering in the business world, has filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas claiming that NCSoft, with its myriad virtual platforms, is infringing patent 7,181,690, System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space. The patent relates generally, and I mean generally, to creating a 3D space with Avatars and displaying the relevant information for each player. Importantly, the filing date on this patent is in 2000.

Can Anyone Say Invalidation?

I hate to break it to Worlds, but the patent is written so broadly, that while they may have pulled a fast one on the examiners in the PTO, I highly doubt this patent will survive this litigation. The 2000 filing date leaves plenty of room for prior art in the MMO space to be considered. Ultima Online and Everquest were both up and running at this time. Jeez, even old MUDs kept track of player positions and delivered information based on that position. The claims are also so broad that they do not even narrow to more technologically useful specific cases, such as being used in a 3d world. This case has all of the markings of trollery (though Worlds is not a troll in the conventional sense). It will be interesting to see if NCSoft fights it on principle, or just settles out of convenience.

Game::Business::Law Conference Coming to Dallas January 14-15

Courtesy of Mark over at Law of the Game, I wanted to give the heads up about an upcoming gaming/business/law conference being held in Dallas two weeks from now. The slate of speakers is top notch, ranging from industry heads to lawyers in the field. The conference is affiliated with SMU's Dedman School of Law and Guildhall graduate program.

The Official Site

Let me know if you will be attending!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Irony: Spore the Most Pirated Game Ever

With all of the hoopla surrounding EA's inclusion of DRM technology to prevent the mass piracy of Will Wright's Spore, it is clear we have a winner in the battle against piracy: the pirates! TorrentFreak, a blog dedicated to all things torrent, declared Spore the most pirated game ever, breaking the single year record. It stated that 1.7 million copies of the game have been pirated thus far, far outranking no. 2, The Sims 2, at 1.15 million. The blog suggested that perhaps the piracy rate was so high because consumers did not want the hassle of DRM's "benefits," namely invasive software and limited installs.


This time I am siding with the fan boys: the answer to piracy is not to treat the consumer like a criminal (ahem, Xbox!), but to make it easier to pay and play than just play.

Friday, December 5, 2008

MTV, Harmonix, EA, Viacom Sued Over "Defective" Rock Band Pedal

Harmonix, Viacom, EA, and MTV have been named in a class action suit brought by Monte Morgan alleging that the following companies put out a defective product in an attempt to “deliberately cheat large numbers of consumers out of individually small sums of money.” The suit comes on the heels of the expiration of EA's no-questions-asked warranty extension (which ended Oct. 1 2008). Now all replacements are free only for the first 60 days after purchase. Lawyers for Morgan are arguing that not only did Harmonix et al know that the equipment was defective, but they are now attempting to exploit that fact by offering new drum pedals with Rock Band 2. They also argue that the new 60 day extension is not nearly enough time. Naturally, MTV and Harmonix deny these allegations, calling them "baseless" and "opportunistic."


I have quite a bit of personal experience with this: I'm on my third pedal, second guitar, second USB hub, and second set of drum heads. Having spent probably a thousand dollars or so on Rock Band in the past year, let me say that when my equipment breaks, EA should be there to fix it - especially the drum pedals. It is nearly impossible to not break a pedal once you start playing on expert and kicks are coming 200+/song. I have gone so far as to do some preventive medicine on my pedal so it won't break and I won't have to deal with EA again. I bought the wireless RB2 drums and they were broken out of the box. EA lost my order so it has been more than two months now since I bought the drums and I haven't played them one bit (supposedly they are on the way).

So far, my experience with EA has been very positive: I say it is broken, they send me a new one, no questions or fees. Now, if my equipment breaks and I have to pay - that will become a problem. Seeing as how I am still giving Rock Band at least $20/month for new songs, I expect that the equipment will last longer than 2 months, at which point it will no longer be under warranty. Frankly, the ease of replacement has kept me playing, so hearing that they will no longer be acting like that is unsettling. I am constantly reminding players at my house, "Be careful...this IS a toy."

This warranty issue could seriously affect the longevity of Rock Band - I do not know why they changed their approach, but I can imagine that the fan boys out there (including myself) will get really angry when their equipment breaks and the only option for replacement is an $80 outlay for "new" "instruments."

As for the suit itself, I do not believe that Harmonix was deliberately selling faulty equipment - they were taking many steps forward with Rock Band and the drum pedal's inadequacy become apparent early on. When the warranty was in place it was excusable; without it though, it is much less so.

Midway Cleared in Psi-Ops Case

I reported earlier on William Crawford's suit against Midway alleging that they stole ideas from his script, Psi-Ops, when they created the game, Psi-Ops. The judge thought differently. Despite the similarities in title, characters, and events, the judge found those elements of Crawford's script unprotectable and granted summary judgment for Midway. Crawford's arguments about Midway's access to his script via publicity events and web postings likewise failed.


Great news for Midway, except that they will be bankrupt in 50 days...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Day of Settling - Capcom Wins Dead Rising Lawsuit and THQ Drops Suit Against Activision Over Box Art

Two Suits Concluded Today:

Capcom vs. MKR Productions (Dawn of the Dead guys) - The judge found that a story of zombies invading a town and someone trying to stop them is not protectable. Despite MKR's arguments that there were unmistakable similarities such as a fight scene in a mall, a helicopter ride, and zombies in plaid, the judge sided with Capcom. Another MKR's argument was that the products both contained social commentary about sensationalist media. The judge disagreed, leveling Dead Rising to a pure action experience with no social commentary - good for the suit, bad for the ego. The conclusion of the suit opened the door for Dead Rising 2: Already in Development.

Dawn of the Dead: The Lawsuit

THQ vs. Activision - The Baja Box Art Case - Activision agreed to change the box art in a settlement which will dismiss the case with prejudice. Why didn't Activision just do that the first time THW asked them to...it worked out well for me, the lawyer (well, not me, exactly, you know what I mean).

Baja Suit Goes Baja

Brush that dirt off your shoulders video game legal world.

Monday, November 10, 2008

EA Faces New SecuROM Class Action Suits

Continuing the EA SecuROM debacle, not one, but two new class action lawsuits have been filed. The first involves EA's inclusion of its ultra-invasive, questionably effective, SecuROM technology with the free Spore Creature Creator software. Despite there being no risk of piracy, EA included it anyway. The second class action suit involves an avid Sims player who after installing Sims Bon Voyage could no longer access certain files on her computer. Both cases were filed in the Northern District of California and both plaintiffs are represented by the same law firm. An earlier suit was filed in September regarding the SecuROM in Spore.


If EA wasn't listening before, they should be now...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Activision Sued by THQ for Baja Box Art

THQ has filed suit against Activision alleging copyright and trade dress infringement. SCORE International Baja 1000 actually does look "virtually identical" to THQ's packaging for Baja Edge of Control. THQ urged the big A to uses different art, but after a million dollars worth of advertising, the A said no. THQ requested the game be enjoined and believes it will be entitled to the profits from the game.

Baja the belt, Activision!

Comparing the two packages, it is pretty clear that Activision at least referenced THQ's artwork. The similarities are ridiculous. The real question is why would Activision do this? Somehow, I doubt that they are actually trying to usurp THQ's customers in such an obvious, but not obviously effective, way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

UNLV Fight Song Composer Suing EA

EA, master of the official, released-every-year, sports video games, is being sued by the composer of the UNLV fight song, "Win With The Rebels," Gerard Willis. Willis claims that his song was not properly licensed and has been used in 10 EA titles including NCAA Basketball 2009, NCAA Football 2006 through 2009, NCAA March Madness 2006 through 2008, and NCAA Basketball 2006 and 2007. He is seeking $150,000 per count of copyright infringement, ie per game used, for a total of $1.5 million.

EA, You Rebels!

If he wins, not a bad payday for Mr. Willis. Somehow, I do not think UNLV pays him this much to use the song...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Anti-Piracy Regulation Passes, ESA Stoked, Artists Not So Much

Congress passed the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, or the PRO-IP Act, putting in place many provisions to help protect America's IP in the future. The Act creates an IP Czar tasked with overseeing US IP protection who reports directly to the president. It also outlines specific programs for IP enforcement, targets criminal organizations, and provides additional funding for the FBI and DOJ to crack down on hackers and pirates. While the bill is supported by the big dog media conglomerates, such as the RIAA and MPAA, consumer groups are not as happy as they see this as a victory for large media and an encroachment into legitimate fair use user's rights.

What's With All of the Czars?

Will this lead to more consumers being found by the government and nailed to the wall for piracy?

Obama Advertises in EA Games

Barack Obama, living the "Change We Can Believe In," began advertising in video games this past week. He bought ad space in a variety of EA titles that utilize Xbox Live, therefore allowing for constant updates. As the article notes, one game Burnout, came out in January but the ads will be running for a limited period of time right now. There was no mention of the price of the ads, but they were bought to target the video game sweet spot demographic of young males, traditionally tough to reach for political candidates.


Good to see that politicians are heeding the times.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

EA Sued Over Spore DRM

Melissa Thomas did what many on the message boards have threatened but none had actually done: she is suing EA for its use of SecuROM, a anti-piracy device that apparently cannot be uninstalled, alleging deceit and concealment for bundling SecuROM with Spore. She thinks that the DRM software is too invasive and is seeking $5 million in damages. EA responded that, well, Spore has sold a million copies! I cannot tell if that hurts them or not...


There has been so much hoopla about this DRM, it is hard to gauge whether its is a huge deal or if it is an overreaction. My impression is that 1.) never mess with a gamer's rig and 2.) the reaction should work as more of a deterrent for future behavior, as opposed to, there being actual damage caused by the DRM technology. What do you think?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Activision Suing Call of Duty Pirate

James Strickland is being sued by Activision for allegedly pirating Call of Duty 3 (that is so a few years ago!) and distributing it, along with some other unnamed games. Activision has since discovered what the unnamed games were and is seeking to amend the complaint to include those as well. The big A is suing for $150,000 per infringing copy. Ouch!

All My Booty 3: Gone

Without the details of the case, it is hard to judge whether this pirate is one of the masses of pirates out there or whether his operation was massive and worthy of being targeted like this. My guess is that Activision has better things to do than become the Metallica of video games (aren't they partners now?), but you never know with the juggernauts - sometimes they just roll.

Sony, Jaffe Sued Over Alleged God of War Idea Theft

Jonathan Bissoon-Dath and Barrette-Herzog, plaintiffs, sued for copyright infringment after claiming they sent creative materials to Sony before the production of God of War, including a script and illustrative map, and that Sony subsequently ripped them off in making their huge blockbuster of a game. Sony responded claiming that the allegations were inaccurate, incomplete, and misguided. Plaintiffs wanted to name the game The Adventures of Owen: Owen's Olympic Adventure.

At Least We Know Sony Didn't Take The Name!

I find this case hard to believe based on the name of P's game alone. Who would think up the awesomeness that is GoW, only to name it like it should feature, Izzy the Olympic douche?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tecmo Japan Settles Overtime Suit, Readies for Merger

In an effort to tidy up its legal affairs, Tecmo has settled with two employees who claimed approximately $77,000 is unpaid overtime wages due to Tecmo's illegal "flexible hours" work schedule. In addition, the employees alleged that the company then covered it up with false accounting paperwork. The parties reached a judicial settlement.

"Flexible Hours" Tec' Mo' From Workers

Good to see a game company pay the fair amount for the hard work of their employees - too bad it took the legal system to make it happen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

SL User Files Suit Against LL, Other Avatar for TM Infringement of SLART

Richard Minsky, Second Life artist and owner of the trademark "SLART," has sued Linden Labs, Philip Rosedale (head of LL), Mitch Kapor (head of the board for LL), and an avator named Victor Vezina, claiming trademark infringement, TM dilution, and fraud. Apparently, Victor Vezina is using the SLART trademark without Minsky's approval and after LL would do nothing to protect his mark, he filed suit. For now, Minsky's claims are just claims...but the implications about TM enforcement in SL are huge. If he can win here, what will stop all of the other companies with valid TMs from suing LL for not removing infringing material?

SLART, a Sleeping Fart

Another interesting part was LL's reaction of trying to get Minsky to drop the rights to the mark by offering perks, such as a feature in the SL magazine. LL holds the mark to SL Art, which is different enough from SLART to warrant a unique TM. They were hoping to fold Minsky's mark into their own, but he refused.

Why not make the case that the mark is generic? Many people refer to art in SL as SLART, so it seems unfair for one user to hold dominion over the word (USPTO just cannot keep up!). I know that for many, SL is their livelihood and protecting their IP there is of the utmost importance, but this seems a bit ridiculous. And, I would love to hear the justification for the $1000/day "injury"...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Connecticut Court Dismisses WWE Suit Against THQ, Jakks

A Connecticut State Court dismissed all of WWE's claims against THQ and Jakks, the developer and licensee respectively, of WWE video games. WWE alleged bribery, anticompetitive behavior, conflicts of interest, and other dastardly deeds. The court dismissed the claims after reviewing the record: there is no antitrust injury and therefore no cause of action, and all of the federal claims were dealt with in the Federal Court's dismissal of the issue. WWE was hoping to nullify its licensing agreement as a result of the lawsuit, but it will not happen this time. WWE is appealing.

WWE gets the Smackdown

Sounds like WWE wants more money.

Friday, August 29, 2008

ESA Applauds the Capture of Pirates

The ESA would like to give a shout out to the justice system for actually catching some software pirates. Both of these criminals were found guilty of criminal copyright infringement for their extensive pirating practices. Kifah Maswadi, a distributor of consoles with 70 Nintendo games pre-loaded, got "fifteen months in prison, three years of supervised release, and fifty hours of community service, and must pay $415,900 in restitution." Bam! Kevin Fuchs, a key figure in certain warez sites, got eight months in prison, and eight months of home confinement. Still Bam!, (but not as much).

Yar! Me Ships Going Down

It is good to see that the targets of these federal investigations are not average joe six-chips, but legitimately harmful targets: like targeting the drug lords and not the poor man on the street just trying to get by...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hillcrest Labs Sues Nintendo Over Waggle Technology

Oh, Nintendo...sued again....This is time, it is Hillcrest Labs, claiming that the Wii's motion sensing and graphical interface technology infringes on their patents. HL licenses it technology to other peripheral manufacturers, like Logitech, but did not fully disclose its licensing arrangements. As of the time of the story, Nintendo had not been served.

Hey Nintendo! Waggle This!

Once again, patent law is reprimanding the "innovator" for video games. Hillcrest may have valid patents, but it is so suspect how these companies wait years to file suit, after the big N has already made a ton of money. Coincidence? I think not...will the patent thicket ever be trimmed?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Game File-Sharer Ordered to Pay

The UK Patent Courts have ordered a British woman to pay about 16,000 pounds (approx. $30k) for illegally sharing games over the internet. The woman is paying Topware, makers of Dream Pinball 3D, for her copyright infringement of their protected work. Some believe this could be a landmark case in the VG industry's fight to control piracy.

Not Just Music Anymore!

It will be interesting to see if the industry will begin targeting file sharers a la the music industry. Personally, I do not think it is a great idea. Maybe for a littler guy like Topware, this approach would make sense, but the damage amount is so low, it would probably be a disservice to large game makers to go after individuals like this, only to have their customer base harangue them for it. Then again, you never know...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ubisoft Sued for Breaching License Agreement to the Tune of $26 Million

ResponDesign, makers of Yourself!Fitness (thats the name...really?), is suing Ubisoft claiming a breach of their licensing agreement for failure to diligently pursue development of a game utilizing the license. ResponDesign believed that Ubisoft would create a game under their My Coach label that used the technology and software underlying RD's previous Yourself!Fitness (is this just a bad translation?). Instead Ubisoft created a competing product under the My Coach label, told them the licensed game would be called Yourself!Fitness, (which must have really stung!) and didn't even say sorry. Now RD has filed suit in Los Angeles seeking $26 million in damages, mostly from unrealized royalties.

My Suing Coach!

Hate to burst RD's bubble, but if they think they are getting anywhere near this amount they are crazy. Absolute figures aside, this case will be interesting to follow to see if courts will find/infer a right to have a game made when the main inducement for disclosing and sharing IP are proffered royalties. Without seeing the agreement, it is hard to know, but it is likely bad faith for Ubisoft to make a competing product.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thailand Wants to Prosecute VG Makers for Copycat Murders

In an extremely weak attempt to curb violence in his country, one Thai official has suggested that video game makers be held liable for copycat crimes committed by players imitating a game. This brilliant suggestion comes on the heels of the murder of a Bangkok cabbie thought to be killed by a GTA-addled maniac. Somchai Jaroen-amnuaysuk of the Welfare Promotion, Protection and Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups Office (now there is a mouth full: where are they for all of the child prostitutes?), said, "When a player copycats a crime he or she sees in the game, the game maker should be prosecuted. Prosecutions will automatically force game makers to act more responsibly." Right...

A Different Copyright!

Why limit the law to murder? The state should be suing Nintendo's Ass! I only ate the mushrooms because I thought they would make me bigger, and now look at me!

Monday, May 19, 2008

East Texas Controller Patent Case Finds for Plaintiff (big surprise), Nintendo Owes $21 Million

Keeping with the sordid history of patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas, Nintendo has lost its patent infringement legal battle with Anascape to the tune of 21 million bucks over patents relating to controller technology. Microsoft was also named, but settled for an undisclosed amount. It is unknown why Sony was not named as well.

Boohoo, Nintendo!

It is amazing to me how the EDT court system just pumps out these infringement cases. How is it possible that plaintiffs can win 70% of the time? I guess everyone is guilty in Texas...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

House of Reps Puts Forth Bill To Require Carding Gamers

The House of Representatives is considering passing the Video Game Ratings Enforcement Act, a piece of legislation that would require game retailers to check the ID of anyone buying an AO or M rated game. As with almost all video game legislation, this is being done in the name of the children. Pass it for the children Congress!

VGREA, Helping to Stiffen Legislative Standards!

I'm going to have to agree with Dale on this one: we already get carded for everything cool anyway, cigarettes, booze, porn, so why not lend video games some street cred and throw that in there too?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

United Arab Emirates Cracks Down on God of War, Again

UAE has decided to crackdown on God of War again. Banning it apparently was not enough, since now pirated copies are not hard to come by, so they are taking to the streets to remove this game which is harmful to their religious and moral beliefs. In fact, one went as far as to say he was shocked by how much the game contradicted Islamic views. Oh, and it has sex.

Don't Worship This God of War!

It just goes to show how much we, the Western gamer, take for granted. People here flip out over the smallest amount of censorship - we don't even know the half of it.

Prison Inmate Sues Game Publishers

Jonathan Lee Riches, inmate "rich" in intelligence, is seeking restraining orders from game publishers, including Activision, Atari, and Take-Two. Video games offend his sensibilities, AND they contributed to his identity theft, AND promote racial hatred, AND EVEN increase his fear that someone will beat him up and snatch his chain. He also is claiming that he is not granted access to video games in jail, which is a form of discrimination (when this is the most legit part of your claim, you know you are in trouble). This is the same man who "has already filed more than 1,500 lawsuits this year against a wide-ranging array of defendants including Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Ovechkin, Alone in the Dark star Christian Slater, St. Patrick's Day, the 9-11 Commission Report, and Star Wars. He is perhaps best known for suing former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for $63 billion after Vick's illegal dog fighting operation was uncovered."

How Did Someone This Smart Get Locked Up?

Freedom is the name of the game today: some people have it, and some do not.

Afghanistan May Ban Video Games

The Afghan Parliament, supposedly better than the Taliban, has introduced legislation that directly mirrors the types of legislation passed under the Taliban, namely advocating bans for many of the racier sides of life: no more wearing of jewelry by men, no make-up for women in public, women must wear veils in school and at work, no more pigeon-flying, and most importantly, no more video games. How could W let this happen?


Don't they believe in freedom? Well, this sure is hell ain't America.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Minnesota Pushes Forward With Futile Legislation

Minnesota, that bastion for common sense, continues to resist the legal system's mandate that legislation creating penalties for the sale of violent video games is UNCONSTITUTIONAL! The state has filed an appeal to hear the case en banc, meaning all of the Eighth Circuit of Appeals judges will hear the case, instead of just three.

Presenting the Minnesota Golden Dotards!

I was tempted to not even report this story because it is hardly news. As a gamer, I am happy this legislation has not been passed because I am against censorship in general and it could set a precedent for further encroachment. As a lawyer, if this type of legislation does pass, there are going to be a lot of sheepish judges out there who will either have to go back and say they were wrong, or stop the spread of this legislation to cover their proverbial ass. My guess is that they would stop the spread.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gibson Expands Guitar Hero Suit to Include Harmonix, MTV, Game Retailers

Gibson, attempting to put pressure on Activision to settle...err, I mean, protecting its intellectual property, has decided to expand its recent Guitar Hero-related patent infringement suit to include Harmonix, MTV Games, and Retailers. Gibson claims that they are just protecting their intellectual property and that their good faith efforts to settle have been rebuffed by the defendants.

Gibson Trolls More!

I do not buy Gibson's reasoning at all. They are trying to force settlement by interfering with Activision's relations with other business partners. Everyone wants a piece of the Guitar Hero pie; Activision even went as far as to say that they thought Gibson was just dissatisfied that Activision was not renewing their licensing contract. Welcome to the world of business!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Harmonix Files, Then Quickly Withdraws, Suit Against Activision Over Royalties

Harmonix, creators of the Guitar Hero series, filed and then withdrew a suit against Activision, current owner of the Guitar Hero franchise, regarding payment of royalties. Under their agreement, there were two tiers of royalties payment, with the higher rate being used if a subsequent GH game "incorporates, uses, or is derived from Harmonix property." Harmonix believes that GH III does in fact use H's property and as a result, they think they are entitled to the higher rate; the difference between the lower and higher is about $14.5 million. The suit was filed Monday, and withdrawn Tuesday; discussions are to be continued out of court.

Everyone's Gunning For Activision

Activision sure has its hands full these days. Like Biggie said, "Mo Money, Mo Problems."

Activision Takes Gibson to Court Over Guitar Hero Patent

Activision has begun litigation against Gibson to settle whether the Guitar Hero franchise is infringing against Gibson's patent for a "technology used to simulate a musical performance." Activision is seeking a judgment to remove Gibson's claim for licensing fees. It is interesting that Activision and Gibson are already partners, with Gibson supplying the designs for GH's guitars. Activision thought it had its bases covered by purchasing or licensing many patents already before the release of GH III. Oh! It looks like one of Gibson's periscopes is just peeking its head out of the water right now!

Gibson wants a bigger piece!

This case just goes to show how hard it is for a successful video game company to navigate the patent waters - Gibson's U-Boats are all around! Activision seems to be enjoying the flip-side of success - everyone coming out the woodwork saying, "You owe me!"

Manhunt 2 Cleared for Launch!

After a grueling battle with BBFC, Rockstar, developer of the Manhunt series, has defeated an appeal to not give Manhunt 2 a rating, which would have effectively banned the game from sale in the UK. Now, the game will be released with an 18 rating- rejoice! Score one for free speech in video games!

Let the Manhunting 2 Begin!

Another victory for gruesome games! It seems like there should be a point where the games get too gory to release, but that point has not been achieved yet. Phew!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

MDK Sues Capcom Over Dead Rising

MDK, perhaps spurred by Capcom's seeking of a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, has sued Capcom claiming that C's popular Dead Rising infringes on the copyrights and trademarks associated with Dawn Of The Dead. Capcom claimed that the scenario of Zombies attacking a mall is an "unprotectable theme". MDK cared to differ offering, "both works are dark comedies [where] the recreational activities of the zombies and absurdly grotesque 'kill scenes' provide unexpected comic relief...both works provided thoughtful social commentary on the 'mall culture' zeitgeist, in addition to serving up a sizable portion of sensationalistic violence."

MDK Sues Capcom: Sensationalistic!

I haven't played Dead Rising, but from a only-judging-a-book-by-its-cover perspecitive, Dead Rising does look a lot like Dawn of the Dead. For copyright infringement, there must be actual copying (showing this could be problematic because surely the theme of zombies being killed in suburbia has been done before). TM infringement on the other hand relies on a likelihood of confusion standard, regardless of whether the idea is copied or not. It seems like there is a great likelihood of confusion, but it will be interesting to see how the courts classify the DotD mark - probably descriptive, and therefore not warranting as much protection as a suggestive, or fanciful term (they may even claim it is generic, but I think that generic term would be something like, Zombie Movie). It seems like Capcom has admitted that there is a likelihood of confusion by including a disclaimer on the box, but then again, the disclaimer may be enough to limit or eliminate any liability.

Activision Shareholders Sue Over No Control Premium

The Wayne County Employees' Retirement System, a shareholder of Activision, is suing the company because it believes that Activision did not exercise sound business judgment by relinquishing control ownership to Vivendi in their recent/soon-to-be merger without securing a control premium for selling that control. Vivendi will receive a 52% stake in the company.

Shareholders of the Next Biggest Video Game Company Sue Over "Unfavorable Minority Position"

By relinquishing control, the shareholders of Activision are put at a disadvantage...it will be interesting to see how the courts will determine exactly how disadvantaged they are.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

DJ Hero Trademark Application Hints at Expanding Activision IP

Continuing with its line of "Hero" games, Activision has filed an application for a trademark for "DJ Hero." Again, a trademark application does not mean that a game is in development, only that the company is thinking about it.

DJ "Copycat" Hero

As deftly noted by 1up, this would not be the first time that a Western developer has borrowed one of Konami's Music game ideas. But then again, who ever heard of Guitar Freaks anyway?

3D Realms Sued for Copyright Infringement

Darin Scott and Edward Polgardy filed suit against 3D Realms over the pruported stealing of their idea by 3D Realms for the upcoming Earth No More. Scott and Polgardy claims they pitched an idea to 3D for a game called Earth No More in which a spore has begun transforming and terraforming Earth into a hideous world full of mutated monsters. 3D Realms has a game coming out called Earth No More, in which a spore has begun transforming and terraforming Earth into a hideous world full of mutated monsters. So, I don't get it...what are they suing for? It's not like they copied the idea or anything.

Copy No More

I am very interested in this case. There is no mention yet about whether a NDA was signed or not, and if so, what the implications of that would be. I have thought about pitching an idea for a game to a company before, but I always hesitated because it just seemed so easy to steal the idea. Now I know, it may not be so easy; and in the case, the copying looks blatant.

Australia Bans Another: Dark Sector

By denying Dark Sector a rating, the Office of Film and Literature Classification in Australia has effectively banned the game down under, it being a crime to own or sell unrated entertainment. The OFLC cited the extreme violence of the game and focused heavily on the blood-spurting animation that accompanies the gameplay.

Down Under Not Down With Dark Sector

Hit the link to see other games that Australia has banned: the list is longer than one might think.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Capcom Files Preemptive Suit Against MDK

MDK, makers of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, have been sued preemptively by Capcom to “eliminate any doubt that [Capcom']s ‘Dead Rising’ video game does not infringe on any copyright, trademark or other intellectual property rights” owned by MKR. Apparently, MKR had already sent Capcom, Microsoft, and Best Buy attorneys a draft of a complaint, spurring Capcom into action to receive a Declaratory judgment. MKR also contacted Capcom before the game was released and claimed that it was infringing on their copyrights. Capcom claims that MKR doesn't have the exclusive right to make media associated with a human battling zombies in a mall and believes that the disclaimer on the front of Dead Rising proclaiming that is not affiliated with Dawn of the Dead is sufficient for a court to grant them a declaratory judgment of non-infringement.

Dawn of the Declaratory Judgment

For copyright infringement, it is sufficient if the expression is not lifted, but it seems like the trademark, and more specifically the trade dress, issues of Dead Rising scream "strong likelihood of confusion." I know the first time I saw the box, my first thought was Dawn of the Dead, until I read that disclaimer. Will the disclaimer be enough?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ubisoft Wins $13.2 Million From Bratz Producers

Back 2002, MGA, the companies that produces every little girls favorite role-model dolls: Bratz, signed an agreement with Ubisoft for U to handle any games related with the toys. After Bratz blew up, MGA tried to force a renegotiation with Ubisoft by terminating the contract for no apparent reason and proceeded to criticize Ubisoft's handling of the license. Ubisoft sued and won over $13 million.

You Bratz Ever Heard of Courtz?

The dispute was settled through arbitration.

Casual Pirates - How Much Damage Are They Doing?

Gamasutra is featuring an interesting article about piracy of casual games. Starting from the mind-boggling statistic that 92% of Reflexive's Ricochet Infinity games are pirated, Russell Carroll then examines the impact of anti-piracy measures on the number of people buying the game. His conclusion: for every thousand pirated copies prevented, only one of those becomes a paying customer. Damn.

Pirates Steal Software, Not Sales

Carroll ultimately states, "a pirated copy is more like the loss of a download than the loss of a sale." This is congruent with my experience of piracy: pirates take games they would not buy (and some they would). The value of having the pirate play the game is not taken into account, and often, once the pirate can afford games, he will buy those games that are worth it (much like all of those college kids that download a bunch of music then end up buying the CDs with songs they really liked).

Square Enix Sues Sword Counterfeiter

Square Enix, as part of its anti-piracy initiatives, has filed suit in California against several defendants claiming that they are infringing on Square's IP rights by selling replica swords modeled after swords from SE's popular Final Fantasy series. With cooperation from Homeland Security, Agents seized a crate of unlicensed swords. After the retailers refused to tell SE where they got the swords from, SE initiated this action.

Nice Try Buster!

Square claims that it must enforce their IP rights or risk losing them. They are correcto!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Trademark Application Hints at Apple Gaming

Apple, provider of most things cool, has filed a trademark application to secure the Apple brand for "Toys, games and playthings, namely, hand-held units for playing electronic games; hand-held units for playing video games; stand alone video game machines; electronic games other than those adapted for use with television receivers only; LCD game machines; electronic educational game machines; toys, namely battery-powered computer games." While filing a trademark application sets nothing in stone, it does show that Apple is thinking in the gaming direction.

iGame...I already want it!

As Apple pushes further into the media distribution business, it makes sense for them to be brainstorming like this --> Ars Technica makes some good points about the potential uses with the Apple TV. I am excited to see just what Apple has in store.

UK to Legally Enforce Ratings

Retreating from the current pan-European ratings PEGI, the UK government is set to introduce legally enforceable game ratings similar to those used for movies and other video content. Right now, only games with sex or "gross" violence are reviewed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and given a rating. The government is also encouraging parents to monitor their children's video game time and discouraging them from placing systems in bedrooms.

UK Ratings Get Bite

Legislation like this has been introduced in America repeatedly, but is consistently shut down for violating the 1st amendment. Luckily for the UK, they have no such codified constitution to hold them back.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Vagina Monologues in Second Life Suspended by HBO

The organizers of the Second Life Vagina Monologues have had their right to produce the VMs in SL rescinded because HBO, the owner of the broadcast rights (meaning TV, film, etc.), believes that they are infringing. Vday.org, the holders of the performance rights (theater, plays, etc.), originally granted license to the troupe, but HBO pulled its card and stopped the performances. The organizers in SL insist that the VMs are not banned, just suspended.

SL VMs Stop

The reporter for the SL Herald, Jassica Holyoke, wonders aloud if SL will become the next Grokster or Napster. That thought seems right on to me, especially if there is not much enforcement of IP rights in SL - those rights get taken away if not enforced. SL could become a virtual theater, capable of reproducing any of the greatest works (or movies for that matter). It does seem clear though that this is a broadcast and most likely falls under the purview of HBO's broadcast rights. Interesting to see how stories like these develop.

Virtual Goods Stolen, Police Do Nothing

Blaine, WI resident, Geoff Luurs fell victim to a heinous crime. His "friend" obtained his user name and password and wiped his FFXI account clean. Luurs did the math and claims that he lost over $3800 worth of virtual property. He called the police, but they did nothing because they believe that the goods have no real value.

My Gil is Worth Something!

I like the reaction of Mike Fahey at Kotaku, and I think that his gut is correct in believing that if the government begins recognizing virtual items as having real value, then the next logical step would be to tax them. It seems a bit like the "don't give licenses to illegals" argument in the sense that it is odd for one arm of the government (police saying the virtual goods have worth) to take an opposite stance to another arm of the government (the IRS saying they have no worth). The thing that perplexes me though is that seems well-settled to me that this stuff has value. While it may not have a physical manifestation, there are still people who are willing to buy this stuff - if a WoW gift card came out that only had a sword on it, I bet people would buy it. Virtual goods are commodities. While I agree that the tax implications are mind-boggling, and surely going to be a pain to gamers everywhere, virtual goods will be thought of the way they should be, as valuable property, for better or worse.

Friday, February 1, 2008

European Patent Filings Show Possible Wii Adaptations

Recently published patent applications from Nintendo show some pretty *interesting* ideas for Wii accessories. Of note is the Wiimote charger, which would be nice...the rest of the ideas, well, from the pictures they do not look as stunning.

Wiibear? Wiibike? Wiiboard? They all sound cooler than they look...

Before any reader goes too bonkers about how stupid these drawings look, remember that patent drawings are very rough, and may not correspond with the product envisioned exactly. For example, the teddy bear shot could just be an illustration of using the Wiimote with a toy not traditionally affiliated with games (or something like that). Although, the idea of using a teddy bear to control a game sounds...innovative. Yes, innovative...

Blizzard Settles with In Game Dollar, IGD No Longer in WoW

Blizzard, with the help of mega-firm Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal, secured a settlement, including a permanent injunction against In Game Dollar to prevent them from "engaging in the sale of [WoW] virtual assets or power level services, making any use of the [WoW] in-game communication or chat system to advertise any website, business, or commercial endeavor, or sending messages to the [WoW] servers, the [WoW] in-game communication or chat system [...] if such messages mention or advertise any commercial endeavor." In addition, the business is blocked from investing in any other business that are doing any of these things.

IGD Got Pwned!

As faithfully reported by Ben Duranske at Virtually Blind, this case is not setting precedent because it is a settlement. Still, this case will serve as a beacon of hope for those who hate the influence of gold farmers, power levelers, and others that make MMOs unfair to all those who log endless hours. Significant also is the enforcement of the terms of service - there has been much buzz about whether these terms of service contracts are contracts of adhesion (meaning, since the consumer is given no real choice about the terms of the contract, the contract may be void if the terms are too lop-sided), but at least for now, WoW's ToS stood up.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

ELSPA Claims 90 Percent of DS Users in US Using R4 Pirating Chip

John Hillier, spokesman for the UK's Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association's intellectual property crime unit, stated that "it's thought" that 90 percent of American DS owners pirate software using the R4 chip.

90...try .9

I understand Hillier's concern about the implications of such a powerful pirating tool, but seeing as how this is the first mention I have heard of the chip (thanks Destructoid for calling me out as having my "face in a first-generation, un-backlit Gameboy Advance this whole time"), I think that figure may be a bit preposterous...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lawyers Win Again in GTA Hot Coffee Suit

Take Two Interactive has set up a site for folks who were offended by the Hot Coffee mod available in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas after losing a court battle over the improper game content. The amount of settlement received depends on how much proof of purchase you can supply, but do not get to excited with receipt in hand because the max payout is a whopping $35! At worst, you could only receive $5. Check the link for full information on receiving the settlement you deserve. Speaking of deserving, because of their great public service, the lawyers are taking home a cool million; they should have had the settlement site just give away the "And all I got was this lousy T-Shirt" shirts.

T2 Pays Out

Having read about five different coverages of the story, it is clear that the writers out there at video game sites, really are taking issue with the fact that the lawyers are getting paid so much. I don't blame them, but it is the nature of the class-action lawsuit beast: usually, the individual payouts are not large, but the cost of litigating is very high, and the lawyers get to take about a 1/3. One site mentioned an estimate of about $2.5 million in settlement, which would put these lawyers fees in that general range. To me, more silly than the lawyers' fees, is the idea that somebody was actually offended $35 worth by having the option to hack a game and see something they do not want to see (I know the hoopla was over the rating and "misleading" consumers). It is also very strange to me the way they set up the settlements. I realize that paying based on the harm suffered is not an option, but proof of purchase has nothing to do with whether or not you were harmed by the actions of the suit. On top of all of that, you have to read and send back a huge contract, not is probably not worth $5 of your time.

Xbox Obsession Claimed Motive in Baby Murder Trial

In his closing arguments during a trial for the murder of 17-month old Alayiah Truman, Assistant District Attorney, James Berardinelli, alleged that Tyrone Spellman beats his daughter to death after she knocked over his Xbox 360. Spellman was said to have played up to six hours a day: "[Spellman's] entire life and daily routine is about playing [Ghost Recon]...What do you think someone with that kind of obsession is going to do when it gets knocked over?...The skull fractures on that baby are what happened." Whoa!

Kotaku Coverage

Philly Inquirer Coverage

Spellman confessed to hitting his daughter in the face twice, and throwing her against a chair, but claimed that he never meant to kill her. His confession came after being held for nearly 24 hours in detention, and the defense claims that the confession was coerced in an attempt to protect the girl's mother, Mia Truman. Will game obsession be seen as powerful enough to provide motive for murder? I want to look into this further...

2/1/08: Spellman was convicted of 3rd degree murder.

Buzztime Sues Sony for Trademark Violations

Buzztime, proprietor of pub trivia games, is suing Sony over its Buzz! franchise of trivia games. The suit alleges "malicous, fraudulent, knowing, willful and deliberate" trademark violations and seeks destruction of infringing products, actual and punitive damages, legal fees, and an order to not register three pending trademark applications containing the word Buzz! (one with the exclamation point and two without) filed by Sony. However, Buzztime doesn't have a trademark on the word "buzz," only on derivative marks like buzztime, buzzhead, share the buzz, and buzzkids. Buzztime claims they have some 13 million players each month.

What's All This Buzz About?

Trademark are around to protect the use of phrase, slogans, and other identifying marks in relation to specific products. Generally, the purpose of the trademark is to designate the origin of goods. Here, Buzztime is in the trivia video game business, so Sony's use of a similar mark could be infringing. However, trademark law takes into account the relation between the mark and the goods, giving four levels of classification: generic ("Computer" for a new computer), descriptive ("Holiday Inn"), suggestive ("Coppertone" for suntan lotion), or fanciful (Apple for computers). Depending on how the mark is classified, it will be granted different levels of protection. It is hard to say how the courts will classify the mark; my guess is that they will think it is descriptive. and therefore warranting little protection. However, the products are nearly identical, so there is a great likelihood of confusion. More on this as it develops...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Manhunt 2 Release Blocked in UK

Unfortunately for Rockstar, their appeal to the Video Appeals Committee after the British Board of Film Classification denied the game a rating for its "unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone," has been overturned by the High Court, holding that the VAC's decision was a clear error of law with regard to assessing harm (cool how I fit three different judicial/regulatory bodies into one sentence: thanks law school!). The VAC believed the game was suitable for players 18 and over and should be given and 18 certificate, the most stringent rating. As a Gamasutra reports, this process is pretty new for the British games industry, which rarely bans games.


Is anyone else tired of hearing about all of these troubles? The game is depraved we all know it: no grandma going into a video game store, or unsuspecting parent will buy this game for little Timmy, only to discover that he is hacking another homicidal maniac (not the one he is playing as of course!) with his Wiimote. I say let the people play!

Epic Requests to See Silicon Knights Engine Code as Legal Battle Continues

For those who have not heard the story yet, Epic licensed out its Unreal Tournament 3 Engine to Silicon Knights (and a host of other companies too). Silicon Knights was none-too-happy about the way Epic behaved afterward, alleging "Rather than provide support to Silicon Knights and Epic’s other many licensees of the Engine, Epic intentionally and wrongfully has used the fees from those licenses to launch its own game to widespread commercial success while simultaneously sabotaging efforts by Silicon Knights and others to develop their own video games." Notably, Epic did not met a March 2006 deadline for delivery of a working development kit, and did not provide one until November 2006 and provided no instructions on how to use the damn thing. Silicon Knights further alleges that Epic attempted to avoid its obligations under the Agreement by representing to Silicon Knights that the support,
modifications, or enhancements to the Engine – all of which are essential to the Engine’s proper function – were “game specific” and not “engine level” adaptations, and that Epic therefore need not provide them to any of its licensees, including Silicon Knights...That representation is false, as evidenced in part by the fact that Epic later provided nearly all the Gears of War code to all of its licensees, at no extra charge, in a belated effort at damage control." Now Epic is requesting to see the engine code for Too Human and SK is fighting it tooth-and-nail. SK claims that Epic has not demonstrated any need to view the code and no reason why expert witnesses can be utilized to obtain the information they want. Also on the shadier side, Epic was trying to keep the identity of who will view the source code confidential - the court ruled against that, and against the use of Epic CEO Tim Sweeney as one of the viewers, citing him a playing a role in "competitive decision-making."

A Knight's Tale of Epic Proportions

Epic looks like they are in some hot water now. It is also very curious why they would try and use CEO Tim Sweeney as one of the viewers of the code - ideally, they would bring in uninterested expert witnesses, say someone for another company that licensed the engine and would be familiar with what Epic distributed. The case reeks of unfair competition...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Counter-Strike, EverQuest Banned in Brazil

A Brazilian judge, Carlos Alberto Simoes, confirmed a ban imposed last October on the popular online games Counter-Strike and EverQuest on the grounds that the games encouraged "the subversion of public order, were an attack against the democratic state and the law and against public security." Observers have pointed to a Counter-Strike mod that allows the players to be either the police or narcotics smugglers in a Rio slum as a possible impetus. Perhaps this mod was just too much for democracy to bear. Why EverQuest was banned is still under debate...

No More CS or EQ in the BZL

Could this happen here? I think for any judge to be able to act so unilaterally, there would have to be much more concrete proof that the games actually have the results the judge claimed they do. But, what if a study came out confirming game addiction - would WoW be banned (especially now that the game has over 10 million subscribers)?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Microsoft Files Application for Body Monitoring Software

While not directly related to video games (yet), Microsoft has submitted an application to the PTO regarding new software developed to monitor employee performance through such bio-indicators as heart rate, facial expressions, body temperature, movement, and blood pressure. Predictably, privacy groups are concerned that this level of unprecedented intrusion is too much.


The application of this technology to video games could lead to all sorts of new gaming experiences. Imagine Eternal Darkness but instead of the fear meter being linked to your character, it is linked directly to you - your racing heart triggers the sound to cut out, or screen to shut off. This type of software can also be used by developers to gauge how effectively the emotions of their game are coming across - is the game exciting, relaxing, or just plain boring. Regardless, the software promises to usher in a new era of interactivity.

Stranglehold Commercial Banned in UK

Reacting to only two complaints, the UK Advertising Standards Authority has pulled the Stranglehold ad for being likely to encourage and condone violence. The best part: the message at the bottom of the screen saying that the video used is not actually from the game.

Woo Gets Shooed


The Entertainment Software Association, a group representing major game publishers such as Disney, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, and EA, created a PAC to support champions of the video game industry. Though they are looking to donate between $50,000 and $100,000 across many national candidates, Michael Gallagher, head of ESA, insists that the donations prove that ESA is giving candidates support, even if small. In addition to the money, Gallagher remarks about the mobilization of the Video Game Voters Network, a group of 100,000 gamers that are concerned about video game issues - what candidate would not want that support?

The Billions of Dollars Industry Finally Grows Up...I'm so proud

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Second Life Patent Trademark Office Opens

It is official: Second Life has its own Patent and Trademark Office. After paying a visit to this virtual PTO, it seems that it is more of a copyright registry than a patent office. The website promises real protection for virtual assets, but how it can provide real protection without using a real legal system is curious. It also hopes to provide tools to protect IP without having to resort to using those pesky lawyers!


The folks over at Davis make some good points about the viability of this office. It is also worth noting that these guys don't really seem to know what a patent is, or they would have called their site SLCTO, Second Life Copyright and Trademark Office. Most of the IP in SL is protected under copyright, and even if people were creating patentable inventions (which they probably are), there does not seem to be any examination process (which is necessary). Plus, in the real world, securing copyright protection is cheap and easy for those interested in pursuing it; perhaps, this site will streamline the process for the average SL user, making it even easier.

All of the I-can't-believe-this-will-work-because-I'm-a-lawyer rhetoric aside, it seems like a good idea to create a centralized repository for the innovations of Second Life, not only for viewing and record-keeping, but also to provide a dependable catalog should a "first world" dispute arise.

Hasbro Sues Scrabulous Creators

Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, Indian creators of Scrabulous, a Facebook Scrabble knock-off with 2.3 million users, are about to get sued by Hasbro for copyright infringement. Even though the game is free (or precisely because the game is free), Hasbro must enforce its IP rights if it would like to keep them. The brothers admit that they began their work "without thinking through the legal aspect at the time," although they did send a letter to Hasbro that was never answered. EA has the rights to the electronic version of Scrabble, so I'm sure they are not too pleased either. Now, the lawyers are working on settling a deal.

You Can't Be, Scrabulous!

UK PM's Knife Ban Extends to Video Games (!?!)

Gordon Brown, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, told reporters at the popular British tabloid, The Sun, that he is cracking down on knives throughout the UK, including in video games. Brown called for "computer game designers to stop their characters using blades."

How Will Mama Cook Without Her Knives?

Interesting to see where this goes...but doesn't it seem odd that video games are targeted, yet movies with gory slasher scenes did not get a mention. Frankly, the knife epidemic may be so out-of-hand in Britain, they should ban Hamlet, because SO many people get stabbed - poor Polonius...

Update 1/16/08: Looks like I may have jumped the gun here. For now, there will be no significant changes in policy

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sony, Nintendo Sued For Controller Patent Infringement

Copper Innovations Groups, a PA based group, is suing Sony and Nintendo for their purported infringement of one of its patents, titled, "Hand Held Computer Input Apparatus and Method." The method involves assigning hardware identification numbers to device transmissions in order to connect and organize inputs to a system. Specifically targeted are the Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Sixaxis controller, and the Blu-Ray remote. The company is seeking not only damages, legal fees, and interest, but also a permanent injunction to prevent further profiteering. Microsoft is notably absent.

Copper May Have Struck Gold

I checked out the patent, and it is hard to say if the Wii and PS3 utilize this technology without being able to see more about the hardware in those systems. However, the patent presents a very straightforward way of setting up a plurality of transmitters and providing a framework for the receiver to know which transmitter is sending what using identification numbers; this is an obvious way of tackling this problem, and it would be interesting to see how these companies would not utilize the method described in the patent short of having a specific receiver for each input transmitter, which seems highly inefficient.

To Copper's credit, at least he came up with this patent and isn't being a complete troll like the AVG folks...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Virtual Media Company Hires Virtual Law Firm for Virtual IPO

Here is an interesting story about a Second Life business, MetaNetwork Media, that hired a virtual law firm, the MetaLegal Firm, to help them go "public" in SL. Benjamin Duranske, author of Virtually Blind, makes some good points about the legality and ethical nature of such actions. While the ToS for SL expressly claims that all stock transactions in SL are just for fun, the easy convertibility of Lindens to US dollars, makes the securities implications decidedly real.

What Exactly Does Virtual Mean?

Yee Appeals CA Video Game Law Ruling

State Senator Leland Yee (D) of California filed an appeal of USDC ruling by Judge Ronald Whyte that found a $1000 penalty for the sale of ultra-violent video games to minors to be unconstitutional. He has the support of the Governator, but given the fact that every time legislation like this is proposed, it is found to be unconstitutional, my guess is that this will also lose on appeal.


He argues that surely our forefathers would never have dreamed that the 1st amendment would be used to allow our children to be exposed to violence...then again, our founding fathers had slaves. The comments that follow the article, while vitriolic, make good points about Yee's "historical" arguments. Rhetoric aside, without any clear evidence of video game's effect on the youth, it will be near impossible for Yee to prove the law is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

GH Injunction Denied

An injunction sought by The Romantics against Activision to stop the sale of Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s, was denied by a US District Court judge. The Romantics claimed that the cover version of "What I Like About You" was too similar to the original recording. The injunction was denied because The Romantics were unable to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. Activision plans to use the denial to support the dismissal of the case.

What I'd Like To Sue

It is amazing to me that The Romantics would have their music introduced to a whole new range of listeners by these games and then they would try to sue the game company for it. Guitar Hero will sell pretty much no matter the songs, as long as they are semi-popular: it seems to me The Romantics should be happy their song was chosen.

$5 Million Damages sought for Xbox Live Outages

Despite Microsoft's apology and promise of a free downloadable game, three Texas residents are suing Microsoft for the outage of Xbox Live service during the holidays and are seeking a ridiculous $5,000,000, without any claim of specific damages. Plaintiffs allege that Microsoft knew there would be increased use, but "failed to provide adequate access and service to Xbox Live and its subscribers."

Are these gamers serious?

Good luck getting around the Terms of Service...they're going to need it.

Ron Paul: The Burning Crusade

In an unexpected public demonstration, 200 alliance members in WoW staged a march for Ron Paul, a long shot presidential candidate. The march went smoothly, with minimal interference from the general public. Some even went as far as to design crests for their shirts with a document that resembles the constitution.


Cooler than Second Life political participation?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mousechief Secures Patent on Interactive Narrative Operated by Introducing Encounter Events

A tip of the hat to Keith Nemitz, creator of the Witch's Yarn, for successfully navigating the patent world on his own. He was granted a patent for his innovative game mechanic of using nouns instead of actions to advance a story in the game. I think the most interesting part of the article are the comments at the end where the "chorus" is letting Nemitz have it for patenting his idea. Hopefully, the masses will understand that a patent is only as evil as the person holding it; Nemitz claims that he will only use his patent for good...


I had a chance to read the patent and play the game. The patent makes a big distinction between traditional games, which utilize verb-based interaction, and his present invention that uses nouns. He makes the distinction between old games where you PICK UP the axe and his model where the player selects AXE, and the game does the rest. In the Witch's Yarn, the player is presented with objects that are used to push the story forward, but the player does not know how these objects will affect the world, and the order of object choice determines the gameplay. Theoretically, the noun-based system is more dynamic because the player doesn't know what verb will attach to the noun chosen, i.e., choosing wool now may cause the witch to begin spinning, while later she might give the wool to a customer who was not there before.

Despite his assertion that there is a qualitative difference between the experiences, it seems to me that hiding the verb from the player is all that he is doing. It is well established to have multiple actions for any one in-game object depending on the timing of selection, i.e. sell the helmet at the vendor, pick up the helmet, wear the helmet when you get to the proper level, and his idea of rewinding is also not new (Prince of Persia: Sands of Time). The innovative step seems small to me: it makes me wonder, is any new game play method no matter the proximity to others patentable?

VG Tax Proposed to Fund Wisconsin Juvenile Justice System

Jon Erpenbach, a Wisconsin state senator, has proposed a new bill that would raise the legal age of adults from 17 to 18. This change would result in an increased financial burden on the state's juvenile justice system. To alleviate that burden, he also proposed a one percent sales tax on all video games. Apparently, gamers "made aware" of the bill are outraged by the implied link between video games and violent youth. Lucky for us, Erpenbach has considered other sources of funding if the tax does "not find traction."

Sure...Tax the Gamer

I wonder if video games were targeted because they are hot-sellers or because of their affiliation with the youth, or a little of both. It seems like a lucrative avenue of approach for the state, but at the same time, it has yet to be proven that there is any real link between violent behavior and video games.