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c-jump Computer Programming Board Game» Forums » General

Subject: Patented gameplay? rss

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David Koontz
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I was fairly surprised when I ran into this game. Being a professional programmer it seemed at least worthy of a novelty purchase. I don't really see a whole lot of value in teaching children through this method as it introduces the concepts pretty abstractly and in a way that is not representative of a real computer program. Furthermore you're not *doing* anything other than adding and subtracting from the die roll so I do not believe many children will really see any point to it (at least in Monopoly you're bankrupting your friends and in Mouse Trap you get to set off the cool Goldberg device).

The real kicker though is the fact that Mr. Kholodov applied for and received a patent for the supposedly unique game mechanics. Now perhaps it is Mr. Kholodov's computer background that leads him to this behavior but patents are pretty much unheard of in the board game industry. Personally I believe his patent is undefendable but the very idea is quite insulting. Can you imagine if Knizia had a patent portfolio? If even a single silly patent was upheld it would severely dampen the creativity we see in the current board game market. I personally am voting with my wallet, no purchase from me.
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Actually, there are huge numbers of board game patents. The number of patents on variations of tiddly-winks is staggering. A patent is the only way to keep people from duplicating your original game mechanics, and as such have been heavily used in the past.

Apparently I'm not the only person to become interested in the number of tiddly-wink patents, as opposed to all the other game-related patents:

http://www.tiddlywinks.org/collector/patents/Default.htm

In software and business methods, there are lots of reasons to oppose patents. In games, well, Teuber could have patented the production mechanic in Settlers and then Faidutti would have to pay royalties for Boomtown or think up his own production mechanic. Perhaps Teuber wishes that he had patented part of Barbarossa so that Cluzzle would earn him money. In real life, Eagle Games bought rights for Struggle of Empires to reuse its mechanics in Conquest of the Empire II and Lookout Games licensed mechanics from Outpost for Das Zepter von Zavandor.
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David Koontz
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The problem with this whole thing is that games fall much more into the realm of copyright than patents. I really don't think any game mechanic patent would hold up in court. Patents are supposed to demonstrate that they are new, inventive and useful to qualify, although from some of the patents granted it's painfully clear that the standard no longer exists. Rolling a die to generate "resources" is certainly a useful mechanic but it isn't exactly a novel concept. So while I don't think these patents have any sort of legal merit I believe they are a detriment because of the games that are never made due to the background threat of legal action. What is more interesting than the number of patents on any particular mechanic is any court cases over those patents. After all, a patent is relatively worthless until it stands up in court.
 
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Jeff Knox
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mlvanbie wrote:
In games, well, Teuber could have patented the production mechanic in Settlers and then Faidutti would have to pay royalties for Boomtown or think up his own production mechanic.


For those who have played Boomtown, the irony of this is too rich...
 
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Shannon Appelcline
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The biggest problem is that the US Patent Office is an absolute trainwreck. The vast majority of patents that they grant, and which are taken to court, are revoked. In other words, they're constantly granting invalid patents.

Unfortunately this plays right into the hands of huge corporations who file for patents knowing that they wouldn't hold up in court, then use them as a club to drive smaller businesses out of business.

As a result, you really have to look askance at anyone getting patents in the current market.

Shannon
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Galen
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I am going to patent the act of Rolling Dice.


Think of all the money I will be getting!!!
 
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David Edwards
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David Koontz - You really are a twunt, you're a twunt, a twunt, twunt, twunt. Incase you were wondering, you are a twunt.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Adiken's Dice system, used in Nin-Gonost and Dungeon Clash is patented.

In truth, its just a really good idea and way to implement a really common concept.

But it is protected.
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Dan Schaeffer
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Where do you get the statistics to support your contention that the majority of patents that get litigated are "revoked"? A few high profile cases have resulted in reexaminations of patents, and it's true that some patents, if they get to litigation, are found invalid, but I think you're just as likely to see non-infringement be the basis for a defense verdict as invalidity.

In fact, I suspect the majority of patent cases that get anywhere near litigation result in settlements and licenses, which would be an indicator that the patent is likely to be enforced if it goes through a whole trial. Because of the nature of patent damages, few defendants are willing to roll the dice in a close case, and some defendants just don't have the resources or the stomach to defend themselves. Most often, though, the cost of a license is less than the cost of litigation plus the weighted cost of a negative result. So that's market efficiency, not necessarily abuse of the patent system.

I will not dispute your initial contention, that the PTO is a mess, though I think the true mess is all in the new technology areas -- business methods, software, biotech. In more mature tech areas, the examiners are generally well-trained, old hands. But with newer tech, they just don't have enough skilled examiners, and it's hard to convince young techie lawyers to work for government money instead of a private sector salary. So you have the unfortunate confluence of a shortage of examiners and examiners with insufficient understanding of the technology they are opining on, which leads to massive backlogs and a fair number of questionable patents.
 
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Kevin Maroney
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Just for the record, game mechanics are explicitly not covered by copyright under US copyright law and under the Berne Convention (the international framework for copyright law). The only intellectual property protection that a game mechanic per se can obtain is patent protection.

Although patents used to be commonplace in the gaming industry, I have never heard of a boardgame patent actually being protected in a lawsuit, and I'd love to hear of one.
 
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David Koontz
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da_edwards wrote:
David Koontz - You really are a twunt, you're a twunt, a twunt, twunt, twunt. Incase you were wondering, you are a twunt.


Wow, thank you for your wonderful insight into this topic. Really, it's amazing that we can get along without your intellectual contributions.
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Francisco Colmenares
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Well Magic: The Gathering has a patent on the "tapping" mechanic of rotating a card. I agree that these things can get pretty absurd.
 
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