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Zynga Sued Over 'Prize Redemption' Patents
Zynga Sued Over 'Prize Redemption' Patents
August 18, 2011 | By Kris Graft

FarmVille house Zynga was sued on Wednesday over patents pertaining to "prize redemption systems" for online games, according to court documents obtained by Gamasutra.

Dallas-based Agincourt Gaming said Zynga has infringed on the patents "Prize Redemption System for Games Executed Over a Wide Area Network" and "Graphical User Interface for Providing Gaming and Prize Redemption Capabilities."

The first patent, filed in 1999 as a continuation of a 1996 patent, describes a system that allows users to earn in-game virtual currency, used to acquire in-game items -- a fundamental aspect of Zynga's and many other developers' social network games.

The second patent is closely related, describing a user interface that allows users to view prize redemption information relating to a game.

Agincourt claims that social gaming leader Zynga is currently infringing on these patents across all of its major games, naming FarmVille, Empires & Allies, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars and CityVille in the suit, among others.

Agincourt said it currently implements the patent in a Facebook game that it acquired, called Pantheon.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for the alleged infringement, and asking the court for a permanent injunction to shut down all of Zynga's games.

Agincourt said "Zynga's remarkable growth has not been driven by its own ingenuity or innovations. Rather, it has been widely reported that Zynga's business model is to copy creative ideas and designs from other game developers and then use its market power to bulldoze the games' originators."

The complaint continues, "Consistent with this reported strategy, Zynga also has violated Agincourt Gaming's intellectual property rights by infringing the '755 patent and the '035 patent."

"... Agincourt Gaming's patents-in-suit, which claim priority to 1996, were both far ahead of their time in anticipating the development of credits-based online gaming."

Zynga filed for an IPO in July that valued the company at $1 billion.

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E Zachary Knight
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So what? this company bought some game they did not create just so they could say they are actually using the patents in question? Pantheon is the only game listed on their website.

Again, this shows the absurdity of software patents. I doubt any company that currently uses in game currency and "prize redemption" has any knowledge that this patent even exists. They came to the solution of doing so either on their own or saw that it was the standard way of doing things in online games.

Software patents need to go and the whole of patent law needs to be extremely overhauled.

Todd Boyd
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For the love of all that is good in this world, this crap needs to stop. Someone should patent the method in which you sue people over patents.

Cody Scott
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Thanks for thee idea :)

Luke Shorts
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You are (hopefully) joking, but someone actually applied for patenting a "Method and apparatus for discouraging non-meritorious lawsuits and providing recourse to victims thereof" (US 2006/0085216). Thankfully, even the patent office couldn't stomach such a thing and the application has lapsed, otherwise Zynga could have escaped one lawsuit just to incur in another one!

Stephen Baker
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That patent should never have been granted. i can rember playing games on my ZX-Spectrum and later my Atari ST and Amiga where you collected coins to spend on upgrades at ingame stores.

i can not think of any RPG games that do not have an ingame currancy of one form or another.

Martain Chandler
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The bad news: A disease of Wall Street, carried by lawyers, has infected social gaming. The rest of the games industry will be beyond treatment in another five years. Indies will be sued out of existence. Innovation will stop dead in it's tracks. The list of patents in a game will longer than the EULA. User-created content will have to be thoroughly vetted before anyone can see it by a new under-class of computer slaves we will call "Morlocks."

The good news: Morlocks will feast on the children of corporate lawyers.

E Zachary Knight
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Thanks for the HG Wells reference. Made my day.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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How to get rich in the modern world.

Step 1: Start a company in 2011 (judging from the copyright on their site). Start it in Texas, where patent trolls have legal precedent on their side.

Step 2: Purchase an antiquated, vague, and obvious patent that a rich corporation "violates".

Step 3: Rush a game out that uses that patent so you are not a NPE; there is a slight chance the game will be profitable too, so double-win.

Step 4: Sue the large corporation for infringing on "your" patent, getting free advertising for your game in the process.

Step 5: No question marks, profit off of the stupidity of the system.

Here's a petition you can sign if you are against software patents:

Anthony I
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Wow, this is stupid. Wasn't earning virtual currency and buying in game items already implemented in games like Wizardry, Railroad Tycoon, all kinds of classic RPGs, ... way before 1996?

You really should not be able to patent things that obviously already existed in the real world and then just put it into a virtual/digital form (i.e. currency, buying and selling, tournaments, ...). There was an article before that mentioned patented virtual tournaments.

Patents have to be an innovative and non-obvious process.

Andrew Grapsas
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Doesn't Dungeons & Dragons have this feature? I think that predates the patent.

Adding in the online aspect is bullshit.

We need to get rid of software patents.

Anthony I
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D&D yes in 1974, but it was not in digital/virtual form yet. Wizardry was in 1981. And the D&D based/licensed rpgs on computer were definitely before 1996 (Pool of Radiance was 1988).

Sarah Johnson-Bliss
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Don't forget Ultima 1 in 1980, and its predecessor, Akallabeth: World of Doom in 1979. Both of those had in game currency.

Anthony I
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Oh ya the original Ultima! I still remember stealing from the medieval age weapon vendor to get futuristic weapons. LOL.

I never played Akallabeth.

Wizardry was fun grinding to get a Thief's Dagger (so you can turn your thief into a neutral ninja) or a Murasama Blade (so you can turn your fighter into a Samurai). Tiltowait!

Darren Horton
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I really hope Zynga win this one, and collect some damages in the process. It's a really pathetic situation, and something has to be done about it. I signed the petition, and will share the link for others to do the same.

Jeremy Glazman
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That's really funny how Agincourt is taking the 'Zynga copies other games and everyone knows it' angle and then applying it to this absurdly obvious patent they are trolling. I can't believe I'm forced to side with Zynga on what is essentially an ethics issue... what is this world coming to?

What makes this even more hilariously ironic is that Zynga tried to file a dubious patent of their own recently with a virtual currency patent that has obvious and well-known prior implementations:

The pattern I'm seeing here with software patents: we are all screwed and everyone loses.

Ali Afshari
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I was just number 13945 on the petition...this is ridiculous!

Phing Seo
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nice one please try to check this also: