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The Ten Most Important Video Game Patents

January 19, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

4. The One That Goes Platinum

Patents are intended to further business objectives, whatever they may be. Patents can serve multiple purposes, including ensuring market share of a company’s sales, helping to obtain venture capital, and marketing, to name a few. While a patent might not guarantee that a game goes platinum, it does help stave off competitors from creating a game that has identical features which could chip away at your own sales.

Koei Company makes the Dynasty Warriors franchise of games, which have sold millions of copies. Koei sold 723,127 copies of Dynasty Warriors 4 in just its first four days of release! Koei also is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 6,729,954, entitled “Battle method with attack power based on character group density,” which protects the group battle methodology used in the Dynasty Warrior series of games.

Whatever people think of the gameplay and originality, Koei’s patent serves as an example of the synergies gained by having both a platinum selling franchise and the patent to go with it!

3. The Patent Portfolio

The third entry on our list is not really a single patent, but the general notion of actively patenting your concepts as they come along. In many cases, it is difficult to predict which innovation will grab hold of the spotlight, and which features will end up getting copied.

Accordingly, the companies that take a broad approach to patenting their video games will stand the greater chance at truly protecting their territory, and their portfolios stand as effective as any single patent that actually gets litigated.

Koei's Dynasty Warriors 4

2. The One That Covers the Next Great Leap

Every so often, there is a sea change in an industry—a new feature or development that takes the industry by storm, creates media buzz, and gets the consuming public excited again.

Nintendo managed to do just that during the 2006 holiday season with the introduction of the Nintendo Wii™ and its motion sensing controller technology. Nintendo sold almost 2 million units of the Wii™ by the end of 2006. Given the hype, and the sales, it was only a matter of time before patent owners started looking for their due, which is why, given the proclivity of patent trolls to follow the money, software patents often get bad press. However, at the end of the day someone is commercializing innovative technology that may be covered by one or more patents belonging to others. And patent litigation is often the only way to sort it out.

A drawing from Interlink's patent

Interlink Electronics has fired the first shot by suing Nintendo for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,850,221 (right) , which allegedly covers the motion sensing technology in Nintendo’s Wii remote. Early commentary on the lawsuit questions its merits, but given the result in the Immersion v. Sony lawsuit (see #8), and the fact that litigation is inherently speculative, Nintendo is certainly taking it seriously. In addition, Interlink is not the only company that is trying to stake its claim in this new technology; Sony has patents pending on motion sensing controller technology, and it’s a safe bet that Nintendo does as well.

Given that multiple parties are all trying to stake claims to different aspects of the same technology, it will take some time to see where the chips fall. If the same company doesn’t end up with both the dominant technology as well as the patent that covers that technology, this could be a long and expensive chip-falling process. Regardless, whoever ends up with the dominant patent stands to make lots of licensing revenue, given the widespread excitement over this new technology, and that patent deserves to be on this list.





15. See, e.g., U.S. Appl. Publ. No. 2006/0267935 (“Remote Input Device”) and U.S. Appl. Publ. No. 2006/0282873 (“Hand Held Controller Having Detectable Elements For Tracking Purposes”).

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

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