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The Ten Most Important Video Game Patents

January 19, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

1. The One That BIRTHED the Industry - Pong Patent

As if any other patent could hold the number one spot on this list!

Back in 1969, a man named William Rusch filed a patent application for a “Television Gaming Apparatus” that used a paddle-type control to move onscreen objects that collided with other onscreen objects. The resulting patent, RE28,50716, was eventually licensed to Magnavox, who then used that technology to release the first video game console: the Magnavox Odyssey.

When a rival upstart company, Atari, released their Atari 2600™ home console that also sported paddle controls, Magnavox took notice and Atari took a license for its “PONG” game. In the decade after that, Magnavox successfully asserted its patent in multiple lawsuits against Seeburg, Bally-Midway, Mattel, Activision and Nintendo, demonstrating without a doubt that a strong patent is the perfect way to protect your intellectual territory. The Odyssey system and PONG game launched what has since become a multi-billion dollar industry, and the ‘507 patent rightfully deserves the title of the Number One Video Game Patent.

The Magnavox Odyssey made these 1970s advertising models happy!
(Photo courtesy of David Winter, Pong Story)

So video games have been around for about 30 years, or about two patent lifetimes. In that span, video games have gone from this:

An image from the PONG ‘507 patent. Users had to tape a plastic overlay to their televisions to add the lines for the table net and service lines.

To this:

Rockstar Present Table Tennis (Xbox 360)

It’s certainly a great time to be a gamer, and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing what the top patents will be in another 10, 20, or 30 years. See you then!

16. The “RE” indicates that this is a “reissue” patent. Reissue is a process through which a patent owner can correct an error that occurred without deceptive intent. See 35 U.S.C. § 251. For example, the claims of the patent may be too narrow and, therefore, fail to provide the patentee with all of the protection to which he or she may be entitled. Alternatively, the patentee may determine that the claims are too broad and would otherwise be invalid. The patentee can narrow such claims through the reissue process to preserve validity. The original patent that RE28,507 is based on is 3,659,284, which was surrendered by the patentee when the reissue process was initiated.

Ross & Steve are partners at the law firm Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. in Washington, DC. The views expressed in this article are that of the authors personally, and should not be attributed to Banner & Witcoff or any of its clients. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship exists between the authors and any reader. For more information, you may contact Ross Dannenberg at [email protected] (202-824-3153) or Steve Chang at [email protected] (202-824-3154).


Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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