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Judge invalidates patents, freeing pubs and devs from lawsuits

Judge invalidates patents, freeing pubs and devs from lawsuits

September 25, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

Thanks to the reformation of patent law under the "Alice" decision by the Supreme Court, a production company that's been suing a number of publishers and developers over the years has seen its patents invalidated.

Today, Activision Blizzard announced that McRO, inc., which does business as a production and effects company called Planet Blue, has been stripped of its patents. The company had sued Activision, as well as a huge number of other studios and publishers -- including Valve, Square Enix, Rockstar, Naughty Dog, and many others -- over the years.

McRO's patents, which covered methods for animating character faces in 3D, have now been invalidated by the court. Thanks to that, its claims cannot move forward. This is significant -- for example, in 2013, THQ settled with McRO over its patents, paying the firm $600,000.

"When examined in light of the prior art, the claims are directed to an abstract idea, and lack an 'inventive concept' 'sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [abstract idea] itself,'" wrote District Judge George H. Wu in his decision, explaining why the patents were not enforceable. He cited the Alice judgment repeatedly.

"Meritless patent cases such as this stifle innovation and the creative process across the industry,"Activision Blizzard's Chief Legal Officer Chris Walther said, in a statement.

Interestingly, unlike in many of these cases, Planet Blue doesn't appear at first blush to be a patent troll, but an active production company, with a website showing a number of examples of its work. However, the site is dated 2012.

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