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January's Stupid Patent of the Month: A Method of Updating "Grass" in Video Games
February 2, 2015Sports. Its whats on EFFs patent teams mind. No, not because this Sunday is the Super Bowl. No, not even because we filed an amicus brief today in a football-related right of publicity case.
Its because of U.S. Patent 8,529,350 Januarys Stupid Patent of the Month.
The patenttitled Method and System for Increased Realism in Video Gamesis owned by Utah-based troll White Knuckle LLC. Like most trolls, White Knuckle doesnt seem to sell or manufacture anything, but does happen to have this patent on remotely updating a sports video game based on real-world eventsa player injury or a change in a stadium, such as new grass. And they used it this month to go after Electronic Arts, the largest sports video game manufacturer, for infringement. Specifically, White Knuckle calls out the last five years of NCAA Football games and the last five years of Tiger Woods PGA Tour games.
What does White Knuckle claim to have invented? The patent covers a computer configured to provide a sports video game with parameters that can be updated over the Internet. Of course, White Knuckle didnt actually invent computers, sports video games, or the Internet.And it didnt invent updating software from a serverthat practice existed for many years before it filed a patent application (in 2002). No matter. It was enough for the Patent Office that White Knuckle suggested applying these already banal technologies to a specific context.
This is insane. You wouldnt consider a car that can drive in San Francisco to be a different invention from a car that can drive in Los Angeles. Its just a car. But the Patent Office lets applicants draw technologically irrelevant distinctions like this all the time. In essence, White Knuckles patent is just a claim to remotely updating software. Theres nothing technologically special about updating a video game (at least, no such problems are discussed and solved by this patent).
Some of White Knuckles patent claims are as specific as remotely updating the grass or the ivy at a stadium. Even leaving aside all the other problems with software patents, allowing absurd claims like this only encourages trolls to abuse the system. Well keep working for patent reform to stop the flood of software patents harming innovation.
For more information contact:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Phone: +1 415 436 9333
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