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Do you know any patents of GamePlay model? I mean behavior between User as Player and the System? In another words Patent of GamePlay rules. For example "when player's character dies -> the system must raise him at last checkpoint". If you know any patent please provide a link:)

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If there are patents on these basic gameplay mechanics, then I'd have yet another reason to hate current patent law. –  thedaian Jul 13 '11 at 17:14
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Here's that "another reason" for you -- according to the EFF (who include a link to it; patent number 6,264,560), in 1998 this guy patented "real-time multi-player online games, including card games:" eff.org/patent/wanted/patent.php?p=sheldon –  Randolf Richardson Jul 14 '11 at 3:54
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I am voting to close this as "not constructive". For those unfamiliar with the patent system: Knowing about the existence of a patent but implementing it anyway triples the damages you must pay as a defendant in a patent case. Reading a list of patents is potentially very dangerous for a game developer. (Or software engineer, or etc.) –  user744 Jul 14 '11 at 9:59
    
You're clearly misusing 'not constructive'. To say, that knowing business risks is not constructive seems to pervert the meaning to the point of breaking. –  user179700 Jul 25 '11 at 2:39
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Knowing every patent that applies to your game is an enormous risk (treble damages) with no benefit (you can't make a game - or any software - without violating at least one patent). "Lots of danger and no benefits" sure sounds nonconstructive to me. –  user744 Aug 14 '11 at 21:38

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

First, patent legislation varies by country. This GamaSutra article references a number of gameplay patents which have been granted in the US. (The article also recommends that game developers should patent their game mechanics, which I strongly disagree with, but that's another matter entirely.) Specifically:

  1. United States Patent No. 6,604,008, entitled “Scoring based on goals achieved and subjective elements,” and assigned to Microsoft Corp., describes a method of determining points to be awarded to a player, where the points are based in part on style. (Hint: Speed through the town of a certain caped crusader)

  2. United States Patent No. 6,695,694, entitled “Game machine, game device, control method, information storage medium, game distribution device and game distribution method,” and assigned to Konami Corporation, describes a game method that detects whether a player has placed his/her foot on a plurality of step positions, and calculates an amount of energy consumed by the player. (Hint: Groovy!)

  3. United States Patent No. 6,200,138, entitled “Game display method, moving direction indicating method, game apparatus and drive simulating apparatus,” and assigned to Sega Enterprises, Ltd., describes a game method in which movable objects automatically move away from an approaching character. (Hint: Fare approaching!)

  4. United States Patent No. 6,729,954, entitled “Battle method with attack power based on character group density,” and assigned to Koei Co., Ltd., describes a method of calculating attack or defense strength of a character based on its proximity to other characters in a three-dimensional battlefield. (Hint: Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, anyone?)

The enforceability of these patents is another issue altogether. Just because the USPTO grants a patent does not mean it will be held as valid in a court of law. The video game industry is young and has relatively few patents, so there are, to the best of my knowledge, few historical precedents to indicate what a judge might rule if patents like these were exercised.

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+1 Enlightening answer. I am not removing my answer just because that's what most people think. When they see my answer with your comment, they will be diverted to your answer. –  iamcreasy Jul 13 '11 at 18:54
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Thanks. I felt bad downvoting you, as your answer (as you said) represents a common understanding within the industry. And I do believe that is how the patent system is SUPPOSED to work. Unfortunately it's not what the USPTO does in practice. –  Mitch Lindgren Jul 13 '11 at 18:56
    
A patent-holder apparently tried to sue Google (I'm unsure if this actually got to court), among others, over this stuff: tech.blorge.com/Structure:+/2008/01/05/… –  Randolf Richardson Jul 14 '11 at 3:57

"Skip hard parts in a game (by pushing a 'hint' button) and let the game 'video-walk you through that part' (ie. skip it by seing how it can be done) :

http://kotaku.com/5127251/nintendo-patent-reveals-potential-paradigm-shift-in-design

By Nintendo O_o

Among others: Namco patent on load-time mini-games (US Patent Number 5,718,632)

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3562/the_designers_notebook_damn_all_.php?print=1

You can definitely, it seems, patent gameplay.

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Software patents should be abolished, but unfortunately they do exist. –  jhocking Jul 13 '11 at 18:40
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+1 for that comment –  Valmond Jul 13 '11 at 18:42
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@jhocking you might want to elaborate your comment as an answer. I am very interested to hear your proposition in details. –  iamcreasy Jul 13 '11 at 18:55
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Well my comment isn't really much of an answer. If you want more elaboration then there are a few articles on this guy's blog marco.org/2011/06/01/software-patents –  jhocking Jul 13 '11 at 20:49

Once upon a time Midway had a patent on "ghost cars" used to race against your previously recorded attempts.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Gamasutra discussion on Ghost Cars

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+1 I remember that one might it be right or wrong –  Valmond Jul 13 '11 at 21:08
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I worked on a title that was constrained by this one, back in the day. That was when no one had the money to fight expensive court battles over patents, sadly. Though not games related there was also the recently deceased Marching Cubes patent, and various compression scheme patents too. –  Patrick Hughes Jul 13 '11 at 22:11

No, you can't patent a game play design. No one can can stop you from making Super Mario clone. They can stop you from calling it SuperMario or using their character design or soundtrack.

Ideas cannot be patented, only processes.

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-1. This is not true, or at least not true according to how the modern USPTO acts. The enforceability of gameplay patents is a different matter, of course. See my answer for more information. –  Mitch Lindgren Jul 13 '11 at 18:46
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I recall that software patents were originally done under the guise of being "processes" though. –  Randolf Richardson Jul 14 '11 at 3:59
    
Not strictly correct, you cannot patent ‘abstract ideas’. Search ‘business method patent’ or ‘business model patent’. –  user179700 Jul 25 '11 at 2:59

IANAL.

Gameplay mechanics cannot be patented, nor copyrighted. You can only patent implementations of them or copyright very specific details, like "A plumber named Mario", for example. You cannot copyright nor patent general game ideas.

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