Gametek has filed a complaint for patent infringement against a large number of game and game-related companies over a virtual goods payment patent.
The patent issued based on an application originally filed September 29, 2000, and claims priority to a provisional application filed June 20, 2000. The patent issued July 11, 2006. We are happy to provide you a copy of the extensive prosecution history, but it is too large to provide a link here.
One of the independent claims recites as follows:
15. A method of managing the operation of a game which includes a game environment, and is programmed to control a gaming action of at least one of a plurality of users, said managing method using a programmed computer to effect the following steps: a) tracking the activity of the at least one user in the course of the gaming action; b) creating an account for the at least one user for maintaining a balance of the at least one user; c) enabling the at least one user to select at least one of a plurality of game objects; d) setting the purchase price of the at least one game object; e) comparing the account balance with the set price of the at least one game object and, determining if the user’s account balance is not less than the set price, then the at least one user is eligible to purchase the one selected game object; f) presenting to the at least one user an offer to purchase the game object dependent upon a group of game parameters comprising the tracked activity of the at least one user, and an indication of whether the at least one user has made a commitment of consideration to purchase the one selected game object; g) ordering the at least one selected game object without interrupting the gaming action of the at least one user; and h) supplying the selected one game object to the at least one user without interruption of the gaming action of the at least one user and incorporating the game object into the game.
The basis for the patent being granted is set forth in the Examiner’s reasons for allowance [Click here for a copy]. In part, the examiner refers to console-based games but noted that none of these “disclose offering a game object to a user for a price and allowing the user to access and incorporate said object in a game without interrupting the game.” The examiner also referred to other prior art and said “the instant invention is distinguished from the prior art…as the system tracks a user’s gaming actions…determines where a user is eligible to purchase a game object based on the user’s account balance…presents and offer to the user to purchase the game object based on …[the] tracked gaming action, [where] the user purchases and is supplied with the game object without interrupting the gaming action, and the object is incorporated into the game.”
Does anyone think that the use of player accounts to enable in-game purchases was new in 2000?
We have collected prior art that may impact the validity of this patent. We have been in touch with some companies and are reaching out to others regarding a potential joint defense group. Even companies who have not yet been sued may be interested in monitoring this case and/or helping to invalidate the patent.
We will provide additional postings here. Please check back.
If you have information to share or have additional questions, please contact us at: Virtual Goods Payment Team