What do videogames, cigarettes and slot machines have in common? They’re all addicting, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Since addiction and legal liability can sometimes go hand in hand, game designers (and app developers) would do well to pay attention whenever a new habit or hobby looks like it might be deemed harmful.
Cloning is the process of creating a video game that is significantly motivated or inspired by an existing popular video game or series. Developers have been cloning popular video games since the 1980s, including Tetris, Doom, Minecraft, Bejeweled and Flappy Bird. Often, game developers create clones in an attempt to confuse users and cash in on a game’s popularity.
We predicted last year that 2016 would be the year of Pokémon. This prophecy came true last week within just two days of the Pokémon Go launch. The location-based augmented reality mobile game/app quickly surpassed Tinder in daily users and neared Twitter’s totals (and as of yesterday, surpassed them), with its users spending twice as much time engaged with Pokémon Go relative to apps like Snapchat. This explosion has helped shares of Nintendo, partial owner of both the Pokémon Company and Niantic (which developed the game), grow over 50% in three trading days since the app’s launch. In the aftermath of the Pokémon takeover, it’s a good time to revisit some of the potential legal implications.
Patents related to games are facing new challenges for being too “abstract,” but a recent court ruling highlights the limits to this line of attack. Last year, the Supreme Court reinvigorated a body of law that defines the types of inventions eligible for patent protection. Generally, inventions deemed “abstract” are ineligible for patenting, unless there is some other inventive concept in how the invention is implemented. Defendants accused of infringing game-related patents have seized on this body of law to challenge issued patents as being mistakenly granted. But in these challenges, what counts as “abstract” has been subject to much debate. So new court rulings on patent eligibility of interactive-entertainment technologies are worth noting. A recent decision should comfort game-patent owners.
In 2016, Niantic will blur the lines between our world and the world of Pokémon with the release of Pokémon GO, its upcoming augmented reality game for mobile phones, which will allow fans to see and interact with Pokémon in the real world. Similar to its AR game Ingress, Niantic’s new venture will utilize location information and augmented reality to entice fans to search far and wide to discover Pokémon in our own world. As an added experience, a Bluetooth wearable device developed by Nintendo (called the Pokémon Go Plus) will notify players of nearby Pokémon and other related game events via vibration and LED lights, enabling players to remain active in the game even when not looking at their phone. With these and other exciting features, there is no doubt that Pokémon fans everywhere—including some Pillsbury attorneys—are eagerly awaiting the game’s release. As that release nears, though, it’s a good time to consider the potential legal implications of such AR-reliant games.
Due to efforts by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Library of Congress adopted in its recent guidelines a limited exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), allowing gamers and preservationists to modify a video game to restore access to the video game for “local gameplay.” Specifically, a video game owner may modify an old video game to avoid the need for an authentication process when the copyright owner no longer supports the servers that facilitate such a process. This exemption will provide video game enthusiasts with the ability to play many classic video games. While this exemption is a victory for gamers and preservationists, not all of them are celebrating, given that the Library of Congress did not agree with the EFF on its other proposals related to the preservation of video games.
Continuing the trend in recent years of injunctions becoming harder and harder to obtain, the Northern District of California denied a motion for a preliminary injunction where the defendant has allegedly copied the plaintiff’s video game source code. Despite finding a strong likelihood of success on the merits, the judge rejected the plaintiff’s bid for a preliminary injunction because there was insufficient evidence of irreparable harm to the plaintiff, and because the balance of equities tilted in the defendant’s favor.
With unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) (also called drones) anticipated to become a multi-billion dollar industry in a few years, many are betting that drone gaming will explode as the next big thing in competitive entertainment. It is not hard to see why: with the aid of first-person view (FPV) headsets and camera-mounted drones, drone gaming allows otherwise gravity-bound users to experience flight at exhilarating speeds—sometimes up to 100 mph. Despite their undeniable appeal and popularity, competitive drone gaming may stay grounded until Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines and regulations are more favorable. Nevertheless, there are a number of ways that drone manufacturers and drone gaming organizers can facilitate legal drone gaming competitions that may avoid the need of going through an FAA approval process—this post explores a few considerations.
A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.
What’s the Matter With Zynga?
This was supposed to be a story about a guy building a highly anticipated mobile game. Instead, it’s a story about a multi-billion-dollar Internet company that is almost certainly headed for disaster.
Video game maker drops gun makers, not their guns
In the midst of the bitter national debate on gun violence, gun manufacturers and videogame makers are delicately navigating one of the more peculiar relationships in American business.
Atari Asks For More Time To Assemble Asset Sale
Atari Inc. sought an extra 90 days to put together a Chapter 11 plan without the threat of rival plans being submitted, saying it needs more time to put together a sale of its well-known brands and intellectual property.
Nintendo Scores Fed. Circ. Win In Wii Controller IP Row
The Federal Circuit Monday that Nintendo Co. Ltd.’s imported Wii video system did not infringe Motiva LLC’s wireless controller patents, saying Motiva’s failure to commercialize its patented technology had nothing to do with Nintendo’s subsequent presence in the market.
High Court Seeks SG’s Opinion in ‘Rock Band’ IP Row
The U.S. Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on whether the Federal Circuit applied too inflexible a standard when it reversed a finding of inequitable conduct against a patent holder suing Electronics Arts Inc. and others over the “Rock Band” video game.
Homeland Security cuts off Dwolla bitcoin transfers
Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirms an “ongoing investigation” that led to Dwolla cutting off bitcoin transfers to Mt. Gox.
Sean F. Kane will be a featured panelist at the upcoming Video Game Bar Association’s inaugural Game Business & Legal Affairs conference. The conference will provide an in-depth analysis of the prevalent and pertinent legal and business issues within the video game industry.
Sean will be serving as a panelist during the “Adventures in Finance” session which will take place on Tuesday, May 21st at 9:00am. Working capital drives development, and this panel looks at the finance landscape, including new trends and legal details for crowdfunding, raising venture capital, structure of exits, and where tax credits for development and research can be maximized across an organization.
The panel will include the following:
Steve Goldstein, Chair, Interactive Entertainment and Video Games Practice at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles
Justin Bailey, VP of Business Development at Double Fine Productions
Sean F. Kane, Attorney at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Mark Stevens, Partner at Fenwick & West