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
A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.
Kabam Hits Profitability in 2012 on Revenue of $180 Million
Kabam doesn’t have to report earnings since it’s privately held, but that didn’t stop it from saying today that it was profitable last year on gross revenue of $180 million.
Maryland attorney general launches Internet Privacy Unit
The Maryland attorney general’s office on Monday launched a new Internet Privacy Unit designed to address the problem of privacy in the Internet age and to update “gaps” in companies’ online privacy policies.
iOS games earn 3.5 times the revenue of Android games in Q4
Even though Android app revenue grew much faster in the last quarter of 2012 than iOS app revenue, iOS apps still earned over three and a half times the amount that Android apps brought in, according to App Annie’s Index.
Axl Rose’s ‘Guitar Hero’ Suit Too Late, Judge Rules
A California judge Thursday tentatively dismissed the remainder of Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose’s $20 million lawsuit accusing Activision Blizzard Inc. of tricking him into licensing a song for the video game “Guitar Hero III,” ruling that Rose’s claims were time-barred.
Scratch-Off Maker Drops $1.5B For Video Gaming Co.
Instant lottery leader Scientific Games Corp. has inked a $1.5 billion deal to combine its scratch-off and electronic gaming empire with WMS Industries Inc.’s video gambling operation, the buyer announced on Thursday.
Social Casino Games Market Now Worth $1.6 Billion
The social gaming market is moving fast, as more companies take advantage of the growing online phenomenon. According to a new study by internet games research firm SuperData, the global social casino games market will reach $1.6bn in 2012 and grow to $2.4bn by 2015.
Nintendo’s Wii, 3DS Targeted in Texas Patent Suit
Nintendo Co. Ltd. was sued Friday by a Texas company that claims the Japanese-gaming giant’s Wii and 3DS gaming systems infringe one of its patents.
USPTO Head Defends Software Patents Amid Smartphone Wars
Patents on software are vital to the American economy and calls to abolish them are wrong, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos said in a speech Tuesday that also belittled claims that the smartphone wars show the patent system is broken.
Buy Virtual Goods in Zynga Games, Give Non-Virtual Money to Charity
Buying a $1 virtual horse for your virtual farm in FarmVille or a $15 tower for your castle in CastleVille might go farther than you think for the next couple of weeks. Those virtual goods are being turned into tangible cash — cash that Zynga will be donating to Toys for Tots.