Software Patents on Everything

by on June 9, 2006 · 18 comments

Another day, another absurd software patent: Ars reports that Nintendo has patented the concept of instant messaging in games:

In the claims section, the patent describes a chat system that uses a remotely stored buddy list, supports multiple statuses, broadcasts information about active gaming activities, displays notification of events including the arrival of new e-mail messages, facilitates transmission of player preferences, and enables users to communicate with each other either with voice or text messages. Keep in mind that this patent does not cover game-oriented chat in general; it specifically describes a console gaming chat mechanism that displays game information and uses a buddy list.

Sure, instant messaging and computer games had been around for several years when Nintendo filed for this patent in 2000. But combining them was truly a stroke of genius!

  • http://www.commonsmusic.com/blog Commons Music

    This deserves an evaluation from the PTO, certainly.

  • http://www.commonsmusic.com/blog Commons Music

    Also, AIM has had gaming features involved with it for years now. Is it that the IM is in the games, rather than the games were in the IM? I dunno, that’s fishy…

  • http://www.commonsmusic.com/blog Commons Music

    This deserves an evaluation from the PTO, certainly.

  • http://www.commonsmusic.com/blog Commons Music

    Also, AIM has had gaming features involved with it for years now. Is it that the IM is in the games, rather than the games were in the IM? I dunno, that’s fishy…

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Quake had this in 1995-1996. Does prior art no longer have legal standing?

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Quake had this in 1995-1996. Does prior art no longer have legal standing?

  • http://www.techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    The problem is that the patent examiners are taught to only look for prior art in prior patents or in scientific journals.

    You won’t see the actual prior art there, of course.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    In cases like this, it should be as easy as proving that product X had the feature before the patentee and then the judge is required by law to strike it down. Then the right of appeal should only exist if there are grounds to argue that it was actually valid.

  • http://www.techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    The problem is that the patent examiners are taught to only look for prior art in prior patents or in scientific journals.

    You won’t see the actual prior art there, of course.

  • Ted

    Striking a patent down, once granted, is a costly and time-consuming process.

    Jim Balsillie’s congressional testimony showed how a $19 investment in postage stamps by a patent holder can do over $9,000,000 dollars in damage, even when the patents are 100% invalid: http://righttocreate.blogspot.com/2006/04/how-19-in-patent-trolls-hands-can-cost.html

  • Ted

    I forgot to mention that defending oneself in a patent infringement case, even if it is based on an invalid patent, costs (on average) between $4 and $10 million dollars. And that’s if you win!

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    In cases like this, it should be as easy as proving that product X had the feature before the patentee and then the judge is required by law to strike it down. Then the right of appeal should only exist if there are grounds to argue that it was actually valid.

  • Ted

    Striking a patent down, once granted, is a costly and time-consuming process.

    Jim Balsillie’s congressional testimony showed how a $19 investment in postage stamps by a patent holder can do over $9,000,000 dollars in damage, even when the patents are 100% invalid: http://righttocreate.blogspot.com/2006/04/how-1

  • Ted

    I forgot to mention that defending oneself in a patent infringement case, even if it is based on an invalid patent, costs (on average) between $4 and $10 million dollars. And that’s if you win!

  • enigma_foundry

    Let’s get rid of Software Patents entirely.

    They are a giant drag on innovation and progress.

    Look at how blackberry was almost shutdown, and how damaged they were by essentially bassless claims.

    Instead of injunctions and treble damages, we should have a system of compulsory lisencing, with only actual damages, with court costs in the case of willful infringement.

    The excellent recent Supreme Court decision in the ebay case seems to be moving us in that direction…

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Let’s get rid of Software Patents entirely.

    They are a giant drag on innovation and progress.

    Look at how blackberry was almost shutdown, and how damaged they were by essentially bassless claims.

    Instead of injunctions and treble damages, we should have a system of compulsory lisencing, with only actual damages, with court costs in the case of willful infringement.

    The excellent recent Supreme Court decision in the ebay case seems to be moving us in that direction…

  • http://bespoke.homelinux.net/ Tel

    Remember MUDs? They were games, they had in-game chat, surely there must be prior-art in the 1980 to 1990 decade. Were there MUDs with a “buddy list”? That depends on your definition of “buddy” but certainly there were (and still are) “clans” and other opt-in message groups that are so similar that the difference is only interesting to lawyers (and those suffering under the reign of lawyers).

    What is the definition of “console” anyhow? What makes a “console” legally different to any other computer?

    (… and by the way, MUDs have been discussed in scientific journals).

  • http://bespoke.homelinux.net/ Tel

    Remember MUDs? They were games, they had in-game chat, surely there must be prior-art in the 1980 to 1990 decade. Were there MUDs with a “buddy list”? That depends on your definition of “buddy” but certainly there were (and still are) “clans” and other opt-in message groups that are so similar that the difference is only interesting to lawyers (and those suffering under the reign of lawyers).

    What is the definition of “console” anyhow? What makes a “console” legally different to any other computer?

    (… and by the way, MUDs have been discussed in scientific journals).

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