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>False Marking Suit Targets Activision

>A couple of weeks ago, Patent Compliance Group filed a qui tam action against Activision, alleging that Activision falsely marked Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero, DJ Hero and Guitar Hero Smash Hits with inapplicable patent numbers or improperly as “patent pending.” This suit is one of a still-swelling movement of false patent marking suits following closely on the heels of the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co., which held that damages for false patent marking should be calculated on a per article basis. This result has been that technology companies that sell large numbers of articles to consumers (e.g. video game companies) are at a high-risk of being targeted by one of these suits. A qui tam suit is actually brought on behalf of the U.S. government and provides for a fine of up to $500 for each improperly marked article. However, courts may… Continue Reading

>Chinese Agencies Feud Over Regulation of WoW

>As Chinese fans of World of Warcraft (WoW) lament the series of shutdowns ordered by the Chinese government, rival agencies continue to squabble over regulatory control of Activision Blizzard’s online gaming juggernaut. The Chinese government’s carefully crafted, buttoned-down facade belies the bureaucratic turf war currently being waged by its Ministry of Culture and its General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). The two agencies have been vying for control of online gaming oversight since June 2009, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. World of Warcraft was launched in mainland China in 2005 and began steadily building momentum among China’s notoriously hard-to-crack gaming community. (Of the top ten online games in China, World of Warcraft is one of only three not produced in China and is the only U.S.-produced game.) Despite the steady accumulation of users (WoW China now boasts a roster of over 50 million individual… Continue Reading

>Activision Sued by Rock Band No Doubt Over In-Game Avatars

>Having only recently rid itself of Gibson Guitar Corp.’s Guitar Hero-based patent infringement lawsuit, Activision probably expected to be able to put away the aspirin for a while. Instead, the game development and distribution giant is facing another headache-inducing suit, this one filed by established pop/rock band No Doubt, which was none-too-pleased to discover that their likenesses are available for use as playable character avatars throughout Activision’s new release, Band Hero. The band’s complaint, filed November 4, claims damages for breach of contract, fraudulent inducement and infringement of right of publicity, as well as violations of California’s Business and Professions Code, in connection with No Doubt’s license agreement with Activision. (Case No. BC425268, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.) According to the band, No Doubt entered into a limited license agreement with Activision in May 2009 with the understanding that the… Continue Reading

>Nintendo Settles Wii Remote Claims; "Rock Band" Defendants File to Advance Proceedings

>The end of October brought a flurry of legal activity relevant to two of the more notable segments of the current generation of video game technology: Nintendo has finally settled out of a U.S. International Trade Commission investigation concerning its Wii Remote, and the game developers and retailers that were sued by Gibson Guitar Corporation over the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band games have made a move to dispose of Gibson’s remaining infringement claims. On October 5, the administrative law judge presiding over the ITC’s investigation of the Wii Remote issued an initial determination (ITC court ruling), later upheld by the Commission, that the settlement reached by Nintendo and Hillcrest Laboratories Inc. satisfactorily disposed of the dispute between the parties. Hillcrest, a developer of home entertainment technologies, claimed that the operation of Nintendo’s Wii Remote in combination with the Wii video game console infringed a collection of Hillcrest patents… Continue Reading

>Paltalk Turns its Attention to Sony

>After settling with Microsoft for an undisclosed amount, Paltalk has set it sights on Sony, alleging Sony is also infringing its patents related to online gameplay.Back in 2006, Paltalk sued Microsoft on nearly identical grounds, alleging that certain communications between game systems over the internet infringe two of its patents, 5,822,523 and 6,226,686. These two patents describe a method of increasing bandwidth efficiency between a group of computers communicating on a network. The method involves a central messaging server programmed to receive messages from each computer on the network and to maintain a list of the computers on the network. The patents also describe a method for sending “join” messages to other computers to invite them into a game. Lastly, the patents describe a method for aggregating messages received by the central messaging server in a block and then pushing the aggregated message block back to the other computers. Paltalk… Continue Reading

>Activision v. Double Fine

>Another day, another publisher-developer lawsuit. This time, Activision filed a suit against Double Fine (headed by Tim Schafer, of Psychonauts and Day of the Tentacle fame) last week in an effort to prevent the release of the new game Brutal Legend. Activision claims it still has the rights to release Brutal Legend, which it acquired by way of its merger with Vivendi Games last year. In its complaint, Activision says that Vivendi Games invested roughly $15 million in Brutal Legend before the merger. However, Activision dropped Brutal Legend after the merger was complete, and didn’t continue efforts to publish the title. When a publisher loses interest in a half-finished game, developers can be left in limbo. At that point, publishers have invested money in the game, and usually have been granted certain rights in return. And without those rights, developers can have a hard time getting a new publisher on-board… Continue Reading

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