>The design patent infringement battle between Microsoft Corp. and Datel Design and Development Ltd. over Xbox 360 accessories in the U.S. might be coming to an end, at least for now. The two companies appear to have reached a settlement agreement this week resolving various infringement proceedings relating to Datel’s Xbox 360 compatible game controllers. But another part of the conflict between the Xbox creator and the accessory manufacturer is just heating up in federal district court in California. The California action involves antitrust claims brought by Datel against Microsoft and highlights some of the strategies Microsoft is using to gain an advantage over competitors in the Xbox accessory market, as well as some of the obstacles it faces in doing so. Datel filed the complaint in response to a Microsoft software update for the Xbox 360 that rendered Datel’s memory cards incompatible and useless with respect to the system,… Continue Reading
>A patent infringement suit targeting Xbox Live that we’ve been keeping our eye on went to trial yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The suit was originally filed back in September, 2004, by two inventors claiming Xbox Live infringed two of their patents covering voice and data communications technology. This case already produced some fireworks last month, when the judge overseeing the case threatened Microsoft’s counsel with sanctions for a “frivolous objection” to a discovery request. Microsoft’s counsel had objected to a request by the plaintiffs for a document relating to a “2008 deposition” of a certain Microsoft employee, when they meant to say “2009 deposition.” The judge asserted that Microsoft’s counsel improperly used a typographical error to raise an objection on the ground of vagueness. The judge also chided Microsoft’s counsel for producing over 140,000 documents without an index, saying the action demonstrated… Continue Reading
>All three leading console makers previewed new motion-sensing controller technology this week at E3. With the success of the Wiimote, the industry may have realized that killer controller hardware can sell consoles just as well as killer game titles. Whenever a large company launches a significant new product like a game controller, there are numerous intellectual property “clearance” issues that play out behind the scenes. Not only does the company have to worry about protecting its new hardware design from infringers, but it simultaneously has to worry about infringing everyone else’s intellectual property.Today at E3, Sony unveiled a motion-sensing system with a controller that can translate player movement as a sword, a bat, a gun, etc., while Nintendo announced a few technological tweaks to the Wiimote. Sony’s and Nintendo’s unveilings came just a day after Microsoft announced that it developed a system that allows game control through tracking of players’… Continue Reading
>The PalTalk v. Microsoft case we’ve been following settled out last week in the midst of trial. Back in 2006, Paltalk sued Microsoft, alleging that communications through Xbox LIVE (either on the original Xbox or the 360) infringes two of its patents, 5,822,523 and 6,226,686. The trial began in March, and was ongoing until Microsoft and PalTalk filed a stipulation with the court saying that the claims and counterclaims between the parties should be dismissed, and that each party would cover their own costs and attorneys’ fees. Unfortunately, we won’t get any idea of who came out on top, since the terms of the settlement are confidential. But, at least we know that Xbox LIVE won’t be going offline as a result of this infringement suit.
>I attended a lunch today and the keynote speaker was Steve Ballmer. Despite the monikers that Mr. Ballmer has earned about his speaking capabilities, he was entertaining and informative to listen to. Of particular interest to our readers — he touched on the future of the Xbox a tiny (very little) bit…A question was asked of him of “do you have any tips or secrets that I could use to impress my far-more technology literate 17 year old son”. He talked about some aspects of Microsoft Office, but recognized that a 17 year old probably isn’t all that interested in the deep dark secrets of Word and Excel. He then said “tell your son to pay attention, because we’ve got some big announcements for the Xbox in the next thirty days.” Not the most specific of rumors, to say the least, but it nevertheless piqued my interest. He also offered… Continue Reading
>ADC Technology, based in Nagoya, Japan, launched a patent infringement suit in October, 2008, against Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, accusing them of infringing five ADC patents relating to interactive communication in video games. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Monday granted ADC’s voluntary motion to dismiss Sony, leaving only Microsoft and Nintendo as the remaining defendants. ADC alleges that the Xbox 360 video game console (with Xbox Live) violates five, and the Wii, three, of the patents at issue.ADC is asserting Patent Numbers 6,193,520, 6,488,508, 6,702,585 and 6,875,021, all titled “Interactive communication system for communicating video game and karaoke software”; and Patent Number 5,775,995 titled, “Interactive communication system for communicating video.” The patents describe a remote distribution system that allows customers to download software for use on devices and charges those players a fee for using the downloaded software. The case is still in its… Continue Reading
>Want to be the first to hear about a new game? Just monitor the filings at the U.S. Trademark Office. Smart game companies know that it’s important to apply to register the IP associated with a new game even though the game itself is still in secret development. Otherwise these companies risk unpleasant surprises down the road, such as someone else filing the trademark or registering the domain name. Failing to take appropriate steps to protect IP early enough can result in costly changes late in the development and marketing stages of a new game. So, who’s filing these early applications? Well, Activision-Blizzard, the publisher behind Guitar Hero, has just filed a trademark application for “Sing Hero” for “interactive video game programs.” Or, check out the newest application for “Your Game Here” from Take-Two Interactive, publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series. Their new trademark for “Your Game Here” is… Continue Reading
>Ok. I admit… the headline is over the top. No one has announced a Halo 4 (yet?), although The Halo franchise development director Frank O’Connor was quoted as saying “I doubt we have seen the last of Master Chief.” So, why do I bring that up? I want to highlight a different facet of intellectual property protection. The name “Master Chief” resonates with consumers, as well as pictures of the iconic character, and both the name and photographs are available for intellectual property protection. In fact, if you search the Copyright Office web site and the Trademark Office web site, you’ll find filings for each by Microsoft. Sometimes the focus on protection is on the guts of a game (e.g., the code, the trade secrets) while losing sight of protecting the intellectual property that faces your customers. Filing for copyright and trademark protection on elements of the game may be… Continue Reading