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Yahoo! v. Facebook: Clicking Through the Blogosphere Bias

Originally posted March 13.  Updated March 28, 2012. On March 12th, Yahoo! filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of California alleging that Facebook infringes ten Yahoo! patents.  Immediate reaction has been widely critical of Yahoo!, from interpreting statements made in the filing as a claim by Yahoo! that it “patented the whole idea of Facebook” to characterizing Yahoo! as “relentlessly stagnating as Facebook innovated.”  Such is to be expected from the blogosphere with regard to the party asserting software or Internet-related patents.  However, if one really wants to weigh the merits of this lawsuit and the claims being made about it, there really is no substitute for digging into the subject matter of the patents that Yahoo! claims cover various aspects of how Facebook operates: Yahoo!’s “Advertising Patents” Yahoo! claims protection in systems and methods for advertising, placing advertisements on a web page in a manner according… Continue Reading

>Gibson Brings Another Defendant On-stage

>Gibson has filed suit against another defendant alleging infringement of its concert simulation patent. This time, it involves Seven45 Studios’ new video game Power Gig: Rise of the SixString. Gibson lost its first suit involving the same patent against Activision in 2009. In June of 2010, Gibson settled with Harmonix, Viacom, and EA in a similar suit.

>Tip: IP Indemnification

>As patent and other intellectual property lawsuits continue to litter the video game landscape, it makes a mind wander to one of everyone’s favorite clauses in developer and publisher agreements: indemnification (which we have discussed before). This is one of those clauses that gets buried at the end of the agreement, often on the hope that it never gets discussed. And, certainly neither party ever hopes to have to invoke the indemnity clause. The problem arises that, while the clause generally does not see the light of day, should the clause ever become necessary — the dollars and stakes are bigger than ever anticipated.A publisher will generally try to seek a broad indemnity from a developer, so that, if a patent owner sues the publisher alleging that the developer’s game infringes the patent (or other intellectual property), the publisher will be protected. The indemnity clause will be used to shield… Continue Reading

>Trademark Clearance and Mafia Wars

>As a reminder to us all of the reason for a good trademark clearance search, game developer Digital Chocolate, Inc., has filed a trademark infringement suit in the Northern District of California against Zynga Game Network, Inc., creator of popular Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. The complaint alleges that Zynga, which released Mafia Wars in 2008, has “hijacked” the Mafia Wars name from Digital Chocolate. Although Digital Chocolate never registered the Mafia Wars mark in the U.S., it claims Zynga is violating the common law trademark rights it has had since it started selling its own Mafia Wars game in 2004. For the careful entrepreneur, this case highlights the importance of an adequate pre-launch trademark clearance search to minimize the risk of problems in the future.A pre-launch trademark clearance search might encompass, for example, federal and state trademark registrations and applications, common law rights, web searches, and domain… Continue Reading

>Boomshine v. ChainRxn update

>As we covered back in March, casual game designed Daniel Miller filed a complaint in the Northern District of California, accusing the creator of a copycat game, known as ChainRxn, Yao Wei Yeo, and Facebook, of copyright infringement. The federal judge hearing the case has recently issued a ruling refusing to dismiss the suit, shooting down a argument by Facebook that Miller didn’t properly allege infringement based solely on how the two games “look and feel.” Miller’s complaint accused Yeo of direct copyright infringement, claiming he improperly accessed the source code for Miller’s game Boomshine to create ChainRxn. Facebook had argued that Miller didn’t adequately plead direct infringement by Yeo, because Miller’s bare complaint that ChainRxn “looks and feels” identical to Boomshine is insufficient to allege that Yeo had copied the game source code. The Judge disagreed with Facebook, noting that a plaintiff can rarely examine a defendant’s source code… Continue Reading

>Casual Games and Casual Copying

>Imagine releasing a new flash game on the net and then finding out that someone else made your game into a Facebook/iPhone application without your knowledge. The designer of a certain casual game, Boomshine, Daniel Miller, doesn’t have to imagine. His story illustrates why it’s important to understand and consider the range of intellectual property protections available for your next game. Miller has filed a complaint in the Northern District of California, accusing the creator of a copycat game, known as ChainRxn, Yao Wei Yeo, and Facebook of copyright infringement, and improperly allowing the game to remain posted even after being notified of the alleged infringement. In both Boomshine and ChainRxn, the game begins with a set of multicolored dots bouncing around a black background. The player’s only interaction with the game is a single click to create an initial white circle, which causes any of the dots that collide… Continue Reading

>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

>False Patent Marking

>The false marking statute, 35 U.S.C. § 292(a), is a little-known statute (unless you happen to be a patent attorney), that aims to prevent a patent owner from hindering competition by falsely marking their products with a patent number that does not cover the product. The false marking statute provides for damages of “not more than $500 for every such offense.” Furthermore, the false marking statute allows “any person” to sue for the penalty and split the award with the federal government in a qui tam action. In December 2009, the Federal Circuit, in the suit Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co., clarified that “every such offense” meant that each article or product made by an company that was falsely marked will receive a fine of “not more than $500.” Previously, courts had various interpretations of the statute and might find a single offense and fine a company $500… Continue Reading

>Don’t Ignore Open Source License Terms

>If you embed open source software in a retail game or in gaming hardware, you should be diligent about compliance with the open source license terms. Otherwise, both you and your retailer may be in for an unpleasant surprise. The Software Freedom Conservancy, the non-profit corporate home of the open-source Linux application BusyBox, and Erik Andersen, one of the program’s principal developers, recently filed suit against a number of technology manufacturers and retailers, including Samsung and Best Buy. The suit accuses the defendants of infringing the copyright for Busybox by using the program in consumer products such as DVD players and HDTVs in violation of the terms of its license (the GNU General Public License, version 2). The complaint, filed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claims that the defendants were advised that the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 only allowed… Continue Reading

>Hasbro and Atari Duel over a Licensing Spat

>Hasbro, the owner of the venerable Dungeons & Dragons intellectual property has brought suit against Atari, seeking to terminate Atari’s rights to develop video games based on Dungeons & Dragons. According to Hasbro, the license agreement contained (i) a confidentiality provision that prohibited Atari from disclosing non-public information about Dungeons & Dragons video games to third parties and (ii) provisions outlining minimum customer support requirements.As outlined in Hasbro’s complaint, Atari spun off divisions and went through multiple leadership changes, and then had a subsidiary of Namco Bandai (a key Hasbro competitor) take the reigns of certain Dungeons and Dragons games in certain European countries (thereby disclosing Hasbro confidential information to its competitor). Hasbro also includes in the complaint that it went country-by-country to assess Atari’s customer support of Dungeons & Dragons games and found the support lacking. Hasbro is seeking to terminate the license agreement and also brought claims for… Continue Reading

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