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Category — Cases/Disputes

Gibson Sues MTV, EA & Harmonix over Guitar Patent

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesRoyalty Disputes

Text of MTV/EA/Harmonix Complaint (March 20, 2008)
Text Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

After “good faith efforts to enter into a patent license agreement”, and subsequent yesterday’s filing of law suits against Activision’s Guitar Hero retailers, Gibson has filed another patent infringement suit against MTV, EA & Harmonix in the Federal District Court in Tennessee. Gibson owns patent no. 5,990,405.

Gibson claims Harmonix infringed its patent as the developer of Guitar Hero 1 and 2 (now published by Activision – previously published by RedOctane). After Harmonix parted ways with RedOctane, it was purchased by MTV. Harmonix subsequently developed the successful video game – Rock Band. EA distributes the game. Gibson claims that Rock Band infringes its patents and as such Harmonix, the game developer, MTV, the game publisher and EA, the game distributor, are all infringing its patents.

Harmonix has responded in an email to Wired Blog’s as follows:

“Gibson’s patent, filed nearly 10 years ago, required a 3D display, a real musical instrument and a recording of a concert. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are completely different: among other things they are games, require no headset and use a controller only shaped like a real instrument. It is unfortunate that Gibson unfairly desires to share in the tremendous success enjoyed by the developers of Rock Band and Guitar Hero,”

While Gibson previously threatened action against the current Guitar Hero publisher Activision, as far as I know, no law suit has been filed against Activision.

The 405 patent’s abstract reads:

A musician can simulate participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers. Audio and video portions of a musical concert are pre-recorded, along with a separate sound track corresponding to the musical instrument played by the musician. Playback of the instrument sound track is controlled by signals generated in the musical instrument and transmitted to a system interface box connected to the audio-video play back device, an audio mixer, and the head-mounted display. An external bypass switch allows the musician to suppress the instrument sound track so that the sounds created by actual playing of the musical instrument are heard along with the pre-recorded audio and video portions.

Dale’s Comment: I have not yet found the text of the claim online. If/when I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: Wired Blogs 1 | Wired Blogs 2 | CNNMOney.com (DJN) | Reuters | Joystiq | New York Times 1 | New York Times 2 | Wall St. Journal | MTV Blog | PC World | AP

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Gibson Sues U.S. Retailers Over Guitar Hero Patent Dispute

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Text of Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

As previously reported: (i) in January, Gibson pressed Activision to pay it royalty fees alleging the video game Guitar Hero infringes its patent; and (ii) on March 12, 2008 Activision filed a preemptive lawsuit in the District Court for Central California seeking, among other things, to invalidate Gibson’s patent claims.

In response to Activision’s lawsuit, Gibson has now filed suit against major U.S. retailers of Activision’s game, including GameStop, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Amazon and Toys “R” US, seeking to enjoin further sails of “Guitar Hero”.

March 21, 2oo8 Upate: While Gibson has since separately sued Harmonix, MTV and EA over alleged infringements in both Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero, as far as I’m aware Gibson has not yet filed suit directly against Activision.

Dale’s Comment: I have not found the text of the claim online. If/when I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: GameSpot | Dallas Business Journal | New York Times | Joystiq | msnbc (AP) | Yahoo! Tech | Gamasutra | CrunchGear | Silicon Alley Insider | Kotaku

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8th Circuit Upholds Permanent Injunction Against Minnesota’s Law Restricting Video Game Sales/Rentals to Minors

Categories: Violent Game Law Cases

ESA v. Minnesota (March 17, 2008 – 8th Cir Court of Appeals)
Click to hear Oral Arguments on Appeal (Feb 12, 2007)
Text of Appeal (Aug 29, 2006)
Permanent Injunction (July 31, 2006 – District Court)
Text of Complaint (June 6, 2006)
Text of Enjoined Bill (May 22, 2006)

In another of a long line of such U.S. First Amendment video game cases, The United States 8th Circuit upheld the July 2006 permanent injunction enjoining Minnesota from enforcing a law that would have: (i) imposed $25 fines on children under 17 who bought or rented video games rated M (Mature) or AO (Adults only); and (ii) required retailers to post signs informing consumers of the law. The appellate court’s reasoning was as follows:

  1. Video games are protected free speech (as per Interactive Digital Software Ass’n v St. Louis County, 329 F.3d 954, 958 (8th Cir. 2003)).
  2. As such, video game rental/purchase restrictions imposed by law must pass the ‘strict scrutiny‘ test, namely the law must: (i) be necessary to serve a compelling state interest; and (ii) be narrowly tailored to achieve that end.
  3. The state argued that the compelling interest at stake was that of ‘safeguarding the psychological well being and moral and ethical development of minors’.
  4. While the interest may be compelling in the abstract, in order to prevail the state must provide real and empirical support for its belief that ‘violent’ video games cause such harm – not merely conjecture.
  5. The court agreed that Minnesota offered substantial evidence in support of its contention that video games cause such harm, but nonetheless ruled that the evidence fell short of the statistical certainty of causation required by the Interactive decision.

CONTINUE READING →

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Major Video Game Piracy Raid in Mexico City

Categories: Piracy CasesPolice Actions

Five Hundred Mexican police officers raided four Mexican video game piracy operations in the Tepito area of Mexico City (the center of the local black market) netting some 28,000 pirated game copies, 290 DVD/CD burners and 900,000 game covers.

Sources: Bit-tech.net | Joystiq | Next Generation | Game Politics | Portalit | IGN | ESA Press Release

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Activision Asks Court to Invalidate Gibson’s Guitar Hero Patent Claims

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesRoyalty Disputes

Text of Activision Complaint Seeking Declaratory Relief (March 11, 2008)
Text of Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

Activision has a long-standing license to use guitar-maker Gibson’s trademarks in its Guitar Hero video game franchise.

Gibson owns a hitherto unknown and unenforced patent ’405 (A System and method for generating and controlling a simulated musical concert experience) and claimed in a letter sent to Activision in January, that the Guitar Hero franchise, expansion packs and controllers infringe this patent. In the letter Gibson sought royalty payments from Activision:

Gibson requests that Activision obtain a license under Gibson’s … patent or halt sales of any version of the Guitar Hero game software.

In response, Activision has filed a preemptive lawsuit in the District Court for Central California asking the court, among other things, to invalidate Gibson’s patent claims and to bar it from seeking damages.

The abstract of Gibson’s patent no. 5,990,405 reads as follows:

A musician can simulate participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers. Audio and video portions of a musical concert are pre-recorded, along with a separate sound track corresponding to the musical instrument played by the musician. Playback of the instrument sound track is controlled by signals generated in the musical instrument and transmitted to a system interface box connected to the audio-video play back device, an audio mixer, and the head-mounted display. An external bypass switch allows the musician to suppress the instrument sound track so that the sounds created by actual playing of the musical instrument are heard along with the pre-recorded audio and video portions.

Sources: Gamasutra | Next Generation 1 | Next Generation 2 | GameSpot | InformationWeek | engadget | Joystiq | MacWorld | Wall Street Journal | CNet | Yahoo! News (Reuters)

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Harmonix Brings $14.5M Royalty Suit Against Activision – Sort-of

Categories: Controller CasesRoyalty Disputes

Harmonix is the developer of the first two wildly successful Guitar Hero video games – originally published by RedOctane. In June 2006 Activision purchased the publishing rights to the franchise from RedOctane and Harmonix, which was subsequently purchased by MTV, went its own way and developed Guitar Hero. Activision-owned Neversoft has since taken-up the development of Guitar Hero sequels.

Harmonix claims that under its original agreement with RedOctane (subsequently assigned to Activision), it is entitled to a higher rate of royalties, amounting to $14.5 million, for the use of its intellectual property in Guitar Hero sequels. Harmonix claims that Activision has paid royalties based only on a prior lower rate.

Viacom (the parent of MTV and Harmonix) has reportedly withdrawn the suit for now. The companies have agreed to continue discussions outside of court.

Dale’s Comment: I could not find the text of the claim online. If I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: Variety | Gamasutra | GameSpot | Wired Blogs | CutScene | ars technica | GameSpot | Spong | Kotaku | Game Informer | gameindustry.biz

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Texas Student in Hot Water For Making Counterstike Map Based on his High School

Categories: Modding CasesPolice Actions

Police Report (April 26, 2007)
A day after the Virginia Tech massacre, police in Fort Bend Texas investigated an Asian high school senior, Paul Hwang, as a potential “terrorist threat” for making a counter-strike map mod based on his high-school, Clements High. His family’s home was subsequently searched.

No charges were laid but ornamental knives and a hammer were seized from his room. The student was transferred to another school. The parents are appealing the transfer.

Note: It is unclear from conflicting reports whether the student was arrested or not.

Dale’s Comment: This is an example of a talented Counter-Strike modder being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is nothing unusual about high-schoolers making mods for the popular Counter-Strike video game. In a twist on the common writing adage “write what you know”, this unfortunate student modded what he knew, and got caught up in a storm of contemporary controversy.

As a side note: This teen looks like he may have a career in the video game industry. As can be seen on this Fox News Video Report the mod is very good.
Fox News Video Report

Sources: FortBendNow | Houston Chronicle| GamePolitics.com | Kotaku | Kotaku II | Joystiq | Joystiq II

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Take Two Settles with Jack Thompson

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Jack ThompsonSettlementsViolent Game Law Cases

Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release (April 17, 2007)
Text of Amended Answer and Counterclaim (March 28, 2007)
- amended to remove all but one paragraph of the counterclaim
Text of Original Answer and Counterclaim (March 21, 2007)
Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

Take-Two and Jack Thompson have settled their GTA IV/Manhunt 2 suit and counter suit. Thompson has agreed:

  1. not to sue or threaten to sue over the sale and distribution of ANY game – not just Manhunt 2 and GTA IV as sought in the original complaint – designed, published, manufactured, distributed or sold by Take-Two, its affiliates, subsidiaries etc.;
  2. not to threaten such suits; and
  3. to communicate with Take-Two only through its lawyers.

However, Thompson will still be free to criticize the content and distribution of such games and to represent third-party plaintiffs in actions against Take-Two, its affiliates, subsidiaries etc. alleging individual harm.

Dale’s Comment: It is odd for a settlement to contain an explicit agreement to limit communication with an opposing party to communication through counsel as the rules of professional conduct in most jurisdictions specifically prohibit lawyers from communicating directly with persons represented by counsel.

CONTINUE READING →

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WeeWorld Suit Dropped WITHOUT Prejudice Despite Nintendo’s Opposition

Categories: Trademark Cases

Last month WeeWorld asked a judge to dismiss its WeeMee/Mii suit without prejudice (meaning they could re-institute the case at a later date) while seeking relief in the UK before resuming any action in the U.S.

Nintendo objected requesting:

  1. dismissal of the suit with prejudice (meaning WeeWorld would not be able to re-institute the case at a later date); and
  2. recovery of its legal fees incurred on the matter to date – estimated at around $400,000.

According to an open letter from WeeWorld’s CEO, Celia Francis:

The court has ruled in our favor and while we have been asked to pay a small part of Nintendo’s legal fees, the case was dismissed “without prejudice.”

Sources: Open Letter from WeeWorld

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Activision Settles with Two Former Guitar Hero Executives

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesEmployment Law CasesInjunctionsMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesSettlementsTrade Secret CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

In February, Activision launched a new lawsuit against The Ant Commandos (TAC), Reverb Communications and three former Red Octane executives/employees: former executive producer John Tam, brand manager [name removed on request] and hardware group member Jamie Yang. These former executives founded a new company with TAC – Loadstone Entertainment.

Activision has settled with John Tam and [name removed on request]. The two have consented to a permanent injunction restraining the two from:

  • distributing a demo created by TAM incorporating elements of Guitar Hero II;
  • using or disclosing any Activision trade secrets;
  • taking steps to develop drum, guitar or synthesizer-based games for the next year;
  • “working on” a guitar controller for the XBox 360 version of Guitar Hero II for six months after release; and
  • competing against an undisclosed list of peripheral devices for six months after Activision commercially releases them.

The two were also ordered to return all materials relating to Activision’s proprietary information.

As far as I’m aware, no settlement has thus far been reached with Jamie Yang, Reverb or TAC.

Dale’s Comment [written April 26, 2007]: On a personal note, I was one of the lucky one’s to pick up Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 on launch day. The local Best Buy had about 100 of them on the morning of the launch. As I understand it, they sold out within hours and, to the date of this writing (owing partially to extreme demand and problems with some versions of the initially released guitar peripheral), I still can’t find them for sale anywhere in Toronto. I would like to purchase a second guitar peripheral. I’m having a blast with this game. As one of the commentators in a recent Joystiq Podcast pointed out, my fingers ache and want to stop playing long before the rest of me does! :)

Sources: GameSpot | Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | 1Up.com | CVG | Kotaku

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Mother Sues Vivendi and Sony over Alleged Spyro-Enduced Seizures

Categories: Product Liability Cases

Despite a warning notice on the inside front cover of the instruction manual warning that some users may experience epileptic seizures (a warning contained on most every video game I’ve ever purchased), a New York woman is suing Vivendi, Sierra Entertainment and Sony alleging that her young son suffered seizures as a result of playing the Spyro video game.

Nintendo obtained a summary judgement in its favor over a similar lawsuit in 2003 when a woman claiming her son died of a seizure when playing Nintendo 64 failed to respond to the summary judgment motion.

Dale’s Comment: Given the warning label, this doesn’t seem like a winning case. Parents may wish to take these precautions suggested by epilepsy action to minimize the possibility of their children experiencing video-game related seizures.

Sources: GameSpot | EuroGamer | joystiq | GamesDog | Kotaku

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Jack Thompson Countersues Take-Two

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Jack ThompsonViolent Game Law Cases

Text of Amended Answer and Counterclaim (March 28, 2007)
- amended to remove all but one paragraph of the counterclaim
Text of Original Answer and Counterclaim (March 21, 2007)
Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

In response to last-week’s Take-Take-Two law-suit seeking to preemptively stop him from bringing suit:

  1. to stop the sale and distribution of Manhunt 2 (due out in the summer of 2007) and GTA IV (due out in October 2007); and
  2. seeking pre-publication review of the games;

as he did in the past with Bully, Thompson has predictably brought a countersuit accusing Take-Two of racketeering and violation of his civil rights.Astonishingly, Thompson, in the original counterclaim (subsequently amended), Thompson accused Take-Two of conspiring with prominent online gaming publications GamePolitics, Kotaku, Spong, Joystiq, Gamespot, IGN, Game Informer, Electronic Gaming Weekly, Penny Arcade, and others to commit racketeering activities!Specifically, Thompson originally claimed that such “conspiracy” violated section 18 USC 241 which states, in part:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in ny State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or njoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;… They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both;

Wow, this is, err, novel! As noted by GamePolitics.com, however, Thompson subsequently amended the counterclaim from 20 pages down to the following single pargraph:

If the court finds that it has jurisdiction over this matter, it should review the video games in question, allow a review of those games by this defendant and then hear argument if requested by this defendant as to wherein the Plaintiff should be enjoined from distributing video games to minors.

CONTINUE READING →

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Nintendo Objects to WeeWorld’s Request to Drop Mii Suit Without Prejudice

Categories: Trademark Cases

According to GameSpot, last November UK-based WeeWorld filed suit alleging Nintendo’s Mii Avatar system infringed its similar WeeMee avatar system.

WeeWorld’s system allows users to create cartoon-like avatars for use with Skype, AIM, Windows Live Messegner and other instant messaging programs. The Nintendo Wii allows users to create Nintendo Mii avatars for use with the Nintendo Wii’s gaming system both on and offline.

Recently, WeeWorld asked the judge to dismiss the suit without prejudice (meaning they could re-institute the case at a later date) citing an intent to seek relief in the UK before resuming any action in the U.S.

Arguing that its Mii system does not infringe upon WeeWorld’s WeeMee trademarks because there is no possibility of confusion, Nintendo has filed an objection to WeeWorld’s dismissal request, seeking both:

  1. dismissal of the suit with prejudice (meaning WeeWorld would not be able to re-institute the case at a later date); and
  2. recovery of its legal fees incurred on the matter to date – estimated at around $400,000.

Sources: GameSpot | GameStooge | Kotaku | GamePro.com | Qj.net | Open Letter from WeeWorld

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Nova’s Pool-Cue Game Mechanics Not Protectable by U.K. Copyright

Categories: Copyright CasesDecisions

Text of Decision , HTML version, RTF Version (UK Court of Appeal – March 14, 2007)
Text of Decision , HTML version, RTF Version (England & Wales High Court – Chancery Division – January 20, 2006)

In what seems to be little more than another “look and feel” decision specific to the video game industry, the U.K. Court of Appeal upheld a prior Chancery Division decision ruling against Nova Productions in finding, yet again, that general ideas behind computer games, or in this case specific game mechanics, and other programs are not protectable under U.K. copyright:

“Merely making a program which will emulate another but which in no way involves copying the program code or any of the program’s graphics is legitimate,”

In this case, the court found no copyright in the “imagery” relating to either: (i) lines of dots indicating the direction of a pool shot; or (ii) an “in-time” mechanic that permits the player to alter the power of a simulated pool shot by timing the shot relative to a pulsing power level – see the images in the Annexes of the HTML version of the Chancery Division decision. Providing similar, but different, “imagery” to depict the same game mechanic idea is not infringing.

CONTINUE READING →

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Mid-Way Sued over Psi-Ops

Categories: Copyright CasesRoyalty DisputesTrademark Cases

Midway Games is being sued by William L. Crawford III, a Los Angeles County screenwriter, over its Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy sci-fi stealth-action game. Crawford claims the premise, plot and characters were stolen from a screenplay he wrote in 1998 – also called Psi-Ops.

Crawford claims that Midway should have known about his screenplay and its premise because:

  • he had set up websites with concept art;
  • he attended the 2001 E3 to promote it.
  • his company, Mindshadow Entertainment, had received media coverage for a possible  Psi-Ops movie project.
  • he had registered “Psi-Ops” with the U.S. Copyright Office six years prior to Midway’s registration.

Crawford seeks an accounting and share of revenue made from “Psi-Ops” sales in an amount no less than $1.5 million.

Dale’s Comment: On a personal note, immediately following its release I purchased this game for the original Xbox. It was unplayable. Like several games of its era, it made me nausious within five minutes of firing it up. Too bad. It looked like a fun game.

Sources: GameSpot | gameindustry.biz | SoftPedia | Yahoo! Games | Kotaku | IGN | 1Up.com

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RollerCoaster Tycoon Case to Proceed to U.K. High Court

Categories: Misc. CasesPublisher/Developer CasesRoyalty DisputesTortious Interference

Atari was sued by RollerCoaster Tycoon developer Chris Sawyer in November 2005 alleging unpaid royalties.

Atari counterclaimed Sawyer alleging he induced game developer Frontier to breach its contract with Atari in creating a demo based on the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise.

Apparently the UK’s law on inducement to breach is in flux and the outcome of Atari’s counterclaim is contingent on two cases pending before the House of Lords. Nonetheless Judge Lord Justice Chadwick is permitting the RollerCoaster Tycoon case to proceed to trial, but subject to the outcome of the other two cases.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz

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China Curbs Use of Virtual Money

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsVirtual Crime CasesVirtual Property CasesVirtual Property Taxation

In an effort to stave off a new form of money laundering, prohibited gambling and threats to the Chinese yuan (Chinese currency), Chinese Web sites have been ordered to limit the use of virtual money. Public prosecutor Yang Tao says “The QQ coin is challenging the status of the [yuan] as the only legitimate currency in China.”

Specifically, virtual money may only be used to buy virtual products and services the companies provide themselves, issuance will be limited, and users are “strictly forbidden” from trading it into legal tender for a profit.

QQ coins, issued by Tencent.com – China’s largest instant-messaging service provider – are the most popular form of online credits used by 220 million users. They are being used to pay for an increasing array of services including gambling, phone sex services and shopping online

CONTINUE READING →

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Sony Finally Settles Rumble Patent Dispute with Immersion

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesSettlements

Text of Immersion Patent

Almost a full year after Immersion won an appeal brought by Sony in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, after it lost at trial, and after a year of Sony marketing types insisting that rumble was a last-generation feature that wouldn’t be compatible with its new Sixaxis tilt control scheme, Sony has settled its long-standing patent dispute with Immersion and has licensed Immersion’s patented force feedback technology for use with future “PlayStation format products.”.

Sony will pay Immersion the $82 million previously awarded (Immersion had originally sought $299 million) plus $8.7 million in pre-judgment interest, in addition to compulsory license fees ordered by the District Court that were already paid.” Sony will also pay Immersion royalty/license fees of $1.875 million in each of the next twelve quarters (3 years), beginning in April 2007, totaling $22.5 million, along with other fees and royalties.

Dale’s Comment [April 30, 2007]: This couldn’t have come soon enough for this gamer. Aside from the exorbitant price and the lack of compelling games, a primary reason I haven’t yet purchased a PS3 (and yes, as I write this, PS3s are stacked high in my local Best Buy) is because I don’t want to play games without force feedback. Force feedback is integral to identifying the location of attacking foe and, frankly, rumble adds another sensory input that emerses the player more fully into the game. To my mind, Sony’s decision to release a console without rumble was akin to releasing a console without sound.

Sony has not yet announced or released a controller with rumble. But, on April 19, 2007 Sony released a PS3 firmware upgrade that activated rumble functionality for PS1 and PS2 games played on the PS3. On April 27, Engadget reported that Sony and Immersion were in talks to incorporate rumble within PS3 controllers. It appears we can expect a rumble-enabled PS3 controller sometime soon. There will likely be no PS3 in my household before then. But, the forthcoming Lair and Warhawk games are mighty tempting.

Sources: Gamasutra | Engadget | IGN.com | GameDaily.com | Immersion Press Release

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Blizzard/Vivendi Countersue WowGlider ‘bot Creator

Categories: Antitrust/Competition CasesBotsCheatingCopyright CasesDMCA-TPM CasesGold FarmingHackingTortious InterferenceTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

Case Management Summary (March 27, 2007)
Text of Blizzard’s/Vivendi’s Answer & Counterclaim (Feb 16, 2007)
Text of MDY’s (Donnelly’s) Complaint (Oct 25, 2006)

Michael Donnelly created a ‘bot’ program called WowGlider (since renamed to simply “Glider” in response to Blizzard’s trademark complaints) that allows players of the wildly popular World of Warcraft (“WOW”) MMORPG to automate their game play and keep their character “playing” 24/7.

Using this bot the player can continue to level up and harvest gold 24/7 without actually having to play the game – an activity widely considered to be cheating. The use of such “bots” circumvent Blizzard’s security/anti-cheating measures and are prohibited by WOW’s EULA and terms of use.

In the fall of 2006 Blizzard (and its parent Vivendi) demanded Donnelly cease selling the bot. In response, On October 25, 2006 Donnelly’s company MDY filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Arizona seeking a Declaratory Judgment that it is not infringing any rights, copyright or otherwise owned by Blizzard and Vivendi.

CONTINUE READING →

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Oral Arguments in Minnesota Video Game Law Appeal Begin

Categories: Violent Game Law Cases

ESA v. Minnesota (March 17, 2008 – 8th Cir Court of Appeals)
Click to hear Oral Arguments on Appeal (Feb 12, 2007)
Text of Appeal (Aug 29, 2006)
Permanent Injunction (July 31, 2006 – District Court)
Text of Complaint (June 6, 2006)
Text of Enjoined Bill (May 22, 2006)

The United States 8th Circuit begins hearing oral arguments today in Minnesota’s appeal of a District Court ruling that its 2006 “fine the buyer” video game statute was unconstitutional. A permanent injunction against Minnesota’s violent video game bill was granted in July 2006.

The law would have imposed $25 fines on children under 17 who bought or rented video games rated M (Mature) or AO (Adults only). The trial judge found that Minnesota was “…entirely incapable of showing a causal link between the playing of video games and any deleterious effect on the psychological, moral, or ethical well-being of minors [p. 7] …absent compelling evidence, the belief is pure conjecture”. [p. 13] Accordingly, the bill failed the strict scrutiny test necessary to survive a First Amendment challenge.

Sources: GamePolitics

GamePolitics Full Coverage Of Minnesota’s Violent Video Game Law

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Activision Sues Ant Commandos and Former Guitar Hero Executives

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesEmployment Law CasesMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesTrade Secret CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

In a new Guitar Hero related dispute, Activision (Guitar Hero publisher RedOctane’s parent company), has filed a fresh lawsuit against guitar peripheral maker The Ant Commando (TAC), Red Octane’s PR firm Reverb Communications and three former Red Octane executives/employees: former executive producer John Tam, brand manager [name removed on request] and hardware group member Jamie Yang. The former executives founded a new company with TAC – Loadstone Entertainment.

The complaint alleges:

“copyright infringement, trademark infringement, misappropriating trade secrets and confidential information, breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, and more. “

GameSpot is reporting that Activision has already obtained a temporary restraining order against the defendants restraining them from:

  • distributing a demo created by TAM incorporating elements of Guitar Hero II;
  • using or disclosing any Activision trade secrets, including: music licensing contract terms, in-game advertising, sales figures, marketing plans, product designs, and possible future songs and artists to be featured;
  • developing a guitar controller for the XBox 360 version of Guitar Hero II for three months after release;
  • soliciting Activision employees, partners or Asia-based manufacturing partners; and
  • taking any steps to develop, market, manufacture, sell, or distribute any guitar or drum based video games.

As recently as December 27, 2006, Activision and Red Octane had settled a different dispute with TAC concerning the sale of unlicensed guitar peripherals. See here for details.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | Kotaku

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eBay Bans Virtual Property / RMT Auctions

Categories: Gold FarmingVirtual Property Cases

Hot on the heals of South Korean Gold Famers forming a lobby group, EBay has banned the sale of such virtual property on its popular online auction system – often referred to as Real Money Trading (“RMT”) of virtual goods. Many online gaming publishers prohibit such trading, while others, like Linden Lab’s popular MMRPG, Second Life, not only permit it, but encourage it and even promote it as a beneficial feature to gamers.

Specifically, the following items cannot be auctioned of on eBay going forward:

  • characters
  • in-game currency (a.k.a. “gold”)
  • weapons
  • character attire
  • online game accounts

Significantly, the eBay ban does not apply to RMT of Second Life virtual property.

This ban will be a boon to IGE, a popular site for real money trading of virtual property. While eBay is likely doing this to avoid lawsuits from online gaming publishers that prohibit RMT, it is also walking away from a huge growth “industry” with the value of such annual trading estimated to be between $200 M and $1 billion.

Sources: CNet | GamePolitics.com | Slashdot | TechNewsWorld | Gamasutra | Wired | Virtual Economics | SeekinAlpha

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PC World: Virtual Gold Could Draw Real Taxes

Categories: Virtual Property CasesVirtual Property Taxation

PC World discusses Congressional investigations into whether virtual gains will be taxable.

Click here to read the article.

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Gold Farmers Form Lobby Group in South Korea

Categories: Gold FarmingTrade AssociationsVirtual Property Cases

In an attempt to legitimize their ‘business’ and lobby governments, South Korean virtual gold farmers have formed the lobby group Digital Asset Distribution Promotion Association (DADPA). The “industry” is reportedly worth $1 billion a year.

Sources: Ars Technica | GamePolitics.com | ETNews | Ralph Koster

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Gamasutra Feature: 10 Most Important Video Game Patents

Categories: Featured ArticlesPatent CasesPatents

Love’m or hate’m, video game patents have played an important role in the evolution of the video game industry.

Ross Dannenberg and Steve Chang of Banner & Witcoff, Ltd have put together this terrific feature article: “The Ten Most Important Video Game Patents” for Gamasutra. In assessing the patents’ importance, they used four criteria:

  1. Relativity to Video Games
  2. Financial Value
  3. Technological Importance
  4. The IT-Factor

The winning patents honored/discussed in the piece are:

Check it out, its a good read.

Also, FYI, I have discovered Ross’ Patent Arcade blog where, among other things, he tracks Video Game Lawsuits. For your future reference I have added it to my “Video Game Law Blogs” roll down the right side of my blog (after “Topics”).

Source: Gamasutra

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