Game Design Patents- Protecting the Internal Mechanisms of Video Games?

Detta är en D-uppsats från Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för informatik

Författare: Ola Davidsson; [2004]

Nyckelord: IP; patent; game development; game design; Informatics;

Sammanfattning: The aim of this thesis is to investigate the importance of patents as a means to protect thedesign of video games. It also includes a survey of relevant patents in the on-line database ofthe United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).The background theory explains the basics of Intellectual Property law, and attempts tohighlight the differences in protection provided by trademarks, copyright, trade secrets andpatents. Furthermore, the video game industry of 2003 is analyzed; a review of the differenttypes of companies involved in game production is presented and their internal relationshipsand dependencies are reviewed. This section also describes the cycle of innovation in gamesand introduces two important concepts; Game Design Patents and Game Design Patterns. Theformer defines a specific category of patents aimed at protecting the mechanics and design ofvideo games, while the latter is a methodology describing different interaction elements ingames. The findings from these sections are applied to research, which includes interviewswith a game designer, a patent attorney and a summary of opinions posted on discussionforums on the Internet, to form a coherent picture of the current status of patents in the videogame industry.The second part of the report includes an in-depth study of 50 relevant design patents, ananalysis of the current classification in the database of the USPTO and a number of alternativeclassification methods to further investigate the character of these patents. The results havebeen used to see if there is any other way, besides the current classification, to arrange thepatents to the benefit of game developers or pretty much anyone who does not have the legaland technical competence of a patent attorney.The report concludes that currently, patents are not considered an effective way toprotect the design of a video game, and developers mainly rely on copyright and trade secretlaw to protect their work. Developers are generally not concerned with the risks of patentinfringement, as most patent owners do not actively enforce their patents. However, a numberof future scenarios were discussed in which patents may gain increased importance. As for thesecond part of the survey, it proved extremely difficult to find an alternative way to categorizegame design patents since they are built on established legal abstractions constructed solely toaid the examiners at the patent office. Attempts were made to use game genres and designpatterns to model the substance of each one of the 50 design patents, but none of the methodsproved adequately satisfying. The study of patent references show that a number of patentclasses are particularly relevant, and these should be monitored in order to keep track of newissuances. Coming up with a solution that effectively manages the pool of existing patents isanother matter though and this is particularly troublesome since patents can stay valid for up to20 years.

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