Since some years ago, traditional video games have been undergoing a deep status change. They are not life-sinks any more, providing the satisfaction of accomplishing a very important mission in return for losing the perception of the world’s news in the last months. Now they are “professional e-sports” and have even been accepted as “sporting activity” by the IOC.
Fast extension through mobile devices and game consoles makes that some titles become best-sellers and are popularised by some sport (without “e-“) personalities.
Choosing one that is very fashionable nowadays will condemn this article to premature aging when the next one appears, but we are going to look at Fortnite. Epic Games has found the goose that laid the golden eggs and does not skimp on resources of all kinds to keep the hype and addiction to its famous product.
Like all successful products, it is supported by a series of patents. Being a videogame, always threatened by the shadow of several exclusions and exceptions to patentability according to the European Patent Convention, it is a scarce number: 7 families, all of them exclusively focused on the USA. It is striking that such a large company has such a small patent portfolio, but it is true that software and patents have always had a rather tense relationship. But let’s see what inventions have come out of this company:
The first three patents were filed more than 10 years ago. All of them are related to particular aspects of programming, so it would be difficult to get a direct granting in the European Patent Office, although all of them have nuances that would allow an adaptation that would have options to achieve it.
Patent US 7,735,061 B1 is directed to a method to encode numerical types of variable precision, determining the type of variables used by a system and coding values that do not conform to said size, to generate a reference in heap.
US 8,402,451 B1 protects a method for converting a set of program environment data stored in thunks to a new set of program environment data stored in values, by searching in a code expressions having recursive dependencies and generating code executable in eager evaluation mode based on the fact of providing code both in eager evaluation mode and in non-eager evaluation mode to execute software that supports both modes.
US 8,819,641 B1 is directed to a method for analyzing the execution status of a program for use in a debugger. It includes identifying stages of non-deterministic execution in the program in one or more threads and recording the status of the program properties in those stages to activate the determination of the execution status of the first program.
Having the soil prepared…
In 2013-2015 several patents were filed, which were granted in 2015-2016, whose content begins to be more familiar to the Fortnite players (which, remember, went on sale in 2017). Provided the evolution between the prosecution stages of those first applications and those of the latter, a change of status in the USPTO towards a more “premium” level is appreciated.
US 9,017,171 B2 is focused on the management of missions to be completed by several different players, where the missions have a beginning and an end and a state of fulfillment of the mission can be assigned. The beginning of each season is an example of application of this patent.
US 9,072,974 B2 and US 9,474,966 B2 protect a method that includes the transmission of a poll to a social network, so that the results can be collected in the game and cause changes in it. It seems that Twitter has been the most used social network to implement this aspect.
US 9,144,740 B2 refers to the interaction between data of a game and a social network, calculating the game a certain interaction score based on the data it receives from the social network, using this data to award rewards of missions within the game.
US 9,399,166 B1 refers to a method for defining “weak points” in an object, so that the player can hit them and achieve a very significant damage increase. Figures 4 to 7 show it crystal clear. Who has not cut down a tree faster thanks to this patent?
US 9,517,402 B1 is aimed at identifying the possible fraudulent activity of a player through the analysis of his footprint, generated from the interaction data with other players and with the environment, so that the misappropriation of the identity of said player can be identified and this player may be punished.
Many of the patents indicated above could have been adapted for granting in the European Patent Office, despite having as main objective software elements. At Tribalyte Ideas we have a team of professional attorneys who can help companies based on this activity to obtain patents that can improve their strategic positioning in the market.
But life is not only about patents… It has recently been known that Alfonso Ribeiro (a.k.a Carlton Banks) has sued the company Epic Games for copying his famous dance of the song “It’s not unusual” in its video game. You do not have to be a Lawyer to notice the deep similarity between the original dance and the copy. Other artists have followed the same path, but an open a debate could be discussed about the scope of the intellectual property generated from a dance. Unfortunately, this topic falls beyond the competence of this author, so let’s leave it for the skilled persons…