Social Gaming Patent Troll Goes After Facebook, Zynga For In-Game Purchases
from the some-build-bridges,-some-live-under-them dept
Another day, another patent troll. Ars Technica reports that a shell company called Gametek LLC is suing a bunch of social gaming giants, including Facebook and Zynga. The patent? Patent #7,076,445: “A system and methods allowing the creation, integration, and transaction of advantages,” later clarified (somewhat) as giving the user “access to and purchase offered advantages and interact with interactive advertisements to purchase products and or services.” In other words, in-game purchases. The one and only point in the patent’s favor is its early registration date:
“It looks like the patent was filed June 20, 2000, and at that time, I’m not sure this isn’t a novel idea,” Dallas attorney and Law of the Game blog author Mark Methenitis tells Ars Technica. The early filing means the patent “predates Facebook and most all of the social games as we know them,” Methenitis notes, though older gaming services like AOL and Yahoo Games may have been using similar techniques before that.
Even if there is no prior art, this just demonstrates the problem with software patents. Software innovation moves fast, and the majority of “novel” inventions are still pretty obvious and inevitable, usually being developed by multiple people at once. More importantly, they don’t require any actual implementation, just laughably vague descriptions of a concept like the ones above. That allows companies like this to buy a patent, sit on it, do nothing, and attempt to place a private tax on the actual innovators:
But the lawsuit doesn’t seem to comes from a company that actually makes such games. The patent in question was granted in 2006 as the sole protected invention for one Shawn Cartwright. It was then transferred to little-known “revenue transaction software” company Theados Corp. last year, before being reassigned to plaintiff Gametek earlier this month.
The Gametek LLC that filed the lawsuit is based in Newport Beach, Ca., but shares a name with a Florida-based, early-’90s game developer best known for game show adaptations which closed its doors in 1998. The shell company doesn’t seem to have any legitimate products in social gaming or any other field, and may have been created specifically to argue this case.
When companies are able to hold back real progress while contributing zilch, it’s just more evidence that the patent system is broken.