Techdirt is on holiday this Thursday and Friday. We'll be back with our regular posts on the weekend!Hide

Zynga Trying To Patent Virtual Currency

from the copy-everything dept

Back in September, SF Weekly put out an article pointing out that super popular Facebook gamemaker Zynga's strategy has been to copy anyone else's popular game, change the name, market the hell out of it and take over the market. The company has been famous for its somewhat underhanded tactics over the years. That said, I don't think there's anything wrong with copying what's been successful (within the law, obviously) and trying to improve the overall experience. Where things get questionable is when it seeks to stop others from doing the same thing. We've noted in the past that Zynga has tried using copyright and trademark law to block others from the market, which is pretty sleazy given its own style of creating games.

Now it looks like it may be looking to do the same with patent law as well. Jarrett Streebin points us to an article highlighting a patent application from Zynga that certainly appears to be trying to patent a rather common form of virtual currencies. You can see the full patent application, which (amusingly) was published the day after that SF Weekly article.

Now, this is only a patent application, so one can hope that the USPTO comes to its senses and rejects it (though, it's been approving a lot more lately). However, it's still a pretty questionable move -- especially given that two of Zynga's investors, Brad Feld and Fred Wilson, are some of the most vocal anti-software patent advocates out there. It would be a shame if their money is being used to create more bad patents.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Jason, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 2:49pm

    Side note

    I'd love to see a SIMS style virtual market for policy simulation to test out theories on IP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Willton, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 4:40pm

    "Bad patents"

    It would be a shame if their money is being used to create more bad patents.

    Which assumes without evidence that a patent issuing from the application would be a "bad" patent, whatever that means.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Chris in Utah, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 4:51pm


    More like

    from the Do as we say not as we do dept...

    Back in my youth the vampires zynga app had a bonus feature of giving you a skill for playing in the poker rooms (Reason to buy in two linked products). This added the benefit community gathering for those of us that loved playing late night poker with the fringe of not only pop culture goths but heathens, wiccans and the like without getting harassed and outright threatened by radical Christians ect because of a profile pic. They just didn't come into the rue morgue (the server dedicated to the bonus of the vampire zynga game). Without notice they closed the Rue morgue and we started sending in request and petitions to Zynga directly to get it re-opened considering it was the only place this community could play in peace. Not one reply from Zynga to a community reaching in the thousands. Needless I long my respect for Zynga a long time ago.

    Just another nail in the coffin.

    In a world where like interest are hard to find in the net who in there right mind takes that away from there customers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 4:55pm

    Foolish Legislators Creating Madness

    Zynga has a long-standing business practice of sailing close to the wind, legally speaking. Should our foolish legislators be so silly as to offer such a company a government-granted monopoly privilege, it has to be expected that the company will take advantage of any and all legal advantages so offered. The high officers of the company are charged with maximizing the returns to shareholders. One way they can do that, is by getting hold of monopoly privileges, by whatever means available, then using their monopoly to suppress their commercial competition. So anti-competitive behavior has to be expected. Zynga does not set the legal rules under which it operates. That was done by our foolish legislators. Put the blame where it belongs.

    Our legislators could decide to be less foolish, by making government-granted monopoly privileges much harder and more expensive to get hold of. Granting copyright with no fee and no bureaucratic requirements to be fulfilled, constitutes madness. Attaching a monopoly privilege to a patent is also madness. There are other madnesses associated with trademarks, licenses and contracts. A whole new area of madness is being opened up with publicity rights. Vast damage to the economy is being caused by all this madness. The present crop of foolish legislators will never understand what they have done. Vote the bums out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 5:28pm

    Re: Side note

    Too bad it won't happen because the idea of such a simulation is already patented :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 5:29pm

    Re: "Bad patents"

    So if we can't reasonably decipher bad patents from good patents, wouldn't that be a criticism against patents?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    abc gum, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 6:20pm

    Re: "Bad patents"

    All software patents are bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Eric, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 7:31pm

    Prior art

    I remember BBS games like Kyrandia and L.O.R.D. having virtual currency. Not to mention stock market "paper trading" has been around for a long time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 7:39pm

    Re: "Bad patents"

    Well, since virtual currency is indeed in evidence, that would assume you're not paying attention. Not surprising, really. Hell, Linden Labs has an entire virtual economy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2010 @ 3:52am

    Re: Re: "Bad patents"

    Lots of prior art against this application. Linden Dollars for one should predate Zynga.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2010 @ 7:08am

    Let the stupid USPTO approve it like they stupidly approve software patents. Then the rest of the world can sue the crap out of this guy for stealing their idea. WOW, 2nd Life, the list goes on and on for virtual currency.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Shadow Six (profile), Oct 23rd, 2010 @ 11:05am


    I think it goes the other way man. They get the patent they get a hungry lawyer, they get to controll their industry, blocking startups from disrupting their racket, and they collect on work they had nothing to do with. That's pretty much the same story with deep pockets in all industry process patents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Mitch Featherston, Oct 23rd, 2010 @ 1:06pm


    It looks like we will never see a day when companies do not ATTEMPT to "own" some sort of obvious content. I don't have a lot of faith in USPTO killing off these kinds of patents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Spectere (profile), Oct 24th, 2010 @ 8:49pm


    I doubt they'd be able to sue Zynga over the patent, but they can surely get it invalidated easily due to a very healthy amount of prior art being available, not to mention how insanely obvious the concept is. Virtual currency is little more than an electronic rendition of Monopoly money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Hide this ad »
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Hide this ad »
Recent Stories
Hide this ad »


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.