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Patents in gaming industry


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Some questions, if some of the devs are still here or if there is life left in this particular forum...


Many people might know about the software patents and lawsuits related to them, but as far as I can see, most of the patents are related to "non-gaming" things (information systems, network security, e-commerce, etc).


Now the questions:


How relevant are software patents to game industry?

Does an average game developer have legal workers researching this particular area to avoid potential patents infringement?

Were there any relevant suitcases against game developing companies?

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If think there were one recently between Creative Labs and Id Software. If I remember well, it was about one of the main algorithm used in the Doom 3 Engine to handle the shadows, known as Carmack Reversed. Creative has a patent on this and sued Id Software. Then, they made an agreement and a better integration of the EAX were to be done in Doom 3. I don't know if is actually the case. I think Id said Creative has to made this patch or something like this.

So yes, this is relevant in the gaming industry and it could harm little developpers as well as an IBM or Microsoft bunch of software patents could be harmfull for little software developpers. Aoh, yes, they said they made all these patents to defend themselves and avoid an Eolas cas. So you may infrige their patents, but not trying to sue them if they infringe yours, since they'll say something like "Yes, we ARE infringing your patent, but look, you ARE infringing 200 of us, so shut up!". But I have some doubts about these so-called "defense patenting".

Unfortunately, nobody in Europe have seen the need of a real debate on the topic, there is just pro and cons lobbyists...

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Personally I don't think that patents are very useful in the game's industry. Most of what we create today from a technology standpoint is going to get thrown out after a few years. An example would be 3D engines, which are put together and written very differently than they were even four or five years ago. Of the stuff that we could re-use, most of that is basic computer science which has been taught in schools for years.


I would suppose that you could patent a particular method for shadows like the Creative Lab thing, but the 3D hardware might change in six months and your patent is now useless.


It might be that patents would make more sense to companies that are making specific types of technology that they licence to a bunch of different companies.


As for us being aware of patents. Since, they don't play a large part in the industry we don't worry about them too much. Plus, much of what we put into games is in the public domain we are usually protected.


We stay in touch with possible problems by being active in game developer community forums, talking to other developers and having a lawyer who represents a bunch of different game developers.

Feargus Urquhart


Obsidian Entertainment, Inc.

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