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Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I would like to depict an elevator system in a video game.

This elevator system is deliberately similar to a real elevator system. That real elevator system has a software control system which makes it behave the way it does. This system would infringe patents if implemented in a real elevator system.

If I were to include an implementation of the control system for this depiction of an elevator system, would that infringe a patent on the control system?

Example of a patent relevant to this scenario

  • I think you have to ask yourself the question if you are actually recreating the control software in your game application – Alex Jan 16 '16 at 17:26
  • @Alex Assuming the control system is the same; the main difference would be that the sensor events are coming from a generic simulation, and the control events are feeding that generic simulation. I worry that the "objects" in the generic simulation could contain an "elevator car" for the purposes of the patent. Mostly wondering if they would have to stipulate or imply that, in order for it to be protected. – Aaron Hamilton Feb 10 '16 at 3:43
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That is not possible.

Firstly, you cannot patent an idea. A transport means that goes up and down (an elevator) is just a concept and cannot be patented. You can only patent implementation of the idea. In the case of an elevator, the claims are certain to specify certain physical elements required to implement the system.

Secondly, for a patent to be valid, it must be "useful". A visual control system is only useful if the visualization is a representation of a physical system actually working.

Even in the case someone files a patent with claims so broad that it encompasses both physical and virtual elevators, and in the extremely unlikely case that the patent get granted, it would be easy the challenge the validity of the patent and have the court limit the claims to something more meaningful.

The only time you will get into trouble is that the patent is itself a software patent, for example, a patent specifically on elevator simulation. A good test for that is ask yourself this question: "do you think that your visual control system is patent-able?"

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Your video game will not infringe because the claims mention:

dispatching the elevator car

You're not doing that. You're just drawing pictures on a screen.

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  • How certain can you be of that? I, not having seen any cases, could believe that the court might think that a "virtual elevator car" is an elevator car. – Aaron Hamilton Feb 10 '16 at 3:39

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