In reference to the patent: US7216870

Does this mean that one cannot create a game that allows players to gain a resource when playing a card? Or would making resource accumulation as part of a cards "summon" effect circumvent this - I think that card effects were described in the patent as different from their "invention" since it is an instance of the card itself and not the game. Control-F "instance" and read the small yugioh sentence in the section; perhaps I'm not reading/understanding it properly?

Can the mechanic itself of resource accumulation by playing a card even be claimed in a general sense? After all Netrunner (1996) provided players with "credits" when playing a card, which were the players resource. Is it just their terminology, or the process of having a specific phase/step where the game "checks" all cards in play and grants resource points for it? Or is it their entire unique process from start to finish? Perhaps I'm way off, since I really don't get it.

Thank you in advance. I sincerely appreciate everyone who takes the time to look into/advise on this.

  • Are you interested in this on a theoretical basis or actually planning to create a game like this? – DonQuiKong Apr 7 at 8:14

As with all patents, what is covered is defined by the claims. Here is the first claim.

  1. A game mechanic method for playing a game played by a plurality of players on a playing field, said game mechanic method comprising the steps of:

    (a) at least one player obtaining a plurality of game components to form a playing hand of game components, each game component having a resource point value, and

    each game component being either in an “in play” state wherein the game component is placed on the playing field or an “out of play” state wherein the game component is in a player's playing hand and not on the playing field;

    (b) at least one player transitioning one of said obtained game components from said “out of play” state to said “in play” state;

    (c) at least one player earning resource points according to said resource point value of said selected game component by transitioning said selected game components from said “out of play” state to said “in play” state; and

    (d) accumulating resource points earned each time said step of earning resource points is performed.

To infringe on a claim, you must implement each and every aspect of the claim. Thus if a claim has steps a, b, c and d and you only implement a, b and d in principle you should avoid infringement of that claim. Thus, long complicated claims are generally narrower than short simple claims.

With software it gets tricky since there have been legal cases which significantly impacted patentability. In particular, Alice Corp v. CLS Bank and Bilski v. Kappos. This patent predates both decisions. It is quite possible that post Alice, this patent would not have been granted.

However, I can't but note that at first glance a game of Gin Rummy would seem to be similar to what is covered in claim one. There are a plurality of players (two), there are game components (cards) having point value. components go from "in play" (in your hand) to "out of play" (discard pile). A player can transition a card from "out of play" (top card of discard pile) to "in play" (to their hand). In gin, each hand has a current point value and you accumulate points over various rounds.

I am not a lawyer and cannot comment on whether this patent would hold up in court. Perhaps one of the actual patent attorneys can comment on the current state of software patent prosecution. It is an issued patent and the process for invalidating a patent is, to my understanding, potentially complicated and expensive. In any case, the most prudent course of action is consult with an actual patent attorney who can review the design of your game with respect to this and other potential patents and provide a specific legal opinion on freedom-to-operate.

  • 1
    Even though there is a whole art unit of examiners for games, at this point in time it is almost impossible to get a claim like this through. – George White Apr 10 at 20:13
  • @GeorgeWhite This is exactly the sort of patent issue where I feel the need to defer to a patent attorney or agent. I simply don't have the specific knowledge. I would welcome an answer from you and, as always, comments and even edits of my answers where I'm in error. – Eric Shain Apr 10 at 21:38

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.