I was recently looking at this answer involving game patents, and it occurred to me that I'm unsure of what constitutes a technical field in regard to patents.

In the 20th century, analysis of games led to the formalization of Game Theory, and subsequently Combinatorial Game Theory, rooted in mathematics, and relating to technology.

  • What constitutes a technical field in patent law? Is it wholly dependent on the concept of technical effect?

Using the language from Alice:

"purport to improve the functioning of the computer itself or improve any other technology or technical field."

It's not unreasonable to regard novel games as improving the technical field, because games and analysis of games have demonstrated utility.


"Technical Field" is not a defined term in patent law in the U.S.

Before Alice, "technical" was not any part of the analysis in determining patentably. In Europe and many other places "having a technical effect" is an important requirement in the law, but not in the U.S., although the Supreme Court now frequently rules as if it was. You mention that games have utility and utility is the core or 35 USC 101, however something abstract can have utility but abstract things can not be patented. A technical effect in a game might be a technique for updating a graphic element more quickly.

  • Thanks for the info. Sounds like it's partly a matter of precedent vs. arbitrary application of a technical effect requirement in the US. – DukeZhou Dec 3 '18 at 17:59
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    Unlike most other places, the U.S. does not require a technical effect or a technical solution to a technical problem. – George White Dec 3 '18 at 19:03
  • I think there is also the issue of the technical field of software as opposed to the technical field of games (& the analysis of games, which I am not even sure patent boards recognize.) It's well established that games are not only algorithms that model computing, games technically are a form of computer (they follow a set of logical operations and calculations to produce output unique to their structure. See: Constraint Logic: A Uniform Framework for Modeling Computation as Games) – DukeZhou Dec 3 '18 at 22:20
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    Until a few years ago, methods of playing board games and also card games that involved betting were routinely patented in the U.S. As I understand it, most other countries have never considered a card game patentable since there is nothing "technical" about it. – George White Dec 4 '18 at 0:36
  • That is indeed the perception (re: games being non-technical, which is only true if you don't consider the math within the constraints of what constitutes a viable game product. With the advent of electronic games, it is now ~$100 billion industry.) – DukeZhou Dec 4 '18 at 21:15

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