Patents and Game Development

Gamasutra.com – The Trouble With Patents

Pretty good article, but not as in-depth as I’d like. I wrote this comment to the author of the article:

David, I do have some direct experience with that “Crazy Taxi” patent you cited, as I interacted with EA’s lawyers on the case. From my perspective, it’s all the more ironic because I helped develop a “Wild Taxi” game design at Disney, which was pitched to Sega execs years before their “Crazy Taxi” game was made. The Sega game designers might have come up with concept on their own. But just about everything in the Sega patent was part of the original Disney concept (esp. the people jumping out of the way). Whatever the origins, the patent was entirely stupid.

I’m also familiar with this Skyline vs. Google/Keyhole patent suit, which could also impact game developers. Skyline, who has an inferior implementation of “earth streaming” IMO, is suing Keyhole, which I was part of, and which has done very well as Google Earth. The patent suit seems to center on the mysterious concept of “quadtrees” or some sort of hierarchy to store and stream a big 3D database… Google is currently challenging the patent’s validity, which is the best possible course of action IMO. The Skyline patent also seems a bit short on implementation details, which _should_ matter, as one of the main rationales for patents was disclosure.

IMO, a patent which simply tries to stick a stake in the ground without disclosing a useful, novel invention is not worthy of a 20 year monopoly. Patents are an exchange of public protections for a real public good, not some sort of anti-competitive corporate welfare system. And with the cost of litigation, they’re certainly not doing anything to help individual inventors anymore.

I could write much more, but I’m busy inventing stuff. Funny how all that fighting over who invented what tends to result in nothing new or useful coming out.

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