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Following my previous post about copyrights, I now seek information about patents in video game. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization :

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.

As stated by the same source, several condition must be met to obtain one, including :

  • The invention must show an element of novelty;
  • The invention must involve an “inventive step” or “non-obvious”, which means that it could not be obviously deduced by a person having ordinary skill in the relevant technical field;
  • The invention must be capable of industrial application, meaning that it must be capable of being used for an industrial or business purpose beyond a mere theoretical phenomenon, or be useful.
  • Its subject matter must be accepted as “patentable” under law. In many countries, scientific theories, aesthetic creations, mathematical methods, plant or animal varieties, discoveries of natural substances, commercial methods, methods for medical treatment (as opposed to medical products) or computer programs are generally not patentable.

I believe the three first conditions are rather obvious, while the last seems to be much more complicated. What is the difference between something patentable and something that is not ? How difficult would it be then for a video game corporation to patent an idea, as suggested in my previous post ? I would be very interested in any information regarding this subject, as I don't really understand how this has not already became a war in the video game industry.

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Yes you can patent video games in the U.S. The quote from international law is not fully applicable to the U.S. In the U.S. there is no requirement for industrial applicability or being a technical solution to a technical problem The USPTO has several classes aspects of video games might fall into one is

  • CLASS 463, AMUSEMENT DEVICES: GAMES 1 INCLUDING MEANS FOR PROCESSING ELECTRONIC DATA (e.g., computer/video game, etc.): 2 . In a game including a simulated projectile (e.g., bullet, missile, ball, puck, etc.): 5 .. Simulated projector with diverse interactive target:

The patentablity of games in the US has become more difficult after the SCOTUS Alice decision. There is a very detailed answer on Ask Patents. This is a good article on the patenting board games. However it was before Alice.

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  • The links are very interesting, thank you ! However, I don't understand everything about the SCOTUS Alice decision. I understand that it makes "abstract ideas" harder to patent, but I find this to be quite vague. What conditions must be met to patent an abstract idea since then ? I understand games can be patented as such, but I was particularly wondering about patenting a concept within the game instead of the game itself. I can edit my question to specify this better if needed.
    – Badda
    Dec 31 '20 at 15:42
  • No one understands what abstract means. Recent patent rulings are inconsistent but it is ever growing in breadth. One SCOTUS ruling said they need not "labor to delimit the precise contours of the ‘abstract ideas’ category". It really is encompassing more and more of formerly patentable subject matter. Questions and answers here are for posterity. If editing your question makes existing answers no longer applicable you need to ask a new question instead, Dec 31 '20 at 17:43
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A lot of stuff is precluded:

The invention must show an element of novelty;

Games don't recombine technology in a truly novel way. They use established technology (Game engines). Game engines can patent parts, for example, the Physics engines for games had been attempted to be patented as a method for chips. Or this and this - Yes, "how to model physics in a computer language" is novel. But "How to engage a player" is not novel, neither is "NPC" or "NPC hunting player" - those were not even new when Ultima Online was around.

The invention must involve an “inventive step” or “non-obvious”, which means that it could not be obviously deduced by a person having ordinary skill in the relevant technical field;

This too does not apply to games - any ordinary computergame programmer with the same toolset (game engine) can invent the same result if given the task.

The invention must be capable of industrial application, meaning that it must be capable of being used for an industrial or business purpose beyond a mere theoretical phenomenon, or be useful.

Games are sold, so they have business applications...

Its subject matter must be accepted as “patentable” under law. In many countries, scientific theories, aesthetic creations, mathematical methods, plant or animal varieties, discoveries of natural substances, commercial methods, methods for medical treatment (as opposed to medical products) or computer programs are generally not patentable.

...but are not patentable as they are aesthetic creations and computer programs.

Conclusion

As a result, you can under no circumstance patent a game or part of a game. You can not patent a game mechanic any more than you can patent the act of selling cats for cash at the street corner while hanging from a hot air balloon singing Las Cookarachas and wearing a Guy-Fawkes mask.

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    This is complet3ly incorrect as far as the U.S. is concerned. There are hundreds of U.S. patents on board games and also on aspects of video games. It has gotten harder since the SCOTUS Alice case but us still done. There are patents on card games board games and video games. Dec 30 '20 at 21:39
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    The quoted part about games is not U.S. law. The rest of the world generally requires a technical solution to a technical problem, The U.S. does not. Type "board game" into google patents and see 61k hits, twice as many for "video game". Dec 30 '20 at 22:32
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    Re - engage the user - See recently issued patent 10,424,163 Video gaming wager systems and methods with these words in claim 10 " to: receive a credit from a user to initiate a first round of a game; generate a pseudo-random set of possible winning combinations of symbols; provide the pseudo-random set of possible winning combinations of symbols to the user, wherein each of the possible winning combinations of symbols comprises a corresponding payout value; engage the user to complete the first round of the game, . . . " Dec 30 '20 at 22:50

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