Prior Art Hunt for Obtaining an Advantage in a Computer Game

By Gene Quinn
August 9, 2012

Article One Partners always has interesting patent studies going on at any particular time, but one of their studies recently caught my eye in particular. There is an ongoing patent study relating U.S. Patent No. 7,076,445,  titled “System and methods for obtaining advantages and transacting the same in a computer gaming environment.”  See AOP Study DEV 1545.  A system for obtaining an advantage in a computer game?  Sounds like just the type of competitive advantage that I ought to know about so I can beat my son.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I can kick his butt on Madden 2012 (or any other version of Madden), but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a completely different story!  I guess I should just be thankful that he plays Call of Duty non-stop during the summer and isn’t practicing up on Madden!

The Summary of the Invention in the ‘445 patent starts out by explaining:

The present invention is directed to providing systems and methods used to create, integrate, and transact various advantages in non-computing, partial computing, and interactive computing environments. These advantages comprise desired environment features or elements within a participating user’s environment that are integrated within the environment. By integrating advantages, the present invention operates to facilitate the leveraging of advantages to participating users and offers advantage providers ensured exposure of their advantages.

What? That seems rather circular and not all elucidating.

If you look at Fig. 2 in the ‘445 patent you can rather quickly and easily figure out, at least on a basic level, what is going on here.  Fig. 2 is reproduced below.

So you get the idea that the advantage to be gained isn’t related to cheat codes or some kind of covert strategy, but rather is at least in part a way to convince game players that they need something to help them with the game, and then presumably getting them to pay for that which would be helpful.

Claim 1 of the ‘445 patent covers:

1. A method of managing the operation of a game which includes a game environment, and is programmed to control a gaming action for at least one of a plurality of users, said managing method using a programmed computer to effect the following steps:

(a) tracking the activity of the at least one user in the course of the gaming action;

(b) permitting the at least one user to create an account for receiving a consideration of the at least one user, the at least one user having a set of demographics;

(c) determining the eligibility of the at least one user to purchase at least one of a plurality of game objects, said eligibility determining comprises the following sub steps:

(i) permitting the at least one user to select the at least one game object,

(ii) setting the purchase price of the at least one game object, and

(iii) comparing the account balance of the at least one user’s consideration with the set price of the at least one game object and, determining if the balance of the user’s consideration is not less than the set price, determining the at least one user to be eligible to purchase the at least one game object;

(d) displaying in the game environment a purchase price of the at least one game object;

(e) presenting to the at least one user an offer to purchase the game object dependent upon a group of game parameters comprising the tracked activity of the at least one gaming action of the at least one user and, the one game environment or the one set of demographics of the least one user

(f) permitting the at least one user to purchase the at least one game object at the set purchase price without interrupting the gaming action of the at least one user; and

(g) supplying the at least one purchased game object to the at least one user without interrupting the gaming action of the at least one user and incorporating the game object into the game.

The type of references sought in the search for prior art relating to the ‘445 patent will related to information about a game, preferably played on a computer or on a machine that has a central processing unit. The game will maintain an account tied to the user, and the user will accumulate credits in the account, preferably by paying money, although possibly by earning money (or lives or points or other things of value) through playing the game. The game will allow the user to use the credits to purchase items (lives, ammunition, game objects) that will enhance the user’s play. The game will also offer the user items to purchase based on the user’s activity in the game (such as achieving a certain level within the game).

This study is somewhat unique in that no patents will be accepted.  The search is ONLY for non-patent literature (NPL).  That is what the Article One community of researchers are extremely capable of finding, but typically searches are not limited to NPL.  That suggests that whoever is funding this study feels they have thoroughly exhausted all findable patent references.  Before you complain or think that is odd or naive, take a look at the 5 columns of patent references listed in the issued patent alone!

In any event, if you know of any prior art, or you can find any from before the respective critical date of June 19, 1999, sign up as a researcher to submit the prior art and a chance to win the $5,000 reward.

Here are some other ongoing studies that may be of interest.  You can also browse through all of  38 current AOP patent studies.

1. Firmware for secure transactions – This Study relates to a system and method and associated software and firmware for conducting secure electronic transactions, and is associated with US Patent Nos. 6,105,013, 6,237,095 and 5,805,702. The device is a portable device that contains at least a processor, co-processor, memory, a real-time clock, and an input/output circuit. The process of communicating between the portable device and other systems includes encrypted data transfer and signed certificates to send or receive monetary equivalents. The portable device is capable of time stamping and storing information about the transaction.

2. Spa Jet with Screw in jet barrel – This Study relates to spa jets used in spas, pools or any hydrotherapy equipment, and is associated with Canadian Patent No. 2644557. The spa jets of interest have a jet barrel that can be removed and threadingly affixed in a jet body. References of interest will have a jet, valve, sprinkler, or showerhead assembly comprising of internals and a body for receiving the internals, the internals having at least an inlet, the body having an inlet, the jet, valve, sprinkler, or shower head assembly.

3. Optical Disc capable of identifying total number of layers/sides – This study is a request for references describing an optical disc with one or more recording layers or sides where each layer or side has an area for management information. Specifically, the management area on each layer or side includes two pieces of information: (1) information that identifies that layer or side, and (2) information capable of identifying the total number of layers or sides on the optical disc. For this study references that do not disclose both of the aforementioned characteristics (i.e., both (1) and (2)) will not be accepted.

4. Multiphasic waveform defibrillator – This Study relates to implantable or external defibrillators and the electrotherapy they deliver to patients. More specifically, the study relates to an external defibrillation method for delivering amultiphasicdischarge (e.g., having a positive polarity and a negative polarity) to a patient’s heart. References of interest will focus on the method of delivering an electrotherapeutic discharge to a patient and monitoring electrical parameters such as voltage, current, charge, delivered energy and/or time to adjust the remaining discharge that is delivered to the patient.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and President & CEO ofIPWatchdog, Inc.. Gene founded IPWatchdog.com in 1999. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and Of Counsel to the law firm of Berenato & White, LLC. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

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