I hear quite often that patents aren’t something the software side of video games should worry about – patents aren’t applicable and patent litigation is rare. This is false.
Since December 2012, McRO has filed patent infringement suits against Capcom, Naughty Dog, Square Enix, Disney, Treyarch, EA, Sega, Obsidian, Konami, Namco Bandi, Shiny Entertainment, Sonic Team, Incomniac, Viceral, THQ, Valve, Atlus, Tecmo Koei, Ubisoft, Deep Silver, Sucker Punch, Infinity Ward, Activision Blizzard, LucasArts, Codemasters, Sony, and WB, among others. Since McRO does business as Planet Blue, an effects company, it does not fit the definition of non-practicing entity, so frequently touted as proof of being a troll; but, some still claim, due to the sheer number of lawsuits that McRO is a troll.
In some cases, the defendants in these litigations have settled. THQ settled for $600,000 in 2013. Other defendants have chosen to see their cases through and commit to litigation – a long and expensive process. Even if a company wins a patent infringement case, that company will not recoup lost time, attorney fees, or anything lost in pursuing the case. The best outcome a defendant can hope for is a cancellation of the patent under the Supreme Court “Alice” decision.
On September 25, 2014, that’s what Activision Blizzard got through defending a patent infringement case against McRO.
The district court invalidated McRO’s patents, which covered methods for animating 3D character faces, sighting that the claims were more related to abstract ideas than inventive concepts. Since patents must be inventive and cover specific methods to be registerable, the judge ruled in favor of Activision Blizzard. Activision Blizzard’s legal team was naturally pleased with the decision, saying: “Meritless patent cases such as this stifle innovation and the creative process across the industry.