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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

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Julius
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I don't know how many of you play Magic the Gathering, but they use 'Tapping' to indicate cards that have been used. Essentially, each card can be used once per turn. After you use a card, you turn it sideways to indicate that it has been used. At the start of your turn, you turn them back to normal.

I have been working on a board/card game (Isn't everybody?). It is a card-based tactical war game. Without getting into too many rules, each card represents a unit, and each unit can do two things each round (move, attack, cast a spell, use an item, activate somthing in the environment, etc... so you could move and attack, or attack twice, or move twice, or drink a potion and move, you get the idea). Once a unit has done his two things, he cannot act again.

In my rules (and most of the cards I've worked out), this 'tap' mechanic has been used. So for example, the 'Stunning Staff' is a weapon that, if you hit, the target doesn't untap next round. 'Tides of Battle' is a very powerful ability that allows you to untap your entire squad.

When I playtested this game with some friends, they pointed out that the 'tapping' mechanic was patented. I did some searches and found this link:

[url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tap_(gaming)[/url]

Which has a link to the patent. Does this mean if I want to publish, I can't use this ability?

I could change it to Flipping (where you flip the card face down), but then all the stats (armor, hit points) aren't visible :( . That, and I use damage counters on top of cards to keep track of hit points, so shifting the counters off each time would be a pain.

The other thing I though of was just change the text (in all cases) to just mention 'acting' - so 'Stunning Staff' would now say, if you hit, the target can't act next round. And 'Tides of Battle' would have to say, 'Everyone in your squad can take an action, even if they have already acted this round."

I've also considered using 'activation' markers. At the start of your turn, you distribute markers to each card, and as cards act, you take the marker off.

Those are in order from least likeable to most likeable, but what do you think? Can I continue using the 'tap' mechanic? If not, what should I switch it to?

seo
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Is the Tap mechanic patented?

You can use some sort of counter to mark the used cards. Just place one counter in front or abouve each used card instead of rotating them, and remove all the couters instead of turning the cards back.

This would also be a preferable solution if you place counters to track damage. Rotating cards with counters on to of them might be a problem.

Just use counters with a clearly different color/size.

Seo

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Is the Tap mechanic patented?

I believe you can basically copy the Mechanic, but you can't call it "tapping"

L5R ccg has a similar mechanic, they call it 'bowing', your card bows instead of tapping. Same thing.

- Seth

Anonymous
Is the Tap mechanic patented?

But AEG (The makers of L5R) pay licensing fees to WotC for L5R.

From reading the patent, I know it at least covers tapping cards to pay for other cards. It may well cover rotating cards as a cost in general; I don't recall it stating that specifically, but when it comes to litigation, the word "implied" can be more powerful than common sense says it should be...

Pt314
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

Rotating cards and calling it 'tapping' is patented. Rotating cards in order to keep track of things is not. I don't think that could possibly be patented anyway.

Don't toss out mechanics just because you think somebody else has used them.

Johan
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

So we have this discussion again (it turns up every second (or third) month).
Basics:
- The patent is filed in US and is not valid outside US (I have not seen any patent in other countries and this patent would not be possible to get here in Europe). It is possible to develop games outside US and that are not sold in US with this mechanism.
- The patent is valid to 2010 (or 2012 depending on the law in US (filed or granted)).

The patent was filed 1995. In 1995 this was a well known mechanism and if someone complained about this patent (with references to articles and other games) this patent would probably be invalid (I would not advice anyone to do this).

A patent is about 1 thing. If you read the patent I can at least see 3 different mechanisms that are included. All 3 has to be valid to validate this patent:
- Collectible game (trading mechanism has to be involved).
- Tap mechanism
- Random draw from a library (of something).
If one of these not is fulfilled, then are not validating the patent.

I would not advice anyone to do this. WotC (Hasbro, Avalon Hill, Parker brothers (same company)) has the money and the resources to drag this in court for years and you have to be able both pay the lawyers for this time and if you loose (you can always lose in a court) you have to pay for the damage.

My personal view on this: I think that this patent has vitalized the game board design. Between 1992-1995 (until Settlers 1997 (or 1998)), all companies wanted to produce CCG:s and there were a lot of them. WotC manage to limit the market (and I think that they lost a lot of new players since there are no alternatives).
Don’t see the patent as a limitation. The patent is one of the reasons why we have a Board game boom.

// Johan

Julius
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Is the Tap mechanic patented?

I had a long post, but I lost it. Here's the short version:

I came to a conclusion - all references to 'tap' and 'untap' have been removed from my game. The rules now just say 'get two actions per turn' - and I've modified cards (hooray for electronic formats!) to now grant additional actions or restrict to fewer (haste lets a caracter use three, slow restricts down to one). I added markers to indicate extra (blue) or fewer (yellow) actions.

Oddly, with tapping gone, things seem much simpler. Since squads are small anyway (four or five characters), keeping track mentally isn't an issue. Plus, even though the rules don't say it, players could still 'tap' cards if they feel like it to keep track mentally.

I probably wouldn't have had a legal issue if I changed it to some other term (bowing, or turning, or even make 'activate' indicate you turn a card askew), since my game isn't collectible (a boxed game rather than a CCG) and doesn't have libraries (all decks are community). However, why risk it?

Thanks everyone!

Fields
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Is the Tap mechanic patented?

I had the exact same thoughts as you a while back when i made a card game for me and my friend a few yearsback, I wasn't planning on getting the game published so copyright wasn't really an issue, but i justs really hate the idea of copying a mechanic that is so integral in another game. I ended up having the card turned over (and actually called it flipping :P). When the card was in this state it was more vulnerable and reverted to very low stats. It made the game quite interesting as using a very powerful card left you wide open for a counter attack.

gpetersz
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

You see? Make them 2 sided cards (with the same art and lower stats on the other side) and tata! You are there.

Don't forget to patent this mechanism though... :p

(I hate patents and don't share Johan's opinion, but I understand his point of view.)

Johan
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

gpetersz wrote:
(I hate patents and don't share Johan's opinion, but I understand his point of view.)

What part of my opinion did you not share?
- That the patent vitalized the Board game market.
- That WotC limited the market for them self (CCG become less attractive after the patent).
There is a positive side to this patent.

If you hate patent, do you also hate the copyright laws or the possibility to get an exclusive use of a pattern.
I can agree that we can have some extreme effect when big companies tries to control the market (as in this patent or when Siemens tried to get a pattern protection on there green color). On the other side, this is one of the few ways a small designer/vendor can protect himself from getting his/hers invention/idea stolen (big companies or counties do validate this law all the time, but without the law...).

Since these kinds of patents only are valid in US (patent a mechanism), the rest of the world could skip US as a market if they want to (the rest of the world is a bigger market then the US).

// Johan

johant
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

Tjena Johan!

Var bor du?

Mvh

Johan T

Johan
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

johant wrote:
Tjena Johan!

Var bor du?

Mvh

Johan T

Hi Johan

I suggest we take private messages in the private message section. I have send you an answer there.

For you that did not understand Swedish, he asked me where in Sweden I live.

// Johan

gpetersz
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

Hi Johan,

I didn't agree on that patents vitalize ANYTHING. I think
copyright is JUST ENOUGH.

Patents are there to enbraven inventors to invent things (reserving the production rights for them for 20 years, so they'll be interested business-wise). This way humankind wins great new technologies that enriches us more. But nowadays a TAP can be patented. A TAP!!!!
What does this thing give to us? Nothing. Patents are used to
enforce business, nothing else.

I am glad that the EU rejected software patents (what kind of world is that where a double click can be patented? Or a progress bar? Or a loading screen? These are not revolutionary new technologies, but bare-simple ways of doing something!!!!).

That's all. :)

Peter

zaiga
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

gpetersz wrote:
Patents are there to enbraven inventors to invent things (reserving the production rights for them for 20 years, so they'll be interested business-wise). This way humankind wins great new technologies that enriches us more. But nowadays a TAP can be patented. A TAP!!!!

Wizards of the Coast didn't patent the concept of tapping. What they did was (trying to) patent a fairly specific (although they tried to keep it as broad as possible) implementation of a collectible game. The concept of tapping is one of the things that defines this implementation of their patent on collectible games, but the concept of tapping itself is not patented, although the name "tapping" might be protected in some way, just as calling a draw pile "library" or the discard pile "graveyard" are protected. You can have tapping in your game, if you call it "activating" or "turning" you'll be alright.

Whether patents encourage invention or just stifle progress, I don't know. Patents are expensive to get, and expensive to defend whenever it gets to court, so for the average small time inventor it will be not worth it, it only seems useful for bigger companies, which have the money to acquire a patent and to defend it in court, if need be.

The "Magic" patent has never really been tried in court, usually before it came to that the smaller company paid WotC a fee, and that was that. So we don't know how valid this patent really is, and how far it stretches.

Johan
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

gpetersz wrote:
I didn't agree on that patents vitalize ANYTHING. I think
copyright is JUST ENOUGH.

OK, then we has different opinions aboute this specific patent ;). I agree with you that a copyright should be enugh.

// Johan

larienna
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

More that 50% of there registered patents are simply not commercialised.
Patents are generally more useful for inventions. This is all due to our modern industrialisation system.

Other stupid patent is the mouse patent, followed by the 2 button mouse patent preventing apple from making 2 button mouse.

Zzzzz
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

For those that are interested, here is a link to what WotC filed for the patent:

[url=http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/search-bool.html&r=2&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=ptxt&s1='Wizards+of+the+Coast'.ASNM.&OS=AN/%22Wizards+of+the+Coast%22&RS=AN/%22Wizards+of+the+Coast%22]I Hate Trading Card Games :P[/url]

If you read it, if covers the various topics of a game such as *mana*, *tap* or even a *customized deck of cards*.... So in general the entire patent forces the majority of the collectible/trading card games to pay for use of the concept.

And in reality if you create your game to contain other additional concepts then outlined in this fileing , you technically will avoid the patent infrigment issue, though the big boys might make you poor in court proving you wrong (put they will only do this if you are a threat in so way)!

gpetersz
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

Quote:
Whether patents encourage invention or just stifle progress, I don't know. Patents are expensive to get, and expensive to defend whenever it gets to court, so for the average small time inventor it will be not worth it, it only seems useful for bigger companies, which have the money to acquire a patent and to defend it in court, if need be.

That's the main thing. First 150-200 years before it was meant for the lone scientist to came out of the garage and show their works, to defend them, and their rights. So significant inventions could come out to the sun (without being threatened of stealing their IP and give them economical advantage).
It wasn't expensive.

Now it seems big business in itself, by losing its original meaning. 10,000s of patents are registered each years by BIG companies, whom then exchange patents between each other in contracts. Sun allows Microsoft to use theirs and Microsoft allows Sun to use theirs. Both hit the small developer on the head (who don't have any patents to exchange, or the money to patent) if the small developer seems to have something that threatens their position(!).

Patents became a gun pointing against the competition coming from below.
Big companies just have dozens of people emloyed to handle their patents. Even many lawyers make their living to create broadly NOT understandable patents that will make the small ones think twice about doing something.

But remember it was meant to ensure the "mad scientist" to bring his machine out of the garage and make it public for the humanity. Now it really slows down innovation. Patent offices simply should be reject idiotic patents like "shuffling your library of cards" and "showing images while loading the application". These should not be patented. But alas, people work in the patent offices and sometimes day don't know what is it all about and the shear amount of patents just flow in, and they want to get over it. Sometimes, more sadly, they got paid after how many patents they validate, so...

Google around and you will find more exact data on this topic.

Copyright is just enough, in my opinion.

Zzzzz
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

gpetersz wrote:

Copyright is just enough, in my opinion.

For what it is worth, I just want to point and and remind everyone that copyright is not the answer when trying to protect your game ideas. You cannot copyright the concepts or mechanics of a game, you can only copyright *words*, a literary work such as your rules. But this will not stop another company/person from *copying* your game mechanics and ideas.

I pulled this info from the gov:

What does copyright protect?
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What Works Are Protected."

Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

Nandalf
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

i did actually attempt to read the patent, but its really "well" written [in code] so i gave up.
but the whole thing is kind of scarey, does it essentially kill all dreams?
for card games anyway; or just CCGs?

zaiga
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

Nandalf wrote:
but the whole thing is kind of scarey, does it essentially kill all dreams? for card games anyway; or just CCGs?

No, it does not kill card games. No, it does not kill all collectible games. It just protects them from other people making games "like Magic" (how close one can get is never proven in court, though). I hope you can now sleep at night again.

gpetersz
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Is the Tap mechanic patented?

Zzzzz wrote:
gpetersz wrote:

Copyright is just enough, in my opinion.

For what it is worth, I just want to point and and remind everyone that copyright is not the answer when trying to protect your game ideas. You cannot copyright the concepts or mechanics of a game, you can only copyright *words*, a literary work such as your rules. But this will not stop another company/person from *copying* your game mechanics and ideas.

I pulled this info from the gov:

What does copyright protect?
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What Works Are Protected."

Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

And you cannot patent ideas as well... only the ways you represent them.
But for this there is the copyright method. Patents were made for a different purpose, what changed significantly by business.

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