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Tom Jolly's patent

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Yogurt
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This is a post I made to BoardGameGeek, but I thought folks here might be interested too. Sorry if it seems spammy to post in both places.

...

I followed a banner ad to learn about Tom Jolly's Camelot. The game's web site enthusiastically proclaims that Camelot features "Jolly's new patented Lightning game system."

I couldn't find the patent under Jolly's name in the USPTO database, so I hope this is a joke. But I fear it's not.

Lightning is a method for taking simultaneous turns. Everyone with a turn token can move and attack. When you finish your turn, you pass your token to the first person to your left who doesn't have one. Players who take long turns will therefore find themselves lapped by faster players.

It's a clever, praiseworthy mechanism. (Jolly also created Lightspeed, another simultaneous turn game that I promote whenever I can.)

That said, patenting a game mechanicm was a terrible idea when Hasbro did it, and it's a terrible idea now.

I have no problem with Jolly being rewarded for his inventiveness, but a patent isn't going to make that happen. Will game companies license this system from Jolly? I doubt it. They'll just force their designers to cut similar ideas from their own designs for fear of a lawsuit. Will gamers flocks to Camelot because it's the only Lightning game around? I doubt that too. It's a nifty idea, but not revolutionary. (In fact, the patent means that Camelot will be the first game I avoid buying for political reasons.)

All the patent will do is shrink the toolbox of ideas that designers use to make new games. Patents impoverish our hobby.

My wife and I have a Jolly game in progress right now: Vortex. It's set out on our living room table. I'm a fan of his games, and that's why I'm disappointed to see this legalistic silliness come from him.

Here's a closing quote that makes a lot of sense to me, and I hope Jolly listens to its wisdom:

"Non-turn-based games, like Icehouse and Falling, are a totally new concept in gaming, and new designs based on that concept are already entering the market. But the point is that game designs all come from common origins, and themes are usually limited to human experience, so design duplication is inevitable." -- Tom Jolly

Links:

Camelot
http://www.wingnutgames.com/camelot.htm

Tom Jolly's quote
http://www.discovergames.com/tomejolly-theystolemygame.htm

phpbbadmin
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Tom Jolly's patent

Yogurt.

Yeah I read that statement (about the patented Lightning Game System) some time ago when I first read about Camelot. At first I wondered if they weren't using it as a figure of speech. But now that I see Lightning game system (in caps), it makes me wonder if he really didn't patent it. I think maybe he's planning on making several games that use that mechanic, which might be why he patented it. Maybe he has no plans to actually legally back up the patent? Who knows. He sometimes frequents wizwar.com, you might want to post a message there.

-Darke

Anonymous
Tom Jolly's patent

My two cents?

Patent everything you can always.

Done and done.

phpbbadmin
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Tom Jolly's patent

Brahmulus wrote:
My two cents?

Patent everything you can always.

Done and done.
Brahm,

That's all well and good, but Yogurt's point is that, based upon Tom Jolly's article, he seems to be philosophically against such a thing.

-Darke

Yogurt
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Tom Jolly's patent

Tom Jolly and his publisher responded on BGG:
http://tinyurl.com/7ax34

Brahm:

It seems odd to have game elements protected by patents, when they are not copyrightable. I would have no problem copyrighting entire game systems (rulesets), to prevent cloning, which seems to be the most common worry.

Patenting mechanisms hurts the hobby in my opinion, and anything that hurts the hobby hurts designers, especially those of us without 5 grand for a patent.

Yogurt

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Tom Jolly's patent

Disclaimer: This noise about the patent is all hearsay at this point, and I'm not going to condemn Jolly or anyone else on the basis of rumors. The following discussion applies to the concept in general, and to Jolly only if he has actually obtained a patent for Lightning and intends to protect it.

Darkehorse wrote:
Yogurt's point is that, based upon Tom Jolly's article, he seems to be philosophically against such a thing.

Yes. But I think Yogurt had another important point to make:

yogurt wrote:
I have no problem with Jolly being rewarded for his inventiveness, but a patent isn't going to make that happen. Will game companies license this system from Jolly? I doubt it.

Yogurt's right, Jolly wouldn't make any money from such a patent. He would just be preventing others from using his idea. Perhaps he fears that a sudden influx of games with this mechanic will hurt sales of Camelot. But if so, it's a signal that Camelot's only strength is the Lightning game system... and if that's true, I won't buy the game either.

I'm hoping (and expecting) that this rumor isn't true.

phpbbadmin
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Tom Jolly's patent

Read his explanation on BGG. I think he and Aldo from wingnut are entirely justified in their position regarding the patent. I also think it is actually a wise thing to do.

My impression is that they are taking a legal precaution to protect themselves from the big sharks, not from the 'little guys' like us (speaking entirely for myself here).

-Darke

Anonymous
Tom Jolly's patent

Darkehorse wrote:
Brahmulus wrote:
My two cents?

Patent everything you can always.

Done and done.
Brahm,

That's all well and good, but Yogurt's point is that, based upon Tom Jolly's article, he seems to be philosophically against such a thing.

-Darke

Sorry I didn't really pick up that vibe, but I may have missed it.

Quote:

Patenting mechanisms hurts the hobby in my opinion, and anything that hurts the hobby hurts designers, especially those of us without 5 grand for a patent.

Yogurt

Opinion noted. (around $370 if u do it yourself FYI)

But keep in mind that some people quit the safety of their day jobs and risk everything, family, security, future, sanity, health... to spend every last penny and every waking moment focusing and persuing a sole career in game design.

It rubs me the wrong way just a tad to hear someone say that protective measures that a person who has sacraficed EVERYTHING by persuing their dreams further than most would dare, by choosing game design as their sole CAREER, may somehow *hurt* a hobbyist.

Peace.

Yogurt
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Tom Jolly's patent

[Wrote this before seeing Brahm's reply. Still stands, but I wasn't referring directly to your message, B.]

If patent laws apply to game rules, the end result will be that large corporations with stables of lawyers will hold patents on basic game ideas. This has happened with video games. For example, Microsoft has a patent on rewarding players with style points for achieving feats with panache. http://tinyurl.com/ao4xz

The patent office is so indiscriminate these days, they'd hand out a patent for roll-and-move, I swear. And then it's you versus Hasbro's lawyers to prove prior art.

Now odds are, a major company isn't going to sue you unless there's significant money on the line, but they could, so you get uncertainty and a cap on your success.

If you want to protect designers, then you need to protect whole games not individual ideas.

That said, I don't have any great beef with Jolly. Whether or not he gets a patent doesn't change the overall system. I recognize it's a prisoner's dilemma where we all have to screw the other guy, for fear of being screwed ourselves. At worst, he's just normalizing the idea.

But I don't have to like it.

Yogurt

Anonymous
Tom Jolly's patent

yogurt wrote:
[Wrote this before seeing Brahm's reply. Still stands, but I wasn't referring directly to your message, B.]

All good brutha...

yogurt wrote:
For example, Microsoft has a patent on rewarding players with style points for achieving feats with panache. http://tinyurl.com/ao4xz

This is the world we live in, and in my opinion its healthy. It's what keep s us progressing, always coming up with bigger, better more inventive and creative ideas and rightly protecting those who already have... always pushing the envelope.

Heres an example: I work for a gentleman who has the patent on *ingestibles*... think about that for a second... if you want to sell powder in a gel capsule that you swallow... you pay him a fee.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

He took big chances and worked hard for that 20 some years ago, and now he reaps the benefits (and pays my salary and a few hundred others!!)

___

I guess I just never bought into the whole David vs. Goliath thing, in my life experience Goliath is ok. Goliath started somewhere and worked very very hard to get to where he is.

Hasbro puts out quality products , donates huge amounts to charity, and employs thousands of people with good wages and benefits. Nothing is cooler in my book than a company with positive impact on the economy... that just makes games!!

The nature of the beast (speaking for the US) is that if you want to make a mark, carve a niche, challenge Goliath, then you make teh sacrafice, let go of the saftey net, give up your life and focus on the goal of being a bigger game company with more unique ideas... And if you get good enough... you'll make a big enough splash to perhaps steal some of Goliaths thunder (consumers!)... or have him BUY you out... in both cases you win.

Speaking for myself, I just cant load my sling up and fling rocks at Hasbro (or career game makers who have rose above the rest) because I'm a weekend game designer with a day job putting stickers on dice in my basement, it just makes no sense to me.

IF you are an independant game company that has put ALL your chips into this one goal, taken out the small business loan, driving a beat up hoopty car, losing your wife to a guy witha real job, and staring at an empty refrigerator...and are experiencing some kind of Big guy vs. the Little guy problem, then you may have my ear on the matter.... but those big guys started out just the same way.

__

Ok, so I have strong opinions (been burned before in another medium) on the matter, but I got my *key* points out there in this post and the one just up above, and thats all I can ask for, so I'll graciously bow out on this one.

No worries.

Scurra
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Tom Jolly's patent

Brahmulus wrote:
This is the world we live in, and in my opinion its healthy. It's what keep s us progressing, always coming up with bigger, better more inventive and creative ideas and rightly protecting those who already have... always pushing the envelope.

I don't want to dispute your own personal experience of this, but there is good evidence that patents restrict the envelope pushing rather than encouraging it. A classic early example is the steam engine - it took until the patent expired for anyone to be able to develop it in new and different ways because the original owner protected it so strongly.

I don't doubt that there are times when patents are warranted - your example is a good one, and more power to your guy for developing such an ace idea (I feel the same way about Dyson and his innovations.)
But games are not the sort of thing that patents were ever designed to protect - games probably belong in the same field as books and paintings etc, where it should be copyright that defends the "whole" work, rather than a patent protecting some small aspects of it.

mawibse
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Tom Jolly's patent

First, I don’t consider a game-mechanic, innovative enough to warrant a patent, a small aspect.

Secondly, a game mechanic is a tool/method in the creation of games and as such exactly what patents where made to protect, just as a new kind of paint or brush can be patented even though they create copyrighted paintings.

My 2 cents.

jwarrend
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Tom Jolly's patent

So wait a second; Tom Jolly and Tom Wham are the same person?

Anyway, I see Jolly's point of wanting to protect himself and I think that's reasonable but I agree with yogurt that overall, patenting of game mechanics would be a negative trend.

Brahmulus wrote:

This is the world we live in, and in my opinion its healthy. It's what keep s us progressing, always coming up with bigger, better more inventive and creative ideas and rightly protecting those who already have... always pushing the envelope.

In my opinion, it's part of what keeps us litigious. I personally think that there's a threshold on what counts as sufficient mental effort to justify protection. A product that tooks years of research and development to create? Sure. A game mechanic that took 30 seconds to come up with? No way. The whole premise of "I was the first one to come up with the idea to let players draw cards from the discard pile, now everyone who uses that in a game has to pay me" is just absurd. I don't think you're entitled for intellectual protection for an idea that many other people could have come up with, and as past precedent has taught us, it's very common for similar game mechanics are certainly easy to emerge from independent sources.

That seems to be yogurt's point, that patenting of game mechanics flies in the face of how game design works, and in the end, it will hurt the hobby. Consider that one of the greatest games ever made, Puerto Rico, could not exist if mechanics were all patented, since it borrows from many other games.

Quote:

Hasbro puts out quality products , donates huge amounts to charity, and employs thousands of people with good wages and benefits. Nothing is cooler in my book than a company with positive impact on the economy... that just makes games!!

Well, in this case, it actually appears to be Hasbro that Jolly is seeking to protect himself against.

In my opinion, Hasbro puts out very weak products, and relies on the brand name of their mostly mediocre games, or on licenses with TV or movie tie-ins, rather than demonstrating much interest in developing innovative and interesting games. This hurts us as designers because the games that we like to design are not as commercially viable. However, Hasbro cannot be held solely responsible for this, since the public are clearly buying Hasbro's lousy games in sufficient quantities to validate this approach.

But Hasbro is very clearly all about making money, and game quality is way on the back burner. That fits into this discussion as well. The idea of patenting mechanics appears to put us all in competition for each other in a way that is not going to be healthy or productive. Imagine if game companies need to start hiring lawyers to be able to sue one another when a vaguely similar mechanic to one that they've patented comes out. Those of us who love games care about more than money: we seek to design and play interesting game systems. If the business aspects of gaming begin to supercede the "artistic" aspects, it hurt us in the end.

Quote:

IF you are an independant game company that has put ALL your chips into this one goal, taken out the small business loan, driving a beat up hoopty car, losing your wife to a guy witha real job, and staring at an empty refrigerator...and are experiencing some kind of Big guy vs. the Little guy problem, then you may have my ear on the matter.... but those big guys started out just the same way.

I don't think this is a reasonable restriction on who's allowed to have an opinion in this. Very few people are in the position you describe, yet many people could potentially be in the situation where patented game mechanics could affect us. As designers, anyone who seeks to publish would have to be aware of what mechanics are already patented, and be sure not to use those mechanics. And as game players, the borrowing of mechanics that has produced so many of the excellent games that we enjoy could end as a practice, diminishing the overall quality of the games. Everyone has a stake in this.

For myself, here's what I'd be afraid of: I spend a few years designing a game with a couple of original mechanics. Then, when I take it to a publisher, he says to me "well, this mechanic here is sort of similar to [patented mechanic X], and we'd need to give them a royalty if we published your game, which we can't afford. So, change the mechanic or we can't publish the game." And that's what I wouldn't want: to have to make "artistic" decisions based on external business considerations.

In the end, I don't think it will amount to that big a deal; I don't suspect that the practice of patenting mechanics will catch on. But I do agree that it would be bad if it did.

-Jeff

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Tom Jolly's patent

A take on software patents from this Carmack guy, not fully applicable on boardgames but still:

Quote:
Patents are usually discussed in the context of someone "stealing" an idea from the long suffering lone inventor that devoted his life to creating this one brilliant idea, blah blah blah.

But in the majority of cases in software, patents effect independent invention. Get a dozen sharp programmers together, give them all a hard problem to work on, and a bunch of them will come up with solutions that would probably be patentable, and be similar enough that the first programmer to file the patent could sue the others for patent infringement.

Why should society reward that? What benefit does it bring? It doesn't help bring more, better, or cheaper products to market. Those all come from competition, not arbitrary monopolies. The programmer that filed the patent didn't work any harder because a patent might be available, solving the problem was his job and he had to do it anyway. Getting a patent is uncorrelated to any positive attributes, and just serves to allow either money or wasted effort to be extorted from generally unsuspecting and innocent people or companies.

Yes, it is a legal tool that may help you against your competitors, but I'll have no part of it. Its basically mugging someone.

VeritasGames
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Tom Jolly's patent

jwarrend wrote:
Puerto Rico, could not exist if mechanics were all patented, since it borrows from many other games.

This is, if you'll pardon the pun, patently untrue. Unlike copyrights, patents expire within a couple of decades.

And people tend to license patented materials for a reasonable rate to make money.

Quote:
Those of us who love games care about more than money: we seek to design and play interesting game systems. If the business aspects of gaming begin to supercede the "artistic" aspects, it hurt us in the end.

Business aspects of games are part of life. It takes a lot of money and a lot of time to put out games. For the few people who actually make a living in the industry, some intellectual property protection for a novel idea is warranted, as it is their livelihood.

Quote:
And that's what I wouldn't want: to have to make "artistic" decisions based on external business considerations.

Happens all the time. You have a game that you think is perfect, but market research shows that with a tweak or some dumbing down it will sell 100 times the number of copies. Lots of people will dumb it down and sell 100 times the number of copies.

Quote:
In the end, I don't think it will amount to that big a deal; I don't suspect that the practice of patenting mechanics will catch on. But I do agree that it would be bad if it did.

Lots of companies have patents on mechanics. Mostly there are huge financial barriers to entry for anyone not making a lot of dough.

phpbbadmin
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Tom Jolly's patent

jwarrend wrote:
So wait a second; Tom Jolly and Tom Wham are the same person?

No they aren't. I'm not sure if that was someone's idea of a joke or a mistake, but they are not the same person.

-M

Anonymous
Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

yogurt wrote:
I would have no problem copyrighting entire game systems (rulesets), to prevent cloning, which seems to be the most common worry.

Scurra wrote:
But games are not the sort of thing that patents were ever designed to protect - games probably belong in the same field as books and paintings etc, where it should be copyright that defends the "whole" work, rather than a patent protecting some small aspects of it.

I wholeheartedly agree!!!

Last year, I began a thread here, which was lost in the June 2004 hacking episode, about the possibility of a new copyright classification for games. The US Copyright Office has previously set a precedent with music by creating the "P" classification, when it became clear that the existing copyright laws did not adequately protect recorded music. Always seemed to me that current copyright laws are not adequate, and patents are inappropriate, for protecting the game designer. It would be great if the USCO could be convinced that a "G" classification, which would give the game industry appropriate protection, be drafted.

Maybe a petition drive???

Tony

doho123
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Tom Jolly's patent

As a side note, it's kind of fun doing a patent search on "Hasbro"

cooperative board game

woo! one of my patents!

multiple paths

looks like some patent involved with AI of wargames

Ultimately, Hasbro doesn't bother with patenting game rules; most of their stuff is regarding toys and stuff.

Searching on "board games" is also interesting:

some Japanese stratagy game

some Mattel patent about moving a common enemy pawn

sadly, this patent is not anywhere near as cool as the title sounds " Psychologically optimized mystery party game"

this is intersting; effectively, this patent is a specific way that, related to board game design, let's "the board" determine where all the peices are and in which direction they are facing.

Finally, there's quite a few like this game that is very specific about it's ruleset and theme (which seems not very patentable, however, everything is so narrowly defined, that it would be hard for this guuy to go after someone who didn't make an EXACT clone).

VeritasGames
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Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

josdan wrote:

I wholeheartedly agree!!!

In my opinion, chief, you shouldn't agree. Copyrights do a fair job of protecting books.

For games, however, you can only copyright the verbatim text of your game. If it's simple enough, as with some contest rules, even your verbatim expression may be unprotected.

Copyrights do not protect your methods or procedures, so in practice, games have VERY limited useful protection under copyright law. You can protect your graphic design and trade dress. But your mechanics? Not with a copyright.

So, patents are required to fill in the gap. It has been a long-standing part of U.S. law that copyrights do not extend to methods or procedures, but only to their verbatim expression, and the verbatim expression has NO copyrightability insofar as it is indistinguishable from the simplest method of describing the procedure itself (the Doctrine of Merger).

If Copyrighting a game actually was particularly useful at limiting "knock off" games, then it would be worse on design than it would be patents, because people could have an ever-growing, really long-term lock on a game design for next to no money.

Patents, in contrast, are expensive. They must be defended. They are relatively rare. And they are of relatively shorter duration than copyrights. They are also scrutinized (although arguably the US Patent Office has let a lot of crap through the system in recent years). Copyrights aren't until they go to court.

A lot of people patent their games, but many fewer try to patent a single associated method. In most cases where they try to patent a single associated method, there are work-arounds. They aren't always as clever, but thus the reason why someone would pay to patent and pay to maintain the patent around a particularly clever invention.

Yogurt
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Tom Jolly's patent

[Large swathes of Yogurt's poor reading comprehension deleted.]

Good point, Veritas, on why patents are a better tool than copyrights. I suppose my point was that I'd rather see interlocking sets of game mechanics protected, rather than individual mechanisms. The actual legal method of protection is less important to me than what's being protected.

Yogurt

VeritasGames
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yogurt wrote:
[Large swathes of Yogurt's poor reading comprehension deleted.]

Good point, Veritas, on why patents are a better tool than copyrights. I suppose my point was that I'd rather see interlocking sets of game mechanics protected, rather than individual mechanisms. The actual legal method of protection is less important to me than what's being protected.

Yogurt

Most people do. If you come up with a mechanic that you plan on making the "star attraction" of several of your games, though, then it may make more sense to patent a specific mechanic.

I'd have to see Tom's mechanic to see if it is sufficiently novel to be patentable. From a brief description it sounds very similar to things I've seen in Falling and other games.

What I think is bad is NOT patents, but the fact that the US Patent Office is granting patents that they have NO BUSINESS granting.

I do public policy work, and one thing that happens for regulations is that there are public hearings on them. I wish that the patent office had a similar process that allowed more people to get a chance to chime in for and against a patent application before they get granted. It would be a lot cheaper to speak out against a patent before it gets granted than to have to go to court later to knock down a faulty patent.

I don't see why games are any less deserving of patents than any other field of endeavor. I do think that some patents are too easily granted. I also think people like WotC make wildly overbroad claims about patents which may not even be valid patent filings to begin with. I think that's a problem.

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Game Mechanic Patents

FWIW: I share Yogurt’s sentiment.

Game mechanics are to games as grammar is to literature. Patenting game mechanics is like patenting a particular sentence structure. Not the exact words of the sentence – that should be copyrightable. But one should not be able to protect a certain combination of verb, subject, adverb, etc.

(BTW: I would mention that I think the same about software companies being able to patent algorithms. But that might start a whole new debate.)

Now if someone comes up with a unique and useful mechanical (as in physical) device or game component, that is the kind of thing that should be patentable, if you ask me. (And it would be patentable, if I’m not mistaken.)

Just my two bits worth.

Anonymous
Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

VeritasGames wrote:
In my opinion, chief, you shouldn't agree.

Chief???

VeritasGames wrote:
Copyrights do a fair job of protecting books.

For games, however, you can only copyright the verbatim text of your game. If it's simple enough, as with some contest rules, even your verbatim expression may be unprotected.

Copyrights do not protect your methods or procedures, so in practice, games have VERY limited useful protection under copyright law. You can protect your graphic design and trade dress. But your mechanics? Not with a copyright.
I think you might have missed the point, which was copyright protecting a game as an *entire work*. A book is a collection of words, pictures, and grammatical mechanics, and a song is a collection of notes, instrumentation, and musical mechanics. Words, notes, and mechanics cannot be copyrighted, entire works utilizing these methods can be. A board game is nothing more than a collection of words, graphics, and gaming mechanics which create an entire work.

VeritasGames wrote:
I don't see why games are any less deserving of patents than any other field of endeavor.

I do not understand why it is *only* games that have the "mechanics" of an entire work stripped out and left unprotected by copyright law.

yogurt wrote:
I suppose my point was that I'd rather see interlocking sets of game mechanics protected, rather than individual mechanisms.

Exactly my point, yogurt!!!

Tony

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Tom Jolly's patent

When making analogies, the trick is finding two things that are similar enough in a sufficient number of ways. Are games creative works like songs and novels? Or are they inventions, like toys and electronics? Or are they collections of processes?

I can certainly agree with the argument that says game mechanics are like grammar and vocabulary, like notes and chords, and so only the overall concept should be protectable. If the note series CDF was protected by patent for x years, we'd all think it ludicrous. The overall song, sure, and maybe even its constituent parts, down to a certain level (like larger melodies), but it's the overall song that's protected.

But I can also see the argument that says that a game mechanism is like particularly clever microchip or gear or such, that they are individual pieces that can be used to build things, sure, but that their uniqueness and the ingenuity behind them are not different in concept. We grant patents to pieces of greater wholes all the time, in this arena. If I invent a clever LED that's twice as bright as existing LEDs and the mechanism is novel, is there some reason I shouldn't be able to patent it, just because no one actually uses a single LED as an end product, that it always ends up as part of something larger?

And lastly, are we certain that game mechanisms are really conceptually different from processes, like a clever method for threshing wheat, something that's protected by patents all the time? Seems to me that the argument could be made that a process for speeding up players turns through the ability to be lapped by faster players is no different from a process for filling panels with foam insulation without leaving air gaps, or some such patentable process.

Are we arguing apples and oranges here? How do games fit into the realm of intellectual property? I suspect a lack of agreement on that point is causing most of the secondary disagreements here in this discussion.

-- Matthew

VeritasGames
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Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

josdan wrote:
I do not understand why it is *only* games that have the "mechanics" of an entire work stripped out and left unprotected by copyright law.

It is not ONLY games that work this way. Write down a recipe. All the parts that talk about the way you think it tastes are copyrighted. All the parts that talk about how to make it are copyrighted only if they are written down in a particularly clever fashion. Tweak the wording slightly, and write the same darn recipe in my book, and I can do it without violating your copyright. Why? A recipe is a process. Processes and the simplest form of their verbatim expression are NOT copyrightable.

Write a paragraph on wiring a circuit. Reduce it to just the nuts and bolts. Pure process. If there's no simpler way to state those things, and if the order is a matter of process rather than creative choice, then those words are not copyrightable.

Copyright protects no process directives except when they are creatively stated, and then a slight rewording strips the process directive of all copyrightable content.

Copyrights provide almost no useful protection under U.S. law to most types of board and card games, except to protecting layout, displayed elements, etc. People can just rip off your game immediately, almost wholesale.

RPGs are slightly different. They have a lot of gray area as to what is creative content and what is rules, and they are so heavily text driven that you can make a compatible game, but it's best to work from scratch in a different genre.

yogurt wrote:
I suppose my point was that I'd rather see interlocking sets of game mechanics protected, rather than individual mechanisms.

At some level, even what has been described of Jolly's mechanics is not a single mechanism. It's a complex process involving a number of checks and rules on who can give what to whom. It's a process. It's patentable. It's not copyrightable.

And honestly, it's likely such a flavorful process that if you didn't patent it, and just patented your game as a whole, but none of its sub-systems, then somebody else could make a game that "feels" almost identical to yours with slight revisions of your mechanics.

VeritasGames
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Tom Jolly's patent

FastLearner wrote:
I can certainly agree with the argument that says game mechanics are like grammar and vocabulary, like notes and chords, and so only the overall concept should be protectable. If the note series CDF was protected by patent for x years, we'd all think it ludicrous.

I think this is a false analogy. Why? Because, we are comparing patenting things which are commonly in use to patenting something that NOBODY has used before. Therefore, removing a game mechanic which nobody is currently using from general circulation via a patent merely limits FUTURE development, but does not steal a pre-existing something from the idea pool. In games, very often there is a way to work around that gap once you realize that it's there, and if you can't manage to build a game without a newly invented and patented mechanic, it proves the obvious novelty and utility of the patent.

Imagine, for instance, someone inventing a certain something that invents and entirely new sound that has never been heard on earth. Could they patent the method of creating that sound? Maybe that is worthy of a patent. And patenting such a method to create the sound is NOT analagous to stripping out CDF from the songbooks of all existing song writers.

Again, this is why I think that it's not the notion of patenting that it is the problem, but perhaps how hard it is to get into the pool (cost) compared to the relative ease to get sketchy things past the US Patent Office. Those are the problems IMNSHO.

Anonymous
Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

Luckily, thanks to my man VeritasGames, I have been able to keep my promise and stay out of this, as he is echoing my initial sentiments to a tee.

But there have been a few things thrown out that can no longer resist my personal comment... apologies.

Scurra wrote:
Quote:
A classic early example is the steam engine - it took until the patent expired for anyone to be able to develop it in new and different ways because the original owner protected it so strongly.

If you or I or anyone on this forum on this planet would have had the inginuity, dedication, talent and resources to invent the friccin' steam engine... or even something half as earth shattering... we also would have had it patented in a nano second.

josdan wrote:
Quote:
and a song is a collection of notes, instrumentation, and musical mechanics. Words, notes, and mechanics cannot be copyrighted, entire works utilizing these methods can be.

Actually this is a false statement concerning Musical mechanics.

Music is in fact broken down into components and not protected as an entire work.

Ascap protects the song writer and the song performer as two distinct and separate entities that each brought a valuable component to the *end product* to make it a work of art.

Bare in mind its not clear who wrote lyrics or who wrote notes, etc.

Sometimes the writer wrote actual music, sometimes its just a handful of lyrics... sometimes a performer arranges the song entirely different or creates their own guitar solo from scratch to fit the writers song for example, sometimes they don't.

Most of the time, two (or more if we get into the *publisher* aspect) separate checks are flying out the door to two completely different people when you rock one self contained song on your speakers.

Individually protected components of a whole.

jwarrend wrote:
Quote:
I personally think that there's a threshold on what counts as sufficient mental effort to justify protection. A product that tooks years of research and development to create? Sure. A game mechanic that took 30 seconds to come up with? No way. The whole premise of "I was the first one to come up with the idea to let players draw cards from the discard pile, now everyone who uses that in a game has to pay me" is just absurd. I don't think you're entitled for intellectual protection for an idea that many other people could have come up with, and as past precedent has taught us, it's very common for similar game mechanics are certainly easy to emerge from independent sources.

Wha-wha-what!?

Where do I begin?

First off who shall we elect to be this almighty Judge of the Threshold.

Secondly how dare we say it took a game designer 30 seconds to come up with a mechanic that *seems* simple. That is just not right chief.

Haven't you ever designed a game (anything) before and been knee deep in that process? It may take a year to come up with something that a kindergartner could think of in a minute... we now must judge the creative process... scarey.

How many times have you said "Gee this idea is great, it seems so simple, why couldn't I have thought of that!"

Hello?

You are actually describing/defining the whole reason for patents and protections of any kind in the first place...

Yes independent sources can come up with similar ideas... or your hard work and/or creative mind can be ripped off.... in both cases this is exactly why you go and protect yours as soon as you are able... and if you are not able, but the other indepenent source is able (he worked a little harder, sacraficed a little more)... he is somehow evil?

Wow.

Going on...

You don't think I'm entitled to intellectual protection for an idea that many other people could come up with!!!???

Did you read what you wrote here... sorry just legitimately confused.

I mean, according to this way of thinking, first I have to go through my creative process, whatever that may be, perhaps it takes me 5 years to come up with the idea to *tap* a card. So be it. Then I have to be judged on if that was too long to come up with that idea, against some threshold to see if it *counts* as a justifiable idea (in who's eyes again?)... but wait there's more... NOW I have to also think about if what I did finally come up with just happens to be something that many other people could maybe also come up with, because if it is, then Bob or Mary down the street may think of that idea too in the next few decades, and that wouldn't be fair to them or the population of people who think of ideas, so I better just leave it free and clear and try for an idea that I know for a fact other people won't think of... ever.

!WHAT IN THE!?

Is this really what its like on Mars, because I am going to cancel the space shuttle tickets I just bought.

Anonymous
Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

Brahmulus wrote:
josdan wrote:
and a song is a collection of notes, instrumentation, and musical mechanics. Words, notes, and mechanics cannot be copyrighted, entire works utilizing these methods can be.

Actually this is a false statement concerning Musical mechanics.

Music is broken down into components and not protected as an entire work.

When I refer to music, I am not talking about the composer/performer separation. I am speaking only of a recorded performance by an artist. This is the basis for the "P" classification fairly recently instituted by the USCO (mid-1980s I think). This was also the precedent to which I referred in my original post.

The "musical mechanics" referred to are the creative elements in a recorded performance that create the entire work. Unauthorized use of any part of the performance (i.e. Sampling) is copyright infringement.

Anyway, it is apparent "patent people" are happy with the way things are, no doubt because they have the financial resources to play that game. I just think a change needs to be made to provide affordable *real* protection to fledgling game designers, regardless of one's financial stature.

Tony

FastLearner
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

Brahmulus wrote:
Wha-wha-what!?

Where do I begin?
By taking a deep breath, please. No need for outrage or exasperation, logical discussion will suffice nicely, thank you.

Quote:
First off who shall we elect to be this almighty Judge of the Threshold.

Same people who are now, the USPTO and, following the inevitable lawsuit, a judge. Nothing new there. (Mind you, I'm not a supporter of the "only if it was hard" school -- just noting that the "almighty Judge" already exists in this arena.)

Quote:
Secondly how dare we say it took a game designer 30 seconds to come up with a mechanic that *seems* simple. That is just not right chief.

Will everyone please stop it with this "chief" nonsense? It's intended to be deragotory, pure and simple, and is unacceptable (and yes, that begoms with Lee).

Quote:
Did you read what you wrote here... sorry just legitimately confused.

No, that's intentional condescension, not "just legitimately confused." Please cease.

Quote:
Is this really what its like on Mars, because I am going to cancel the space shuttle tickets I just bought.

Logical discussion, please. This is a personal attack and is unacceptable.

This is a great discussion, minus the hostility. Let's keep it that way, ok, y'all?

-- Matthew

VeritasGames
VeritasGames's picture
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Joined: 08/01/2008
Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

FastLearner wrote:
Will everyone please stop it with this "chief" nonsense? It's intended to be deragotory, pure and simple, and is unacceptable (and yes, that begoms with Lee).

What the bloody heck are you talking about?! I call people "chief" all the time. Picked it up as a kid from watching too many George Reeves Superman serials. Jimmy used to call Perry "chief". While it drove Perry nuts, Jimmy always said it as a form of panic-driven respect for the old guy.

How calling somebody "chief" (impliedly, the man in charge, the man you report to, etc.) is negative is beyond me.

I could try to remember to insert "dude" into a sentence if you find it somehow oddly less offensive.

I take no responsibility as to whether or how other people ape my usage though. Whether they mean to use it in some offensive fashion is entirely up to them.

VeritasGames
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Joined: 08/01/2008
Re: Is a New Copyright Classification the Answer???

josdan wrote:
Anyway, it is apparent "patent people" are happy with the way things are, no doubt because they have the financial resources to play that game. I just think a change needs to be made to provide affordable *real* protection to fledgling game designers, regardless of one's financial stature.

Tony

First, if by patent people you mean the people here on the thread who think patent protection is not an unreasonable thing to have, then I take issue with your statement. I support them, because without them the law provides for no protection for pure mechanics, and I think there should be. Since the beginnings of our legal system pure process was destined for patents and creative text was protected by copyright. I see no reason to change this.

My rationale has NOTHING to do about having $$$ to afford a patent, and I've complained, in this thread by the way, that patents have a prohibitive cost to get.

Regardless, if you think having free patents will do you any good, more power to you. Ask for them. If you get them, they won't help you by themselves. They have to be actively defended, and if you don't have the cash to afford to file one, you undoubtedly don't have the cash for the prolonged legal battle to defend one. That's a nasty side-effect of our adversarial system of jurisprudence.

I personally would like to see patents cheaper as well, but I'm not under any illusion that it will make them any easier to defend.

You want _REAL_ protection. Customer loyalty. People who buy your product because of the name on it. People who by Gucci for $10,000 instead of paying $750 for an identical off-brand knock-off dress. That's REAL protection for your wallet. It's hard to come by.

Short of that you need to litigate to gain any real protection in this country. Filing for a registration on a copyright or trademark or patent just gives you a little more weight to your stick when you shake it. It doesn't bring down hellfire and damnation on offenders -- you need some good lawyers and a bankroll for that.

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