Tuesday, November 06, 2007

October Board and Card Game Patents

So what's the procedure? I check the USPTO website on the 4th or 5th of the month, since that's about when they are caught up with their online database for the previous month. There are other patent searching sites, such as Google's patent search, but I prefer the source.

I search for "board game" OR "board games" OR "card game" OR "card games" OR "chess" using the advanced search. The resulting list is usually around 60 entries long for the month, although the first few will be from the current month. I skip the ones that look completely irrelevant from the title.

After opening each one and determining its relevance, I open the same document again using a direct search on the patent number, because the first window I opened is actually a temporary URL that won't work in a few days from now. Then I copy the title and URL over to this post.

For design patents, I open the pictures on IE, because it doesn't seem to work on Firefox. For other patents, I only open the pictures if I can't figure out what the heck it's talking about.

For regular patents, I read the abstract and then skip down to Background of the Invention and Summary of the Invention. If I understand it, great. If not, I try to figure it out by slowly reading it again. I then do a quick check of the patent's author and any text on the page that looks like a brand name for the product or a URL. Using these, I may be able to find the product using Google or Board Game Geek.

If you look closely, the patent numbers are often sequential. I believe this is either because two or more subsequent patents are from the same submitter, or because a bunch of patents passed off the desk of the patent examiner in charge of toys and games. Therefore, if I see a run of patent numbers, I will manually check some numbers above or below the run to see if I missed some with my search terms.

See my sidebar for monthly patent summaries from the last year and a half.

October Patents

Gaming machine, server and program for card game - While this patent covers an electronic gaming system, it deals with an idea I often cover: how to keep players interested in the game even when they no longer have a chance of winning outright. It suggests randomly pairing players of different skills each round, or something like that.

Method of playing a storytelling and idea generation game - This took a long time to figure out, but eventually I realized it was for the doodad in the game Spinergy.

Board game named Tora - A revisiting of a patent you last saw in March.

Game and method of play - A roll and move game called "Mind Your Own Business" that looks suspiciously like Monopoly.

Simulated golf game - A golf board game with "hazards" and lots of dice.

Chess Game - A design patent for chess pieces. They don't look very interesting.

Game board - A design patent for a game board. Can't tell anything about the game, but it's by David Vializ.

Castle chess board - A design patent for a chess board that looks like a low castle.

Party play DVD game - The idea of using a DVD to randomly present trivia questions with video clips, rather than to do so sequentially. Uh ...

Dice and card game and method of playing - The game Roll 'Em Show 'Em.

Smart discard rack for playing cards - A card reader for a casino's discard pile. Yet another attempt to reduce the possibility of fraud.

Underwater matching game - Waterproof pieces that sink to the bottom of the pool for collection by the swim students.

Method and apparatus for playing a dice game - A dice game and felt cloth. The game consists of rolling a die, and then betting on which numbers will roll up again before the first number is rolled again. The author claims that a simple game such as this is necessary because games like Craps are too complicated because they have "odds" and "rules" in them.

Crossword puzzle board game - 2-player competitive crossword game. Roll the dice and solve the clues.

Wealth board game - Apparently roll-and-move isn't enough of a useless mechanic, so this one has dice, random cards, and spinners. Then you do what is says on the space.



David said...

While it's well known around Washington that the Patent Office is a terrible place to work, I just learned some additional details from a couple of former Patent people who recently joined our agency. Because the backlog of patent applications is more than 2 years, management emphasizes quantity to the exclusion of quality. I was told that even seasoned patent examiners work most weekends to keep up with their quota. Also, there is such a high turnover among the staff that the Patent Office hires approximately 1,200 people annually and offers large salary premium over the rest of the government just to keep up. The standards for hiring are very lax and no interview is required. Neither is any level of expertise. New staff are assigned to a technical area based on the slightest past association with an industry.

This explains a lot about the quality of the patents you've shown us. But it also means that if any of your readers are interested in affecting which game patent applications are approved (and are willing to endure the environment), they may have a good chance of doing so just by sending in an application to the Patent Office.

Yehuda said...

Thanks, David.

Hear that everyone? Let's all go work in the patent office and reject things!