Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Board and Card Game Patents, January 2007

Welcome to a new year of board and card game patents.

Patents are government-granted, internationally-recognized monopolies on an invented process, mechanism, or design/theme combination. They cost several thousand dollars and about two years to obtain, and last for only ten or twenty years or so, although they can be renewed.

For this reason, most game inventors don't bother with them, instead relying on the cheaper and easier alternatives of copyrights and trademarks, which protect only the execution of the game, but not the idea. Most games are stupid anyway, so this is not a problem.

Spurious Patents

Patents are only supposed to be granted when the submitted item is original, non-obvious, and non-trivial. Unfortunately, patent examiners have been sorely lax in their duties over the last several years, accepting all types of frivolous patents by lazily assuming that corrections can be made if someone bothers to challenge them.

Unfortunately, this means that the party with the most money and the fanciest lawyer wins, since smaller and less wealthy companies or individuals can't compete. And unfortunately, even the threat of a lawsuit over a patent, existing or non-existing, can scare people enough to make them drop any association with something that should not have been subject to legal threat to begin with.

Obfuscated Language

In order to cause the most damage, patents are deliberately worded as vaguely as possible so that any possible present or future process or implementation that sounds even vaguely like what is being submitted will fall under the patent, should the patent be accepted.

The simplest of ideas are worded with strange and arcane legal terminology so as to make it all sound official and complex, running on for ten, twenty, or more pages, picture after diagram after drawing, when all that is actually being claimed is something like "the game of Blackjack where each player plays three hands, and wins if two out of three of his hands do", or something similar.

Board and Card Game Patents

The vast majority of board and card game patents granted cover casino game mechanisms or variations on poker games. I don't bother describing most of the former. Most of the latter are so obvious and trivial as to surely deserve no patent protection. That's a major source of my amusement.

Following at a distant second are game designs or themes, usually educational or occupational, where those who believe that they are the first person in the world to create a game that teaches children about toilet cleaning spend hard earned cash to protect an idea that will never sell enough to make up the money spent on the patent, let alone the production, marketing, and distribution of the game itself.

I know you feel the same eager anticipation that I do to know what brilliant mechanisms, processes, ideas, and designs are in store for us in the coming year, so let's get started.

Board and Card Game Patents for January, 2007

Method and system for weighting odds to specific gaming entities in a shared bonus event: Essentially, (yet another) system of changing the odds of one game based on the outcome of a previous game. I think it's limited to casino games, in some fashion.

Mediacube : This patent looks like its for those little glass cubes we saw on the picture of the long-awaited Phillips Entertaible. In other words, something, that when placed on a surface, refracts something from the surface for some purpose.

System and method for playing a table and electronic card game: Appears to be a simple poker game. You flip a card. High card wins. Duh. A 2 always loses and an Ace always wins 3:2. Exactly how this is an "electronic card game" is greatly obfuscated, but basically it implies the same game, when done electronically.

Interactive game: A strange abstract board game played on a 12x12 board, where each player puts down 6 contiguous pieces on each turn, and your score at the end is the square of the sizes of your spaces. A little more complicates than that, but there you go. Much is also made of the numbers printed on the board, for reasons that I couldn't fathom.

Puzzle game incorporating a rotational element and methods of playing thereof: A puzzle game where you have to rotate and slide the pieces to match a design.

Poker game with dealer disqualifying hand: Poker, where the dealer gets a second hand if the first goes over, and where you can also win if a specific type of hand appears.

Systems and methods for card games that simulate non-card casino table games: A card game that simulates a roulette wheel, and a roulette wheel that simulates a card game.

Game for stimulating reading interest: A game board where each part of the board has a piece of story which must be read aloud. Furthermore, players essentially bet what part of the story the next die roll will indicate, winning or losing points as a result of their bet. This is supposed to "stimulate reading interest".

Five card high-low wagering games and methods thereof: A variant of Acey-Deucey.

Sports related board game: A basketball board game that allows a player to act as the owner of a basketball franchise, where the object is to become the wealthiest owner at the end of the game (as opposed to scoring the most points).

Combination pool table/ping pong table: I could swear I've seen these before, like say here, among others. Apparently the patent is on parts of the mechanism that lower and raise the playing surface to regulation height.

Systems and methods for resolving a hand of blackjack that results in a push: Laura Mercy, this is unbelievable. Essentially, it's rolling a die to resolve ties in Blackjack.

Card game and deck for use therewith: Bridge, played with twenty-four cards of values 9 through A, where each card can function as one of two cards, and a strange card ranking system is introduced.

Bonus feature on starting hands: Poker, where you can get an additional hand to play if your first hand is already a good poker draw.

Table game: Mancala, with colored pieces and multiple players, where placing certain color combinations requires you to reverse direction.

Truth be told, variants on Mancala using stones with different abilites sounds rather cool, and could make an excellent Eurogame.

Fishing board game: A roll-and-move set-collection "educational" board game about fish in Australia.

That's all, folks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

its kind of funny, the company i work for does not patent any of its game mechanics, because it only licenses them from designers for a limited production run anyway. Besides, outside of a court room and pirating others for settlement, there is no real value in owning how a game works -- people will come and buy your product based on word of mouth and brand recognition infinitely more than they will because of an actual mechanic ....