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Patents Myth?


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This is a one for the americans out there. There is something I assumed was a myth until today. Patent abuse. The idea is stuff like singing happy birthday, or having an interactive loading screen in a game, is illegal unless you pay a million dollers to some guy who 'owns' it. The reason this is in the games section is because a recently article on the internet brought up the idea again as a weird 'fact'. So, what I assumed was a well known myth is, according to this american site, a little known fact.

In games such things you can't use include

Floating Arrows

Interactive loading screens

Highlighted destination

Computer taking control of the player


So, if I have a game where a character goes crazy I have to pay millions to someone, but Amnesia has craziness, as does Eturnal Darkness and Silent Hill. Does that mean they all paid some company?

So, is this true? I tried to look it up and found nothing. In practice people still sing happy birthday and, as I just pointed out, still use floating arrows, insanity ect. Is it just an american thing?

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I've seen all of those in games. I'm calling bullshit.

In fact, most of those are in the Assassin's Creed games alone.

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Well, the US allows the patenting of software, which, if I recall, the EU does not allow.

Some of the claims out there, though, are probably exaggerated. For instance, I don't think a patent on a character going insane would stand up for a minute in court. What would, though, would be some kind of underlying patent on the game mechanics.

Also, the US patent office has been underfunded and has a huge backlog. This often leads to poor judgment in issuing patents. This has led to the issuing of very broad patents for mere ideas that are never put to practicality. The inventor then sells the patents to holding companies. Many of these companies are what are known as patent trolls. They have a large library of patents, and their business model is based entirely on litigation. They wait for a product to get popular, and then they start suing.

The EFF has been active in patent issues, so more info can be had here: http://www.eff.org/issues/patents

The "Happy Birthday" issue, however, is NOT a patent issue. It is a copyright. The lyrics were penned in a time frame which is still covered by copyright law, thanks to Disney. I believe Warner Music Group owns the copyright on it now. That is why you don't see the song in-full on TV much.

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What I don't get is how you can copyright a public song like that, it's a bit like putting a patent on hopscotch, or wrestling. Assuming it was written by a guy, what was sung before that.

The problem with the mechanical side of insanity though is how is it defined. Most games where a character goes crazy sees things or has wobbley vision.

Patent trolls are called patent abuse here. Same basic concept. You create a bunch of general things and when a big company makes said thing as part of another product sue them with an out of court settlement offer just below the cost to go ahead with the trial.

On a copyright front a guy once claimed ownership of the brand 'edge' and went about suing enyone who used that word. It wasn't until he went after EA for mirrors edge he got slapped down having never made anything for 15 years.

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Because the song wasn't public. That's a myth. The tune is "Good Morning to All" by Patty and Mildred Hill, written in 1893. The lyrics are a bit sketchy, but the copyright was filed in 1935.  Less than 42 years does not make it "public."

Thanks to the Mickey Mouse Protection Act (Disney spent the most lobbying money on it), nothing copyrighted after 1923 is public domain.

Here is a graph that tells the US copyright story (The Sonny Bono Act is the official name of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act):

I think you're confusing the different facets of IP, so let me define them:

Patents - Patents protect ideas for inventions. It is intended to allow an inventor a chance to develop and market his/her product without being bullied out of the market. Example: A new type of folding chair or a method for exchanging gasses

Copyright - Copyrights protect the author of a creative work so that they have a chance to profit from it. Examples: Songs, movies, books, software programs (properly)

Trademark - Trademarks protect businesses from other businesses/people using their brand names and logos.  Examples: Coca-Cola, British Airways, Nintendo, Wii, and the logos thereof

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