Recently, GameTek LLC filed a series of patent infringement cases in southern California against such social gaming companies like Facebook, Zynga, Electronic Arts, Wooga, Funzio and 6waves. Who could dare to challenge these social gaming companies in court and that too for patent infringement charges? The strange fact is that GameTek LLC is a company on paper only apparently according to The Verge.
The patent, US no.7,076,445, was assigned to GameTek last month. Another surprise in this case is that the games GameTek is claiming to be infringed are FarmVille, CityVille, Mafia Wars 2, Crime City, Bingo Blitz, and a couple of others. This is like almost every successful game on Facebook. Could this be a big joke? But the social gamers on Facebook need not to get threatened because as of now there favourite games are not going anywhere, they can still continue.
Here is the twist in the story of this case. The ‘445 patent claims, priority goes back to 2000 that was granted in 2006. There are a total of 19 claims in the patent. The bigger claims in the patent reportedly cover in-game purchases for virtual objects like health, resources, weapons, skill points, and other such goodies. Furthermore, the claims cover the following in-game purchasing (software) method as reported by The Verge:
- permitting a gamer to create an account;
- determining if the gamer is eligible to purchase game objects;
- setting a price for the game objects;
- making sure the gamer’s account balance can cover the game objects;
- offering a game object for purchase based on the status of the game and gamer; and
- allowing the gamer to purchase the game object, and incorporating the object into the game, without interrupting the game action.
Whenever there are patent infringement claims, they are often based on a single phrase or term in a patent claim, which under the law is important to kept trust with. This is the first time that patent infringement claims were made on the mentioned social games against such companies as Facebook and Zynga who are known for it and do a lot of business based on the users of these social games.
The experts believe that it would depend on the interpretation of the terms as to where would this case go. As of now there has not been any response to these charged from either Facebook or Zynga. May be they feel safe from the fact that GameTek exist just on paper apparently and does not hold any other presence.