Did you know that games such as Project Gotham Racing
and Ridge Racer 6
are paying Midway to include 'ghost mode' cars to race against, thanks to a patent in the company's 1989 arcade racer Hard Drivin'
? We analyze the original patent
, talk to Midway and licensee Global VR, and examine just how patents impact the biz.
Midway's patent is particularly interesting in that it covers an “abstract gameplay feature,” something that does not come up often in court - this excerpt describes that arguing the legal validity of such patents can often be a tricky matter:
“Can a patent on an abstract gameplay feature really hold up in court? It's hard to generalize, Dannenberg says, because such cases are pretty rare – coming to court roughly once every two years. What's more, most cases are settled out of court before a judgment can be rendered, making it hard to draw meaningful statistics from the available case law.
Most patent litigation hinges on the idea of obviousness – whether an idea is truly original or is just a simple, immediately apparent extension of prior art. It's a fine line, and one that game patents can easily fall on either side of. Magnavox's original patent on the Odyssey and the idea of Pong-style games has held up well in three different patent infringement lawsuits against companies including Mattel and Activision. But a loss in court can leave a company with a weaker patent, as happened in 1994 when Capcom failed to prove Data East's Fighter's History infringed on its Street Fighter franchise.”
You can now read to entire feature
, which includes detailed commentary on Midway's 'ghost racer' patent, as well as a reprint of the original patent, granted in 1996, for #5,577,913, 'System And Method For Driver Training With Multiple Driver Competition (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).