[MUD-Dev] DNA Game Patent [was Randy's Resume]

F. Randall Farmer randy.farmer at pobox.com
Wed Aug 1 09:02:35 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Now, I'm probably "anti-software-patent" as the next engineer: I
think it _sucks_ the way the government says we have to play the
intellectual property game in exactly this way.

I hate bad patents (not just software) with a passion, and only hold
patents as a defensive measure...

The World's Inc. patent discussed here a few months ago comes to
mind as a patent with some questionable claims, especially _as
written_.

I have to disagree that the DNA patent is "bad" in the same
way. Please read the claims closely. As with most patents, the
claims build on each other in (roughly) incremental order. What you
need to watch for is the generality of the first claim. I have to
say that of all the software patents I have ever had to read, this
patent has the MOST SPECIFIC Claim 1 I have ever seen. _None_ of the
prior art here even close to applies. It ISN'T a patent on shared
characters. It isn't a patent on trading cards.

Here is the first claim (from which all other claims are derived...)

  1. An apparatus comprising: 

    a plurality of processing devices, at least first and second
    ones of said processing devices including an associated display;

    a network interconnecting said processing devices;

    a first game program at least partially stored on one of said
    processing devices, said first game program having at least a
    first playing object having at least one attribute, said first
    playing object being identifiably associated with a user, said
    first playing object having a look and feel on said display
    corresponding to said at least one attribute of said first
    playing object;

    a second game program at least partially stored on one of said
    processing devices, said second game program having at least a
    second playing object having at least one attribute, said second
    playing object being identifiably associated with said user said
    second playing object having a look and feel on said display
    corresponding to said at least one attribute of said second
    playing object; and

    a mapping function, at least partially stored on one of said
    processing devices, for mapping attributes of said first playing
    object in said first game to said second playing object in said
    second game, wherein said mapping function maintains a
    substantially similar overall value of attributes between said
    first and second playing objects.

My non-lawyer, non-patentese interpretation of the limitations of
the first claim:

  Two or more _different_ networked (multiuser) games (which MUST
  include client software) that can use the same objects in similar,
  but differing ways.

  Bard's Tale isn't covered. 100% text MUDs aren't covered. There is
  only a handful of Client-Server games that even existed then. :-)

I am interested in any pre-May 1996 games that meet ALL of these
criteria, but I'm pretty sure they don't exist. I was looking for
them at the time.  I was _building_ one at the time. [Though, I
fully admit that I _could_ have missed some of the smaller projects
out there, while I was balls-to-the-wall in object
ontology/implementation.]

Oh yeah, the standard of Prior Art is tougher than most people
think. A single garage-effort in 1995 that 5 people used isn't Prior
Art. :-)

BTW, Prior Art doesn't invalidate an _entire_ patent, it just makes
the specific _claim_ more difficult to defend in court.

Randy

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