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The Loading Screen Game Patent Finally Expires (eff.org)
191 points by DiabloD3 on Dec 5, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments



I think I never saw a better description of what's actually wrong with the patent system today than what's offered in this article:

> The Supreme Court has said that patents should only be granted for “those inventions which would not be disclosed or devised but for the inducement of a patent.” In other words, if the inventor isn’t trading information of real value for the patent, then it’s not a good patent. Unfortunately, many software patents do just the opposite. They offer no real information about how to implement a feature, only a vaguely worded description of the feature itself. In court, vagueness is often rewarded over specificity, as plaintiffs stretch the boundaries of their inventions to cover the defendants’ products.


The title is all you need to illustrate what's wrong with the patent system.


There's another variable that the headline doesn't capture: the legal system. The fear that you might infringe and be be taken to court is often enough to deter people from innovating. The legal fees and lost revenue can be enough to ruin a business.


Their objection of vagueness isn't good in this case I feel. A patent is directed at skilled practitioners of the relevant arts, this document has sufficient detail to allow a programmer to implement the idea. Claims must define an area of technology otherwise patents would just be worked around and would provide no useful monopoly.

However it does appear to be anticipated by prior art mentioned elsewhere on the comments here. Given that, I'm surprised the patent wasn't challenged: that suggests it either wasn't useful to others or that the USA court system prevents lawful challenges to anticipated patents somehow (eg by burdening appellants - appealing against the grant - with costs).


> A patent is directed at skilled practitioners of the relevant arts, this document has sufficient detail to allow a programmer to implement the idea.

I haven't read the patent yet, but how specific is it? Because while it is one thing for the description to convey the general idea so that a skilled practitioner can make something similar, there's a big fat question of ambiguity - did I actually make the thing this patent describes or not? What exactly is the thing that's covered?


Otoh, being too specific allows someone to change one thing and claim it doesn't infringe.


Only because the system already allows for patents that shouldn't exist because they aren't novel enough.

See, for example:

http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letter...

Jefferson was clearly dead set against the situation you are describing -- granting patents with only incidental modifications to the system. But then again he would be rolling in his grave if he saw (and had the modern knowledge to understand) the completely inane, obvious (to practitioners of the art) shit we've been granting patents on since about the late 1980s.


Patents have two main sections that are very different from each other: 1. The claims set out exactly what inventions the patent protects. They are the part that must be novel and non-obvious. When writing a patent, you want your claims to be as broad as possible (while still satisfying the novelty and non-obviousness requirements) to maximize the protection that the patent offers. 2. The specification teaches a person skilled in the relevant art how to make/use the claimed inventions. This section includes specific details about possible implementations of the inventions. This section can discuss many different variations, and should make it clear that these are only some of the possible variations, not an exhaustive list.

Using a simplistic example based on your child comment, a sentence in the specification might state "The phone may be black, or gold, or any other suitable color." (In reality, the specific color is not likely to be addressed at all unless it plays a role in the claimed invention.)


So you're saying there's absolutely no harm in being specific, because that's a different section? That's new to me, and if correct, I retract my claim above. Thanks.


That's how it should be.


Well, imagine apple puts all information necessary to build an iPhone into a patent. Then Samsung builds a phone identical to the iPhone, except it's green. If the patent specifically mentioned black, gold, but not green, then a green phone might not infringe.

My point is that too specific can also be a drawback.


Too specific is only a drawback to the patent holder. And a single-patent iPhone patent would cost a fortune to file anyway. Having overly specific patents is not remotely a drawback to the rest of us.


If apple is discouraged from inventing an iPhone because they won't be able to defend the patent against minor changes, that's a loss to society.

If you concede that patents in general are good, then you should also agree that sometimes, it's better for a patent to be general.


I'm more in the "everything is a remix" camp, at least as far as software and design patents are concerned. If Apple didn't create the iPhone, someone else would have made something similar.


Worth reading https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.27.1.3 The Case Against Patents which is a paper that argues that patents (all of them, not just software) mainly support incumbents and prevent competition.


As someone that is planning on patenting genetics post-TPP, I completely agree with the parent. TPP a terrible monopolistic IP-grab, but every patent/copyright/trademark scheme that came before was just as bad.


Never knew invade-a-load was mainly a feature of UK games..

It mostly appeared in games sold in the United Kingdom, as, by the time it was written, the Commodore market in the United States had mostly switched to floppy disk media.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invade-a-Load

Loading games on the C64 was a nightmare.... At least with the 3 cassette loaders I owned. The first 1 broke, the second one was returned due to not loading some games and with the 3rd I experimented with adjusting the tape head alignment. Most games would load, but sometimes they would randomly fail. When loading took a up 30 mins (max capacity, most games much less), it would become infuriating! Much finger crossing was done during loading.

This was the tape loader...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_64_peripherals#Tape_...


Ugh! There are sooooooooo many patents and copyrights that don't deserve protection but because of the broken systems in place no one is willing to challenge them.

No game company I know of was wiling to challenge Namco's patent. It's not worth the money even if you win. Just remove the feature :(

Other game related patents include

zooming a camera from Virtua Racing, patented.

Ghost cars from Midway's Hard Drivin', patented.

Patent to have a arrow point the way to go from Crazy Taxi

Patent on plus shaped controllers. That to me sounds about as crazy as a patent on round knobs but IANAL

Patent on making a wireless controller go to sleep after a certain amount of time.


I don't know if it's the case here but one needs to be sure to read the granted claims to determine the scope.

Abstracts are notoriously broad definitions that people often read and get confused by as they think this applicant written section defines the patent, it does not (file wrapper estoppels aside).


Why the fuck are we patenting things that are effectively art (games) or design ideas?


It was incredibly exciting when games started coming out on cartridge for instant-loading, although IIRC there weren't too many games available in that format.


You've brought back a lot of memories. My Atari 800 was the same. The more we played the games, the more worn they'd get, the less likely they'd load. Favourite games wore out first )o;


Software is an implementation of an idea, not an idea in itself. Most ideas behind software are extremely commonplace and dull and should never be patented, but because it's done in software (or "with computers"), all of a sudden mundane everyday ideas become patentable. Not only are software patents mundane, they're painfully obvious ideas. This one is no exception. Hopefully Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank will help curb some of these patent ideas, but without addressing the issuance of such stupid patents at the root, this problem is unfixable.

Perhaps the patent office just needs more specialized staff that is both highly technical and legally trained. I'm not sure, but what I am sure is that I can't think of a single, properly patentable piece of software in existence today.


How on this was this deemed not too broad to be a patent?

Good thing ancient humans didn't not have IP laws, otherwise some wiseguy would have patented the fire and taken down civilization with him.


In the spirit of Douglas Adams, maybe that's exactly what happened, and we're now, in fact, 17 years behind where we should be.


Not only did it happen, I'm pretty sure we're about 200-400 years behind due to the Dark Ages, even with the Muslims and the Chinese taking up the slack.

And I'm not kidding about Muslim math and science achievements when Europe was busy fucking itself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematics_in_medieval_Islam


We made a lot of progress through the so called dark ages. It was mostly decentralized, but if you track things like farming yields there was significant advancement which paved the way for further progress.

Don't forget food surplus is what enables people do something other than just farm food, so farming efficency has dramatic long term benifits.


I think the parent poster's comments are still valid. There was a good article yesterday about Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, who was killed unnecessarily during the French Revolution (but not during the dark ages). Someone said it most probably set back chemistry 20 to 50 years. It happened, often. Or Galileo and his rotation of the planets. Many people consider Europe to have been largely ignorant during the dark ages. I'd definitely agree.


> There was a good article yesterday about Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, who was killed unnecessarily during the French Revolution (but not during the dark ages). Someone said it most probably set back chemistry 20 to 50 years. It happened, often. Or Galileo and his rotation of the planets.

Worth noting that Galileo also lived hundreds of years after basically any definition of the "Dark Ages".

Wikipedia has a nice turn of phrase calling the term a caricature of the period. There are aspects to it that were true, but overall misleading to inaccurate (the Islamic world certainly was in a Golden Age at the time, however).


The Dark Ages never happened and are an rethorical tool used by Enlightenment thinkers to elevate their own position. Europe did not slack during the middle ages. Far from it.


I noticed that Splatoon on the WiiU has a game you play while waiting for a multiplayer match to start, but I guess that skirts the patent because the game isn't "loading" at that point.


Well, there's plenty of weird edge cases where someone could argue you are on a loading screen.

For example: Star Wars Battlefront. When you put the disc in and start the game, you get to play as Darth Vader on a small map, while the game is installing. You cannot get out of this level until the game is fully installed. One could argue that you are playing a game while on an invisible loading screen. It's probably the fact that you don't have a loading bar that stops the game from infringing on the patent.


There's also the waiting room thing in Super Smash Bros online multiplayer, where you practice by beating up the sandbag in a practice stage.


Discussed invade-a-load) a few days ago as a feature of ghostbusters on c64

Didn't know it was a reusable library.


From the linked compilation, here is a wonderful little game. http://atiaxi.itch.io/this-game-is-not-going-to-load-itself


Did HN kill eff.org?

Access forbidden!

You don't have permission to access the requested directory. There is either no index document or the directory is read-protected.

If you think this is a server error, please contact the webmaster. Error 403 www.eff.org Sat Dec 5 04:27:56 2015 Apache/2.2.22 (Debian)


works now, well that was weird


Now I'm getting ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS




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