Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Zynga wants to patent virtual currency in gambling games (uspto.gov)
44 points by deerparkwater on Oct 22, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

In 2003, Second Life had US$->L$ purchases, user->user L$ exchanges, no path to covert back, and many users playing Texas Hold 'em and other games of chance using L$.

We even had a day in early 2004 where some unnamed wealthy individuals had a high stakes game of Texas Hold 'em which moved enough L$ around to distort our statistics.

Well, if Zynga does it you know there has to be prior art since they've never thought of anything themselves.

I remember old BBS games where you could give money to the operator of the BBS to buy turns and gold. The latter could be given to others.

Virtually all poker sites have allow you to play using "play money".

Wow,talk about trivial.

Virtual currency already has existed for a long time already, even outside the world of computers. For example, the small change bank cards you can charge and pay with (like Proton in Belgium, http://www.atosworldline.be/index/en_US/5118014/0000/Proton....), that's virtual money. So are strip cards to pay fares on city buses, and the photo vending machines in some shops where your payment gets deducted from a prepaid card.

So what's new here: that it's for use inside a website, or that it's being used for gambling?

World of Warcraft has prepaid cards.

I think even Ultima Online had prepaid cards. That's 1996.

As the father of a 6-year-old who already has a Club Penguin paid account, I really don't mind not seeing any innovations in this area for the next 17~20 years.

Puzzle Pirates (www.puzzlepirates.com) has used virtual currency in exactly these ways (for gambling in virtual poker and other games, and buying virtual items that can be exchanged between users) since before Zynga was founded. Seems like clear prior art. The one claim that isn't in PP is the limit on the number of times an item can change hands.

It's hard to see how zynga wouldn't know about this.

I want to patent money too.

Like poker chips?

>>;crediting an account of the first player with virtual currency, wherein the virtual currency is not redeemable for legal currency.

Nope. Your money has gone into a black hole in the internet forever.

There's prior art with "virtual currency" going back as long as the eyes can see. Even stupid old DOS Blackjack games where you got a virtual $500 to bet with is easily considered a form of virtual currency. This is why we need a public forum so that anyone, wikipedia-style, can look at patents awaiting approval so that invalid ones are less likely to make it through.

Neopets was bashed for some time with claims that the games they produced were similar to gambling games. I think it proves prior art in and of itself.


Based on my 10 second read of the patent they are taking a real world process, exchanging the word "real" (chips) with "virtual" (chips) and thus it is patentable?

Rejected; I invented this first.

Will be updating with prior art but please post if you have anything

Here is basically what they want to patent:

Purchasing virtual currency with real currency where the virtual currency cannot be returned to real currency into a gamgling game.

Using the virtual currency in the gamble and deducting/awarding the user appropriately.

2 claims that say the same thing: associating a virtual item to 2 users (implying that a virtual item can change hands, wow what an innovation zynga, thanks) and purchasing a virtual item with virtual currency

Transfering virtual currency and in the process verifying a social connection, between 2 users and placing a limit on how often they can do this.

Software patents need to be invalidated but we'll get into that later

I will be doing a live stream or a local recording of me trying to implement this "innovation" to be "defended" for ~20 years in the interests of the progression of science and arts in the shortest ammount of time

Also http://stopsocialgamepatents.org

I am not a laywer but I believe my web based MMO, Forumwarz, meets the criteria.

Forumwarz launched in 2007. You can buy brownie points with real currency. The brownie points can be converted into the game's currency, Flezz, which can then be gambled through conversations with GambleBot, a robot you can speak to via IM in the game.

Your winnings can be used to purchase virtual items, those items can be traded with other players through our auction house (the auction house was added in 2009, I believe).

There are limits on how you can trade the virtual items to discourage people just buying their way to the top of the game.

Obviously I'm not a lawyer but I feel like if our game isn't exactly prior art, it's pretty damn close!

Gaia Online, an internet forum and game community, has been using a virtual currency for most, if not all, of those things since 2002 or 2003. The one exception is purchasing virtual currency with real currency, but Second Life has been doing that practically since they launched.

got back from giant, diet cream soda and diet lemon lime soda getting livestream up


^on september 17 as the site scrolls listings

Senior Patent Counsel is the first listing. Looks like they might have found someone

My respect for Mark Pincus Suddenly dropped to 0. Especially since he noted as saying, in the "Facebook Effect," that he (as well as Matt) bought the patent to social networking so he could make it free and independent, away from the big corporations, and talked about how patents hinder innovation... clearly that was all BS!

Is it just me or has everyone else seemingly not read either the title nor the post?


Most people seem to be talking about this game already does this or that and xxx is virtual money blah blah. From my understanding the patent is for virtual currency in gambling games which almost no-one seems to have noticed. I mean, don't get me wrong I'm sure there is a lot of prior art for this patent but it just strikes me as strange that so many people would bring up seemingly irrelevant arguments.

I don't know much about patents, but let's say Farmville (although Zynga own it, assume they don't) decided to add some sort of betting element to their game, would that not make it a "gambling game" and therefore infringe on any patents against it?

While it might not affect all pre-existing social games, if the above is true then it limits what they can do with their game.

I'm not sure how your first point applies here. If I get a patent for copy-paste using gestures, does my patent apply to using a mouse or any future copy-paste methods? Maybe, maybe not, it doesn't actually matter here because those methods don't exist yet so talking about them is irrelevant as I tried to point out. If you read the whole of my comment you'd see that I went as far as to suggest the patent itself is most likely invalid.

No, my prior art was specifically related to gambling games. I explored doing this as a facebook app somewhat seriously, but then Facebook and Zynga had the dispute that ended with FB credits being the broad facebook currency and figured it wouldn't be allowed on FB/was too uncertain.

Why is using virtual currency in gambling games patent-worthy if the unrestricted use of virtual currency already exists?

I'm not sure what you're getting at as I didn't say anything about the patent being valid. All I did was call out the fact that most people weren't talking about the actual patent. Oracle has some patents related to virtual machines, are they enforcible on all virtual machines?


Which has nothing to do with the patent submission process, merely the patent approval process. I'd be willing to bet I can apply for a meaninglessly trivial patent in Europe as well; I can't speak for the ease of getting it approved, however, so I won't even try.

This was filed in September of this year which means it'll be... 2014 by the earliest[1] that it'll be approved / denied, and won't even get looked at for 2 years yet. Plenty of time for obvious prior art to be shown.

[1] traditional total pendency: http://www.uspto.gov/dashboards/patents/main.dashxml

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact