Yahoo! Gets Fantasy Sports Software Patent




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Online fantasy sports games, such as fantasy football, baseball, hockey, golf, and automobile racing, are extremely popular. In fact, this past weekend marks the start of the playoffs in my fantasy football league. Unfortunately, I did not make the playoffs this year. Darn injuries and under-performing “superstars”!!!

In any event, it is not at all uncommon to file fantasy sports related patents and patent applications. I myself have had occasion to draft a patent application (soon to be allowed) on a fantasy sports invention. So, a fantasy sports-related patent or application always grabs my attention.

If you are not familiar with fantasy sports, allow me to provide a bit of a primer. A user creates a fantasy team comprised of players that are associated with real-life players. The user’s fantasy team may compete against fantasy teams of other users, with specific scoring rules. When your player does something good, such as scores a touchdown or kicks a field goal, positive points are scored. When your player does something negative in real life, such as an fumble or throws an interception, points are subtracted.

Enter Yahoo!’s fantasy sports patent, U.S. Patent No. 8,568,236, which issued October 29, 2013, under the title Fantasy Sports Agents. This system would give users of Yahoo! fantasy sports better news updates regarding players on their team or available players within their league for a multitude of sports. This information could provide a strategic advantage, or at least the feeling of a strategic advantage, which is probably all that Yahoo! is really concerned with.

Claim 1 of the ’236 patent covers:

A non-transitory computer readable storage medium comprising computer readable instructions tangibly stored thereon for execution by a processor, the computer readable instructions comprising: in response to an event related to a fantasy sports team or player in a fantasy sports game occurring, receiving, by a fantasy sports client device, an item from a server, wherein the item includes an item type and an item sports identifier, the item sports identifier comprising an item game identifier and an item player identifier, the item comprising a set of data values that represents the event, the event corresponding to an event from a group of events consisting of a change in a roster of the fantasy sports team, a trade of the player between teams, and availability of a relevant news story; retrieving, by the fantasy sports client device, the item type and the item sports identifier from the received item; determining, by the fantasy sports client device, an item league identifier based on a user of the fantasy sports client device; generating, by the fantasy sports client device, an action link, wherein the action link is based upon the item sports identifier and a buzz list, the buzz list comprising a list of a predetermined number of most added players for a predetermined time period with respect to fantasy teams in the fantasy sports game; and presenting, by the fantasy sports client device, a notification to the user, wherein the notification is based upon the item type, the item sports identifier, and the action link.

Another independent claim, Claim 27, covers a method:

A method comprising: transmitting, by a server computer, a client agent to a client device, the client agent configured to execute computer instructions for: in response to an event related to a fantasy sports team or player in a fantasy sports game occurring, receiving, by the client agent, an item from the server computer, wherein the item includes an item type and an item sports identifier, the item sports identifier comprising an item game identifier and an item player identifier, the item comprising a set of data values that represents the event, the event corresponding to an event from a group of events consisting of a change in a roster of the fantasy sports team, a trade of the player between teams, and availability of a relevant news story; determining, by the client agent, an item league identifier based on a user of the computing device; generating, by the client agent, an action link that refers to a Web page for performing an action, wherein the action link is based upon the item and a buzz list, the buzz list comprising a list of a predetermined number of most added players for a predetermined time period with respect to fantasy teams in the fantasy sports game; and presenting, by the client agent, a notification to the user if a condition is true, wherein the notification comprises the action link.

Yet another independent claim, Claim 33, covers a server with specific characterizations:

A server computer comprising: a processor; a storage medium for tangibly storing thereon program logic for execution by the processor, the program logic comprising: transmitting logic executed by the processor for transmitting a client agent to a fantasy sports client device, the client agent configured to execute computer instructions comprising: in response to an event related to a fantasy sports team or player in a fantasy sports game occurring, receiving, by the client agent, an item, wherein the item includes an item type and an item sports identifier, the item sports identifier comprising an item game identifier and an item player identifier, the item comprising a set of data values that represents the event, the event corresponding to an event from a group of events consisting of a change in a roster of the fantasy sports team, a trade of the player between teams, and availability of a relevant news story; and retrieving, by the client agent, the item type and the item sports identifier from the received item; determining, by the client agent, an item league identifier based on a user of the fantasy sports client device; generating, by the client agent, an action link, wherein the action link is based upon a buzz list, the buzz list comprising a list of a predetermined number of most added players for a predetermined time period with respect to fantasy teams in the fantasy sports game; and presenting, by the client agent, a notification to the user, wherein the notification is based upon the item type, the item sports identifier, and the action link.

Sadly, these claims all seem to have one thing in common, which is this: If they are ultimately interpreted by the “wrong” panel at the Federal Circuit, they will be declared to be patent-ineligible. What panel might do such a thing? Well, at least five Judges are openly hostile to software, whether claimed as a method, a computer readable storage medium or a system.  Any panel where two members are selected from the group consisting of Judge Lourie, Judge Dyk, Judge Prost, Judge Reyna and Judge Wallach would probably be fatal. See 5 CAFC Judges Say Computers Patentable, Not Software.

And the uncertainty surrounding software patents continues!

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