Yahoo! Gets Fantasy Sports Software Patent

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.


The Tangible, Mechanical Nature of Software

Recently U.S. Patent No. 8,515,829 (the ‘829 patent) came to my attention. It is a patent issued to Google, titled Tax-free giftingSee Google Patents Tax-Free Gifting. The invention is interesting in its own right, but as I reviewed the patent, Figure 14 really caught my attention.

Figure 14, together with the associated textual discussion, is interesting because it shows rather conclusively that “software” can be described in mechanical terms. That is something that those familiar with software have always known, but it’s a nuance missed by many of the critics and judges who believe software is wholly disassociated from anything in the tangible, mechanical world.

Figure 14 from the ‘829 patent is shown below.


USPTO to Host Software Partnership Meeting at Berkeley Law

berkeleylaw[1]The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced that it will host its next Software Partnership Meeting on Thursday, October 17, 2013, at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law in Berkeley, California.

The purpose of the meeting, among other things, is to allow senior USPTO officials to provide an overview of the executive actions related to patent assertion entities and U.S. innovation initiatives called for in President Obama’s executive actions on June 4thSee also, Obama on Patent Trolls — Much Ado About Nothing. Other topics open for discussion will include feedback from the previous Software Partnership roundtables held in Silicon Valley and New York; a summary of the written comments received in response to the January Federal Register notice announcing the Software Partnership; proposed next steps by the USPTO; and an interactive discussion session on strategies to improve claim clarity, such as the use of glossaries in patent applications.

If you cannot attend the meeting live, the event will also be viewable live online through the USPTO website. For those who do wish to attend live, the USPTO announcement explains that space will be quite limited and, as a result, RSVPs must be received by September 27, 2013.


Software Will Remain Patent Eligible

Gene QuinnSoftware is now and will remain patentable in the United States. Software patents have been vilified by many, but they have been granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and upheld in federal courts across the United States.

The Patent Act specifically envisions that some software must be patent eligible. For example, the America Invents Act (AIA) prohibits tax strategies from being patent eligible, but specifically says that this tax strategy prohibition does not apply to software that embodies a particular strategy. Furthermore, also as a part of the AIA, Congress created covered business method review as a new form of post grant procedure to challenge at least some issued software patents. Had Congress believed that software were not patent eligible, neither provision would have been enacted as part of the AIA; instead Congress would have merely statutorily prohibited software patents. Given that they statutorily prohibited tax strategy patents, it seems that Congress well understands how to wield that power when they want. Thus, software is patent eligible.


Apple Patents Digital Handshake Between Devices

On April 23, 2013, Apple obtained U.S. Patent No. 8429407, titled Digital Handshake between Devices.

Creating a secure connection between two devices that are in close physical proximity allows users to share a great deal of digital content. Instead of showing a webpage or document to another person by turning the screen towards them, a user could choose to send the info directly to another device, preventing people from having to crowd around a small device screen to see. The same is true of videos and pictures. Also, some applications allow users to interact with other nearby devices for money transfers or to play a game.

Apple was granted the right to protect the system of creating a secured connection between devices laid out in this patent. It would allow an iPhone to create a bar code or alphanumerical code that can be scanned by the camera of another device. Once the “digital handshake” has taken place, other phones can also scan the key that was generated by the device to connect with the other devices as well.

As Claim 1 describes, Apple has gained legal protections over:

“A method for establishing a communications path between a first device and a second device, comprising: capturing an image of the second device using the first device; extracting, from the image, a first key associated with the second device; selecting from a plurality of processes a process to be used for generating a digital handshake key; generating the digital handshake key using the selected process with the first key; and establishing a communications path with the second device using the digital handshake key.” (more…)