Finnish mobile developer Supercell (best known for Clash of Clans) has been fined $8.5 million USD after losing a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Japanese developer Gree in the Eastern District Court of Texas.
According to Bloomberg News, Gree was seeking a larger penalty than what the jury ultimately awarded, though the sum listed could theoretically be tripled by Judge Rodney Gilstrap as the jury deemed the infringement willful.
Supercell attempted to get the case dismissed back in July but was unsuccessful. The Clash of Clans developer denied using any sort of patented technology and asserted that Gree's patents were invalid. The nature of the patents which Gree stated were infringed are outlined in court documents seen by gameindustry.biz, and are as follows:
- A method to improve the usability of city-building games using templates to define the positions of one or more in-game contents that can be applied to in-game areas based on the commands of the player.
- A server and method for transferring an object between two users, as well as the communication module for sending and receiving requests for transfers from other players.
- A control method for a touch-screen shooting game which first displays an effective shooting range when then detects whether an attack target is in range and commences the attack based on a command from the player.
- A recording medium and server method for selecting game content to be used in an in-game battle--the selected item being replaced by another option for a future turn.
- A server and control method for selecting character cards from a selection and using them in battle against an enemy character--the selected item being replaced by another option for a future turn.
Food For Thought
The Eastern District Court of Texas is a notorious venue for patent cases and has been known for the last twenty years or more as a court where patent holders can't lose. There's already been some crackdown on software patents which fall into the category of "common task but on a computer." These seem to be "common task but on a mobile device," just as overly broad and which should be scrutinized more carefully. Theoretically, games like Sim City and Gwent could fall afoul of these patents. One can and should expect an appeal on this case almost immediately.