Game software patent upheld in Europe

(via Video Game Blog). The Board of Appeals of the European Patent Office has allowed a number of claims in a European patent application by games firm Konami (EP20060013875). The application is for a “Video game system and storage medium for storing program for use in the video game system”. Not broad enough for you? I have read the abstract and some of the claims, and as far as I can make it, the claim is for a football game where the player can assign and store commands to pass the ball to the nearest available player, and the passing system can assign and display passing commands on screen. The claim is a triumph in patent gobbledygook, for example:

“…said guide displaying means further displays a pass guide mark (G3) accompanying another player character (P2) which belongs to the same team as said player character (P1) keeping said game medium (B) and to which said game medium (B) can most easily be passed from said player character (P1) keeping said game medium (B),”

So, passing the ball in-game is patentable. The application had been refused initially, but Konami appealed the decision and has won some claims. Firstly, the Board has agreed that there is no prior art for this application (I’m sure gamers reading this can come up with some examples). Secondly, the aspect of the technical nature of the “invention” is fulfilled by the fact that this is a solution to the limitations of gaming GUI, namely the fact that available players may not be visible as the player with the control plays the game normally. The Board believes that there is indeed a problem solved by the claim, namely:

“The aforementioned difference implies an enlarged size of the guide mark which avoids any risk of the mark being concealed by a neighbouring player character. Making a possibly concealed indicator clearly visible on a display screen to the user of an interactive video game does not exclusively address a human mental process (i.e. it is not exclusively determined by the cognitive meaning of the information presented) but contributes an objective technical function to the display. The functional quality is not cancelled by the fact that the visualised information will also enter into a decision of the user interacting with the video game displayed on the screen.”

Words truly fail me. Aren’t patents like these not supposed to be granted in Europe? Where is the technical effect in larger marks for football games?

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