Game patents are government-granted rights that provide protection for the creators of games and other gaming-related products. They legally forbid parties other than the inventors to use, make, or sell the protected creations for a certain amount of time. Many games and gaming features and ideas from well-known video game companies have been patented.  

What Is a Patent?

A patent gives the inventor a strong protection that other kinds of intellectual property protections do not provide. A copyright offers protection for actual expression, while a trademark protects brand identity and business reputation. A patent serves to protect ideas.

Game Patents

Patents can be odd and complex, but they happen to be very common in the video game industry. They give the original creators of games and gaming products exclusive rights to their inventions for a specified time frame. Here are some gaming-related creations that are often patented:

  • Game ideas
  • Game controllers and systems
  • Methods and directions
  • Figurines and other accessories

Patents in the gaming industry can vary greatly in terms of significance and practicality. While some of them may be considered downright ridiculous, others may be very sensible if you have a good understanding of legal jargon. The most important patent in the gaming world is the Pong Patent, which dates back to the beginning of the industry.

Game patents enable the inventors of gaming products to monopolize to a certain extent. While they do not guarantee that the patentees will be able to commercialize their creations, they can prevent other parties from doing this. A patent is similarly powerful in the eyes of the law regardless of whether the alleged infringer is a small business or a large corporation.

The Patent Portfolio

A patent portfolio consists of concepts that are actively patented as they come along. Creators and companies that take this broader approach to patenting their games, ideas, and products have a better chance of truly protecting their game fields. Their patent portfolios can be as effective as litigated patents.

Game Patent Claims and Rejections

Game patents are by no means uniform. In most cases, they are made up of a series of claims. Every claim is reviewed individually, and a rejected claim does not necessarily lead to the rejection of all claims or the patent application as a whole.  

Unbelievable Video Game Patents You Didn't Know Existed

Namco's Patent on Load-Screen Mini-Games

Load-screen mini-games were first introduced in the 1980s. While some modern gamers are complaining about the slow load times of PlayStation games, those in the past had to endure a boot time of up to 10 minutes with their Commodore 64 computers. That is a lot worse than the few seconds it takes for a "Call of Duty" match to load up.

Load-screen mini-games were invented to prevent gamers from feeling bored while they are waiting for their games to load. Namco liked the idea of these mini-games so much that it included many of them in its games. Old arcade games such as "StarBlade" and "Galaxian" have been popping up on load screens to keep players entertained while they wait to play their favorite new games.

EA's Patent on "Mass Effect" Dialogue Wheel

The "Mass Effect" series is widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi franchises in the history of gaming. It is so successful because it offers great gameplay, story, freedom of choice, and dialogues. While engaging in conversations, players rotate the analog to choose a response, which can be a salutation, question, or naughty or nice response. This simple concept makes the game more enjoyable and has been implemented in the "Dragon Age" Series.

Nintendo's Patent on Character Sanity Bars

"Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem" is considered a cult favorite because of its original take on the horror genre. What makes this game unique is its Sanity Meter, which measures the intensity of the Sanity Effects. When players encounter something horrifying, their characters will begin to lose grip on reality. That's when odd things begin to happen, such as the sudden appearance of new doors blocking paths, blood dripping down walls, and the GameCube console pretending to reset. Since Nintendo patented this concept, no other game has been able to present horror in a similar way.

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