Software Patents Are Bad

When working for big companies you sometimes are asked to do things that are not good for your future self or the industry. For instance, years ago when working for Dynamix/Sierra, just as it started to turn corporate, they went on a patent spree. The new Google patent search reminded me that Chris Cole and I have our names on a patent around some methods we used in a puzzle game called Sid and Al’s Incredible Toons. Here it is in all of its undecipherable badness.

TunnellCole Patent

Computerized puzzle gaming method and apparatus – Google Patents

All the gobbledy-gook boils down to “smart ends” that change a background shape automatically as another shape passes by it. As a designer, I can work around this patent all day long, but why should I have to? In addition, the thing is written to kind of look like the entire Incredible Machine type of game is patented, which it is not.

I was perusing some other patents related to this one that came later from other individuals. One of them has a patent on using “genes” to define how a 3D shape will be created when data is sent over the Internet. WTF? Hasn’t just about anybody that has worked in the games business thought of that kind of thing? Isn’t that just a form of data compression? Isn’t that pretty much just like fractal seeding of planets found many years prior in Starflight?

Again, software patents are bad.

-Jeff Tunnell ::: GarageGames ::: Great Games Experiment

  • http://www.gbgames.com/blog GBGames

    I agree that software patents are bad, but what’s to be done about them?

    I distinctly remember a time when I was considering NOT becoming an indie game developer for fear of patent litigation. I eventually came to the conclusion that the risk isn’t nearly as bad as it seems (as I would have to be incredibly successful first before a patent would be a concern), but how many great games are not being made simply because the would-be developers decided it was too risky?

    Software patents are bad for everyone except for the largest patent holders. Having a patent or two is no protection from IBM’s or Microsoft’s patent portfolio.

    So what do indie developers (game or otherwise) do, since software patents are a real concern today?

  • Silvanis

    What do you do? Incorporate…if you’re a LLC or other corporation, then some big patent holder can’t ruin your personal life with a lawsuit. Losing your business and having to restart from scratch sucks, of course, but there isn’t really anything else you can do. In some ways it’s like wondering which crazy driver on the road is going to be the one that hits you: by the time you know, it’s going to be too late.

    On a more positive note, there’s a case before the Supreme Court that could lead to them deciding against software patents entirely. However, given that (personal opinion here) they had the perfect opportunity to repeal the Bono copyright extension and ran from it as far as they could, I’m not too optimistic.

  • http://www.zoombapup.com Phil Carlisle

    Jeff, yep, pretty much everyone has thought of using random (or even non random) seed patterns in order to “grow” objects of varying kinds (in my case, it was for a space game, where you used DNA collected by defeating other races).

    At the end of the day, they can sue me, I’ll just go live in some far away shithole that doesnt care about copyright/patent/anything else, rather than pay them anything.

  • http://www.zoombapup.com Phil Carlisle

    Erk, cant edit posts.. consider me chastised for using a naughty word, forgot this was a family friendly blog.

  • Steve

    There’s something aweful about software, or any other procedural or conceptual idea patents that ring of ‘duh’. As mentioned, it’s often a ‘protect self and way of life’. The wild is viscious, but that’s not the best way to compete in my opinion:)

    The worst kind of patents are the trolls that never actually plan to make anything but money by waiting for someone else to do something similar (the inevitable idea trap)…

    EOLAS… Sorry but that guy would have to get out of my lifeboat. Some people’s capitolism ruin it for everyone:)

  • Dan

    Sorry that this isn’t related to the article and whatnot, but are you going to get around to finishing your “about me” section?
    It’s really interesting.

  • Kevin McLaughlin

    Talk to your Congressmen. Changes can happen, but it takes enough people yelling about it loud enough to make it happen.

    Oh, and I agree – software patenting is a stupid idea. ;)

  • http://www.michielkrol.nl Mic2000

    Where on this website is something like a contact link (A), Because I really want to ask some things about making a simple flash remake of TIM with offcourse kuddos for Jeff Tunnell and Chris Cole. Or do I have to pay you guys for giving me rights to make a remake of it?

    Thnx for repy(you may reply on e-mail)

    Greetings,

    Michiel Krol
    The Netherlands

  • http://www.alkemi.co.nz searcH enginE optimisation

    I was perusing some other patents related to this one that came later from other individuals………

  • http://www.alkemi.co.nz searcH enginE optimisation

    As a designer, I can work around this patent all day long, but why should I have to? In addition, the thing……………

  • http://www.alkemi.co.nz searcH enginE optimisation

    The new Google patent search reminded me that Chris Cole and I have our names on a patent around some methods we used in a puzzle game called Sid and Al’s Incredible Toons. Here it is in all of its undecipherable badness.

  • http://www.alkemi.co.nz searcH enginE optimisation

    I agree with what you have to say…..