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Zynga sued over patented tech

Personalized Media Communications says Words with Friends, CityVille and Farmville use its inventions

Personalized Media Communications has filed a complaint against Zynga over four of its popular titles, claiming the games use its patented personalisation technology.

 "Many years of time and labour went into developing our inventions and securing the patents that permit their practice," PMC founder John C Harvey told Gamasutra.

"It wouldn't be right to sit by and allow them to be infringed."

The four patents in question were filed in 1995 and cover subscriber data, networked data and using it to create personalised output like targeted advertising.

PMC has cited Words with Friends, CityVille and Farmville as using that technology, taking the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Zynga has yet to comment on the claim.

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Latest comments (11)

Harrison Smith Studying Games and Graphics Programming, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology4 years ago
I smell, troll firm.

Anyways, Zynga currently has alot of disposable income at the moment, so this company must have a pretty good case to take on Zynga now.
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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments4 years ago
If we must have software patents, do they really need to last over 15 years?
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Falko Boecker Licensing Manager, Gamigo AG4 years ago
I think the biggest problem with these patents is, that they are often very vague and cover things that anybody will come up with sooner or later. So they don't really help, by "inventing" something and offering it to everybody to enhance their work, they are simply used to sue everybody who has the idea later on, most likely was not aware of the patent. "You use flour to bake bread? Well, bad luck for you, I have a patent for that!..." -.-
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Show all comments (11)
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 4 years ago
I don't like software patents. They suck big time.
Software development is iterative. Everyone builds on other people's ideas.
When someone patents a step in this process it is utterly unfair. They are demanding payment of others for their small step, but they are not paying for all the thousands of small steps that have gone before.
This is why the current Android/Apple patent wars are so stupid.
Apple seem to forget that their whole user interface ethos was "borrowed" from Xerox Parc without any payment.

As to Zynga, of course they copy stuff. Everyone else does, they are just a bit more blatant. Games are derivative and where Zynga borrow they generally make a better job of what it is that they have borrowed.
And how about all the many hundreds of game publishers who have copied elements of their products and their business model from Zynga? In fact for iOS games you would be mad not to.
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David Thomson Founder, Ludometrics4 years ago
@Bruce: In fact, Xerox made something like $150 million when Apple went public after they were given shares in exchange for showing off their labs work. IIRC, Xerox had a three or five-button mouse on their system, that cost something like $200 - Apple made a one-button $20 version, which is exactly how innovation works, as you say.

However, Zynga - particularly with the Tiny Tower copy - are getting pretty close to pure counterfeiting.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 4 years ago
@ David. Thanks for that.

This is interesting: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?pro...
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Ove Larsen4 years ago
Though I don't support copy/paste work like what we saw with the Tiny Tower clone, this is taking it too far. Vague patent troll, would be my first thought. Something tells me that this will go through the Texan court.
Edit: if I had bothered to read the wole thing etc etc

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ove Larsen on 14th February 2012 3:36pm

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It looks very much like PMC are a company that simply collects and monetises patents, without actually using them to create products or develop further technologies. While I would dearly love to see this kind of company disappear, there do seem to be a great number of them out there. Without reforming the patent system I don't think we'll see the end of these patent trolls any time soon, at least not while it's possible to make so much money for doing so little.
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This reminds me of that attempted suit a few years ago that was attempting to sue any website using--wait for it--<a href=http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/10/patent-troll-takes-over-the-web-can-it-be-stopped.ars>rollover images</a>.

These suits (and patents) are simply ridiculous in most cases. What makes things worse is that many of the people working at patent offices, well-intentioned though they may be, simply don't have the technical background to realize that some of these applications are ridiculous.
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Lewis Pulsipher Game Designer, Author, Teacher 4 years ago
The US Patent office is broken. Patents were originally supposed to be for a specific implementation, resulting in a product. But they approve patents that are ideas, and half-baked ideas at that (look at their game patents). Part of the problem, now, is that they're self-funding, so the more patents they approve, the more $$$ they make.
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Carl Muller Programmer, HotGen Ltd4 years ago
I see some of their patents have a priority date of 1981 but are active until 2027/2028 since they were granted in 2010/2011. Wow. And there are 40 more still in the pipeline. That makes a bit of a mockery of the changes made to get rid of submarine patents, and will make the internet's usual call for "prior art" to be more troublesome.
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