Level-5 steps up to fight Sega patent lawsuit

Sega accuses Level-5 of patent infringement, Level-5 calls Sega a troll

Japanese news outlet Yomiuri Online (translated via Kotaku) reported yesterday that Sega has sued developer Level-5 over its popular Inazuma Eleven soccer franchise. Sega alleges that Level-5 infringed on two patents that outline controlling game characters on a touchscreen via pen or finger. Yomiuri Online did not list which specific patents were in contention, but Sega is suing for ¥900 million ($10.8 million/ £6.7 million) in damages. Opening arguments in the case were heard on December 7, 2012.

Level-5 responded to Sega's allegations with a statement on their website today, which has been translated by Kotaku.

"Inazuma Eleven does not violate Sega's patents," the statement read.

Level-5 noted that the first Inazuma Eleven game came out in August 2008. Sega received the approval on the first related patent in 2009 and was approved for the second in 2011. Level-5 also pointed out other Nintendo DS titles that used touch pen controls before 2009. The developer said that Sega's patents cover a fundamental gaming mechanic and it intends to fight the case in court.

"As a result of examining these discrepancies, we've concluded that there is no patent violation,” said Level-5's statement. "While Inazuma Eleven does not violate Sega's patent, we do recognize that Sega's lawsuit could restrict choices in gaming from here on out as well as hindering the growth of the game industry."

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Latest comments (6)

M.H. Williams Staff Writer, USgamer5 years ago
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game5 years ago
So does this cover any DS or smartphone game where you directly control an avatar with a finger?
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Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham5 years ago
Are there any designers who actually think design patents are a good thing?
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Show all comments (6)
Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises5 years ago
If at first your game doesn't succeed, patent the controls and sue sue sue again!
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Hugo Trepanier Game Designer, Behaviour Interactive5 years ago
I'm not familiar with this title... anyone care to explain what is so special about its touch controls that would warrant a lawsuit?

Nowadays pretty much all mobile games have touch controls, for the plain and obvious reason that the vast majority of mobile devices are touch based, so I don't understand how one could patent such a thing. If this lawsuit pulls through, which I'm sure it won't if there's any logic to this world, then it would basically ruin all forms of touch mobile gaming.

@Richard, I would think not. Most designers are in this business to make fun games, not to get rich by bullying the competition. That would be the legal department's prerogative and raison d'être ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Hugo Trepanier on 14th December 2012 5:26am

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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
Software patents are already a big problem. Soon they will be a bigger problem to the game industry. Look at what Lodsys is up to. They are a silly idea, copyright is enough. It served the entertainment IP industry for long enough and it works.

We are looking at patenting the innovations in our upcoming products. If you can't beat the system then join it.
The industry bodies and the government should be doing something about this.
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