Gamers angry today about a Sony patent from 2006

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At the tail end of last week Sony found itself in the bullseye of gamer nerd rage again, this time because of a patent application uncovered by a forum user at NeoGAF. The patent application was for a technology that would pause gameplay in order to display an ad, then resume gameplay. Many gaming blogs picked up the story and the comments started pouring in, a good portion of which were from angry gamers cursing at Sony for their business practices.

(To be fair there were also plenty of comments from people who stopped to give the topic some thought, and even some who thought it might be a good way to monetize free games.)

But what almost no one is considering (Eurogamer being the one exception I found) is that this application is the continuation of an earlier patent applicaion, filed in 2006.

In other words, Sony has owned this patent since 2006 and hasn't done anything with it. There's really no reason to assume they're suddenly going to exercise it.

But let's take this farther. The inventor listed on the patent, Gary M Zalewski, is listed on 28 other patents as well, including one listed in Sony's name and called "Contact lenses for use in motion capture" which includes this abstract:

An apparatus for use in motion capture includes a contact lens and a tracking feature incorporated into the contact lens. A method for use in motion capture includes inserting a contact lens having a tracking feature into a performer's eye and tracking movements of the performer's eye using the tracking feature.

How cool is that? If we're going to get all mad at Sony for ads in our games, it's only fair that we also give them props for putting motion capture tech into a contact lens, right? But of course that haven't actually done that, so why give them credit? See my point?

Let's try to reserve our gamer rage for things that companies are actually doing, not things that they might theoretically do some day. With patent law as broken as it is (the original 2006 patent seems hopelessly vague to me; read the description section), companies patent all kinds of crazy things and never act on those patents.

I'm all for raising a hue and cry when a company does something vile, but in this case all that has happened is that some lawyer working somewhere at Sony has filed an update to an earlier patent that the company hasn't been exercising and has given no indication that it will start exercising. So let's put down the pitchforks and torches for now, shall we?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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