Patent Infringement Law Against Ubisoft and Uplay Dismissed

Ubisoft’s polemical DRM technology Uplay has finally been freed of all the patent infringement charges that were levied against it. The lawsuit was filed by patent lawyers representing a Texan company called Digital Reg which incidentally also filed lawsuits against various other video gaming and technology giants including top level names such as Adobe, EA, Valve, and Zynga.

Ubisoft's famous characters.

Ubisoft’s famous characters.

While some of the companies like Valve opted for an out-of-court settlement with Digital Reg, Ubisoft decided to challenge the patent lawsuit in court and has finally been granted a clean bill of originality that it was aiming for.

Ubisoft had Six Patent Violations in Lawsuit

The DRM lawsuit was filed in 2011 by Digital Reg accusing patent infringement over various aspects of Uplay such as the digital content delivery and authentication services. In the lawsuit, patent lawyers representing Digital Reg accused the video game company of infringing upon at least six different patents that cover access regulation, tracking access after distribution, and other aspects of securing or encrypting content that is covered by digital rights management technology.

Ubisoft came out with its own DRM technology called Uplay in 2009, along with launching its brand building video game Assassin’s Creed 2. It is this DRM platform that Digital Reg’s patent lawyers had targeted in their lawsuit.

The digital distribution and digital rights management platform service Uplay was designed to provide an experience similar to other video games where the player is awarded achievements and trophies. The service was made available across various operating platforms including MAC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Facebook, Android, Windows, and OnLive.

Ubisoft - Toronto. The patent trolls were kicked down the slope this time.

Ubisoft – Toronto. The patent trolls were kicked down the slope this time.

The Uplay network can either be activated live while playing the game or via the Uplay website. It allows better connectivity among gamers, allowing gamers to interact with others, and earn rewards according to an achievement based system (called “Actions”) in the game. Thus, the more one played the game the more rewards and free goods that could be earned.

The initial version of the DRM platform that was released had a rootkit malfunction. According to a Google Information Security Engineer named Tavis Ormandy, the DRM could cause potential security risks to players. The software was so designed that it could install a browser to provide access to the player’s system. The second version of the DRM (version 2.0.4) which was released on July 30th, 2012 did not have this issue anymore as it was detected and fixed prior to release.

Not giving Up to Patent Trolls

Though Ubisoft did not raise a hue and cry when confronted by Google’s engineers, it did refuse to back down and accept the patent infringement accusations thrown at it by Digital Reg’s patent attorneys. A Ubisoft patent attorney said after the win that the company is always determined to fight patent trolls – those who assert invalid and inapplicable patents against the company or its technologies and products – and was committed to defending itself against baseless allegations.

It is not possible for individuals to make an accurate patent application without the help of patent lawyers, commonly known as patent agents. When patents applications are made, patent examiners review and scrutinize them to check if they qualify to be patented. When the initial process is cleared, applicants are posed questions related to their inventions. The law directs applicants not to hide any information related to their inventions. Patent procedures enable examiners to determine whether an applicant should be issued a patent or not. This is a time consuming process with applications taking up to eighteen months before they are patented and this can be expensive.

Patents Last 2 Decades

To acquire a patent, ideas need to be novel, useful, and non-obvious (they cannot be a natural phenomenon). Many discoveries such as those based on the laws of nature and scientific principles cannot be patented as briefly already mentioned. In the US, a patent status is recognized for twenty years starting from the application date.