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DRM Firm Uniloc Files Suit Against Activision, Sony, Aspyr
DRM Firm Uniloc Files Suit Against Activision, Sony, Aspyr
August 4, 2010 | By Kris Graft

August 4, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

DRM tech firm Uniloc last week filed a patent infringement suit against game publishers and other software companies, according to court filings obtained by Gamasutra.

Irvine, CA-based Uniloc USA and its Singapore parent are suing Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard and Mac game specialist Aspyr over alleged infringement of a patented anti-piracy product activation method for software.

Other defendants named in the suit are Sony Corporation of America, Sony DADC, Borland Software, McAfee and Quark. The lawsuit accused the companies of implementing a product activation and registration system that infringes on Uniloc's patent.

The suit comes amid a six-year legal battle with Microsoft, which Uniloc also accused of infringing on the same patent, "System for Software Registration." In 2009, a jury awarded $388 million to Uniloc, but a judge overturned the decision five months later. Uniloc is appealing the decision.

The suit alleged that all defendants "willfully" infringed on the patent, because they were all aware of the high-profile Microsoft case, and have "acted despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constitute infringement of the [patent]."

"Patent infringement, especially when it's carried out by 'Captains of Industry' like Sony America and McAfee can kill a small business," said Uniloc CEO Brad Davis in a statement last week. "We do not intend to let this happen to Uniloc and we plan to defend our patents aggressively whenever we believe they are violated."

Uniloc's technology has been used in games including Sega's Alpha Protocol and Football Manager 2009 for PC, and casual PC titles from Namco Networks and Merscom.

Merchant & Gould intellectual property attorney Eric Chad told Gamasutra that Uniloc may have a legitimate case against the defendants.

"Uniloc's complaint is very conclusory, so it's hard to determine the merits of their claims of infringement, but if the notorious Uniloc vs. Microsoft case is any indication, the case likely has enough legs to get to trial if the parties don't settle," Chad said.

The attorney speculated that that Uniloc would likely say there are "hundreds of millions of dollars" at stake here. The defendants, he guessed, would argue the stakes are much lower, around a few million dollars. Uniloc is asking the court to enjoin "unlawful acts of infringement" and award damages and legal fees.

Chad added, "In the Microsoft case, the claims went to trial and Uniloc obtained a jury verdict and a damages award of nearly $400 million, but the court overturned the jury's verdict. There's no reason, at this point, to believe that Uniloc's claims are any less viable in this case."

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Todd Boyd
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This sounds like one of those frivolous lawsuits where people wind up suing authors because they believe they patented the use of verbs in a sentence.

Alan Youngblood
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Activision: keeping California lawyers in business since '79

And here I thought the consumer backlash against DRM was bad.

Jon Gregory
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Ha. As a gamer I would like to see nothing less than this at least making publishers think about the DRM they are putting in place before they throw it in. Like Rock Band for instance. How in the world does me not being able to play songs, ones I've downloaded specifically, offline help keep people from putting their own songs into the game? It doesn't, this DRM stuff is getting ridiculous and really only punish the people who pay because they are the only ones that have to deal with them. People who try and get around it make plans, before they even try, in order to get around it.

As an aspiring game developer, this is stupid. This is outsiders seeing the industry growing and trying to force their way in the door so that they can rip gamers off.

Chan Chun Phang
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I don't quite understand: What is the point of the jury if the judge can overturn them regardless?

c anderson
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At least is a complaint from a real company with a real product.

Mark Harris
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For starters appeals court is all judges, no jury. They can overturn jury or judge decisions.

Furthermore, judges have ultimate authority in the legal system. A judge presides over legal proceedings that include a jury and are there to police the circus so that the jury isn't illegally manipulated. MOST of the time when a jury makes a decision the judge accepts it and then applies sentencing within sentencing guidelines. However, in any given case a judge can review the jury decision and change it if he/she feels that justice was not served. In either case the decision is available for appeal.

IE : jury awards a woman $100 million in damages from a major fast food chain because she spilled hot coffee on herself that she got from a fast food restaurant. If the judge believes this is unjust he can make adjustments, either by lowering (or increasing) the damage award or overturning the jury verdict.

Maurício Gomes
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You know, I hate patent trolls.

But I hate DRM too...