US20080004120A1 - Management and Protection of Creative Works in a Virtual Environment - Google Patents

Management and Protection of Creative Works in a Virtual Environment Download PDF

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US20080004120A1
US20080004120A1 US11689977 US68997707A US2008004120A1 US 20080004120 A1 US20080004120 A1 US 20080004120A1 US 11689977 US11689977 US 11689977 US 68997707 A US68997707 A US 68997707A US 2008004120 A1 US2008004120 A1 US 2008004120A1
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method
creative
game
player
virtual
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US11689977
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Andrew S. Van Luchene
Raymond J. Mueller
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Leviathan Entertainment LLC
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Leviathan Entertainment LLC
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting

Abstract

The present disclosure provides various novel concepts to a video game environment. The disclosure describes video game environments that include a method and system for protecting intellectual property including creative, intellectual, or artistic works including, but not limited to, poems, plays, and other literary works, movies, choreographic works, musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television broadcasts and industrial designs created by players and characters for use in the virtual environment.

Description

    PRIORITY CLAIM
  • The following application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/428,263, “Video Game Environment” filed Jun. 30, 2006 and 11/620,563 “Copyright of Digital Works in a Virtual Environment” filed Jan. 5, 2007, each of which is hereby incorporated by reference.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Video games, such as World of Warcraft and Virtual Worlds, such as Second Life and Eve, which are accessible to multiple players via a server, peer to peer network are well known. For example, hundreds of thousands of players access games known as massive multi-player online games (MMOGs) and massive multi-player online role playing games (MMORPGs). Players of these games customarily access a game repeatedly (for durations typically ranging from a few minutes to several days) over a given period of time, which may be days, weeks, months or even years. The games are often constructed such that players pay a periodic subscription price (e.g., $15 per month) rather than, or in addition to, paying a one time purchase price for the game. Often, though not necessarily, these games have no ultimate “winner” or “winning goal,” but instead attempt to create an enjoyable playing environment and a strong player community.
  • It would be advantageous to provide improved methods and apparatus for increasing the enjoyment and/or longevity of video games including, but not necessarily limited to MMOGs and MMORPGs.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram depicting a network according to an embodiment of the present disclosure.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram depicting an embodiment of the present disclosure.
  • FIG. 3 is an embodiment of a method of examining a creative work.
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram depicting an embodiment of the present disclosure.
  • FIG. 5 is an embodiment of a method of subscribing to a subscription service.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram depicting an embodiment of the present disclosure.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION Definitions:
  • Unless stated to the contrary, for the purposes of the present disclosure, the following terms shall include the following definitions:
  • Alert—Includes the communication, transfer or storage of information with, by, between or among any two or more real, virtual or computer generated entities involved in a virtual environment. Such a transfer may take place between the virtual and real world, may be limited to the virtual world, may be limited to virtual world devices, may be limited to the real world, or may be limited to real world devices. An alert may be triggered by an alert event.
  • Alert Event—Includes any event which triggers an alert. Such events may be initiations or completions of missions, transactions, communications; changes in the status of events in the virtual world, for example, a change in availability, a change in a trend, a change in price, or the alteration of any other aspect of an object or entity in a virtual environment.
  • Avatar—includes the virtual representation of a player character.
  • Billing Information—includes any information pertaining to billing a player for playing a game, accessing a game, purchasing goods or services, or any other reasons. Billing information may include such real world information as a billing address, credit card account number, bank account number, pay pal account number or other payment facilitator, or the account number of any other financial entity providing a real world credit line or any other payment-related information.
  • Blueprint component—may include any sub sections of a virtual blueprint that can be treated as a whole. For instance, the hilt and blade of a sword blueprint or components. Blueprint components can be items that are made from their own blueprints. For example the tire blueprint component for a virtual car can be assembled from the tire blueprint.
  • Character Account—includes an account that tracks character attributes.
  • Character Attribute—includes any quality, trait, feature or characteristic a particular Character can have that is stored in the corresponding Character Account or is otherwise generally associated with a Character or Character Account. Character Attributes may include, but are not be limited to:
      • 1. A character score
      • 2. A genetic profile or makeup
      • 3. A ranking
      • 4. A relationship with another character
      • 5. A score for subsequent matching of later game parameters
      • 6. A skill or skill level
      • 7. A synthetic voice
      • 8. A virtual object
      • 9. The ability to join groups of other players at a later time
      • 10. The physical appearance of a character
      • 11. An emblem or mark
      • 12. Virtual currency
      • 13. Virtual help points or credits
      • 14. A character's avatar
      • 15. A character's clothing or other personal effects
  • Character Life—includes a fixed or variable, finite or infinite period of virtual or real world time that a player character can exist in a game environment.
  • Character or “player character”—includes a persona created and controlled by a player in a video game, such as an avatar.
  • Character Skills—includes game attributes inherent in or acquired by a player character during game play such as, but not limited to: the ability to cast (certain) spells, foretell the future, read minds, use (certain) weapons, cook, hunt, find herbs, assemble herbs into potions, mine, assemble objects into other objects, fly, and/or enchant other player characters.
  • Computer Generated (CGC) or Non-Player (NPC) Character—includes any character that is controlled by the game system and/or a computer program and/or rules established by the game system and/or a player and not by a player on a continuous basis.
  • Credit Card—includes a credit instrument issued by a real or virtual world institution or entity to a player that allows the player to make purchases by providing an account identifier (e.g. a credit card number) rather than cash or other currency. An example is a credit card like those issued by Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. For the purposes of the present disclosure, the term “Credit Card” is intended in a very broad sense and is not limited to those situations in which a player's purchases are made on credit (i.e. where payments for those purchases is not due until a later time) but also includes financial instruments such as debit cards, check cards, lines of credit and the like.
  • Game Environment—includes a particular level or area within a virtual world. Each game environment may have its own rules, regulation, currency, government, managers, etc. Game environments may exist within other game environments.
  • Game environment manager: entity that administers a game environment. The game environment manager may be a character, player, group of characters, group of players, NPC, group of NPCs, committee, company, religion, government, business entity, third party, rules, self adapting systems, e.g., genetic algorithms, or any combination thereof.
  • Game Objective or Game Goal—includes a desired state, condition, result, action, cessation of action, or a desired outcome and/or change or a delay in change to any of the preceding.
  • Game performance parameter—includes any aspect of a Video Game by which a player character's, CGC's or NPC's performance can be measured. Game Parameters shall include, but not be limited to:
      • 1. accuracy with weapons
      • 2. achieving deity or other status
      • 3. Completing all or part of a mission
      • 4. decreasing or increasing Karma Points
      • 5. earning a higher rank in an army
      • 6. earning income
      • 7. the proper weapon
      • 8. getting married
      • 9. getting through or to a certain geographic area
      • 10. getting, buying, exchanging or learning a new skill or player attribute
      • 11. having a child
      • 12. status or caste
      • 13. kill/death ratios
      • 14. killing a certain character/creature
      • 15. obtaining, buying, trading, producing or developing raw materials
      • 16. obtaining, creating or modifying an object
      • 17. producing goods or services
      • 18. Reaching a certain level or score
      • 19. Playing for a certain period of time
      • 20. solving a puzzle
      • 21. using or obtaining an ability or technology
      • 22. completing a game objective
      • 23. Winning a match against another player character or computer generated character
      • 24. winning an election among two or more player characters
      • 25. assisting other player characters with any of the above.
      • 26. the speed of accomplishing or changing the rate or trends and/or failure to complete of any or all of the above.
  • In-game Marketplace—includes a virtual environment where Characters can exchange items, attributes, or any other exchangeable game element.
  • Item Attributes-shall include any attributes of a virtual item in a game environment. For example, effective use of item attribute for virtual armor could be “plus 2 strength for improving player character wearing the armor.
  • Novice Player—includes a player that is relatively new to a game or game environment, and/or is identified as requiring the help of an expert to complete a Game Parameter.
  • Player—includes an individual who can register an account with a Video Game Central Server or within a peer-to-peer or other network and create Characters that can interact with other Characters in a Virtual Environment, and/or that can authorize a NPC to act on the player's behalf.
  • Player Account—includes an account on the Video Game Central Server or within a peer-to-peer or other network that contains a Player profile including personal, billing, and character account information.
  • Player Attribute—includes any attribute that can be applied to a player account. Player Attributes may include, but are not be limited to:
      • 1. Discount of monthly fees for playing game.
      • 2. Interest rates for use of or borrowing real or virtual cash amounts.
      • 3. Monthly fee for playing a game
      • 4. Real Currency.
      • 5. Rewards for encouraging another player to signup to play.
      • 6. Global character attribute settings for all characters created by player across multiple games
      • 7. Any one or more game performance parameters
      • 8. Or any one or more or combination of the forgoing
  • Player to Player Contract—includes a real and/or virtual but binding contract between player characters that allows the players to provide or exchange game attributes to one another. Once a player-to-player contract is established, the game server or peer-to-peer or other network automatically distributes acquired game attributes between the player characters based on the contract conditions.
  • Real Cash Value—includes the value in real dollars of the virtual currency or obligation. This value can be determined by multiplying the value of a virtual currency amount by the current exchange rate to real dollars.
  • Registration—in the context of a creative right, includes the process or mechanism by which an entity is given an enforceable right with regard to a creative work. Exemplary rights could include, but are not necessarily limited to, the right to use, sell, or make, the right to exclude others from using, selling, or making, the right to reproduce, the right to prevent other from tainting or tarnishing the work, the right to goodwill associated with the work, etc.
  • Registerable—in the context of a creative right, includes the idea that a creative work is in a condition for registration. For example, if a condition for registration is novelty, a work must be novel in order to be registerable.
  • Registratability—in the context of a creative right, includes the determination of whether or not a creative work is registerable.
  • Total virtual obligation amount—may include the total amount of the virtual financial obligation(s) associated with a player character's account or a given transaction.
  • Video Game—includes a game played on a Video Game Console that may or may not be networked to a Video Game Central Server or within a peer-to-peer or other network.
  • Video Game Central Server—may include a CPU, memory and permanent or temporary storage that is connected to multiple Video Game Consoles that allows for Massive Multi Player Online Video Games to be played.
  • Video Game Console—includes any device comprising any one or more of a CPU, memory, optional permanent storage and/or other components residing at a player location that can allow for the interaction with or playing of video games. Examples include, home PCs, PDA's, Cell Phones, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony Playstation and/or any devices attached thereto, e.g., hand controllers, joysticks, headsets, etc.
  • Virtual—includes in a video game environment or other intangible or computer generated item, character, or space.
  • Virtual Blueprints—includes virtual designs for virtual items that include information such as dimensions, materials, skills, and other virtual items or attributes that are required to assemble a virtual item specified by the blueprint. Virtual Blueprints may define virtual objects, and/or business methods, business processes, software, games, costs, prices, and/or definitions to create any or all of the foregoing.
  • Virtual Blueprint Registration number—may include a virtual registration number assigned to a virtual blueprint.
  • In Game Patent Office—includes an entity in connected to a game environment where blueprints and/or copyrights can be registered.
  • Digital Patent—includes the registration of a virtual blueprint with a virtual patent office and/or issuance of a virtual patent number to a virtual patent application.
  • Virtual Contract—includes an enforceable agreement between a first player character and either another player character, a game server, or a third party. Some examples of virtual contracts are provided in U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/355,232, 11/279,991, 11/624,662, 11/611,050, 11/621,880, 11/621,886, and Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/652,036, each of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
  • Virtual credit card—includes a financial instrument issued in a virtual environment by a real or virtual world institution or entity that acts in the virtual environment for virtual currency the way a real world credit card acts in the real world for real currency.
  • Virtual Credit Score—includes a score given to players or player characters or NPC's in a video game based on one or more of the following criteria, including, but not limited to: one or more game performance parameters or character attributes, the virtual assets they possess, the age of the character account, the type of account, e.g. basic or premium, the available credit line of the credit card associated with the account, the existing virtual financial obligations of the player character account, the player character's payment history including days to pay, amounts overdue or delinquent, and/or the player character's real world credit score, and/or any other data or information stored or available or associated with such player, player character and/or any other factors used or available in the real world that can be used to determine a credit score.
  • Virtual Creditor—includes a first player character or other entity who is owed a virtual obligation by a second player character.
  • Virtual Financial Account—includes a virtual account issued to a player or player character by a virtual bank, virtual creditor, game server or third party where virtual cash can be deposited and withdrawn.
  • Virtual Financial Intermediary—includes virtual institutions including virtual creditors, depository institutions, contractual savings and loan institutions, and investment intermediaries which offer financial products and services for use within the virtual environment. The various financial intermediaries available in the virtual environment may each serve different or overlapping purposes and provide means for using, saving, borrowing and transferring currency. Such virtual financial intermediaries may or may not have a real world counterpart and/or interact with one or more other virtual or real world financial intermediaries.
  • Virtual Financial Obligation—includes an agreement by a player or player character or entity to pay one or more game attributes to another player or player character, NPC, entity, third party, other financial institution or game server or owner. This obligation can be a one time payment, or multiple payments over time. The obligation or agreement can specify that payments are due on virtual or real dates using virtual or real currency.
  • Virtual Financial Obligation Value—includes the in game value of the obligation. For virtual cash the value may be stated as a virtual and/or real cash amount. For other game attributes, the value can be determined by generating a virtual cash market value for the item based on the current value in an online marketplace or exchange or any other applicable means. The value of the obligation may be fixed or variable and may also be set as a condition of the player contract and/or by the game server or other entity.
  • Virtual Resource Assignment—may include the act of assigning resources to components of a virtual blueprint and/or the database record created from the act.
  • Virtual World—includes a world or interactive environment or other video game created, maintained and/or operated within an online game such as World of Warcraft, or a virtual community such as Second Life, Eve or There.com.
  • The term “variation” of an invention includes any embodiment of the invention, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The term “variation” of an invention includes any embodiment of the invention, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • A reference to “another embodiment” in describing an embodiment does not necessarily imply that the referenced embodiment is mutually exclusive with another embodiment (e.g., an embodiment described before the referenced embodiment), unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The terms “include”, “includes”, “including”, “comprising” and variations thereof mean “including but not limited to”, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The term “consisting of” and variations thereof includes “including and limited to”, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The terms “a”, “an” and “the” mean “one or more”, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The term “plurality” means “two or more”, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The term “herein” means “in this patent application, including anything which may be incorporated by reference”, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The phrase “at least one of”, when such phrase modifies a plurality of things (such as an enumerated list of things) means any combination of one or more of those things, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the phrase “at least one of a widget, a car and a wheel” means either (i) a widget, (ii) a car, (iii) a wheel, (iv) a widget and a car, (v) a widget and a wheel, (vi) a car and a wheel, or (vii) a widget, a car and a wheel.
  • The phrase “based on” does not mean “based only on”, unless expressly specified otherwise. In other words, the phrase “based on” describes both “based only on” and “based at least on”.
  • The term “represent” and like terms are not exclusive, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the term “represents” does not mean “represents only”, unless expressly specified otherwise. In other words, the phrase “the data represents a credit card number” describes both “the data represents only a credit card number” and “the data represents a credit card number and the data also represents something else”.
  • The term “whereby” is used herein only to precede a clause or other set of words that express only the intended result, objective or consequence of something that is previously and explicitly recited. Thus, when the term “whereby” is used in a claim, the clause or other words that the term “whereby” modifies do not establish specific further limitations of the claim or otherwise restricts the meaning or scope of the claim.
  • The terms “such as”, and/or “e.g.” and like terms means “for example”, and thus does not limit the term or phrase it explains. For example, in the sentence “the computer sends data (e.g., instructions, a data structure) over the Internet”, the term “e.g.” explains that “instructions” are an example of “data” that the computer may send over the Internet, and also explains that “a data structure” is an example of “data” that the computer may send over the Internet. However, both “instructions” and “a data structure” are merely examples of “data”, and other things besides “instructions” and “a data structure” can be “data”.
  • The term “determining” and grammatical variants thereof (e.g., to determine a price, determining a value, determine an object which meets a certain criterion) is used in an extremely broad sense. The term “determining” encompasses a wide variety of actions and therefore “determining” can include calculating, computing, processing, deriving, investigating, looking up (e.g., looking up in a table, a database or another data structure), ascertaining and the like. Also, “determining” can include receiving (e.g., receiving information), accessing (e.g., accessing data in a memory) and the like. Also, “determining” can include resolving, selecting, choosing, establishing, and the like. It does not imply certainty or absolute precision, and does not imply that mathematical processing, numerical methods or an algorithm process be used. Therefore “determining” can include estimating, predicting, guessing and the like.
  • It will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that the various processes described herein may be implemented by, e.g., appropriately programmed general purpose computers and computing devices. Typically a processor (e.g., one or more microprocessors, one or more microcontrollers, one or more digital signal processors) will receive instructions (e.g., from a memory or like device), and execute those instructions, thereby performing one or more processes defined by those instructions.
  • A “processor” includes one or more microprocessors, central processing units (CPUs), computing devices, microcontrollers, digital signal processors, or like devices or any combination thereof. Thus a description of a process is likewise a description of an apparatus for performing the process. The apparatus can include, e.g., a processor and those input devices and output devices that are appropriate to perform the method. Further, programs that implement such methods (as well as other types of data) may be stored and transmitted using a variety of media (e.g., computer readable media) in a number of manners. In some embodiments, hard-wired circuitry or custom hardware may be used in place of, or in combination with, some or all of the software instructions that can implement the processes of various embodiments. Thus, various combinations of hardware and software may be used instead of software only.
  • The term “computer-readable medium” includes any medium that participates in providing data (e.g., instructions, data structures) which may be read by a computer, a processor or a like device. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media. Non-volatile media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks and other persistent memory. Volatile media include dynamic random access memory (DRAM), which typically constitutes the main memory. Transmission media include coaxial cables, copper wire and fiber optics, including the wires that comprise a system bus coupled to the processor. Transmission media may include or convey acoustic waves, light waves and electromagnetic emissions, such as those generated during radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, DVD, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, an EPROM, a FLASH-EEPROM, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave as described hereinafter, or any other medium from which a computer can read.
  • Various forms of computer readable media may be involved in carrying data (e.g. sequences of instructions) to a processor. For example, data may be (i) delivered from RAM to a processor; (ii) carried over a wireless transmission medium; (iii) formatted and/or transmitted according to numerous formats, standards or protocols, such as Ethernet (or IEEE 802.3), SAP, ATP, Bluetooth™, and TCP/IP, TDMA, CDMA, and 3G; and/or (iv) encrypted to ensure privacy or prevent fraud in any of a variety of ways well known in the art.
  • Thus a description of a process is likewise a description of a computer-readable medium storing a program for performing the process. The computer-readable medium can store (in any appropriate format) those program elements which are appropriate to perform the method.
  • Just as the description of various steps in a process does not indicate that all the described steps are required, embodiments of an apparatus include a computer/computing device operable to perform some (but not necessarily all) of the described process.
  • Likewise, just as the description of various steps in a process does not indicate that all the described steps are required, embodiments of a computer-readable medium storing a program or data structure include a computer-readable medium storing a program that, when executed, can cause a processor to perform some (but not necessarily all) of the described process.
  • Where databases are described, it will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that (i) alternative database structures to those described may be readily employed, and (ii) other memory structures besides databases may be readily employed. Any illustrations or descriptions of any sample databases presented herein are illustrative arrangements for stored representations of information. Any number of other arrangements may be employed besides those suggested by, e.g., tables illustrated in drawings or elsewhere. Similarly, any illustrated entries of the databases represent exemplary information only; one of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the number and content of the entries can be different from those described herein. Further, despite any depiction of the databases as tables, other formats (including relational databases, object-based models and/or distributed databases) are well known and could be used to store and manipulate the data types described herein. Likewise, object methods or behaviors of a database can be used to implement various processes, such as the described herein. In addition, the databases may, in a known manner, be stored locally or remotely from any device(s) which access data in the database.
  • Various embodiments can be configured to work in a network environment including a computer that is in communication (e.g., via a communications network) with one or more devices. The computer may communicate with the devices directly or indirectly, via any wired or wireless medium (e.g. the Internet, LAN, WAN or Ethernet, Token Ring, a telephone line, a cable line, a radio channel, an optical communications line, commercial on-line service providers, bulletin board systems, a satellite communications link, or a combination of any of the above). Each of the devices may themselves comprise computers or other computing devices, such as those based on the Intel® Pentium® or Centrino™ processor, that are adapted to communicate with the computer. Any number and type of devices may be in communication with the computer.
  • In an embodiment, a server computer or centralized authority may not be necessary or desirable. For example, the present invention may, in an embodiment, be practiced on one or more devices without a central authority. In such an embodiment, any functions described herein as performed by the server computer or data described as stored on the server computer may instead be performed by or stored on one or more such devices.
  • DESCRIPTION
  • Massive multi player online games (MMOGs) or massive multi-player role-playing games (MMORPGs) are computer game, which are capable of supporting hundreds, thousands, or millions of players simultaneously. Typically, this type of game is played in a giant persistent world where the game continues playing regardless of whether or not real players are logged in. Players commonly access these games through a network such as the Internet, and may or may not be required to purchase additional software or hardware in order to play the game. Such networks allow for people all over the world to participate and interact with each other in a virtual environment. The present disclosure provides systems and methods which contribute to the stability, viability, evolution and longevity of such a game and may increase revenues generated by such games and/or its participants, e.g., players.
  • The herein described aspects and drawings illustrate components contained within, or connected with other components that permit play in the virtual environment. It is to be understood that such depicted designs are merely exemplary and that many other designs may be implemented to achieve the same functionality. Any arrangement of components to achieve the same functionality is effectively associated such that the desired functionality is achieved. FIG. 1 provides an exemplary network which may be used to support a virtual environment.
  • Referring to FIG. 1, a network 10 according to one embodiment includes a central server 20 in communication with a plurality of video game playing units (or consoles) 18. Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that any number of video game playing units or consoles may be in communication with the central server. Typically, the number of video game playing units, i.e., consoles, changes at various times as players join games and as players stop playing games. Similarly, more than one server may operate to coordinate the activities of the video game playing units, as is well known in the art.
  • Central server 20 may comprise any computing device (e.g., one or more computers) capable of communicating with other computing devices. The server 20 typically comprises a processor which is in communication with a storage device, such as an appropriate combination of RAM, ROM, hard disk, and other well known storage media. Central server 20 may comprise one or more servers, personal computers, web servers, dedicated game servers, video game consoles, or any combination of the foregoing, or the like.
  • Each video game device or console 18 may comprise any device capable of communicating with central server 20, providing video game information to a player, and transmitting the player's desired actions to the central server. Each video game device typically comprises any one or more of a processor which is in communication with a storage device, such as an appropriate combination of RAM, ROM, hard disk, and other well known storage media. Suitable video game devices include, but are not limited to, personal computers, video game consoles, mobile phones, and personal data assistants (PDAs).
  • Some or all of video game 17 can be stored on central server 20. Alternatively, some or all of video game 17 may be stored on the individual video game devices 18. Typically, the video game devices are able to communicate with one another (either directly or via a central server or a peer-to-peer or other network). Such communication may or may not be facilitated by central server 20. Accordingly, a player 19 a accessing video game 17 via game device 18 a may be able to play with a player 19 b accessing video game 17 via game device 18 b. As shown, it may be possible for multiple players (e.g. 19 c, 19 d) to access central server 20 via the same game device (e.g. 18 c).
  • Regardless of whether video game 17 is stored on central server 20 or video game devices 18, server 20 is typically configured to facilitate play of the game between multiple game players.
  • Those having skill in the art will recognize that there is little distinction between hardware and software implementations. The use of hardware or software is generally a choice of convenience or design based on the relative importance of speed, accuracy, flexibility and predictability. There are therefore various vehicles by which processes and/or systems described herein can be effected (e.g., hardware, software, and/or firmware) and that the preferred vehicle will vary with the context in which the technologies are deployed.
  • At least a portion of the devices and/or processes described herein can be integrated into a data processing system with a reasonable amount of experimentation. Those having skill in the art will recognize that a typical data processing system generally includes one or more of a system unit housing, a video display device, memory, processors, operating systems, drivers, graphical user interfaces, and application programs, interaction devices such as a touch pad or screen, and/or control systems including feedback loops and control motors. A typical data processing system may be implemented utilizing any suitable commercially available components to create the gaming environment described herein.
  • Individuals involved in playing and participating in virtual environments may spend a great deal of time and energy developing software, avatars, virtual items, music, text and images to be used, bought, sold and/or traded within or to be used, bought, sold and/or traded within a virtual environment. However, most environments do not protect such music, text and images from being copied and used by other players. A failure to have such a protection system in place may stifle creativity as well as the investment individuals are willing to make in an online environment, decreasing the economic viability, development and enjoyment of the game.
  • Various embodiments of the present invention address these issues by providing methods and systems for copyrighting software, avatars, items, music, text and images, identifying copies of software, avatars, items, music, text and images as real or fraudulent, and/or providing a system for transferring rights in software, avatars, items, music, text and images and a means for redress for violations of copyrights. A system of protection encourages individuals to develop virtual environments, increasing the depth of play and interaction available.
  • Virtual copyright may subsist in a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms including, but not limited to, documents, poems, plays, and other literary works, movies, choreographic works, musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television broadcasts and industrial designs.
  • Players, characters, and other third parties may design creative, intellectual, or artistic works inside and outside of the virtual environment. In some embodiments, there may be an in game editor for creating digital creative works. In other embodiments, there may be a means for incorporating and/or importing part or all such creative works from real world applications into the virtual environment. For example, a method for importing real world objects into a virtual environment and creating blueprints therefrom is described in co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 11/679,669, which is hereby incorporated by reference.
  • A virtual copyright may vest upon creation of the work or may require registration in order for rights to vest. Rights may be limited to a particular game environment or game or may be extended through multiple game environments or games. Rights may be managed by a master server which manages copyrights for a multitude of sub-servers. In one embodiment, each copyright application is automatically registered. In another embodiment, copyright applications may be examined prior to registration to determine that the work seeking protection does not copy or otherwise violate any one else's copyright. Such an examination may include review of all existing issued and pending registrations, trademarks, and copyrights in the real world or may be limited to existing issued and pending registrations, trademarks and copyrights in one or more virtual worlds or environments. In a further embodiment, there may be a fee for examination and/or registration. In some embodiments, there may be fees to maintain registration. In one embodiment, a work may be reviewed by a panel who may vote to determine if a work is sufficiently original. In another embodiment, a creator of a work may be able to defend the work from other copyrighted or non-copyrighted works.
  • In some embodiments, the creator of a work may not have rights in the copyrighted work. For example, it may be a “work for hire” in which the employer and not the creator is viewed as the author of the work. In some embodiments, “a work for hire” may be a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment. In other embodiments, a “work for hire” may be a specially ordered or commissioned work for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a virtual motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas.
  • The right to use a copyrighted work may be limited to the creating character or player; may be used by anyone in the game; may be used by a limited group of people, for example other guild members, characters in the same city, characters of a particular rank, characters in possession of a particular attribute or skill; may be accessible before, during or after completion of a mission; may be purchased; may be licensed; may be assigned; or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, copyrighted works may be accessible to a greater or lesser extent at different points of the game. In other embodiments, copyrights may be sold, encumbered, rented or licensed. In further embodiments, unauthorized use of a copyrighted work may incur penalties including, but not limited to, fines, automatic royalty payments, limitations on virtual activities, alteration of an avatar, revision of an outcome or game play result, or any combination thereof.
  • Limitations on the use of a copyrighted work may be based in whole or in part on the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910, Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms, Geneva, 1971, Convention Relating to the Distribution of PROGRAMME-Carrying Signals Transmitted by Satellite, Brussels, 1974, Universal Copyright Convention, Geneva, 1952, Universal Copyright Convention as revised at Paris, 1971, Party to the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty, Geneva, 1996, Party to the World Intellectual Property Organization Performances and Phonograms Treaty, Geneva, 1996, Marrakesh Agreement of Apr. 15, 1994, and U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, each of which is incorporated herein by reference, and/or by laws, rules and regulations created or passed using any applicable means, including those created or passed by any one or more of the game manufacturer, player character(s) assigned that duty, player character(s) who have the right or the obligation to perform that duty, a virtual governing entity, or any combination thereof.
  • In some embodiments, copyright protection may have an expiry point. Expiration of protection may be a function of time, game play results, a function of the number of copies made, number of uses, registration or use fees paid or received, or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, copyrights can be renewed.
  • Authorized copies of copyrighted materials may be created with an edition number, global unique identifier (GUID) or other identifying indicia such as a number, mark, logo, or the like, or a combination of such identifiers. Unauthorized copies may not include such registration information. In one embodiment, fraudulent copies may lose their GUID or other identifying indicia. In other embodiments, it may not be possible to use, sell or trade fraudulent copies on an exchange or otherwise. Examples of in-game and intra-game exchanges are described, for example, in co-pending U.S. Patent Application Nos. 11560456 and 11428263, each of which is hereby incorporated by reference. In further embodiments, there may be a black market for fraudulent copies of materials and/or of registration and other identification information/materials.
  • Use of a copyrighted work may require the payment of a royalty or licensing or use fee to the owner of the copyright and/or the owner's assignee. The royalty payments may be a one time or periodic fee or a one time and periodic fee. Royalty payments may be fixed or variable or fixed and variable or fixed and variable at different points throughout the game and/or based upon type of use or based upon attributes of the player or player character paying such fees. Royalty payments may be based on market forces, negotiation and/or agreement between the owner(s) and one or more characters, posted prices, vote by a group of player characters and/or an entity or player character elected to represent the player characters, the game manufacturer, by the game, the life span of the registration, the number of times a copyrighted work has been copied or used, the number of times the purchaser wants to use the copyrighted work, the intended use of the copyrighted work, the number of characters who will view the copyrighted work, a per user fee, any other suitable factors, or any combination of the foregoing.
  • In some embodiments a license may be negotiated for the right to use or make copies or distribute copyrighted materials. In some embodiments, such licenses may be exclusive. In other embodiments, licenses may be non-exclusive.
  • In other embodiments, databases of copyrighted materials may be compiled. Such databases may be accessed in a variety of ways. In some embodiments, such a database may be accessed using a subscription service. A subscription service may require registration and/or may require a subscription be paid in order to view or listen to copyrighted creative works. Subscriptions may be set up to view a limited or an unlimited amount of copyrighted materials, to view set amounts of copyrighted materials, to view copyrighted materials a specific number of times, to view copyrighted materials an unlimited number of times, to download copyrighted materials, to view materials for a particular length of time, or any combination thereof.
  • In additional embodiments, ownership in the copyrighted work may be transferred, in whole or in part, for example through an assignment. Such a sale or transfer may take place on or offline, through an exchange, directly between players and/or characters, or through a third party. In some embodiments, even with the transfer of ownership, the creator may retain moral rights in the copyrighted material, including, but not limited to, the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, the right to defend derogatory action in relation to the work, and the right to the integrity of the work.
  • In some embodiments, there may be an exemption to licensing requirements for fair use of a copyrighted work. Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. In some embodiments, a balancing test may be employed to determine fair use. Factors to be considered include the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. In other embodiments, parody of a work may be permissible without obtaining permission from the rights holders.
  • In the event that a copyrighted work is used without permission, the user may be subject to an injunction, damages, may be forced to give up rights to goods made using the copyrighted materials, may have their account cancelled, may be fined, may have their avatar branded, or may be subjected to any other punishment deemed appropriate.
  • FIG. 2 provides an exemplary system 100 that is suitable for use with the embodiment described above. As shown, system 100 includes a games server 102 and game environment server 104 each of which may include or host various programs, routines, or subroutines and databases. In one embodiment, master game server 102 includes game environment creation and setup program 106 and import creative works program 114. Game server 102 may further maintain or be in contact with a plurality of databases, examples of which include, but are not limited to, a game environment database 108, player database 110, a copyright database 112, and a tax database 116. Game environment server 104 may include programs such as digital rights management programs 120, game environment management program 122, licensing configuration program 124, exchange multiplier determination program 126, copyright examination and registration program 128, copyright expiration program 130, current date database 132, era database 138, copyright database 134, exchange multiplier database 140, examiner database 136, player database 142 and player character database 144.
  • Creative works may be made in any medium applicable including, but not limited to: documents, poems, plays, and other literary works, movies, choreographic works, musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television broadcasts or content and industrial and/or esthetic designs in a virtual environment and for importation into or creation or use within a virtual environment. In some embodiments creative works are made in a game environment. In other embodiments, creative works may be made, in whole or in part, outside of a game environment and imported into a game environment, for example, using import creative works program 114. Information regarding created and imported creative works may be stored by any means applicable, for example, in copyright database 112. Copyright Database 112 may include information such as, but not limited to: Copyright ID, Copyright Owner, Copyright Creator, Royalty/Licensing Configuration, and Copyright content. In some embodiments, all creative works are copyrighted from the moment of creation. In other embodiments, creative works may need to be registered.
  • Some game environments may have limitations on the types of creative works that may be imported or employed in that game environment. For example, particular game environments may be set in a particular era and may only permit the creation of works that are appropriate for that or designated eras, i.e. that are not anachronistic. In another example, particular game environments may be set in particular physical environments and may permit the creation of creative works that are applicable to that physical environment. Regulations for game environments may be established during game environment creation and setup using game environment creation and setup program 106 or may evolve as the game progresses. In one embodiment, rules and regulations may be stored in game environment database 108 which may include information such as game environment ID, identification of the owners, percentage ownership, governance structure, restrictions on imports or exports, restrictions on creation, configurations, natural resources, raw materials, attributes, skills, NPCs, creation date, fee structure, or any other information relating to the game environment. The appropriateness of a creative work in a particular game environment may be defined in part by the era, preceding or subsequent era, or date in the game environment. Such information may be stored, for example, in current date database 132 and era database 138. In another embodiment, creative works could be screened, for example, by game environment management program 122 prior to being displayed or otherwise used in a game environment.
  • In some embodiments, overseeing of creative works may take place using a program such as digital rights management program 120 which may oversee and/or record the use, importing, creation, copyright protection, registration, transferal, licensing and assignment of creative works in a game environment. In some embodiments, creative works may be copyrighted upon creation. In other embodiments, creative works may need to be registered in order to be copyrighted. Registration may take place automatically, or may require examination of the creative work in order to determine that it is original and does not violate any virtual real world patents, registrations, copyrights or trademarks. Such an examination may occur by any means applicable, for example, through a governing entity or through a copyright office. In another embodiment, a guild, professional association, or other entity may be responsible for conducting examinations. In one embodiment, a creative work may be analyzed using various rules based expert systems or genetic algorithms to determine the degree of difference between one creative work and another. If the degree of difference is not of an adequate percentage, the creative work can be rejected by the copyright office system of the game server, for example, using copyright examination and registration program 128. In some embodiments, if the registration of a creative work is rejected, the owner or assignee may appeal such decisions.
  • In another embodiment, system 100 may be configured to determine if a creative work can be registered by performing steps such as:
      • 1. Receive a creative work filing, including a player character inventor ID, a virtual entity assignee ID, and a creative work.
      • 2. Compare filed creative work to existing filed creative works and generate a similarity rating.
      • 3. If similarity rating is greater than allowable threshold, flag creative work as requiring further examination.
      • 4. If similarity rating is less than allowable threshold, generate a registration number.
      • 5. Assign registration number to creative work record.
      • 6. Notify owner that creative work has been registered and copyright protection obtained.
  • If the system is unable to make a determination as to the originality of a creative work, a determination may be made by players, characters, or other third parties. In one embodiment, originality may be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction (in either the real or virtual world) which may or may not include a judge, arbiter, and/or a jury and/or another governing or administrative body or a group of players or player characters that has been established for the purpose of such review. In another embodiment, creative works may be reviewed by a panel who may vote on the originality of a creative work. For example, there may be a group of experts in a particular field, or of a particular class of creative work. Such experts may be chosen using any applicable means, including, for example, by the game server, elected, or volunteer for the position. In some embodiments, information on characters available to serve in such positions may be stored, for example, in player character database 144, which may include information such as character ID, player ID, assets, skills, skill levels, obligations, game environment access, creative works created, creative works licensed, and expertise. In another embodiment, real world expertise could be accessed, for example through player database 142 which may include such information as player ID, character IDs, account information, billing information, real world history, creative works created, creative works purchased, and creative works licensed. In a further embodiment, characters with the necessary expertise may be located in other environments. Such players may be located, for example using player database 110. Player database 110 may include such information as player ID, character IDs, account information, billing information, real world history, location of characters, creative works created, creative works purchased, and creative works licensed.
  • In another embodiment, examination is performed by an Examiner. In one embodiment, examiners are hired and governed in whole or in part by laws and rules, such as the laws and rules of the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910, Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms, Geneva, 1971, Convention Relating to the Distribution of PROGRAMME-Carrying Signals Transmitted by Satellite, Brussels, 1974, Universal Copyright Convention, Geneva, 1952, Universal Copyright Convention as revised at Paris, 1971, Party to the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty, Geneva, 1996, Party to the World Intellectual Property Organization Performances and Phonograms Treaty, Geneva, 1996, Marrakesh Agreement of Apr. 15, 1994, and U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, each of which is incorporated herein by reference or by laws, rules and regulations established by the game manufacturer, one or more players in the game designated for such purpose, any other body elected by the players and/or appointed by the game manufacturer, and/or any other entity that is duly authorized to appoint and/or hire examiners. In some embodiments, Examiners may or must agree that they cannot create or be involved with the creation of creative works of the type that they agree to examine.
  • In some embodiments, the role of Examiner may be performed by NPCs. In other embodiments, Examiners may be other characters. In a further embodiment, Examiners may be players. According to one embodiment, a virtual or real fee can be charged to a player character who wants to register or to maintain registration of a creative work. A portion of this fee can be paid to other player characters who are willing to examine the filed creative work for registerability. In another embodiment, Examiners can be volunteers. Information regarding examiners may be stored, for example in Examiner database 136. Examiner database 136 may include information such as, but not limited to, examiner ID, examiner class, examiner subclass, and examination history. In some embodiments, examination may take place using a combination of Examiners and automated means, for example, through the use of genetic or other learning algorithms. For example, the server may select the most closely related creative works and present them to an Examiner for the final determination regarding registerability. Such a method may use some or all of the following steps:
      • 1. Output a creative work that has a similarity rating higher than allowable threshold to a player character.
      • 2. Receive opinion from player character that creative work can be registered.
      • 3. Generate a registration number.
      • 4. Assign registration number to creative work record.
      • 5. Notify creative work owner that creative work has been registered and copyright protection obtained.
  • In another embodiment, examination may occur using a method such as that outlined in FIG. 3 where an initial screening is made comparing a creative work to registered creative works. If the threshold of similarity is not exceeded, the creative work is registered. If the threshold is exceeded, the creative work to be registered and the similar creative work(s) are given to an Examiner to review. If the Examiner disagrees with the assessment, the Examiner may register the creative work. If the Examiner agrees with the assessment that the creative works are too closely related, a rejection may be sent to the creator or other character seeking to register the creative work. The creator or other character or entity, e.g., the assignee or counsel for the owner or assignee, seeking to register the creative work may then present arguments regarding the differences between the creative works. If the Examiner is convinced, the creative work may be registered. If the Examiner is not convinced, registration and copyright protection may be denied.
  • In some embodiments, copyrighted works may have an expiration date after which anyone can use them. An expiration date may be based on a particular length of time since the copyright was obtained, a particular event occurring, a population density, a mission being completed, the number of times the copyrighted item has been used, a licensing stream, a royalty amount, or any combination thereof. Expiration may be determined, for example, by using copyright expiration program 130.
  • In some embodiments, copyrighted works may be marked as expired. System 100 may be configured to expire a registration by performing steps such as:
      • 1. Determine that a copyright has reached its expiration date.
      • 2. Mark copyright as expired.
  • In another embodiment, a copyright may be extended. System 100 may be configured to extend a registration by performing such stems as.
      • 1. Determine that a copyright is approaching its expiration date.
      • 2. Notify owner that a copyright is approaching its expiration date.
      • 3. Receive petition to extend copyright.
      • 4. Determine if copyright is eligible to be extended
      • 5. Extend copyright.
        If no petition is received, a copyright may expire, leaving the creative work available to everyone. In other embodiments, extension of registration and copyright protection may require the payment of a fee and/or may be based upon other requirements, such as the maintaining of good standing or a certain account type by the owner and/or the assignee.
  • Once they are created, copyrights may be transferred, sold or licensed. Such transactions may take place through any means applicable, for example using an exchange such as those described in the applications incorporated by reference above. Exchanges that operate between game environments or between games may use different currencies or valuations. The value of items on an exchange and the determination of the value to different games and game environments may be calculated by any means applicable. In one embodiment, exchange multiplier database 140 may track the exchange ID number and track or store the multiplier number calculated by exchange multiplier determination program 126 for purchases and acquisitions of creative works between exchanges, game environments, game environment jurisdictions and/or games.
  • Items offered on an Exchange may be subject to verification. System 100 may be configured to find duplicate items or forged items by performing some or all of the following steps:
      • 1. Retrieve an ID number for a virtual creative work that is posted on an exchange.
      • 2. Determine if ID number is a valid number.
      • 3. Determine if ID number is unique.
      • 4. Remove creative work from exchange if ID number in not valid or unique.
      • 5. If not valid or unique, notify valid holder of such ID number.
  • In some embodiments, if the item is fraudulent, a penalty may be imposed on the character attempting to sell the item. Such a penalty may include an injunction, damages, cancellation of the character or player's account, a fine, a branding or other marking of the avatar, any other punishment deemed appropriate, or any combination thereof.
  • Information on copyrights available for transfer, purchase or licensing may be stored, for example in copyright database 134 and may include information such as, but not limited to, copyright number, copyright price, and quantity remaining. In one embodiment, each creator of an item can set a price for the copyright or for one or more copies of the copyrighted item.
  • System 100 may be configured to post a copyright or a copyrighted item on an exchange in order to transfer an assignee by performing some or all of the following steps:
      • 1. Receive an offer to sell a copyright or copyrighted item, including an offer price, a remaining edition number from a player character who controls a copyright.
      • 2. Store offer and post offer on exchange.
  • System 100 may be configured to allow the purchase of a copyright or a copyrighted item on an exchange by performing steps such as:
      • 1. Receive a request to purchase a blueprint from a player character.
      • 2. Receive a new assignee name.
      • 3. Withdraw purchase price, including applicable fees, from new assignee account.
      • 4. Transfer copyright to new assignee.
      • 5. Transmit purchase price, less applicable fees, to former assignee of copyright.
  • In another embodiment, copyrights, or the use of copyrighted items may be licensed. Licenses can be exclusive or non-exclusive. Fees for licensing a blueprint may be fixed or variable, fixed and variable, or fixed or variable at different points of the game. In one embodiment, the licensing fee may be a reflection of the proposed use of the copyrighted item; the time remaining in the registration; the number of other licenses issued; the number of copies available; the number of users; may include milestone payments; may include guaranteed minimums or maximum limits; upfront fees and a percentage; a percentage of the total item value on an exchange at the time the item is created; or any combination thereof.
  • Licensing arrangements may be negotiated directly between characters, may be calculated using market prices, may be uniform, may be determined using a genetic or other learning algorithm, or using a program such as licensing configuration program 124. In one embodiment, a licensing arrangement may be determined using some or all of the following steps.
      • 1. Set up copyright licensing structure.
      • 2. Receive a request to set up a copyright licensing structure.
      • 3. Output allowable licensing structure, including per usage fee, usage type, maximum usage (limited edition number).
      • 4. Receive a licensing structure configuration.
      • 5. Store licensing structure configuration with copyrighted work.
  • Royalty payments may be part of a license, or a one time fee for usage of a copyrighted creative work. Royalty payments may be calculated by any means applicable. In one embodiment, system 100 may be configured to establish copyright royalty payment criteria by performing steps such as:
      • 1. Output royalty payment criteria options.
      • 2. Receive royalty configuration based on options.
      • 3. Store royalty configuration.
  • In another embodiment, the type of royalty payment may depend on the intended use of the copyrighted work. For example, a player character who wants to display the copyrighted work in their visual space may be charged a higher royalty fee if the visual space is public then if the visual space is private. For example, the use of a set of one or more images and or one or more songs in a virtual house may cost $x virtual or real currency per virtual or real time period, while showing the same image(s) or playing the same song(s) in a virtual restaurant may cost $y virtual or real currency. Fees to use images, text and songs could be based upon any applicable factors, e.g., set on the number of unique impressions of those images by player characters, the expected sales price or profit for one or more such impressions, or for an unlimited use license. In some embodiments, the number of player characters exposed to or who otherwise used, viewed or played the image or song may be determined and the owner of the visual space in which the creative work was displayed may be charged a per use fee. Such royalty fees could be determined using any applicable means, for example, the fees may be based upon some or all of the following steps:
      • 1. Receive a request to create, reproduce or use a copyrighted item, including a usage type from a player character.
      • 2. Determine royalty payment based on royalty configuration.
      • 3. Charge royalty payment to player character.
      • 4. Issue item to player character.
      • 5. Transmit royalty payment, less applicable fees, to copyright holder.
    In another embodiment, a royalty may be automatically assessed when an item is purchased, for example, through a retail store.
  • In a further embodiment, a royalty may be charged for the unauthorized use of a copyrighted work. When an unauthorized or authorized use occurs, system 100 further may be configured to charge a royalty fee when an item is used in a game environment by performing steps such as:
      • 1. Receive an indication that a copyrighted item has been used by a player character in a game environment under a particular usage type without authorization.
      • 2. Determine a royalty payment based on usage type.
      • 3. Charge royalty payment to player character.
      • 4. Transmit royalty payment, less applicable fees, to copyright holder.
  • In other embodiments, there may be ways to obtain fraudulent or unauthorized access to copyrighted materials, for example using a particular spell, potion or skill.
  • The licensing or payment of royalties on a copyrighted work may trigger taxes. Such taxes may be progressive, graduated or flat. In some embodiments, taxes may be due immediately. In other embodiments, taxes may be due upon sale of the item being taxed. Taxes may include, but are not limited to, sales tax, labor tax, employment tax and capital gains tax. In some embodiments, the type and/or amount of the tax may vary depending on the item or the character acquiring or selling the item. Information regarding taxes to be applied may be stored, for example, in tax database 116. Tax database 116 may include information including, but not limited to, tax schedules for creating creative works, licensing creative works and buying and selling creative works.
  • In a further embodiment, player characters may subscribe to a subscription service for the use of one or more copyrighted works. A subscription service sells periodic use or access to creative works for a set duration of time and/or number of uses. In some embodiments, renewal of a subscription service may be automatic. In other embodiments, there may be different levels of service or access and/or usage/license fees. In further embodiments, the subscription service may suggest alternate selections which based on the character player's past user history or response to survey questions. An exemplary system 200 configured to provide the virtual environment described above is shown in FIG. 4. As shown, system 200 may include a game server 202, a game environment server 204, and a credit card server 206.
  • Game server 202 may include a variety of programs such as import creative works program 212 and contract generation program 216. It may further include a plurality of databases such as game environment database 210, copyright database 214, player database 218, contract database 220 and tax database 222.
  • Game environment server 204 may include programs such as copyright registration program 230, licensing configuration program 232, subscription program 234, digital rights management program 236, as well as a plurality of databases such as, but not limited to, account database 238, player character database 235 and player database 239.
  • Credit card server 206 may include programs such as lock credit line 242, ping credit line 244, and release credit line 246 as well as an account database 240.
  • As stated above, instead of buying a creative work, player characters may subscribe to a service which allows them to view, download, listen to or stream creative works. The types of creative works available may be determined by the game environment, the type of subscription service and/or the level of subscription service that has been obtained.
  • Creative works may be made in a game environment, or outside of a game environment, for example in the real world, and imported into a game environment using, for example, import creative works program 212. In some embodiments, game environments may have limitations on the types of creative works that may be imported or employed in that game environment. For example, particular game environments may be set in a particular era and may only permit the creation of works that are appropriate for that era, i.e. that are not anachronistic. In another example, particular game environments may be set in particular physical environments and may permit the creation of creative works that are applicable to that physical environment. For example, an underwater environment may not allow sculptures made out of paper but would allow sculptures made out of plastic or stone. In one embodiment, rules and regulations regarding a game environment may be stored in game environment database 210 which may include information such as game environment ID, identification of the owners, percentage ownership, governance structure, restrictions on imports or exports, restrictions on creation, configurations, natural resources, raw materials, attributes, skills, NPCs, creation date, fee structure, or any other information relating to the game environment. In some embodiments, access to particular game environments may be limited to particular players, characters, or types of characters. Information regarding players, the characters they control and the game environments to which they have access may be stored, for example, in player database 218 which may include information such as player ID, character(s), accounts, game environment access, and billing information.
  • In some embodiments, overseeing of creative works in a game environment may take place using a program such as digital rights management program 236 which may oversee the use importing, creation, registration and use of creative works in a game environment. In some embodiments, creative works may need to be registered in order to obtain a copyright. In other embodiments, a copyright may be granted upon creation. Registration may take place automatically, or may require examination of the creative work in order to determine that it is original and does not violate any virtual real world patents, registrations, copyrights or trademarks. In some embodiments, registration may occur using copyright registration program 230. All copyrighted works may be stored, for example, in copyright database 214. Copyright database 214 may include information such as copyright ID, copyright owner, copyright creator, royalty/licensing configuration, copyright content, game environment allowability, and date of registration.
  • In some embodiments, owners of subscription services may need to license the creative works they offer in the subscription service. Fees for licensing a blueprint may be fixed or variable or fixed or variable at different points of the game. In one embodiment, the licensing fee may be a reflection of the proposed use of the copyrighted item; the number of subscribers, access by each subscriber, the time remaining in the registration; the number of other licenses issued; the number of copies available; the number of users; may include milestone payments; may include guaranteed minimums; upfront fees and a percentage; a percentage of the total item value on an exchange at the time the item is created; the total value expected to be generated by such item, or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, each time a subscriber accesses a copyrighted work, a fee may be paid to the creator or the owner of the copyright. Such licensing arrangements may be negotiated directly between characters, between representatives of characters, may be calculated using market prices, may be uniform, may be determined using a genetic or other learning algorithm, or using a program such as licensing configuration program 232.
  • In some embodiments, a subscription service may be offered after a player character licenses one or more copyrighted works. In other embodiments, a subscription service may be priced based upon and/or offered to characters with a particular credit score, who have been in existence for a particular length of time, who are in a particular industry, have obtained a particular level, discovered a particular object, acquired a particular skill, or any other criteria that may be determined by the game server or game environment manager. In some embodiments, all characters may be allowed to subscribe to a subscription service.
  • In some embodiments, a subscription service may allow a one time access, access a specific number of times or for a certain amount of time, unlimited access, or a combination thereof. There may also be graduated or hierarchical access, for example particular databases of creative works or portions thereof may be accessible through different services or accounts. For example, access may be given to creative works of a particular genre, time period, creator, subject matter, or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, system 200 may use some or all of the following steps to provide access to a subscription service:
      • 1. Receive player character log in.
      • 2. Determine subscription service subscribed to.
      • 3. Offer menu of creative works covered by subscription service.
  • Subscriptions may be entered into using, for example, subscription program 234. Information regarding the type of account to which a character has subscribed as well as billing information may be stored, for example in account database 238. Account database 238 may include information such as character ID, player ID, billing information, preferences and subscription services.
  • In some embodiments, player characters may enter into a contract for subscription services. A contract may be generated by any means applicable. In one embodiment, two or more characters may negotiate a contract. In another embodiment, two or more characters may select an applicable contract from a contract database such as contract database 220, and complete the necessary information regarding the parties to the contract. In yet another embodiment, completed contracts are stored in contract database 220. In a further embodiment, one character may present a contract for signature to another character. In yet another embodiment, a contract may be generated using a contract generation program such as contract generation program 216. Such a program may generate a contract using some or all of the following steps:
      • 1. Receive a virtual contract initiation request from a player character(s).
      • 2. Determine contract obligations and conditions.
      • 3. Output obligations and conditions.
      • 4. Receive acceptance of obligations and conditions.
      • 5. Retrieve or receive collateral such as credit line associated with player characters.
      • 6. Activate and store virtual contract along with obligations and conditions.
      • 7. Transfer any assets as required by obligations and conditions.
  • Information regarding the player characters for use in creating contracts and/or offering subscription services such as their credit score, purchasing history, interests, account information and billing information may be stored by any means applicable. In some embodiments, such information may be stored in whole or in part in player character database 235 and player database 239. Player character database may contain information such as character ID, player ID, assets, accounts, game environment access, preferences, subscriptions and purchasing history. Player database 239 may include such information as account access, player ID, character(s), billing information, and account information.
  • In some embodiments, an account may be created and a contract formed using some or all of the steps in FIG. 5. A character may apply for an account, supply character information, and provide billing information which may be verified.
  • The billing information or other collateral used to secure the contract may be validated and secured by any means applicable. According to one embodiment, real world credit lines can be frozen by the bank owner or game server, and/or just periodically “pinged” to ensure their validity and that sufficient credit is available to underwrite the loan. The continuing availability of the real world credit line may be determined by any means applicable. According to one embodiment, Ping Credit Line program 244 may be configured to complete some or all of the following steps:
      • 1. Determine that a player character has an outstanding virtual subscription.
      • 2. Determine real and virtual cash value of subscription.
      • 3. Retrieve credit card associated with subscription.
      • 4. Ping credit card for the outstanding real cash value of the subscription.
      • 5. If credit equal to subscription amount is not available, request additional collateral.
  • In the event a credit line securing the subscription is cancelled or closed, the system could receive notification that the credit card or credit line is no longer valid. Upon notification that a credit line is no longer valid, the bank, system, game owner, server owner, or other contract holder may require modification or cancellation of the contract, acceleration of the contract, require the player to provide a new credit line, require additional collateral to secure the contract, foreclose on the contract, secure a secondary line of credit which was previously provided or may be secured from other player characters, notify other characters of the opportunity to purchase a contract, foreclose on virtual assets held by the defaulting character, freeze the virtual accounts of the character or player, or any combination thereof.
  • The lock on the real world credit line such as that accomplished by Lock Credit Line program 242 may be released when the contract is completed. According to one embodiment, Release Credit Line program 246 may be configured to:
      • 1. Receive indication that subscription has been completed.
      • 2. Retrieve credit card associated with virtual subscription.
      • 3. Notify credit card issuer to release credit line.
  • Alternatively, as the virtual subscription contract proceeds or certain milestones with the contract are met, a percentage of the real world credit line(s) may be released in proportion to or in some other ratio of the amount of the contract completed. For example, a virtual subscription contract may require a commitment for a particular length of time. A credit card amount could be frozen for the length of the commitment after which it is released even if the subscription is renewed. In another embodiment, the amount of real world credit line held is reduced as the virtual subscription contract proceeds, instead of waiting for the entire virtual subscription to be terminated, thus freeing real world credit lines for other purposes. Such a release could be managed by any means available. According to one embodiment, Release Credit Line program 246 may be configured to:
      • 1. Receive indication that a subscription contract milestone has been met.
      • 2. Retrieve credit card associated with virtual subscription contract.
      • 3. Notify credit card issuer to release an equal or other determined portion of the credit line.
  • A real or virtual credit line can secure a milestone amount or date, an otherwise calculated amount, the entire value of the contract, or a combination thereof. In some embodiments, the amount may be the next month's or other predetermined time period's subscription payment. In another embodiment, the first and last month's or other predetermined time period's subscription payment may be held. In calculating the amount to be secured factors such as game growth rates, taxes, inflation and/or exchange rates, credit worthiness of the character or player, the amount of debt the parties to the contract have outstanding, and/or any other attributes or characteristics of the player, player character, lender, game environment, and/or any combination thereof. Such determinations and evaluations may be made by any applicable means, including a) the game manufacturer, b) the owner(s) of the server(s) upon which the game resides, c) one or more player characters, d) market forces, e) negotiation among the affected parties, f) any combination of the above. Information regarding the credit lines used to secure a virtual loan may be stored by any means applicable. In one embodiment, such information may be stored in account database 240.
  • In one embodiment, the amount of a real world credit line to be frozen can be based, in whole or in part, on the exchange rate of virtual currency for real currency. According to one embodiment, the exchange rate could be one for one. Alternatively, the exchange rate may be based on the exchange rate at the time of the formation of the contract. It may also be based on the exchange rate at the time the player's credit card or other credit line is charged. In another embodiment, the exchange rate may be adjustable for the term or any portion of the term of the contract. Such adjustments may be based on the credit worthiness of the player or player character, inflation, actual exchange rates, and an agreement by the parties, market forces, and/or any other attributes or characteristics of the player, player character, lender, game environment, and/or other economic indicators or a combination thereof. The exchange rate may be fixed in that the rate does not change for the duration of the game or segment of the game. Alternatively, the exchange rate may be pegged to or otherwise associated with one or more floating real world exchange relationships, for example the U.S. dollar/Japanese yen spot exchange rate, a percentage thereof, a plus or minus adjustment thereof, some other economic indicator, or a combination thereof. The exchange rate may also vary depending on the country of origin of the player, or may be fixed to a particular real world currency, i.e., all exchange rates may be quoted in dollars. In another embodiment, the exchange rate may be floating and determined by market forces such as the relative demand for virtual currency versus real world currency. Said exchange rates may further be established or determined by any suitable method including, but not limited to, by a) the game manufacturer, b) the owner(s) of the server(s) upon which the game resides, c) one or more player characters, d) market forces, e) negotiation among the affected parties, f) and/or any other attributes or characteristics of the player, player character, lender, game environment, and/or f) any combination of the above. The exchange rate may also be composed of any combination of the above methods or any other then known or in use determination methods. For example, the exchange rate could be fixed for a certain length of time and then change to market forces or vice versa. Alternatively, there may be a cap on the amount of fluctuation in the exchange rate during the term of the contract.
  • The use of a subscription service may incur the payment of taxes by either the subscriber or subscribing entity or both. Such taxes may be progressive, graduated or flat. In some embodiments, taxes may be due immediately. In other embodiments, taxes may be due upon use or sale of the item being taxed. Taxes may include, but are not limited to, sales tax, use tax, income tax, labor tax, employment tax and capital gains tax. In some embodiments, the type and/or amount of the tax may vary depending on the item or the character acquiring or selling the item. Information regarding taxes to be applied may be stored, for example, in tax database 222. Tax database 222 may include information including, but not limited to, tax schedules for creating creative works, licensing creative works and buying and selling creative works.
  • According to one embodiment, virtually copyrighted works such as images, text and songs or the use of such virtually copyrighted works can be sold on a virtual exchange. Other player characters can buy the right to use, sell, license, and sublicense or control the virtually copyrighted works such as images, text and songs in virtual structures they have created. Such an exchange is further described in detail in U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/428,263, filed Jun. 30, 2006, and Ser. No. 11/560,456, filed Nov. 16, 2006, each of which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety. An embodiment of an exchange system is shown in FIG. 6. As shown, system 300 includes a master game server 302 a game environment server 306 and an exchange server 304.
  • Game environment server 306 may include databases such as player database 314, player character database 316, exchange open offers database 328, exchange transaction database 320.
  • In one embodiment, Player Database 314 may include information such as, but not limited to player ID, player billing info, player personal info, player credit info, account information, and player assets. Player Character Database 316 may include information such as, but not limited to, character ID, player ID, character assets, character inventory, character Skills, virtual account numbers, game environment access, character permits, NPC employment.
  • Exchange Server 304 may include or host or provide access to various programs, routines, subroutines and/or databases including, but not limited to an exchange database 308, an exchange open offers database 310, and an exchange transaction database 312.
  • In one embodiment, Exchange database 308 may include information such as, but not limited to, exchange ID, exchange type, allowable assets, and allowed traders. Exchange open offers database 310 could contain information such as:
      • 1. Offer ID
      • 2. Offer type
      • 3. Offer posting date
      • 4. Offer expiration date
      • 5. Offer Item
      • 6. Offer Quantity
      • 7. Offer Price.
  • Exchange open offers may additionally be associated with the character or player submitting the offer. Such information could be stored in Exchange Open Offer Database 328 and include information such as the character ID, holdings, offer ID, offer type, offer posting date, offer expiration date, offer item, offer quantity, and offer price.
  • In one embodiment, each transaction could be stored in an Exchange Transaction Database, for example in Exchange Transaction Database 312. Such a database could store information such as:
      • 1. Order ID
      • 2. Order Buyer
      • 3. Order Seller
      • 4. Order Date
      • 5. Order Price
      • 6. Order Type
      • 7. Order terms and conditions
  • In another embodiment, such transactions could be associated with the character in Exchange Transaction Database 320. Such a database could include information such as character ID, character inventory, order ID, order date, order, price, order type, and/or authentication number.
  • According to one embodiment, the game server can set a minimum and maximum trade amount per time period on copyrighted items both in the game environment and between game environments. This amount could be based on any one or more of: the total amount of a copyrighted item available in a game parameter; the amount of open buy orders for a copyrighted item in a game environment; the amount of open sell orders for a copyrighted item in a game environment; any other factors and/or rules and regulations as disclosed herein above. In another embodiment, there may be permits required or import and export or other taxes imposed on items exchanged between game environments or between games. Such calculations may be made, for example, using some or all of the following steps:
      • 1. Receive a request to sell a virtual creative work on an exchange.
      • 2. Determine if item is unique.
      • 3. Determine if a permit exists to sell the item.
      • 4. If the item is unique and a permit exists, post creative work on exchange.
      • 5. Receive acceptance of request.
      • 6. Determine an import tax amount and an export tax amount.
      • 7. Apply import tax amount to purchase price.
      • 8. Withdraw virtual cash equal to purchase price plus tax from buyer.
      • 9. Transmit purchase price, less applicable export tax fees to seller.
  • Creative works bought and sold on the exchange may generate virtual currency, and/or real currency and/or may generate an exchange of assets and/or liabilities. The value of a currency or an asset or liability may be based on one or more conversion factors as described above or on an exchange rate or any combination of the above.
  • The exchange rate for one type of virtual currency for another type of virtual currency, virtual currency for real currency, virtual assets or liabilities for real assets or liabilities, real assets or liabilities for virtual assets or liabilities, real assets or liabilities for virtual currency, virtual assets or liabilities for real currency or virtual assets or liabilities for virtual currency (or any combination of these) may be fixed in that the rate does not change for the duration of the game or segment of the game. In addition or in the alternate, the exchange or conversion rate may be variable. Such a variable rate may be pegged to one or more floating real world exchange relationships, for example the U.S. dollar/Japanese yen spot exchange rate, a percentage thereof, a plus or minus adjustment thereof, some other economic indicator, or a combination thereof. The exchange rate may also vary depending on the country of origin of the player, or may be fixed to a particular real world currency, i.e., all exchange rates are quoted in dollars. In another embodiment, the exchange rate may be floating and determined by market forces such as the relative demand for virtual currency versus real world currency, or the relative demand of particular types of virtual currency, or based upon the affect of said rates on one or more game objectives or goals. Said exchange rates may further be established or determined by any suitable method including, but not limited to, by a) the game manufacturer, b) the owner(s) of the server(s) upon which the game resides, c) one or more player characters, d) market forces, e) law or regulation of the game or within the real world, f) negotiation among the affected parties, g) game objectives, and/or any other attributes or characteristics of the player, player character, lender, game environment, or h) any combination of the above.
  • It will be appreciated that while, for the sake of discussion, various databases have been described separately, the data in these and any other suitable databases could be merged into a single large databases and/or maintained separately in additional databases, or in other structures besides a database. Moreover, any such databases could be independent or linked, and the data in these databases could be stored centrally on a server or separately on game devices.
  • The present disclosure provides numerous systems and methods related to virtual environments in online computer games. It should be appreciated that numerous embodiments are described in detail and that various combinations and subcombinations of these embodiments are contemplated by the present disclosure.
  • CONCLUSION
  • Of course it will be appreciated that the systems methods described herein are provided for the purposes of example only and that none of the above systems methods should be interpreted as necessarily requiring any of the disclosed components or steps nor should they be interpreted as necessarily excluding any additional components or steps. Furthermore, it will be understood that while various embodiments are described, such embodiments should not be interpreted as being exclusive of the inclusion of other embodiments or parts of other embodiments.
  • The invention is described with reference to several embodiments. However, the invention is not limited to the embodiments disclosed, and those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the invention is readily applicable to many other diverse embodiments and applications as are reflected in the range of real world financial institutions, instruments and activities. Accordingly, the subject matter of the present disclosure includes all novel and nonobvious combinations and subcombinations of the various systems, methods configurations, embodiments, features, functions, and/or properties disclosed herein.
  • Where a limitation of a first claim would cover one of a feature as well as more than one of a feature (e.g., a limitation such as “at least one widget” covers one widget as well as more than one widget), and where in a second claim that depends on the first claim, the second claim uses a definite article “the” to refer to the limitation (e.g., “the widget”), this does not imply that the first claim covers only one of the feature, and this does not imply that the second claim covers only one of the feature (e.g., “the widget” can cover both one widget and more than one widget).
  • Each claim in a set of claims has a different scope. Therefore, for example, where a limitation is explicitly recited in a dependent claim, but not explicitly recited in any claim from which the dependent claim depends (directly or indirectly), that limitation is not to be read into any claim from which the dependent claim depends.
  • When an ordinal number (such as “first”, “second”, “third” and so on) is used as an adjective before a term, that ordinal number is used (unless expressly specified otherwise) merely to indicate a particular feature, such as to distinguish that particular feature from another feature that is described by the same term or by a similar term. For example, a “first widget” may be so named merely to distinguish it from, e.g., a “second widget”. Thus, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” does not indicate any other relationship between the two widgets, and likewise does not indicate any other characteristics of either or both widgets. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” (1) does not indicate that either widget comes before or after any other in order or location; (2) does not indicate that either widget occurs or acts before or after any other in time; and (3) does not indicate that either widget ranks above or below any other, as in importance or quality. In addition, the mere usage of ordinal numbers does not define a numerical limit to the features identified with the ordinal numbers. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” does not indicate that there must be no more than two widgets.
  • When a single device or article is described herein, more than one device/article (whether or not they cooperate) may alternatively be used in place of the single device/article that is described. Accordingly, the functionality that is described as being possessed by a device may alternatively be possessed by more than one device/article (whether or not they cooperate).
  • Similarly, where more than one device or article is described herein (whether or not they cooperate), a single device/article may alternatively be used in place of the more than one device or article that is described. For example, a plurality of computer-based devices may be substituted with a single computer-based device. Accordingly, the various functionality that is described as being possessed by more than one device or article may alternatively be possessed by a single device/article.
  • The functionality and/or the features of a single device that is described may be alternatively embodied by one or more other devices which are described but are not explicitly described as having such functionality/features. Thus, other embodiments need not include the described device itself, but rather can include the one or more other devices which would, in those other embodiments, have such functionality/features.
  • Numerous embodiments are described in this patent application, and are presented for illustrative purposes only. The described embodiments are not, and are not intended to be, limiting in any sense. The presently disclosed invention(s) are widely applicable to numerous embodiments, as is readily apparent from the disclosure. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the disclosed invention(s) may be practiced with various modifications and alterations, such as structural, logical, software, and electrical modifications. Although particular features of the disclosed invention(s) may be described with reference to one or more particular embodiments and/or drawings, it should be understood that such features are not limited to usage in the one or more particular embodiments or drawings with reference to which they are described, unless expressly specified otherwise.
  • The present disclosure is neither a literal description of all embodiments of the invention nor a listing of features of the invention which must be present in all embodiments.
  • Neither the Title (set forth at the beginning of the first page of this patent application) nor the Abstract (set forth at the end of this patent application) is to be taken as limiting in any way as the scope of the disclosed invention(s). An Abstract has been included in this application merely because an Abstract of not more than 150 words is required under 37 C.F.R. § 1.72(b).
  • The title of this patent application and headings of sections provided in this patent application are for convenience only, and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.
  • Devices that are described as in communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. On the contrary, such devices need only transmit to each other as necessary or desirable, and may actually refrain from exchanging data most of the time. For example, a machine in communication with another machine via the Internet may not transmit data to the other machine for long period of time (e.g. weeks at a time). In addition, devices that are in communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries.
  • A description of an embodiment with several components or features does not imply that all or even any of such components/features are required. On the contrary, a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of the present invention(s). Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no component/feature is essential or required.
  • Although process steps, algorithms or the like may be described in a sequential order, such processes may be configured to work in different orders. In other words, any sequence or order of steps that may be explicitly described does not necessarily indicate a requirement that the steps be performed in that order. On the contrary, the steps of processes described herein may be performed in any order practical. Further, some steps may be performed simultaneously despite being described or implied as occurring non-simultaneously (e.g., because one step is described after the other step). Moreover, the illustration of a process by its depiction in a drawing does not imply that the illustrated process is exclusive of other variations and modifications thereto, does not imply that the illustrated process or any of its steps are necessary to the invention, and does not imply that the illustrated process is preferred.
  • Although a process may be described as including a plurality of steps, that does not imply that all or any of the steps are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other processes that omit some or all of the described steps. Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no step is essential or required.
  • Although a product may be described as including a plurality of components, aspects, qualities, characteristics and/or features, that does not indicate that all of the plurality are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other products that omit some or all of the described plurality.
  • Unless expressly specified otherwise, an enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are mutually exclusive. Therefore it is possible, but not necessarily true, that something can be considered to be, or fit the definition of, two or more of the items in an enumerated list. Also, an item in the enumerated list can be a subset (a specific type of) of another item in the enumerated list. For example, the enumerated list “a computer, a laptop, a PDA” does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are mutually exclusive—e.g., an item can be both a laptop and a computer, and a “laptop” can be a subset of (a specific type of) a “computer”.
  • Likewise, unless expressly specified otherwise, an enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are collectively exhaustive or otherwise comprehensive of any category. For example, the enumerated list “a computer, a laptop, a PDA” does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are comprehensive of any category.
  • Further, an enumerated listing of items does not imply that the items are ordered in any manner according to the order in which they are enumerated.
  • In a claim, a limitation of the claim which includes the phrase “means for” or the phrase “step for” means that 35 U.S.C. § 112, paragraph 6, applies to that limitation.
  • In a claim, a limitation of the claim which does not include the phrase “means for” or the phrase “step for” means that 35 U.S.C. § 112, paragraph 6 does not apply to that limitation, regardless of whether that limitation recites a function without recitation of structure, material or acts for performing that function. For example, in a claim, the mere use of the phrase “step of” or the phrase “steps of” in referring to one or more steps of the claim or of another claim does not mean that 35 U.S.C. § 112, paragraph 6, applies to that step(s).
  • With respect to a means or a step for performing a specified function in accordance with 35 U.S.C. § 112, paragraph 6, the corresponding structure, material or acts described in the specification, and equivalents thereof, may perform additional functions as well as the specified function.
  • Computers, processors, computing devices and like products are structures that can perform a wide variety of functions. Such products can be operable to perform a specified function by executing one or more programs, such as a program stored in a memory device of that product or in a memory device which that product accesses. Unless expressly specified otherwise, such a program need not be based on any particular algorithm, such as any particular algorithm that might be disclosed in this patent application. It is well known to one of ordinary skill in the art that a specified function may be implemented via different algorithms, and any of a number of different algorithms would be a mere design choice for carrying out the specified function.
  • Therefore, with respect to a means or a step for performing a specified function in accordance with 35 U.S.C. § 112, paragraph 6, structure corresponding to a specified function includes any product programmed to perform the specified function. Such structure includes programmed products which perform the function, regardless of whether such product is programmed with (i) a disclosed algorithm for performing the function, (ii) an algorithm that is similar to a disclosed algorithm, or (iii) a different algorithm for performing the function.
  • The present disclosure provides, to one of ordinary skill in the art, an enabling description of several embodiments and/or inventions. Some of these embodiments and/or inventions may not be claimed in this patent application, but may nevertheless be claimed in one or more continuing applications that claim the benefit of priority of this patent application. Applicants intend to file additional applications to pursue patents for subject matter that has been disclosed and enabled but not claimed in this patent application.

Claims (20)

  1. 1. A method comprising:
    providing a first video game environment;
    receiving a creative work from a first player character interacting in the first game environment;
    obtaining a determination of registerability for the creative work; and
    if the creative work is registerable, registering the creative work in a virtual copyright office.
  2. 2. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of obtaining a determination of registerability comprises comparing the creative work to other registered creative works in the virtual environment.
  3. 3. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of obtaining a determination of registerability comprises comparing the creative work to other creative works in the real world.
  4. 4. The method of claim 2, wherein the comparison is performed by an Examiner.
  5. 5. The method of claim 2, wherein the comparison is performed by a panel.
  6. 6. The method of claim 2, wherein the comparison is made by an algorithm.
  7. 7. The method of claim 1, wherein all creative works are registered upon creation.
  8. 8. A method comprising:
    providing a first video game environment;
    receiving a creative work from a first player character interacting in the first game environment;
    acquiring rights to the creative work from a first player character;
    adding the creative work to a database of creative works created by other characters.
  9. 9. The method of claim 8, wherein the database of creative works may be accessed by other characters.
  10. 10. The method of claim 8, wherein player characters must subscribe to the database in order access creative works by other player characters.
  11. 11. The method of claim 10, wherein the subscription can provide access to part of the database.
  12. 12. The method of claim 10, wherein the subscription can provide access to the entire database.
  13. 13. The method of claim 10, wherein the subscription provides the ability to download copies of the creative works.
  14. 14. A method comprising:
    providing a first video game environment;
    receiving a creative work from a first player character;
    making the rights to the creative work available to a second player character.
  15. 15. The method of claim 14 further comprising receiving a request to purchase a creative work from a second player character;
    receiving payment for the creative work from the second player character; and
    transferring ownership in the creative work to the second player character.
  16. 16. The method of claim 14 further comprising receiving a request to license a creative work from a second player character;
    negotiating licensing terms;
    receiving payment for the license from the second player character;
    and authorizing the second player character to perform or use the creative work.
  17. 17. The method of claim 16, wherein the licensing terms depend on the venue for the use of the creative work.
  18. 18. The method of claim 14, wherein the rights to the creative work are made available on an exchange.
  19. 19. The method of claim 18, wherein the exchange may be between different virtual environments.
  20. 20. The method of claim 18, wherein the different virtual environments may be in different games.
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US11428263 US20080004116A1 (en) 2006-06-30 2006-06-30 Video Game Environment
US11620563 US20080046222A1 (en) 2006-06-30 2007-01-05 Copyright of Digital Works in a Virtual Environment
US11689977 US20080004120A1 (en) 2006-06-30 2007-03-22 Management and Protection of Creative Works in a Virtual Environment

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