WO2010043256A1 - A method and apparatus for implementing a virtual scratch-card game - Google Patents

A method and apparatus for implementing a virtual scratch-card game Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2010043256A1
WO2010043256A1 PCT/EP2008/063900 EP2008063900W WO2010043256A1 WO 2010043256 A1 WO2010043256 A1 WO 2010043256A1 EP 2008063900 W EP2008063900 W EP 2008063900W WO 2010043256 A1 WO2010043256 A1 WO 2010043256A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
card
virtual scratch
scratch
symbol identifier
virtual
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/EP2008/063900
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Per Roos
Bo ÅSTRÖM
Fredrik Lindholm
Original Assignee
Telefonaktiebolaget Lm Ericsson (Publ)
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Application filed by Telefonaktiebolaget Lm Ericsson (Publ) filed Critical Telefonaktiebolaget Lm Ericsson (Publ)
Priority to PCT/EP2008/063900 priority Critical patent/WO2010043256A1/en
Publication of WO2010043256A1 publication Critical patent/WO2010043256A1/en

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Classifications

    • 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
    • G07F17/3241Security aspects of a gaming system, e.g. detecting cheating, device integrity, surveillance
    • 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
    • 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
    • G07F17/3286Type of games
    • G07F17/329Regular and instant lottery, e.g. electronic scratch cards

Abstract

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of implementing a virtual scratch-card game. The method comprises, at a virtual scratch-card sever 6, selecting a plurality of symbol identifiers that are associated with respective symbols, individually encrypting each of the selected symbol identifiers, and sending the encrypted symbol identifiers to a virtual scratch-card client 7. At the virtual scratch-card client 7, displaying a representation of a virtual scratch-card to a user and, in response to selection of an encrypted symbol identifier by the user, identifying the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server 6. At the virtual scratch-card serve 6r, determining verification information associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, and sending the verification information to the virtual scratch-card client 7. At the virtual scratch-card client 7, using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier results from the encryption of the corresponding symbol identifier initially selected by the virtual scratch-card server 6.

Description

A METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR IMPLEMENTING A VIRTUAL SCRATCH- CARD GAME

Technical Field

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for implementing a virtual scratch-card game.

Background

Scratch-cards are a very popular form of gambling due to their generally low cost and the opportunity to win instantly, and they also provide a useful way of generating funds for charities or state run organisations.

Figure 1 illustrates a conventional scratch-card 1 that provides a set of boxes 2 printed on a card, each of which contains one of a set of symbols 3 that may be numbers, prize values or pictures. These symbols 3 are then concealed from the user by means of a layer of material that can be physically scratched or rubbed off by the user. The playing of a scratch-card often requires that the user choose a limited number of the boxes presented on the card to scratch or rub off in order to reveal the symbols beneath. If, within those symbols revealed by the user, there is a specific symbol, group of symbols, or a pre-defined number of matching symbols, then the user wins.

These conventional scratch-cards are effectively tamper proof, as the user cannot determine the symbols on the card without scratching off the top layer and does not have the means to replace that layer once removed. In addition, the symbols printed on the card cannot be modified, either by the user or by the supplier of the card. As such, in any online equivalent, it would be necessary to ensure the same level of security for the supplier and the user. That is to say, that once the online card has been delivered to a user, it must be practically impossible for the user to determine the symbols on a card, prior to "scratching" the boxes on the card, or to subsequently "re-cover" a box that has been scratched. It must also be ensured that the supplier or user cannot change the symbols on the card after delivery. Summary

It is an object of the present invention to provide a virtual scratch-card whereby both the supplier of the virtual scratch-card and a user of the virtual scratch-card can verify that the symbols revealed to the user after scratching are the same as those that were used to create the virtual scratch-card.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of implementing a virtual scratch-card game. The method comprises, at a virtual scratch-card sever, selecting a plurality of symbol identifiers that are associated with respective symbols, individually encrypting each of the selected symbol identifiers, and sending the encrypted symbol identifiers to a virtual scratch-card client. At the virtual scratch-card client, displaying a representation of a virtual scratch-card to a user and, in response to selection of an encrypted symbol identifier by the user, identifying the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server.

At the virtual scratch-card server, determining verification information associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, and sending the verification information to the virtual scratch-card client. At the virtual scratch-card client, using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier results from the encryption of the corresponding symbol identifier initially selected by the virtual scratch-card server.

The method may further comprise, at the virtual scratch-card sever, prior to sending the encrypted symbol identifiers to the virtual scratch-card client, assigning a serial number to the virtual scratch-card and sending the serial number to the virtual scratch-card client together with the encrypted symbol identifiers.

The step of individually encrypting each of the symbol identifiers may comprises concatenating the symbol identifier with a unique concatenation value, and applying a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value. Alternatively, the step of individually encrypting each of the symbol identifiers may comprise applying an encryption algorithm to the symbol identifier using a unique encryption key. Depending upon the method of encryption, the verification information determined by the virtual scratch-card server and sent to the virtual scratch-card client may comprise the unique concatenation value and the symbol identifier, or alternatively, the unique encryption key.

The unique concatenation value, or the unique encryption key, may comprise a random string, or the concatenation of a random string with the serial number of the virtual scratch-card. As such, the step of determining verification information may comprise retrieving the verification information from a database.

Alternatively, the unique concatenation value, or the unique encryption key may comprise the output of an encryption algorithm when applied to the serial number of the virtual scratch-card together with the symbol identifier and using a secret encryption key known only to a supplier of the virtual scratch-card. As such, the step of determining the verification information may comprise applying the encryption algorithm to a serial number and symbol identifier received from the virtual scratch- card client and using the secret encryption key.

The step of identifying the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch- card server may comprise sending the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server. Alternatively, the step of identifying the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server may comprise sending the serial number assigned to the virtual scratch-card together with an indicator for identifying which of the encrypted symbol identifiers of that card has been selected, to the virtual scratch-card server.

Depending upon the method of encryption, the step of using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier results from the encryption of the corresponding symbol identifier initially selected by the virtual scratch-card server may comprise, concatenating the symbol identifier with the unique concatenation value, applying a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value, and comparing the result with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.

Alternatively, the step of using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier results from the encryption of the corresponding symbol identifier initially selected by the virtual scratch-card server may comprise applying the encryption algorithm to the selected encrypted symbol identifier and using the unique encryption key.

In one embodiment, any step involving the sending of data between the virtual scratch-card sever and the virtual scratch-card client may comprise establishing a communication network session between the virtual scratch-card sever and the virtual scratch-card client, and sending the data using the communication network session. Preferably, the communication network is an IP Multimedia Subsystem.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a computer storage medium storing data making up a virtual scratch-card. The data comprises graphical information for use in presenting the virtual scratch-card on an electronic display such that the scratch-card comprises a plurality of boxes, and for each box that has been played, an associated symbol identifier, each symbol identifier being further associated with a symbol, and for each box that has not been played, an associated encrypted symbol identifier.

According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided an apparatus configured to operate as a virtual scratch-card server. The apparatus comprises a virtual scratch-card generation unit for selecting a plurality of symbol identifiers that are associated with respective symbols and individually encrypting each of the selected symbol identifiers, a transmitter for sending the encrypted symbol identifiers to a virtual scratch-card client, a receiver for receiving an identification of a selected encrypted symbol identifier from a virtual scratch-card client, a virtual scratch-card processing unit for determining verification information associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, and a transmitter for sending the verification information to the virtual scratch-card client. The virtual scratch-card server may be an Application Server of an IP Multimedia Subsystem.

The virtual scratch-card generation unit may be configured to individually encrypt each of the selected symbol identifiers by concatenating each symbol identifier with a unique concatenation value, and apply a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value. As such, the virtual scratch-card processing unit may be configured to determine the unique concatenation value, and the symbol identifier associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.

Alternatively, the virtual scratch-card generation unit may be configured to individually encrypt each of the selected symbol identifiers by applying an encryption algorithm to the symbol identifier using a unique encryption key. The virtual scratch- card processing unit may be configured to determine the unique encryption key associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided an apparatus configured to operate as a virtual scratch-card client. The apparatus comprises a receiver for receiving a plurality of encrypted symbol identifiers for a virtual scratch- card, a virtual scratch-card application unit for displaying the virtual scratch-card to a user and accepting selection of an encrypted symbol identifier by the user, a transmitter for sending an identification of the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server, a receiver for receiving verification information from the virtual scratch-card server, a virtual scratch-card verification unit for using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier is a result of the encryption of the symbol identifier used to create the virtual scratch-card. The virtual-scratch card client may further comprise an IP Multimedia Subsystem client, and may be a cellular telephone.

The virtual scratch-card verification unit may be configured to concatenate a symbol identifier associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, with a unique concatenation value associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, apply a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value, and compare the result with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.

Alternatively, the virtual scratch-card verification unit may be configured to apply an encryption algorithm to the selected encrypted symbol identifier and using a unique encryption key associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.

According to a fifth aspect of the present invention there is provided method of implementing a virtual scratch-card game. The method comprises generating and publishing a set of winning symbols, electronically distributing a multiplicity of virtual scratch-cards to players, each of which cards comprises a set of hidden symbols that can be revealed in turn by a player, and rewarding players having cards on which one or more of the winning symbols have been revealed.

The set of hidden symbols may include symbols that if revealed decrease the chance or value of a reward. As such, if a player has revealed one or more symbols that achieve a reward, the player can choose to claim the reward or reveal further symbols, potentially increasing or decreasing the value of the reward.

In a further embodiment, if a player has revealed one or more symbols such that revealing further symbols may potentially increase the value of a reward, the player can choose to auction the scratch-card.

The value of a reward may also be dependent upon the value of those rewards already claimed by other players in relation to the set of winning symbols. As such, if a player has revealed one or more symbols that achieve a reward, the player can wait to see if the value of the reward increases as other players claim rewards in relation to the set of winning symbols, prior to claiming the reward, revealing further symbols or auctioning the card.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Figure 1 illustrates a conventional scratch-card;

Figure 2 illustrates schematically a system for implementing a virtual scratch-card according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 3 is a flow diagram illustrating the process of generating a virtual scratch- card according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 4 is a flow diagram illustrating the process of verifying an encrypted symbol identifier according to an embodiment of the present invention; Figure 5 shows a simplified signalling flow example of the purchase of a virtual scratch-card over an IP Multimedia Subsystem, the virtual scratch-card being implemented according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 6 shows a simplified signalling flow example of verifying an encrypted symbol identifier over an IP Multimedia Subsystem, the virtual scratch-card being implemented according to an embodiment of the present invention; Figure 7 shows a simplified signalling flow example of a user notifying the provider of a virtual scratch-card of the intended sale of the scratch-card over an IP Multimedia Subsystem, the virtual scratch-card being implemented according to an embodiment of the present invention; Figure 8 shows a simplified signalling flow example of a user publishing the details of a virtual scratch-card that over an IP Multimedia Subsystem, the virtual scratch-card being implemented according to an embodiment of the present invention; Figure 9 is a flow diagram illustrating the process of playing a virtual scratch-card according to an embodiment of the present invention; and Figure 10 illustrates schematically a virtual scratch-card server and a virtual scratch- card client suitable for implementing a virtual scratch-card according to an embodiment of the present invention.

Detailed Description

There will now be described a method of implementing a virtual scratch-card such that both the supplier of the virtual scratch-card and a user can verify that the symbols revealed to the user after scratching are the same as those that were used to create the virtual scratch-card. The method involves, for each symbol that is to be concealed from a user, encrypting the string identifying that symbol in order that the user cannot decrypt, guess or otherwise determine the symbol unless or until the box representing the encrypted symbol identifier is "scratched" by the user. Then, upon scratching of that box by the user, providing the user with information that to verify that the encrypted symbol identifier is a result of the encryption of the symbol identifier used to create the virtual scratch-card.

Figure 2 illustrates schematically a system for implementing a virtual scratch-card according to an embodiment of the present invention and which comprises a user terminal 4 such as a desktop personal computer (PC), laptop, personal data assistant (PDA) or cellular phone, connected to an access network 5 (e.g. DSL, GRPS, WiMax, WiLAN, 3G etc) and providing access to a server 6, supplying a virtual scratch-card service. The user terminal 4 has a virtual scratch-card client 7 for implementing the virtual scratch-card on the user terminal 4, and that may take the form of a third party application. The user purchases a virtual scratch-card from the supplier by contacting the server 6 from their terminal 4. Figure 3 is a flow diagram illustrating the process of generating a virtual scratch- card at the virtual scratch-card server 6 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The steps performed are as follows: A1. The virtual scratch-card server 6 selects a set of symbol identifiers for a card, with each different symbol identifier being associated with a symbol. The virtual scratch-card server 6 may also select a serial number for the card. A2. For each selected symbol identifier, the virtual scratch-card server 6 generates or selects a concatenation value. The concatenation value can be a random string or a concatenation of a random string with the card serial number.

Alternatively the concatenation value could be generated by applying an encryption algorithm to a combination of the card serial number and the symbol identifier, for example, using a secret key known only by the provider. A3. For each symbol identifier in the set, the virtual scratch-card server 6 concatenates the symbol identifier with a concatenation value.

A4. The virtual scratch-card server 6 then applies a one-way cryptographic hash function to the concatenation, generating an encrypted symbol identifier for each of the symbol identifiers. These encrypted symbol identifiers provide a unique symbol serial number for each symbol identifier used to create the card, and are used to conceal the symbols of the scratch-card.

For a description of one-way hash functions see Chapter 2 of Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier, 1997. A hash value is a fixed-length string that is highly unlikely to be duplicated by another input to the hash function. Given the extremely small probability of such a 'collision' and the one-way nature of a hash function, it is extremely difficult or almost impossible to calculate the input that has produced a given hash value, even though the hash function used to generate the hash value is publicly available.

However, simply applying a hash function to the symbol identifier would not be sufficient, as it would be relatively straightforward to determine the symbols by making use of a dictionary attack. In this case, given that there is likely to be only a limited number of possible symbols that may appear on a single scratch-card, it would be relatively straightforward for an attacker to find all possible symbol identifiers, calculate their hash values, and determine the symbols on a card by comparing the calculated hash values with symbol serial numbers supplied with the card. Concatenating each symbol identifier with a unique concatenation value prevents determination of the concealed symbols using such a dictionary attack.

For each scratch-card a record comprising the symbol identifiers, the symbol serial numbers and the concatenation value is stored in a database maintained by the scratch-card supplier. Alternatively, if the card is given a serial number, the serial number may be stored in the database and the concatenation value generated from the card serial number and the symbol identifier, as this would remove the need for the supplier to store the concatenation value. This database can be part of the virtual scratch-card server or a separate entity.

The scratch-card data comprising the symbol serial numbers, any associated graphics and any applicable card serial number are then sent to the user's terminal, where the virtual scratch-card client 7 receives the data and displays the scratch-card to the user.

Figure 4 is a flow diagram illustrating the process of "scratching" a box on the scratch-card and verifying the symbol revealed, according to an embodiment of the present invention. The steps performed are as follows:

B1. The virtual scratch-card client 7 displays the virtual scratch-card to the user.

For example, a display on the user terminal can present a graphical representation of the scratch-card to the user, including a number of boxes representing each of the symbol serial numbers distributed on the card. The user then makes use of an input device on the user terminal to select which box the user wishes to scratch.

B2. The virtual scratch-card client 7 identifies the selected symbol serial number to the virtual-scratch card server 6. This may be achieved by sending the selected symbol serial number, or alternatively, by sending the card serial number together with an indicator as to which of the boxes on that card has been scratched.

B3. The virtual-scratch card server 6 then determines the verification information associated with selected symbol serial number, identifying the associated record stored in the supplier database. This verification information includes the symbol identifier and the concatenation value. The virtual-scratch card server 6 then returns this verification information to the virtual scratch-card client 7 and adds to the record that this particular box has been scratched.

The server also returns the graphic corresponding to the symbol identifier. B4. The virtual scratch-card client 7 receives the verification information, concatenates the symbol identifier with the concatenation value, and applies the same hash function as used to generate the symbol serial number to the result of the concatenation. B5. The virtual scratch-card client 7 then compares the locally calculated hash value with the symbol serial number of the box selected by the user. If the locally calculated hash value matches the symbol serial number then the symbol is successfully verified, and the received graphic is displayed in the scratched box.

The concatenation value prevents the user from determining the symbol identifiers underlying the symbol serial numbers (provided with the scratch-card data).

However, use of the concatenation value does not prevent the user from being able to verify that the card supplier has not changed the symbol identifier during the playing of the scratch-card. This is because it is practically impossible for the supplier to generate an identical symbol serial number using a different symbol identifier, regardless of the concatenation value.

In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the method of generating the virtual scratch-card involves applying an encryption algorithm to each of the symbol identifiers, making use of a unique encryption key for each value. The symbol serial numbers resulting from this encryption are then sent to the user. Using this method, when the user selects a box that they wish to reveal, the associated symbol serial number is identified virtual scratch-card server that then locates the associated verification information and returns it to the virtual scratch-card client. The verification information includes the unique encryption key. The virtual scratch-card client can then use this unique encryption key to decrypt the symbol serial number to determine the symbol identifier and reveal the associated symbol to the user. As with the concatenation value, the unique encryption key can be a random string, a concatenation of a random string with the serial number of the scratch-card, or alternatively the key could be generated from the serial number and the symbol identifier. The encryption prevents the user from determining the symbol identifiers underlying the symbol serial numbers (provided with the scratch-card data). However, this does not prevent the user from being able to verify that the card supplier has not changed the symbol identifier during the playing of the scratch-card. This is because it is extremely difficult for the supplier to determine a unique encryption key that would generate an identical serial symbol number from a different symbol identifier.

The users purchase and playing of a virtual scratch-card requires data communication between the virtual scratch card client in the user's terminal and the virtual scratch-card server of the supplier. This communication can be done in several ways, such as using an Internet Protocol (IP) or IP Multimedia Subsystem

(IMS) connection. The following discussion refers to the use of an IP Multimedia

Subsystem (IMS) as an example communication network, but it can also be applied to other networks.

IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) is the technology defined by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3G) to provide IP Multimedia services over mobile communication networks. An IMS network is able to connect to both PSTN/ISDN (Public Switched Telephone Network/Integrated Services Digital Network) as well as the Internet. IMS provides a dynamic combination of voice, video, messaging, data, etc. within the same session. The IMS makes use of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to set up and control calls or sessions between user terminals (or user terminals and application servers). SIP makes it possible for a calling party to establish a packet switched session to a called party (using so-called SIP User Agents, UAs, installed in the user terminals) even though the calling party does not know the current IP address of the called party prior to initiating the call. The Session Description Protocol (SDP), carried by SIP signalling, is used to describe and negotiate the media components of the session. Whilst SIP was created as a user-to-user protocol, IMS allows operators and service providers to control user access to services and to charge users accordingly.

Figure 5 shows a simplified signalling flow example of the purchase of a virtual scratch-card over the IMS. The steps performed are as follows: C1. If it has not already done so, the IMS client in the user terminal registers the user with the IMS. For example, using a SIP REGISTER message. C2. As part of the registration procedure, the IMS then authenticates and authorises the user to access the IMS using an authentication scheme such as

IMS AKA procedures. C3. The user terminal sends a request over the IMS to the Application Server of the virtual scratch-card supplier to purchase a virtual scratch-card. This could be achieved by means of a SIP INVITE message. C4. The virtual scratch-card application server confirms the identity of the user from the registration and authentication of the user with the IMS. The server may also perform other functions such as checking the user against a barring or blacklist, or perform some other credibility check on the user. The server will then perform an electronic payment transaction from an account associated with the user.

C5. Once the payment is confirmed the server generates the virtual scratch-card using the described methods and sends it to the user terminal. This could be achieved by means of a SIP 200 OK message. C6. The user terminal acknowledges receipt of the virtual scratch-card. For example, using a SIP ACK message.

Figure 6 shows a simplified signalling flow example for the "scratching" of a box on a virtual scratch-card over the IMS. The steps performed are as follows: D1. If it has not already done so, the IMS client in the user terminal registers the user with the IMS. For example, using a SIP REGISTER message. D2. As part of the registration procedure, the IMS then authenticates and authorises the user to access the IMS using an authentication scheme such as

IMS AKA procedures.

D3. The user terminal sends a request over the IMS to the Application Server of the virtual scratch-card supplier identifying the selected symbol serial number. This could be achieved by means of a SIP INVITE message. D4. The virtual scratch-card application server confirms the identity of the user from the registration and authentication of the user with the IMS and determines the verification information associated with the selected symbol serial number. Depending upon the method used to generate the scratch-card the verification information may comprise the symbol identifier and the concatenation value, or the unique encryption key. D5. The virtual scratch-card application server then sends the verification information to the user terminal. This could be achieved by means of a SIP 200 OK message.

D6. The virtual scratch-card client of the user terminal can then use the verification information received from the virtual scratch-card server to verify the symbol identifier.

The methods described also provide that virtual scratch-cards can be further exploited by allowing the user to sell on a potentially winning scratch-card, as another user who is interested in purchasing a potentially winning scratch-card can do so with the assurance that the authenticity of the symbols on the virtual scratch-card have and/or can be verified. For example, a first user purchases a virtual scratch-card. The virtual scratch-card game allows the user to reveal up to three of the symbols on the card, and if the three symbols that match than the user wins. The first user reveals two matching symbols but, rather than continue to play the card the user can choose to auction the card, in the hope that a second user will purchase the card for more than its original price on the basis of the increased odds of winning.

Figure 7 shows a simplified signalling flow example of a user notifying the virtual scratch-card server of the intended sale of a scratch-card over the IMS. The steps performed are as follows: E1. If it has not already done so, the IMS client in the user terminal registers the user with the IMS. For example, using a SIP REGISTER message. E2. As part of the registration procedure, the IMS then authenticates and authorises the user to access the IMS using an authentication scheme such as

IMS AKA.

E3. The user terminal sends a request over the IMS to the application server of the virtual scratch-card provider to sell the virtual scratch-card. The request identifies the scratch-card to the virtual scratch-card server. This could be achieved by means of a SIP INVITE message.

E4. The virtual scratch-card application server confirms the identity of the user from the registration and authentication of the user with the IMS. The server has previously stored all information relating to the use of the scratch-card, such as which of the symbols has been revealed. The server then 'freezes' the scratch-card such that no further symbols will be revealed. E5. The server responds to the user to confirm the scratch-card can be made available for sale. This could be achieved by means of a SIP 200 OK message.

E6. The user terminal acknowledges receipt of the confirmation. For example, using a SIP ACK message.

The user can now make details of the scratch-card available to other users so that they can assess the winning potential of the card and bid on it accordingly. Figure 8 shows a simplified signalling flow example of a user publishing the details of a virtual scratch-card on the virtual scratch-card server or an associated auction server, over the IMS. The steps performed are as follows:

F1. If it has not already done so, the IMS client in the user terminal registers the user with the IMS. For example, using a SIP REGISTER message. F2. As part of the registration procedure, the IMS then authenticates and authorises the user to access the IMS using an authentication scheme such as

IMS AKA procedures.

F3. The user terminal sends a request over the IMS to the application server of the virtual scratch-card provider, or to an associated auction server, to publish the virtual scratch-card. This could be achieved by means of a SIP INVITE message. The request identifies the scratch-card to the virtual scratch-card server.

F4. The virtual scratch-card application server or associated auction server confirms the identity of the user from the registration and authentication of the user with the IMS and responds to the user to confirm the publication of scratch-card information. This could be achieved by means of a SIP 200 OK message.

F5. The virtual scratch-card application server or associated auction server then notifies any other users that may be interested in purchasing potentially winning scratch-cards, and have therefore chosen to subscribe, of the details of the scratch-card. For example, using a SIP NOTIFY message.

In providing virtual scratch-cards whose values can be authenticated, such that users can confidently use, buy and sell new and partially used cards, the methods described also provide that these virtual scratch-cards can be utilised in a variety of ways that would not otherwise be practical. As such, the virtual scratch-card supplier can further enhance the user experience by providing virtual scratch-cards that are not limited to the concept that the user can simply win or lose, for example, by providing that users can cash-in a winning card with a small prize, or continue playing the card and risk that win in the hope of achieving a lager prize.

Figure 9 is a flow diagram illustrating an example utilisation of a virtual scratch-card according to an embodiment of the present invention. The steps performed are as follows:

G1. At some predefined time, a virtual scratch-card provider performs a lottery draw in order to select several winning symbols. The selected winning symbols are then published.

G2. A user purchases a virtual scratch-card from the virtual scratch-card provider. The virtual scratch-card has a number of boxes, each of which conceals a symbol or "blank" G3. The user then selects one or more of the boxes on the card to be revealed. The user obtains the verification information from the virtual scratch-card server and verifies each of the symbols revealed. If the revealed symbols match the winning symbols drawn during the lottery then user's chance of winning a reward, or the value of any existing reward, increases. If the user reveals a "blank" then the user's chances winning a reward, or the value of an existing reward decreases, or may even provide that the user has now lost any existing reward, or can no longer win with that card. For every symbol revealed the user can be updated, in real-time, with the actual and potential value of the scratch-card. G4. If the user has revealed enough matching symbols to win a prize the user then has several options. G5. Firstly, the user can choose to cash in the card and claim the prize immediately.

G6. The user can also to choose to wait and see if the value of the prize increases, which may happen if other users choose to cash in only low value prizes.

G7. Alternatively, or if the user's card has not yet won a prize but could still do so, then the user can publish details of the card in the hope of auctioning the card for a price greater than the current value. Potential purchasers can see how many symbols have been revealed, how many match and the current real-time value if cashed in. G8. If the user does not choose to auction the card, cash-in any existing prize nor wait for any existing prize to increase, and a predefined deadline has not been reached, then the user can continue playing in the hope of winning a prize, or increasing the value of any existing prize but at the risk of losing any prize already won.

G9. If the user does choose to auction the card but the card does not sell, then the user can withdraw the card from auction and continue playing the card, provided the predefined deadline has not been reached.

G10. If the user successfully sells the card at auction then the user is paid the sale price of the card.

G11. Once the predefined deadline has been reached the card can no longer be sold, nor can the user play the card further. The current owner of the card is paid the amount of any prize currently available on the card.

Figure 10 illustrates schematically a virtual scratch-card server 6 and a virtual scratch-card client 7 suitable for implementing the methods described above. The virtual scratch-card server 6 and the virtual scratch-card client 7 are implemented as a combination of computer hardware and software.

The virtual scratch-card server 6 comprises a virtual scratch-card generation unit 8 for generating the scratch card, including selecting a set of symbol identifiers and individually encrypting each of the symbol identifiers. The virtual scratch-card server further comprises a transmitter 9 for sending the virtual scratch-card and the verification information to the virtual scratch-card client, a receiver 10 for receiving the identity of a selected symbol serial number from a virtual scratch-card client, and a virtual scratch-card processing unit 1 1 for determining the verification information relating to the selected symbol serial number. A typical embodiment of a virtual scratch-card server would be an Application Server of an IP Multimedia Subsystem.

The virtual scratch-card client 7 comprises a receiver 12 for receiving the virtual scratch-card and the verification information from the virtual scratch-card server, a virtual scratch-card application unit 13 for displaying the virtual scratch-card to the user and accepting selection of a symbol serial number by the user, a transmitter 14 for sending the identity of a selected symbol serial number to the virtual scratch-card server, and a virtual scratch-card verification unit 15 for using the verification information to confirm that the symbol serial number is a result of the encryption of the symbol identifier used to create the virtual scratch-card. The virtual-scratch card client may also include an IP Multimedia Subsystem client for supporting communication over an IP Multimedia Subsystem. A typical embodiment of a virtual scratch-card client would be a cellular telephone.

The virtual scratch-card, comprising a set of symbol identifiers each of which is uniquely encrypted, or if partially played, at least one of which is uniquely encrypted, may be stored on any carrier. For example, the storage medium may comprise a ROM or other magnetic recording medium, such as a floppy disc or hard disk, CD, DVD or flash memory such as a memory card and USB stick.

It will be appreciated by the person of skill in the art that various modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, whilst some of the embodiments described above make use of an IMS for the communication of data between virtual scratch- card clients and a virtual scratch-card server, any transport mechanism could be used for communication.

Claims

Claims
1. A method of implementing a virtual scratch-card game, the method comprising: at a virtual scratch-card sever, selecting a plurality of symbol identifiers that are associated with respective symbols, individually encrypting each of the selected symbol identifiers, and sending the encrypted symbol identifiers to a virtual scratch- card client; at the virtual scratch-card client, displaying a representation of a virtual scratch-card to a user and, in response to selection of an encrypted symbol identifier by the user, identifying the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch- card server; at the virtual scratch-card server, determining verification information associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, and sending the verification information to the virtual scratch-card client; at the virtual scratch-card client, using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier results from the encryption of the corresponding symbol identifier initially selected by the virtual scratch-card server.
2. A method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the step of individually encrypting each of the symbol identifiers comprises: concatenating the symbol identifier with a unique concatenation value; and applying a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value.
3. A method as claimed in claim 2, wherein the verification information comprises: the unique concatenation value; and the symbol identifier.
4. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the step of identifying the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server comprises: sending the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server.
5. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the step of using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier is a result of the encryption of the symbol identifier used to create the virtual scratch-card comprises: concatenating the symbol identifier with the unique concatenation value; applying a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value; and comparing the result with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.
6. A method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the step of individually encrypting each of the symbol identifiers comprises: applying an encryption algorithm to the symbol identifier using a unique encryption key.
7. A method as claimed in claim 6, wherein the verification information comprises: the unique encryption key.
8. A method as claimed in claim 7, wherein the step of identifying the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server comprises: sending the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server.
9. A method as claimed in any of claims 6 to 8, wherein the step of using the verification information to verify that the encrypted symbol identifier is a result of the encryption of the symbol identifier used to create the virtual scratch-card comprises: applying the encryption algorithm to the selected encrypted symbol identifier and using the unique encryption key.
10. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein any step involving the sending of data between the virtual scratch-card sever and the virtual scratch-card client comprises: establishing a communication network session between the virtual scratch- card sever and the virtual scratch-card client; and sending the data using the communication network session.
1 1. A method as claimed in claim 10, wherein the communication network is an IP Multimedia Subsystem.
12. A computer storage medium storing data making up a virtual scratch-card, and the data comprising: graphical information for use in presenting the virtual scratch-card on an electronic display such that the scratch-card comprises a plurality of boxes; for each box that has been played, an associated symbol identifier, each symbol identifier being further associated with a symbol; and for each box that has not been played, an associated encrypted symbol identifier.
13. An apparatus configured to operate as a virtual scratch-card server, and comprising: a virtual scratch-card generation unit for selecting a plurality of symbol identifiers that are associated with respective symbols and individually encrypting each of the selected symbol identifiers; a transmitter for sending the encrypted symbol identifiers to a virtual scratch- card client; a receiver for receiving an identification of a selected encrypted symbol identifier from a virtual scratch-card client ; a virtual scratch-card processing unit for determining verification information associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier; and a transmitter for sending the verification information to the virtual scratch-card client.
14. An apparatus as claimed in claim 13, wherein the virtual scratch-card generation unit is configured to individually encrypt each of the selected symbol identifiers by concatenating each symbol identifier with a unique concatenation value, and apply a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value.
15. An apparatus as claimed in claim 14, wherein the virtual scratch-card processing unit is configured to determine the unique concatenation value, and the symbol identifier associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.
16. An apparatus as claimed in claim 13, wherein the virtual scratch-card generation unit is configured to individually encrypt each of the selected symbol identifiers by applying an encryption algorithm to the symbol identifier using a unique encryption key.
17. An apparatus as claimed in claim 16, wherein the virtual scratch-card processing unit is configured to determine the unique encryption key associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.
18. An apparatus as claimed in any of claims 13 to 17, wherein the virtual scratch-card server is an Application Server of an IP Multimedia Subsystem.
19. An apparatus configured to operate as a virtual scratch-card client, and comprising: a receiver for receiving a plurality of encrypted symbol identifiers for a virtual scratch-card, a virtual scratch-card application unit for displaying the virtual scratch-card to a user and accepting selection of an encrypted symbol identifier by the user, a transmitter for sending an identification of the selected encrypted symbol identifier to the virtual scratch-card server; a receiver for receiving verification information from the virtual scratch-card server; and a virtual scratch-card verification unit for using the verification information to verify that the selected encrypted symbol identifier is a result of the encryption of the symbol identifier used to create the virtual scratch-card.
20. An apparatus as claimed in claim 19, wherein the virtual scratch-card verification unit is configured to concatenate a symbol identifier associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, with a unique concatenation value associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier, apply a hash function to the concatenation of the symbol identifier and the concatenation value; and compare the result with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.
21. An apparatus as claimed in claim 19, wherein the virtual scratch-card verification unit is configured to apply an encryption algorithm to the selected encrypted symbol identifier and using a unique encryption key associated with the selected encrypted symbol identifier.
22. An apparatus as claimed in any of claims 19 to 21 , wherein the virtual-scratch card client is a cellular telephone.
23. An apparatus as claimed in any of claims 19 to 22, wherein the virtual-scratch card client further comprises an IP Multimedia Subsystem client.
24. A method of implementing a virtual scratch-card game, comprising: generating and publishing a set of winning symbols; electronically distributing a multiplicity of virtual scratch-cards to players, each of which cards comprises a set of hidden symbols that can be revealed in turn by a player; and rewarding players having cards on which one or more of the winning symbols have been revealed.
25. A method as claimed in claim 15, wherein the set of hidden symbols may include symbols that if revealed decrease the chance or value of a reward.
26. A method as claimed in claim 16, wherein if a player has revealed one or more symbols that achieve a reward, the player can choose to claim the reward or reveal further symbols, potentially increasing or decreasing the value of the reward.
27. A method as claimed in any of claims 15 to 17, wherein if a player has revealed one or more symbols such that revealing further symbols may potentially increase the value of a reward, the player can choose to auction the scratch-card.
28. A method as claimed in any of claims 15 to 18, wherein the value of a reward is also dependent upon the value of those rewards already claimed by other players in relation to the set of winning symbols.
29. A method as claimed in claim 19, wherein if a player has revealed one or more symbols that achieve a reward, the player can wait to see if the value of the reward increases as other players claim rewards in relation to the set of winning symbols, prior to claiming the reward, revealing further symbols or auctioning the card.
PCT/EP2008/063900 2008-10-15 2008-10-15 A method and apparatus for implementing a virtual scratch-card game WO2010043256A1 (en)

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