Interesting and Relevant IP-Related News
The IP Recap #59
14, January 2019
Fortnite Dancing to the Courts?
Epic Games’ Fortnite is one of the most successful games of all time, with player counts exceeding 200M which is equivalent to almost the entire population of Pakistan playing the game. However, with that success comes the fact that they can’t get away with things flying under the radar, and recently the game has been the subject of many court cases claiming infringement. One of the big features attracting these claims is the microtransaction-based downloadable “Emotes”, where in-game characters can perform popular dance moves from film, TV, viral internet content and other sources. Due to many of these dance moves stemming from the content of others, it is inevitable that the original sources are going to claim infringement if prior permission was not agreed, and that looks to be the case with the originators of the “Carlton dance”, the “Floss dance” and the “Milly Rock” who is suing for infringement. This comes on top of claims that the “Battle Royale” game mode is a copyright infringement of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. That suit was settled earlier this year.
Why it Matters
The fact that these suits come as the game is hitting headline popularity is expected and shows one of the prices of success. Companies are much more likely to pursue infringement claims when there is a substantial price tag accompanied with it to counteract the legal fees. This is an issue that many high-growth businesses face, and prominent startups are known to face this problem at IPO, such as when Facebook acquired patents from Microsoft and IBM, possibly as part of a settlement, in the buildup to their IPO, and shows the value of IP advice to help with businesses becoming high-value items.
2018 Was a Good Year for Patent Transactions
In spite of uncertainty constantly surrounding US patents, and declining patent litigation, 2018 featured a number of large patent transactions, including sales to NPEs, according to IAM’s recent publication. Many operating companies feature amongst the top sellers, with Intellectual Ventures and also featuring prominently. The buyer’s list presents a very different picture, with Xiaomi and Samsung being the only practicing entities in the top 10 buyers of assets.
Why it Matters
NPEs buying assets suggests confidence in being able to monetise them. This is in spite of measures to counter their successes in the US. Could this mean that NPEs are finding success in Europe and China?
Chinese Companies Driving US Patent Increases
As the Chinese patent office showed the strongest growth, it would appear that Chinese companies are a significant factor in other patent systems’ growth. Chinese companies were the only countries’ representatives to, on the whole, record an increased number of US grants in 2018. Whilst they are accounting for a small fraction of the total at 4%, this does show trends towards China, and Chinese companies’ continuing establishment in the world of tech.
Why it Matters
While it may be some time before a Chinese company could topple the likes of IBM, this does show that Chinese companies are serious about their expansion in the US and other markets. Filing patents will secure their footing and show intent to strengthen their position. It will be something to watch in the wake of the recent Chinese-USA telecoms scandal whether this trend can continue through 2019.
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