EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition Suit

November 16, 2009 -

A Texas-based company has filed a lawsuit alleging that a group of game makers violated its patent related to voice recognition technology.

Filed on November 10 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, plaintiff Bareis Technologies, LLC names Ubisoft, Inc. Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc., Electronic Arts, Inc. and Disney Interactive Studios, Inc. The lawsuit revolves around a U.S. Patent for “Optical Disk Having Speech Recognition Templates for Information Access,” which Bareis owns.

The games specifically called out as infringing in the complaint are Ubi Soft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Jungle Storm, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2 Summit Strike, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2, and Tom Clancy’s EndWar, SCEA’s SoCom: U.S. Navy SEALs, SoCom II: U.S. Navy SEALs, SoCom III: U.S. Navy SEALs, SoCom Combined Assault, EA’s NASCAR 06 and NASCAR 07 and Disney’s Phonics Quest.

The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial and “all damages caused by the infringement of the ‘407 patent, which by statute can be no less than a reasonable royalty.”


Comments

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

After reading the patent (or at least some of it), I wonder if they sued Microsoft for their "Sync" technology being used in Fords?  I bet the MS lawyers got a good laugh out of it if they did.

The patent itself is extraordinarily vague.  It's basically, "Using existing speech recognition technologies, recall data from a specific sector of an audio or video optical disk".

That's like me patenting, "Using existing LED or Laser motion detection technologies in combination with momentary electronic switches to perform specific actions interpreted by a Central Processing Unit and a look up table contained in a Random Access Memory."

Now pay me every time you use an optical mouse as a user interface device, suckers...

 

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

I fear that one day nobody will be developing new games with new technologies by the way this is all going, because if every game company gets sued for even trying to do something that is new, other people will want to cash in on it and every game company will be forced in making games with nothing new or interesting.

A sad thing really...

TBoneTony

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

I'm pretty sure Voice Recognition is older than the games listed here, and, as long as they are running on a Random Access system, Disc Access as a result would be highly likely, after all, one could argue that ALL discs, optical or non use lookup tables to acess the disk in the form of directories.

Seems to me that, if this is considered a sound challenge, then the door for counter-sueing from companies such as Texas Instruments would be wide open, since they were developing 'Disc access via the Spoken word' pre-1988, before this copyright was put in place.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

There are a couple flaws in the case and the patent, but I am not sure how serious they are.  Most notable is that the claims only cover retrieving data from an optical disk using speech recognition.  The reference to the storage medium being an optical disk is made repeatedly throughout the description, and it isn't until the second to last paragraph of the filing that it then tried to extend the claim to magnetic and solid state storage.  I don't really know how patent law works, and what the discrepancy means for the scope of the patent, but I think the case is stillborn either way.  Either it only applies to optical media, in which case the games are likely in the clear (they appear to use speech recognition to access data on the hard disk), or it applies to the broader list of media, in which case the patent shouldn't be too hard to invalidate on the grounds of prior art.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Assuming, of course, that such prior art existed.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

If you include magnetic and solid state media (which is the only way I can see this applying to the games in question), then basically this is trying to cover speech recognition by any electronic device.  IBM developed a voice-controlled calculator in the 60s, computers have been able to transcribe speech to text since the 80s, and AT&T was using speech recognition to automate its service menus at least three years before this patent was filed.

Really, I think they are overreaching with this; the text of the patent makes it pretty clear that the intent was to cover using speech recognition to select music tracks from a CD.  Going from that to any speech responsive software on any media is going to be a tough sell, I think.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

They're a little late to the party on this one i think (naming Socom). But then again, isn't that always the case with these things?

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Of course, you have to leave it a while until there is enough stuff using "your" patent to make it worth your while suing! :-P

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Reminds me of the whole "We are going to try to prevent Wii's being sold in America thing"

 

Never underestimate the power of idiots in large amounts.

Never underestimate the power of idiots in large amounts.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

1. Take existing technology you did not invent.
2. Apply it to another existing technology you did not invent.
3. Patent the combination.
4. Profit.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Step 4 should be "Sue companies that use technology even vaguely similar to either technology you did not invent"

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

HA, it's been a while since we heard about one of these.

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

I can't help but feel that when it comes to technology and particularly software, the idea of owning an idea is pretty stupid.

Now, if the games had used some preexisting code that properly implemented the voice recognition as described, I'd be with the plaintif on this suit, but it sounds an awful lot like they're just trying to claim all voice recognition that runs off a disc as their idea.

Has IP always worked this way? Did anyone patent 'Four wheeled carriages operated by means of an engine' -- and did they get royalties from all car manufacturers? This seems like a legal 'FIRST!' that ignores the fact that different people can arrive to the same conclusion through different and independant means.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Certainly people can arrive at the same conclusion through different and independent means. But, in America, the one who first takes his ass down to the USPTO and gets a patent is the one who really rules the day.

And the guy who invented and patented the two alternately sweeping windshield wiper-arms found on most all modern automobiles does in fact receive royalties from most all of the automakers. So, too, did the guy who invented and patented the pull-tab, common to most all soda cans prior to the invention and use of the stay-in-place tab, receive royalties from most all of the soda canners. And the guy who invented the Crown bottle-top, etc., etc., etc., etc.  

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Yes, but you're missing the point I was trying to make.

The claim being made in this suit doesn't seem to reflect a patent for a novel, innovative solution to any given problem, it seems to be about the idea of solving a particular problem without really concerning themselves as to the mechanism to do so.

So in the cases you mentioned, it'd be like patenting a 'Device to remove particles from glass on a vehicle' rather than a destinctly designed device that uses alternating arms in a specific configuration to do that job. Or 'An attached metal device to open a metal can or tin' for the pull-tab. It doesn't reflect the ingenuity that goes in to the product, just the basic task that the product needs to do.

If the patent described a detailed method for solving the problem of voice recognition that was unique and innovative, there may be a case here, but otherwise it's all just bunk. It's commercial vampirism, and seems to be getting increasingly common.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

In order for a patent to issue, the patent application has to describe in fairly exacting detail what exactly the invention does and precisely how it does it. I say this to say that a patent application necessarily concerns itself with the means of accomplishing what it claims to accomplish and not merely with that which it claims to accomplish.  

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

In principle, yes, the application is supposed to do that. In reality, far too many patents have been granted that fail utterly to do so. This is especially common with software patents, and almost universal among patent troll patents. Of course, it's probably moot unless the Supreme Court decision in Bilski tosses out software patents--the whole Eastern District of Texas is apparently a giant bridge for them to lurk under.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Not to say that there aren't more patent trolls than needed, but if the response to that problem is to do away with software patents, I wonder what chilling effect that will have on software development as those who create software consider their ability to commercially exploit their creation without the protection from interference that a patent ensures and therefore think twice about creating anything.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

I think the idea is that software should be subject to copyright rather than patents.  Developers will still have their work protected, but people would no longer be able to lock others out of writing certain code without actually creating something.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

The hole in that theoretical donut, however, is that copyright, unlike a patent, is subject to a number of exceptions under the fair use doctrine. If I copyrighted my software code, couldn't someone else rip-off huge chunks of it and, for example, claim a fair use of it for educational purposes? Whereas if it was patented, I'd somehow have to get paid for that educational use.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

What chilling effect has Fair Use had on the software industry or other media? 

The problem is that software is, at its most basic level, text.  Trying to patent software concepts is like trying to patent a concept for a novel or movie.  Imagine if Mike Myers got sued for patent infringement by Charles Feldman, because he already had the patent for comedies involving british secret agents.  It is something completely abstract, and that is not something you can patent:

 

http://supreme.justia.com/us/56/62/case.html

In addition to his telegraph, Samuel Morse attempted to patent telegraphy in general.  The supreme court ruled that he could not patent the concept of sending text my electro-magnetic signals, though the claims to his telegraph, itself were valid.

 

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=450&invol=175

In Diamond v Diehr, the supreme court ruled that a process using an abstract formula did not invalidate a patent, but only because it was closely tied to a physical process:

"Although their process employs a well-known mathematical equation, they do not seek to pre-empt the use of that equation, except in conjunction with all of the other steps in their claimed process."

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

The question you pose is premature as it relates to software. Functional software is still patentable, is it not? If so, the answer to your question can only be found once the protection of patent is removed. And even then, who can tell? It's difficult to quantify what could have been but for the existence of something. But I'd imagine that because one of the intended purposes of patent is to encourage innovation by ensuring that it can be commercially exploited without fear of having no recourse in the event of theft, it would stand to reason that if the protection is removed, there could well be some discouraging effect as a result.

And, yes, while software is at its most basic level nothing more than text, if often serves a functional purpose on a practical level, making the analogy to a book or a movie somewhat less than perfect. 

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

According to the Supreme Court, functional software can only be patented as a part of a functional device, and then only receives patent protection as a component of that device.  For instance, a Wiimote could be patented, but the software that translates the data from the accelerometers would only be protected with regards to the Wiimote as a whole; you could develop software that translates accelerometer data on your own and use it for other purposes, but you could not use it to create a device that infringed on the Wiimote's patent.

Basically what they are trying to do in this case is say that they have a patent on using speech recognition to control any program, not just the device they created.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

I misunderstood you. I thought you were suggesting that the issuance of all patents for software, regardless of whether they function in conjunction with a device or not, should be done away with and replaced by copyright.  

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

I will try to explain better.  In my opinion, software should only be subject to copyright.  That does not, however, invalidate the patent of a device or physical process that is largely dependent on virtual processes.  Basically, you patent the implementation, but not the theory.

So lets say you design a program that, interfaces with weather sensing software and uses the data obtained to accurately predict the weather.  You then build a device that can be put out in a field, where it will collect data and output forecasts. 

Your device is covered by a patent; even though it is nothing more than the vehicle for your software, it is still a physical implementation that can be so protected.

Your program can only be covered by a copyright.  Even though there are no prior examples of such software or its use in conjunction with the weather sensing programs, it is information, not something physical but can be implemented physically through a number of machines or devices (only one of which you own the patent to).

So, when someone else comes along and makes a similar program that doesn't infringe on your copyright, but has an identical effect, you can't stop him from writing and using that program.  If he wants to use it in the latest Maxis game to create realistic weather patterns, he has that right.  On the other hand, he cannot use it to create a device that infringes upon your patent.

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Would it be possible under this "patent for device, copyright for software" regime you suggest for someone to take the software code I create using one programming language and simply "translate" into another programming language and therefore not technically be violating my copyright but still technically be stealing my creation? Just asking.  

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Are you allowed to translate a novel or song to another language without obtaining permission from the copyright holder?  The device would not have a copy of the source code included, so unless you give someone access to it, you could probably make a case that anyone trying to translate it did not obtain it legally (they would have to decompile your program, thus generating an unauthorized copy of your code), let alone had the license to create a derivative work.  If you are dealing with compiled languages, the issue shouldn't even arise, as any direct translation will boil down to identical or very similar machine code.

The only way they could legally port your program to another language would be to either obtain license from you or create a new program from scratch that had a similar output (and hope that it was not sufficiently similar to the code you wrote).

Re: EA, Ubi, SCEA and Disney Target of Voice Recognition ...

Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court is looking into whether or not software patents are legal.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/11/supremes-wrestle-with-bu...

Basically, it's being argued whether or not patents have to adhere to the following requirement:  it must either be "tied to a particular machine or apparatus" or "transforms a particular article into a different state or thing."

So, maybe suits of this kind will be a thing of the past soon.

 
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