March 20, 2017

Lego gets trolled in the US

In an ironic twist, Lego (who make several excellent troll figurines) gets trolled in the US.

A 'non-trading entity' (aka a patent troll) has filed patent infringement proceedings against Lego in every troll's favourite lair - the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall Division). No real surprises there given the uncanny success rate trolls enjoy with Eastern Texas juries.

FigureFun alleges the Lego Dimensions product - a Lego system billed as a cross-over between traditional Lego ranges and video games - infringes two of its US patents. The Dimensions system uses RFID chips embedded in Lego figures to identify the figure when placed on built-in chips in the base unit. This then unlocks the relevant characters and levels in the associated Lego games (running on xBox / Playstations).

Although it may come as a surprise to Lego, FigureFun says Lego's conduct has been so egregious that, in addition to the usual declarations of infringement and damages,

FigureFun is seeking its legal costs. Unlike New Zealand and Australia, legal costs are not usually paid to the successful party in litigation in the US.

It'll be interesting to see Lego's strategy dealing with the proceedings, particularly whether it will:

embark on an epic adventure like Emmett, because internationally the equivalent Australian and European applications were never granted (after issues were raised during examination) and have lapsed; or

bow down to the awesome power of the Kragle, and take a 'troll' licence in the face of the high cost of defending US patent infringement proceedings and the 'Eastern District of Texas' factor.

As with all good fairy tales, turned nightmare, only time will tell how it plays out, but hopefully the good guy wins in the end.

FigureFun is alleging that Lego has infringed two of its patents. The contentious patents at the centre of the lawsuit are US patent number 7,001,276 titled "Gaming machine and server therefor", and US patent number 7,338,337 titled "Token with built-in IC chip".

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Recently a court in Shenzen, China, awarded damages to the tech giant Tencent as a result of a finding of copyright infringement – the work in question was written by Dreamwriter, an automated news-writing system developed by Tencent.

However, as AI applications become more autonomous, and make creative decisions with minimal human input, a question arises as to whether this is the right outcome. 

Our Copyright Act is currently under review and one of the questions MBIE has posed relates to whether the current rules relating to computer generated works are still fit for purpose and whether any changes are required. The first round of submissions are now closed, but watch this space if you would like to keep up to date on where we land on this issue.       

If you have any questions relating to adoption or use of AI technology, please get in touch.

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