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IBM Patents Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Movies 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the I've-seen-this-one-before dept.
An anonymous reader writes "IBM, whose former patent boss is in charge of the USPTO these days, and which claims to support patent reform, has just been awarded a patent on choose-your-own-adventure style movies, despite plenty of prior art. Whatever happened to fixing the patent system, rather than continuing these mistakes?"
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IBM Patents Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Movies

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @08:21PM (#33594664)

    The idea of a branch-menu based book may be old, but the idea of a branch-based movie theater experience is new. Sure, it's easy to join digital video files to run back to back, but to branch to a different film segment without there being a visible gap is quite the work of art. Notice the gaps between the previews/ads that are shown before you get to the ones that are already on the movie's film.

    This is a lot more than a film strip you saw at school. This is 24 frames per second and you've got to get the right film for the "choice" up there in fractions of a second. This is a patent on IBM's way of making this work, you could easily come up with another way.

    • That other way is called a "video game." Such as Indigo Prophecy, Resident Evil 4, or Heavy Rain. There's not enough to distinguish between a real-time adventure game and this concept. Just because you put it in a theatre doesn't make it patentable. That's just making the screen bigger and adding more participants.

      • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is another good example of a "choose-your-own-ending" game.

      • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @09:47PM (#33595468)
        Dragon's Lair, mid 1980s? It was a coin operated video game that basically played animated scenes from a laserdisc. Your inputs decides which way things forked at key points.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon's_Lair [wikipedia.org]
        • by meerling (1487879)
          Don't forget it's sci-fi partner in quarter theft: Space Ace
        • Your inputs decides which way things forked at key points.

          'Your' is singular. The patent is about a number of people voting to take paths, not a single person choosing.

          • The patent is about a number of people voting to take paths, not a single person choosing.

            Which was arguably done by Raduz Cincera in the 1967 film Kinoautomat. According to the Holy Oracle of Wikipedia, it was shown in a cinema at the Czechoslovak Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal. A possibly salient detail is that the film branching wasn't totally divergent. It had branches that would meet again at the next decision point and ultimately to the same ending.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_cinema [wikipedia.org]
            http [kinoautomat.cz]

          • I wouldn't think the difference of a single person choosing vs. multiple people choosing would meet the non-obvious criteria. Take a vote, go with the majority, seems fairly obvious.
    • by YojimboJango (978350) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @09:01PM (#33595064)

      Ahem, Scourge of Worlds - A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure (2003) would like a word here.

      http://www.amazon.com/Scourge-Worlds-Dungeons-Dragons-Adventure/dp/B00009KU8L [amazon.com]

      From the description: Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons and Dragons Adventure is not a film sequel to Dungeons and Dragons (2000), but the DVD equivalent of an interactive role-playing novel. There are over 900 short digitally animated sequences, leading every so often to a choice to be made with the remote control, resulting after about 90 minutes in one of four possible endings.

      Sorry IBM, your prior art is sitting in a card board box in my basement.

      • That's a swing and a miss at a prior art claim... a DVD is digital video, and this concerns doing it with film.
        • by Kalidor (94097)

          I don't know about DVD's , but I remember various educational films in school doing this when LaserDisc came out and got paired with barcode scanners to scan jumps in a book that came with the LaserDisc.

      • Are the choices made in part due to a weighting factor based on ticket price? I assume you don't have a pluarilty of viewers who paid you money and you took that into consideration when making each "choice" in the movie?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by next_ghost (1868792)
      Actually this kind of branched movie was done as far back as 1985 in Czechoslovakia in a television series Rozpaky kuchare Svatopluka. When the series aired for the first time, the story would stop at certain points for then-live transmission where Josef Dvorak (the starring actor of the series) would ask the viewers to vote for one of two possible alternatives in the story. Both live audience in the studio and TV viewers could vote, the former with a voting box that was passed around, the latter by turning
      • That is awesome. Did they release a DVD with multiple angle support or something that would let you see the other choices?

    • Prior art exists. What about Board games with video that displays current progression's of the game? An example is Clue derivatives. If they are patenting the computational process for distributing such games rapid fire, its a bit different than patenting the idea.
    • by DurendalMac (736637) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:59PM (#33595952)
      Disney did this years and years ago. I remember a ride in Disneyworld that was a 3D theater ride. Toward the end, it would let you choose how to get home, whether it was through space, plane, etc. The theater would choose by pushing one of several buttons on the armrest and the winning sequence would play. It has been done.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by guyminuslife (1349809)

      the idea of a branch-based movie theater experience is new

      For you, maybe. I'd like to add that I remember specifically going to a movie theater around a mall in Texas that did exactly that. That was in...oh, '95 or '96.

      The basic premise was some private detective who went around solving mysteries. Every few minutes, he would turn to the audience and ask them what he should do next. The seats were equipped with a joystick with color-coded buttons---pushing a button would cast a vote in favor of a particular course of action. The theater staff explained that th

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      It's not new:
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460746/ [imdb.com]
      Perhaps even this:
      http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/13709 [bloody-disgusting.com]

      I also remember hearing about make-your-own-adventure type movie experiments in move theaters with the audience getting to vote via a simple electronic device attached to their seats at key scenes of the movie.

    • by gl4ss (559668)
      so dvd menu systems are quite the work of art? I suppose, prior art. It's childs play when compared to any sufficiently advanced computer game world though. It's not really rocket science to have some logic on choosing which clip comes next. and for gosgfsdjiofjsdio THE IDEA IS NOT NEW, NOT AT ALL. futurama had it before being cancelled orignally.
  • Didn't we used to call those "Video Games"?

    I remember a short lived period from the late 90's where "interactive movies" tried to revive the adventure game. Wouldn't this be the same thing but with more footage?
    • Obligatory link to FMV games. Ahhh the 90s... How I DON'T miss that genre.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_motion_video_based_game [wikipedia.org]

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Obligatory link to FMV games. Ahhh the 90s... How I DON'T miss that genre.

        I said it was short lived (and for a very good reason).

        Shame about the adventure game though, I DO miss that genre.

    • I am watching a choose your own adventure movie right now.

      it's called real life and it's in 3D

      • I wish the director or producer or whoever would fix the implementation, though. Unlike Choose Your Own Adventure books, I'm finding it impossible in this so called "real life" thing to go back and try the other choice. :-/

        *keeps finger on the page of the choice to post this or not, in case I want to go back and try the other way*

  • because (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @08:26PM (#33594712) Journal

    Whatever happened to fixing the patent system, rather than continuing these mistakes?"

    What happens is that every time a big company gets hit with patent lawsuits, they learn from it, patent a lot of stuff, and turn around and start making money off the system (IBM, Apple, Sun, Microsoft.....Sun wasn't even the sue-happy type, and they still made a ton off patents). So they don't feel motivated to try and change things anymore. Why should they? Then you have guys like Amazon, and their one-click patent, who pay lip-service to patent reform, but in practice they defend their stupid patent every chance they get.

  • They did this in silent steel and Flash Traffic City of Angels.

  • by Geccoman (18319) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @08:32PM (#33594776) Homepage Journal

    Isn't the porn industry already doing this? I mean, I HEARD they are already doing this.

    • Isn't the porn industry already doing this? I mean, I HEARD they are already doing this.

      Fast forwarding to the money-shot isn't considered 'choose-your-own-adventure'.

  • Prior Art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @08:32PM (#33594782)

    As usual, the common mistake is made of claiming that the patent is for "choose-your-own-adventure movies". Like any patent, it's for a particular method of displaying and running a choose-your-own-adventure movies (or rather, a class of similar methods).

    I'm curious what examples of prior art there are, and whether they actually fall under the claims made in the patent, or if they're simply similar int hat both are "choose-your-own-adventure"-type presentations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929)

      Exactly. The summary was clearly written as a troll of the patent system, and attempts to prevent a rational fact-based discussion by misinterpreting the patent and ignoring how the law works. In order to even start having a discussion of this patent on its merits, you have to read the claims:

      ----

      1. A method for selecting a logical branch in a storyline among a plurality of available storyline branches on a computing device, based on voters' votes, comprising:

      obtaining and accumulating, the votes from the

      • by bit01 (644603)

        Just remember, before you say, OMFG THAT'S OBVIOUS, you have to find references that teach all of those limitations, and if you have to use more than one reference, you have to have a rationale for combining those references.

        Oh, the patent mafia get to set the rules to suit themselves? Funny that.

        This "patent" is obvious. No matter how people like you try to spin it.

        The PTO's self-serving definition of obvious is laughably bad.

        ---

        The patent system. The whole edifice is based on handwaving.

  • Linda, you're absolutely fantastic!

    (google it)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @08:37PM (#33594850)

    ...Calculon to race to the laser gun battle in his hover-Ferarri, press 1...

    • by dasdrewid (653176)

      For the less Futurama inclined: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raging_Bender [wikipedia.org]

      The crew goes to see "All My Circuits, The Movie", which is a choose your adventure movie controlled by little PDA devices, which seems to cover about half the claims in this patent.

      The new things in the patent (to me) are: weighting votes by ticket price, pre-weighting and/or post-rating specific viewings for branches more appropriate for children or adults, and letting you record the choices you made so that if you come back or la

    • This is exactly what came to mind when I saw the headline.
  • SSDD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    My brief tenure at IBM (circa 8 years ago or so) made me realize the company that once was the great giant of the industry had become a pissing match between MBA's and PHDs as to who could get the most patent applications on their wall.

    Same shit, different day. Someone probably is 1 patent closer to winning a bonus.

  • Although it is equally stupid. It appears to be a patent on voting for the outcome, including stuff like having people charges for a vote.

    So, it's essentially a patent for an 'interactive movie', except with a group of voters deciding the outcome. This exact premise has been used in science fiction before, which should be enough to deny it a patent.

    In fact, it's actually been done over TV before, even with the 'pay for a vote' aspect. American Idol does a version of it, but it's been done with prerecorded

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrsurb (1484303)
      Futurama - S02E08 - Raging Bender. The crew go to a movie theatre and vote for what Calculon should do next. The result: Tedious Paperwork [futurama-madhouse.com.ar]
    • Just to pluck out one thing you said...

      This exact premise has been used in science fiction before, which should be enough to deny it a patent.

      There's a concept called "non-enabling prior art".
      Sure, science fiction stories have been written describing time travel, cold fusion, AI, teleportation, etc. Go build them - after all, you've got that "prior art". Wait, they don't fully describe everything sufficient to enable someone skilled in the art to build those things? Ah. Then they're "non-enabling" prior art, and are only "prior art" for the few bits they do enable - in other words, the broad concept. You couldn't patent: "A method for time travel comprising (a) traveling through time." because there would be prior art for that, but you could certainly patent a method that went beyond the mere musings of authors.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        in other words, the broad concept. You couldn't patent: "A method for time travel comprising (a) traveling through time." because there would be prior art for that, but you could certainly patent a method that went beyond the mere musings of authors.

        And you sir are not truly familiar with US Patent System.

      • by julesh (229690)

        There's a concept called "non-enabling prior art".
        Sure, science fiction stories have been written describing time travel, cold fusion, AI, teleportation, etc. Go build them - after all, you've got that "prior art". Wait, they don't fully describe everything sufficient to enable someone skilled in the art to build those things?

        I'm pretty sure I could build this from a fictional description of it, and could have done any time in the last 10 years. I'm not even particularly skilled in the art of digital vide

      • Just to pluck out one thing you said...

        This exact premise has been used in science fiction before, which should be enough to deny it a patent.

        There's a concept called "non-enabling prior art". Sure, science fiction stories have been written describing time travel, cold fusion, AI, teleportation, etc. Go build them - after all, you've got that "prior art". Wait, they don't fully describe everything sufficient to enable someone skilled in the art to build those things? Ah. Then they're "non-enabling" prior art, and are only "prior art" for the few bits they do enable - in other words, the broad concept. You couldn't patent: "A method for time travel comprising (a) traveling through time." because there would be prior art for that, but you could certainly patent a method that went beyond the mere musings of authors.

        That's fine for time-travel, which is admittedly hard. But given a futurama episode where characters vote to pick a movie ending, any bunch of idiots with some basic engineering skills could implement it. Or should I say, anyone "skilled in the art" would be able to come up with a way to implement it. Same goes for pretty much any business method patent; they patent nothing more than a concept, so if that concept is in 1984, that's reason enough it shouldn't be patentable. (did I mention, IANAPLOAOKOL?)

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        I don't see anything in the patent that describes how to 'implement' it beyond stuff like 'You'll need to give everyone a keypad or a phone or maybe let them vote in a booth'. (The Futurama story had a keypad, and obviously phones have been used for mass voting on plots forever. I don't think the idea of 'voting in a booth' needs to dignified with a response.)

        Or insanely obvious stuff like 'You'll have to hook a computer to the playback device to tally the votes, a computer which people can contact using (

        • I don't see anything in the patent that describes how to 'implement' it beyond stuff like 'You'll need to give everyone a keypad or a phone or maybe let them vote in a booth'...No explanation at all on how to do any of this.

          Ah, but that's a different rejection. That's under 35 USC 112, which requires a patent application to have sufficient written description. A failure there doesn't mean that the application is anticipated by prior art, though.

  • by iONiUM (530420)

    When I see IBM and choose your own adventure movies all I can think of is a new interface for sys admins. Brings a whole new meaning to "adventure."

    Sorry but to me all IBM does is mainframes.

  • Patents (Score:4, Informative)

    by alvinrod (889928) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @09:01PM (#33595068)
    I suggest that everyone view this talk [swpat.org] regarding patents and open source software. It focuses on how open source developers can maneuver around patents, but also provides a lot of information regarding how patents can be better understood. After viewing this presentation, I've realized how moronic a lot of posts on Slashdot regarding patents truly are.

    After watching the video and examining the patent [uspto.gov] it seems rather trivial to dance around it. It's a completely stupid thing to patent, but it isn't going to impede anyone who develops something similar.
    • Re:Patents (Score:4, Informative)

      by houghi (78078) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:49PM (#33596216)

      Dancing around things does not make the bad things go away. It will just be cause for more patents that you need to dance around until at one moment you WILL trip.

      Some people think the best thing is to let it go on like this and hope it gets worse, so people will see how stupid it is and then reform it. That won't happen. It can become even worse. It could be that you won't be allowed to bring out anything unless you have a patent.

      Maneuvering around it is just like saying "First they came after the ... "

    • by Aceticon (140883)

      The biggest problem with Business and Software Patents is not that it's not possible to "dance around" most of them, it's that you need to know that the Patent is there and understand it in order to "dance around" it.

      Given the large number of industry standard practices which were patented in one way or another, this means that, especially as a software engineer, to make sure you are not stepping in any patent when developing a system, you need to spend more time and money investigating patents and finding

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @09:01PM (#33595070)

    I skimmed through the claims. I've seen and participated in public showings of technology that covers most of this. Some commenters mentioned the Dragon's Lair laserdisc arcade game, which I was never very good at. I've also seen interactive stories (both pre-recorded and realtime rendered) where the audience votes at various points in the story; sometimes it was computer vision based, and sometimes we had devices with voting buttons (including our own cell phones). Students in Carnegie Mellon's ETC have created a number of public demonstrations along these lines. But the important claims in this patent that I haven't seen before are:

    - Your individual vote's weighting is based on your ticket price
    - The total story arc that the audience voted for is saved for future viewing
    - The audience votes on the total story arc, so that future audiences can pick the most popular arc

    That's where to start looking for prior art. I don't remember whether prior art has to exist for all claims or just one claim in order to invalidate the patent, but Claim 1 describes the entire setup with all of these parts.

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      Oh come on. This is not a mechanism. This is a joke, except it's not. The "prior art" is called "polling the body." It goes like this:

      "Hello people. Would you like to march over the river, or through the mountains? Raise your hands if mountains. Oh, you slaves in the back-- don't bother raising your hands, I know you're slaves. Oh-- General What'syourname. Yes thank you for the campaign contribution. Well yes, of course, the mountains sound good, but ... Senator Moneymoneymoneybags, good t

    • by dasdrewid (653176)

      On the other hand, it means you have to have *all* of these parts to infringe on the patent. I can't think of any prior art for the things you picked up, but as long you as you, say, weigh votes based on something other than ticket price (if you weight them at all), then I don't think you'd be infringing.

      The only useful parts I can see in this patent are the thing about pre-weighting all choices towards child/adult friendly options based on the time of the showing and allowing people to take a record of th

      • by russotto (537200)

        On the other hand, it means you have to have *all* of these parts to infringe on the patent.

        Wrong. Those limitations which so stymie prior art claims disappear [wikipedia.org]

        like soap bubbles when claims of infringement are made.

    • I skimmed through the claims. I've seen and participated in public showings of technology that covers most of this.

      It costs only $2,250 to initiate an ex parte reexamination, and you can submit any evidence you have of those "public showings of technology that covers most of this". I'm sure if it's that good that Slashdotters would be willing to pony up a few bucks each to invalidate this patent. And you've got several months, so start a Paypal account.
      Of course, if you don't, then we're going to have to take your claim with a huge grain of salt. Lots of people have claimed to invented something after a patent has alre

    • by glwtta (532858)
      That's where to start looking for prior art.

      Shouldn't they first figure out what part of that is inventive and non-obvious? It seems that tiny step is always drowned out in the clamor for "prior art".

      I can't imagine that any person of moderate intelligence, given the task "come up with a make-your-own-adventure movie scheme", would fail to produce all of those "inventions" within about 15 minutes.
  • FMV games are now patented? I guess since IBM and the USPTO weren't around in the 80s and 90s, so they wouldn't remember.
  • Prior art? Rule of law? What the heil are you talking about?

    The point of patent law at this point is to earn CEOs money to pay for their private jets to go to Thailand to pay for their private...

  • Can anyone point me to a good explanation of what is actually meant by this requirement for a patent (per wikipedia):

    A patent may not be obtained though the invention ... if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. (35 U.S.C. 103 (A))

    I would think that many of these questionable patents we see would run afoul of this requirement, regardless of other concerns. They seem to be using a rather low estimate of "ordinary skill" in the art for most things computer - it almost feels more like any idea at or above "ordinary" innovation in an industry is OK. When innovation and new ideas are the norm in an industry, I would hope

    • Just to pluck out one thing you said...

      When innovation and new ideas are the norm in an industry, I would hope the bar for non-obvious would be correspondingly higher.

      So, say you had a brand new industry that was really cutting edge - let's say high energy physics, nanotechnology, or (if it should ever happen) cold fusion... Because "innovation and new ideas" would be the norm during those first few steps, the inventors shouldn't get patents because the bar for what's non-obvious should be "correspondingly higher"?

      • When an industry is new, those skilled in the art are going to be thinking up lots of new applications, ideas and innovations as the "low hanging fruit" are plucked. The advent of internet commerce is a good example.

        Or, as a thought exercise, let's say someone has just invented a practical, cheap maglev system using only permanent magnets. That innovation would deserve a patent. However, there are lots of obvious applications of a new system like that that would NOT need or deserve a patent in their own

        • by Plekto (1018050)

          (summation of above post)
          And the new generation of industry moves to China where none of this nonsense exists.

          All we really are doing is causing such an unfriendly legal environment in the U.S. that soon nobody will want to start new businesses here. Oh, wait. We already are losing industry to China. I guess that means that the worse it gets, the less likely that it will ever come back. So much for a "recovery".

  • It doesn't seem to me to be a contradiction for IBM to support patent reform but be a vigorous player in the patent system as is. In fact, it would be foolish for them to abstain as they will simply be trampled on by others.
  • Johnny Mnemonic: The Interactive Action Movie was made by sony and was good for it's time!

  • The audience-driven video project, Terminal Time [terminaltime.com] combines audience voting (by applause) with video, so it may count as prior art.

  • by PPH (736903)
    Peep shows.
  • If the goal of the patent system is to encourage inventors to publish descriptions of their inventions, so that everyone can benefit from their discoveries, why do we need an office to approve them? Why not just allow inventors to publish whatever they want, in a suitably widespread publication, and claim patent protection? We would only need experts to review the worthiness of patents when there is some sort of dispute -- and the civil court system has been set up to handle these sorts of expert-witness-

  • Film is another art medium, no self respecting director will trade gimmicks for a chance to tell a real story. It's obvious why so many of your children have ADHD problems, when they are stimulated to have short attention spans.

  • by VShael (62735) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:40AM (#33597394) Journal

    Milla Jovavich and Ali Larter, saving the world through passionate lesbian sex.

    At least it will in my theatre.

  • I tried that ! (Score:2, Informative)

    by johnny_aged (1881552)
    Well, somebody has got to check this out and tell me what you think. http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=6&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PG01&s1=millstein.IN.&OS=IN/millstein&RS=IN/millstein [uspto.gov] About 4 years ago I came up with a site (socialsaga.com) that was a lot like choose your own adventure. So, being young and stupid, when somebody told me I should try and patent the idea, I tried. Bunch of t
  • So, just so we've got all that straight now... What they've has done is revolutionary. They have changed the game. The patent game that is... Instead of patenting "blah blah blah" ON THE INTERNET, they've gone and patented "blah blah blah" AT THE MOVIES.

    So now we need to start the gold-rush of "simple business concept" AT THE MOVIES. Now that "choose your own adventure" will happen in a theater, who will be the first to patent "One-click" AT THE MOVIES?

  • As a kid I went to Expo '67. I think that it was the Czechoslovakian pavilion featured an auditorium where the seats all had voting buttons, and a movie where the audience got to decide what happened next. We had a blast choosing our way through the interesting scenario. IMHO, IBM should have never been able to get this patent.
  • that is what happened. nothing else. all the 'but but but but ...'s are bullshit derivatives and excuses and 'but maybe we can' kind of self-fooling.

It's later than you think, the joint Russian-American space mission has already begun.

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