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Game and Technology Co., Ltd. v. Activision Blizzard Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

June 21, 2019

GAME AND TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD., Appellant
v.
ACTIVISION BLIZZARD INC., RIOT GAMES, INC., Appellees

          Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. IPR2016-01885.

          Richard Arthur Castellano, DNL ZITO, Washington, DC, argued for appellant. Also represented by Joseph J. Zito.

          Sharon A. Israel, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP, Houston, TX, argued for appellees. Also represented by Tanya L. Chaney, David Morehan; John D. Garretson, Kansas City, MO.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, Lourie and Wallach, Circuit Judges.

          Wallach, Circuit Judge.

         Appellees Activision Blizzard Inc. and Riot Games, Inc. (collectively, "Activision") sought inter partes review ("IPR") of claims 1-11 ("the Challenged Claims") of Appellant Game and Technology Co.'s ("GAT") U.S. Patent No. 8, 253, 743 ("the '743 patent"). The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's ("USPTO") Patent Trial and Appeal Board ("PTAB") issued a final written decision determining, inter alia, that the Challenged Claims were "obvious based on the combined teachings" of the prior art references. Activision Blizzard, Inc. v. Game & Tech. Co., No. IPR2016-01885, 2018 WL 1358661, at *28 (P.T.A.B. Mar. 14, 2018).

         GAT appeals. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(4)(A) (2012). We affirm.

         Background

         I. The '743 Patent

         Entitled "Method and System for Providing Character Having Game Item Functions," the '743 patent relates to the field of customizing Internet game characters in online games by combining game items with layers of an avatar in the game. '743 patent col. 1 ll. 19-21.[1] Specifically, the '743 patent discloses a method and system for providing "game item[s]" to Internet game characters and generating a type of avatar the patent refers to as a "gamvatar" that is equipped with particular game items. Id. col. 1 ll. 20-23 (explaining that the patent discloses "a method and system for servicing characters and having game item functions of a specific game in the case of characters provided by an online [website]"). A "gamvatar" is described by the patent as both "an avatar for exclusive use in a game," id. col. 3 ll. 10-11, and "an avatar that is capable of performing game item functions," id. col. 5 ll. 39-40. A "game item" can include "a game tool, such as a money recovery item," id. col. 2 ll. 45-47, where "the user generally uses the game item in a game after buying it at the game item shop 270 to receive merits according to the specific characteristics of the item," id. col. 2 ll. 50-52. According to the specification, "[t]he game item function of the gamvatar includes the function of charging and restoring cyber money, a function of reinforcing power of the gamvatar, and a function of attacking or defending other gamers." Id. col. 6 ll. 18-21. The '743 patent also describes "combining" items with layers of an avatar, id., Abstract, and describes the layers of an avatar in the context of "conventional avatar service system[s]," where the user customizes the avatar's appearance using purchased avatar items, id. col. 2 ll. 33-37. After "access[ing] the [website] . . . through the user computer[, ] . . . [the user] acquires or buys an avatar from the avatar shop or the avatar server . . . and accesses the game server . . . to play a game." Id. col. 2 ll. 38-41.

         Independent claim 1 is representative and recites:

A method for generating a character associated with a character generating system comprising a gamvatar provider, a gamvatar controller, and a game server, the method comprising:
providing an avatar to a user accessing an avatar shop via a network, the avatar comprising multiple layers for displaying avatar functions or performing game item functions by using the respective layers; and combining each of a plurality of game item functions with the avatar by adding the respective layers to the avatar to create a gamvatar associated with the plurality of the game item functions,
wherein the gamvatar is configured to be used to perform the plurality of the game item functions and each of the plurality of game item functions being combined with the respective layers is exhausted in response to detection of each time of using the each of the plurality of game item functions associated with playing a game provided by the game server.

Id. col. 11 l. 60-col. 12 l. 11 (emphases added).

         II. The ...


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