[20:54] <+AJofUniversalHorizons> So far we have about 800+ original artworks, 4 Registered TMs, and a patent for changing genres. We hope to be here a long time!Transcript here: http://gmshoe.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/qa-aj-schmidt-universal-horizons/
[20:54] <+xyphoid> A patent on a rpg mechanic? Can you tell us more about that?
[20:56] <+AJofUniversalHorizons> Not in a few mins… also, it get to be law-speak gibberish very quickly.
[20:56] <~Dan> What (if any) game systems inspired you?
[20:57] <+AJofUniversalHorizons> IN essence, it’s a process patent for paper and online applications for transferring virtual entities from one genre to another.
More transcript from after the initial Q&A here: https://gist.github.com/anonymous/63f9dca00f307302718a
You can find the application here: http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=20140038722.PGNR
And here: https://www.google.com/patents/US20140038722?dq=%22universal+horizons%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=A6KfU-DLOZCdkgXa-YDoDA&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA
In the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), third parties may submit prior art relevant to a published patent application within two months of said publication or before a notice of allowance is given, whichever comes first. In contrast to European practice, however, third parties are not allowed to provide any additional explanation of the relevance of the prior art. The USPTO requires a fee.
Here's the instructions for third-party comment: http://www.uspto.gov/forms/3prsubmission_instructions.pdf
And the relevant form: http://www.uspto.gov/forms/sb0429.pdf
It's still an application, so it's still possible that a patent clerk might see through the obfuscatory language and attempts to make it sound like a software patent instead of a game mechanic one, but I confess to being a bit unhopeful on that regard. There's loads of prior art in terms of existing products obviously, but I would not be surprised if patent review fails to even find any given how thoroughly cryptic the description is.
I'm not certain at this point whether the author is a crazy person or an asshole, or just harmlessly clueless, but the potential effect is the same. Contrary to popular belief, there is history of game mechanics being patentable, at least in software:
And I did find discussion of it in boardgames here:
There's also the famous Wizards patent on 'tapping' cards to consider. To my knowledge not many, if any, have attempted it for RPG mechanics, and it may be rejected as too abstract. I'm not feeling especially hopeful, though, and I don't think it's wise to dismiss it out of hand. If this went through it would give the author a beatstick to go after decades of games (including some of mine). If he's evil enough to stick to small fry and doesn't risk going after someone like Wizards or CCP/White Wolf (the latter of which have actually published quite a bit of prior art on the subject), he might even get away with it for some time, just like the Edge Games guy got away with it for so long by only going after indie video game publishers.
If you are aware of and capable of acting on any mechanism to fight it, I highly advise you do so at your earliest convenience.
If you wish to comment to the publisher, you can find their Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Universal-Horizons/556806171033910 Their email address is also given in the text of the transcript linked above.