Science fiction taught us that clones are cool, but the lawyers disagree.
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Recently, Warner Bros managed to patent "Nemesis characters, nemesis forts, social vendettas and followers in games". Want to create a new game where your hero forms rivaleries with procedurally-generated foes? Think again.
Casey Hudson, Drew Karpyshyn, Ray Muzyka, James Ohlen and Mike Laidlaw are each credited on the patent for Mass Effect's dialogue wheel. Clevery, Bioware didn't specify a shape—so canny rivals wouldn't be able to get away with a dialogue square or trapezoid.
Conviction's sneaky system was tagged with an unregistered trademark symbol (™). While this technique doesn't hold the power of a patent, it functions as a warning, letting rivals know Ubisoft considers the term to be proprietary.
ATB brought tension to previously stolid RPG scraps, and was granted a patent in 1995, which credited series directors Hironobu Sakaguchi and Hiroyuki Ito. It expired in the early 2010s.
Few noticed when Sega applied for an obscure patent for its whacky racer in the late '90s, but they sat up when it filed an infringement suit against The Simpsons: Road Rage. The patent covered everything from the way pedestrians dodged cars to the iconic arrow.
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