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Eight Year Patent Suit Finally Ends (Maybe)
THE BIG PICTURE
Patent cases can drag on for years. Even in victory, accused video game companies can end up spending substantial amounts of time and resources fighting patents suits.
In 2012, McRO, Inc. sued more than twenty video game companies for infringement two patents relating to “animating lip synchronization and facial expression of animated characters.” The patents are directed towards automating the processes used to create realistic speech and facial expressions.
Over the last eight years the cases were:
dismissed because the patents were unpatentable subject matter;
appealed to the Federal Circuit;
remanded to the district court, where they went through discovery and claim construction;
dismissed on summary judgment by the Central District of California because the patent-in-issue was invalid and not infringed; and
appealed to the Federal Circuit again.
Of the over 20 defendants that McRO initially sued, only 11 remained through the most recent appeals. The other defendants presumably settled with McRO along the way (probably helping to fund the continued litigation).
THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT
On May 20, 2020, the Federal Circuit overturned the District Court’s finding of invalidity but affirmed the finding of non-infringement. While this would seem to put an end to the issue for the remaining game companies, prior to the deciding the appeal, the Federal Circuit requested briefing as to whether it was necessary to determine validity if it found non-infringement. McRO answered that even though the patent-in-suit had expired, McRO still had several years to assert the patent and that there were newer games and other products that infringed. In short, McRO suffered a major defeat after almost a decade of continuous litigation, but the video game companies could face them again.