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Forums - Hard Drop - Tetris Community _ Tetris _ A sad day for fangame makers: Tetris Holding, LLC v. Xio Interactive, Inc

Posted by: caffeine Jun 12 2012, 07:27 PM

This is Mino (for iPhone). It was made by a company called Xio Interactive:

IPB Image

Tetris Holding has successfully sued Xio on the grounds of copyright and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_dress infringement. Tetris Holding http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=22815 against omgpop.com's Blockles game, but they settled out of court.

QUOTE
Tetris Holding argues that Mino infringed the following copyrightable elements:
  1. Seven Tetrimino playing pieces made up of four equally-sized square
    joined at their sides;
  2. The visual delineation of individual blocks that comprise each Tetrimino
    piece and the display of their borders;
  3. The bright, distinct colors used for each of the Tetrimino pieces;
  4. A tall, rectangular playfield (or matrix), 10 blocks wide and 20 blocks tall;
  5. The appearance of Tetriminos moving from the top of the playfield to its
    bottom;
  6. The way the Tetrimino pieces appear to move and rotate in the playfield;
  7. The small display near the playfield that shows the next playing piece to
    appear in the playfield;
  8. The particular starting orientation of the Tetriminos, both at the top of the
    screen and as shown in the “next piece” display;
  9. The display of a “shadow” piece beneath the Tetriminos as they fall;
  10. The color change when the Tetriminos enter lock-down mode;
  11. When a horizontal line fills across the playfield with blocks, the line
    disappears, and the remaining pieces appear to consolidate downward;
  12. The appearance of individual blocks automatically filling in the playfield
    from the bottom to the top when the game is over;
  13. The display of “garbage lines” with at least one missing block in random
    order; and
  14. The screen layout in multiplayer versions with the player’s matrix
    appearing most prominently on the screen and the opponents’ matrixes
    appearing smaller than the player’s matrix and to the side of the player’s
    matrix.

You can http://swipreport.com/copying-the-look-and-feel-of-tetris-is-software-copyright-infringement/ and http://swipreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Tetris-Holding-LLC-v.-Xio-Interactive-Inc..pdf.

Posted by: Paradox Jun 12 2012, 08:21 PM

smh

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 12 2012, 08:27 PM

Mino, I liked the game a lot.
Because it had multiplayer over internet unlike EA Tetris (and most of iphone games). It had few alternative ways to control the game unlike EA Tetris (which is important on device with limited controls capabilities like iphone). It had online leaderboards unlike EA Tetris. It had well made chat features that i found unique on iOS platform.

This is absurd that while game rules are not copyrightable, making game with same rules would allow competitor to fight you. Imagine lawsuit form chess maker against other chess maker, that would say:
-chessboard is 10x10
-there is exactly same set of pieces
Well yes, it is, because it is how chess works, and it is how it is played. Sure you can come up with infinite number of rules, but's that not the point of chess.

so when at this list of items that they claim are infringing, one part of them are essential rules of the game and other part are things very generic that are not unique to tetris (i.e. features common among many other games).

Sure we have copyright law, but don't forget we also have http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competition_law.

On side note I wonder what tetris corp and its lawyers have to say about http://www.tetrisonline.com/games/feevo_facebook.php and it's similarity to Bejeweled.

Posted by: Boingloing Jun 12 2012, 10:21 PM

what's with #10, guideline games don't do that...

Posted by: myndzi Jun 13 2012, 02:04 AM

QUOTE
Xio's argument would create "an exception to copyright [that] would likely swallow any protection one could possibly have."


They say that like it's a bad thing...


QUOTE

Tetris is a puzzle game where a user manipulates pieces composed of square blocks, each made into a different geometric shape, that fall from the top of the game board to the bottom where the pieces accumulate. The user is given a new piece after the current one reaches the bottom of the available game space. While a piece is falling, the user rotates it in order to fit it in with the accumulated pieces. The object of the puzzle is to fill all spaces along a horizontal line. If that is accomplished, the line is erased, points are earned, and more of the game board is available for play. But if the pieces accumulate and reach the top of the screen, then the game is over. These then are the general, abstract ideas underlying Tetris and cannot be protected by copyright nor can expressive elements that are inseparable from them.


Good info...

All in all, it doesn't appear that Xio had much of a case, really, so I can't get on board with this being the death toll for fan games.

Posted by: Paradox Jun 13 2012, 02:56 AM

What I don't get is if these things aren't supposed to be protected by copyright why does TTC continue to take down games? Is money above the law in this case?

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 13 2012, 03:23 AM

what bother me most is that all modern mainstream games have very same boring gameplay (after you remove all non-interavtive cinematic things and scripted actions that make games look awesome on trailers) and somehow only ttc has problem with other games being similiar to their. imagine if this lawsuit was translated to fps game. omg look at those stolen "expressions", both games have cross-hair and on screen ammo count, movement are same (how it supposed to be diffrent, maybe i should make character teleport instead of walk...) and same types of guns (despite you can come with infinite number of diffrent weapon sets).

it is popular concept to make car analogies. so imagine if one company claimed that having 4 wheels it's trademark (because surely idea of car makes posible to make cars with other numbers of wheels). seats are instlaled i way that everybody is facing driving direction, you could make passager seat face opposite direction or maybe put driver seat upside down without harming any car functionality, no? and i can go on and on with those analogies, but i don't want to cause boredom.

tetris is so simple concept that it will always look and feel similiar no matter what how you execute it. you can make game upside down and use pentominos, but it won't stop TTC in making another list of 10 things that are same.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 13 2012, 03:24 AM

QUOTE(Paradox @ Jun 12 2012, 09:56 PM) *

What I don't get is if these things aren't supposed to be protected by copyright why does TTC continue to take down games? Is money above the law in this case?

TTC has a history of aggressively pursuing clones... because they must. They must prevent their intellectual property from trademark erosion. If they don't send out these cease and desist letters, the word "Tetris" would eventually become genericized to mean "any Tetris-type game."

For example, Duncan used to have the trademark for "yo-yo." They failed to protect it, though. When they tried suing Royal Tops Company for using their trademark, the court decided the term "yo-yo" had entered common speech and that Duncan no longer had rights to it. The same thing happened with "aspirin" (of which Bayer used to have rights to).

Up to this point, I can understand and even sympathize with TTC. However, with this trade dress bulls***, they've gone too far. Imagine if Kleenex started suing other tissue companies because their tissues looked white, were soft, and were packaged in a rectangular box! Sure, Kleenex should defend its trademark, but it would be absurd for them to go after competitors the same way TTC is going after Xio.

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 13 2012, 03:43 AM

haha, would we can hope for is that one day TTC will taste it's own medicine. For example zynga will sue them for infriging their trade dress of fb games in tetris battle (you know, this gui, friends integration, energy, coins, exp bars and other bulls*** looks quite familiar). I don't think screenshot of tetris battle and farmville looks much diffrent especially when you crop it to where you want to focus on. then i imagine we will hear very diffrent optinion from TTC what is idea and what is expression.

Posted by: vipjun Jun 13 2012, 03:46 AM

I almost finished reading the whole legal case in the long .pdf doc , but ended up falling asleep .

Posted by: myndzi Jun 13 2012, 04:00 AM

QUOTE(caffeine @ Jun 13 2012, 03:24 AM) *

the word "Tetris" would eventually become genericized to mean "any Tetris-type game."


Doesn't it already? We should put up a poll somewhere public with screenshots of five games and the question "Is this Tetris?" (more politically worded)

Posted by: caffeine Jun 13 2012, 04:42 AM

The paragraph I found most irritating was this:

QUOTE("Judge Wolfson")
The Supreme Court has explained that a feature is functional if: “it is essential to
the use or purpose of the device or when it affects the cost or quality of the device” or the
right to use it exclusively “would put competitors at a significant non-reputation-related
disadvantage,” meaning it is “essential to effective competition in a particular market.”
Traffix Devices v. Mktg. Displays, 532 U.S. 23, 33 (2001). The color and style of the
pieces are not functional under any one of these standards. These elements are not
mandated by the use or purpose of the game because numerous other choices are
available to a game designer without affecting the functionality of the game. As I noted
earlier, Xio’s own expert admitted that there are “almost unlimited number” of ways to
design the pieces and the board and the game would still “function perfectly well.” Pl.
Stmt. of Undisputed Fact, at ¶ 53. Nor has Defendant shown that other choices would at
all affect either the cost or quality of the device or that these choices are essential to
effective competition.

First off, three out of the seven tetrominoes are different colors when comparing the two games. There are only so many colors. Can you really expect him to express the idea of styling a piece by some other method than visible light waves? Would gamma or radio waves be acceptable? Secondly, there are Tetris brand games that delineate the pieces' boundaries and games that do not! As Tetris brand games have hundreds of different styles among its many implementations, there's no way for Xio to express a style not already represented by at least one of Tetris' games.

QUOTE("Judge Wolfson")
The pieces in Tetris are based on combining four equally sized squares in different
patterns, but the idea of Tetris—fitting different shaped pieces together to form
complete lines—can be achieved with nearly limitless shaped pieces and geometric
shapes. Xio’s expert, Jason Begy, agreed at his deposition that a “a game designer could
design the playing pieces for a video game in an almost unlimited number of ways” and
that the specific Tetris pieces were “not necessary to design a puzzle video game.” Pl.
Stmt of Undisputed Fact, ¶ 53. The video evidence also shows how the pieces move in
precisely the same manner. Again, there are almost unlimited options for expressing
the pieces’ movement and rotation and one can play the same game even if different
styles are used or the game has a different look and feel to it, which was also admitted by
Xio’s expert during his deposition. Id. The style, design, shape, and movement of the
pieces are expression; they are not part of the ideas, rules, or functions of the game nor
are they essential or inseparable from the ideas, rules, or functions of the game.

Take it from me, Judge Wolfson, the shape and movement of the pieces are indeed part of the ideas, rules, and function of the game! The creator of the game himself decided to use tetrominoes instead of pentominoes due to how he found that pentominoes were a shape too difficult to play with. On the other hand, trominoes would make the game too easy and redundant. Using tetrominoes is an essential rule and function to the game's quality. Moreover, there are NOT an unlimited number of ways to express the pieces' movement and rotation! There are only so many directions a piece can go and only so many geometric motions to maneuver a piece.

I don't know much about law, but this case seems pretty flimsy. I wonder if Xio's lawyers dropped the ball here.

Posted by: salami_pastrami Jun 13 2012, 06:01 AM

QUOTE
Doesn't it already? We should put up a poll somewhere public with screenshots of five games and the question "Is this Tetris?" (more politically worded)


Tetris = any game with minos where you clear lines

Posted by: myndzi Jun 13 2012, 06:58 AM

I'm talking about the general public, not what we think. I bet that Tetris is generic enough that a significant number of people would not make a distinction between "official" games and clones, provided the supplied clones are of a reasonable quality.

Posted by: Paradox Jun 13 2012, 10:32 AM

we need to start another one of those "we hate you TTC, do something good for once" petitions.

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Jun 13 2012, 12:14 PM

QUOTE(Wojtek @ Jun 12 2012, 08:27 PM) *

This is absurd that while game rules are not copyrightable, making game with same rules would allow competitor to fight you. Imagine lawsuit form chess maker against other chess maker, that would say:
-chessboard is 10x10
-there is exactly same set of pieces
Well yes, it is, because it is how chess works, and it is how it is played. Sure you can come up with infinite number of rules, but's that not the point of chess.

If there was someone who had the claim to have designed chess, and held the license for chess, then this lawsuit would be perfectly and obviously valid, and I don't really know what point you're trying to make. Chess is a game old enough to have become public domain, meaning nobody has the ground to sue anyone else over it, whilst Tetris isn't. What's your point?

And pointing out the hypocrisy of Feevo's similarity to Bejeweled totally doesn't have any effect on any lawsuits involving design infringement for Tetris.


QUOTE(Wojtek @ Jun 12 2012, 08:27 PM) *

so when at this list of items that they claim are infringing, one part of them are essential rules of the game and other part are things very generic that are not unique to tetris (i.e. features common among many other games).

We discussed this in IRC in the context of patent law. Just because you make a whole ton of claims that aren't actually valid and defendable in court doesn't mean you invalidate the claims which are defendable.


QUOTE(Paradox @ Jun 13 2012, 02:56 AM) *

What I don't get is if these things aren't supposed to be protected by copyright why does TTC continue to take down games? Is money above the law in this case?

They completely are protected by copyright. Maybe not everything stated, but there's easily enough in this case here for TTC to win. And having the money to buy better lawyers helps in a court case, but it's not like you can just pay money to the judge and win. There has to at least be a semblance of a valid argument in the first place.


Guys, I really don't know why there's so much QQ in this thread claiming that this lawsuit is totally ridiculous and there's no way that TTC should have won and it's stupid. It's a precedent that hadn't really happened yet, but if you guys knew anything about how the laws work for trade dress then it's obvious that TTC were going to win this case.

- The field is 10x20 blocks
- It uses the seven tetromino pieces, no more, no less
- When you get garbage lines they fill up a bar to the side before entering your field (I presume that's what they are)
- I'm assuming the rotation works the same as SRS in 0G, or incredibly close to it
- Next piece previews appear at the top of the screen

In approximately decreasing order of certainty (though the top two are a dead cert, especially the first one) those are aspects of the game that obviously impact trade dress and would be covered by copyright. They are things that could easily be designed differently without fundamentally ruining the way the game is played, and in the case of the first two they are things that can be intricately linked to the design of Tetris, and the design of pretty much every official Tetris game released under the sun.

Are any of you genuinely trying to claim that Xio didn't just take the concept for Tetris and release their own version with basically no modification to the game design and no new creativity to the concept? Because if you're not actually trying to argue this point then anything you say is completely stupid because that sort of rip-off is exactly what copyright and trade dress law is designed to stop (also because they've openly admitted to it in the case). A sad day for fangame makers maybe, but fundamentally it's a ruling that was always going to happen because the whole system is made so you can't just make a Tetris game by lifting all the core game and appearance aspects, change the name to not Tetris, and then try and make money off it.

This guy from Xio has openly admitted to essentially stealing the idea for Tetris and then releasing it in a way which he felt didn't retain anything that was copyrightable (which, as far as I can see, would mean directly lifting graphics because not much else seems different). Even if you really, really know what you're doing, that's an incredibly dangerous game to play because you're trying to very precisely walk along a line that isn't actually particularly well defined in the first place, and has the potential to move on a single whim. They thought they could get away with it through some legal logic play, and it turns out they can't.

EDIT: I started writing this post when I was at about page 8 of the full legal case. By page 32 I'm honestly not surprised that TTC won, because so many of these Xio arguments are massively tenuous and are on very shaky ground, especially given how explicitly similar the two games are.


As an aside, showing it to people in the street and them saying "it's Tetris" would probably be pretty easily beaten in a court of law by the scenes a faire principle, because you could probably create something which you could prove to be fundamentally different to Tetris and most people would still say that it's Tetris. That said, it does say in the court text (page 25) that they've taken to analysing with the eyes of a layman rather than an extremely high attention to detail, so they are taking something of a broad approach to it.


And to people who might just expect this post is me arguing the way I do and trying to come across as more learned and confident than I should do, I'll admit I Am Not A Lawyer. However I have just finished a 4 year engineering degree at Cambridge, the last two years of which I focussed heavily on product development, product design, and patent/copyright law, as well as starting work at a product design consultancy in August. I do know my sh** to a fairly reasonable extent when it comes to this sort of thing.


-------------------------------------------------------------


EDIT2, now that I've read the whole case

For those who can't be arsed reading the whole case pdf, or don't really understand it, a (not actually that brief) brief explanation of the arguments being made in the case and the principles behind them:

Xio's argument hinges primarily hinges on a distinction between patent law and copyright law. Patent law covers function, whilst copyright law covers form (appearance, feel, sound, etc). There is a whole different infrastructure and stuff for the two, but that's not really relevant here.

What Xio have argued is that anything that should be covered by a patent (function) can't be covered by copyright law if the patent isn't held. In a sense this is correct. To use an extremely simple example, if someone invented the wheel and patented it, they could stop everyone else making/using wheels without their permission and without paying royalties. On the other hand, if someone invented the wheel and let it become public domain but didn't patent it, they couldn't then sue everyone else making wheels on the basis that their wheels looked the same because they were round. This is because the wheel being round is a critical aspect to providing the function of a wheel, and the function isn't protected in any way. Essentially the roundness is an aspect that is too strongly tied to the function, and is difficult/impossible to avoid using, meaning a copyright law that covered it would be too restrictive and too broad.

This legal argument is perfectly sound, and there are a ton of precedents for it (named in the case). The problem here is that Xio have extended it as far as they possibly can, by trying to claim that every single aspect of the game is tied to function, and therefore can't be covered by copyright because TTC don't hold the patent to the game function.

The court has sort of ruled where they draw the line between copyright covering function and copyright not covering function. Part of this goes into the territory of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenes_a_faire, where you can't protect stuff by copyright if it is pretty much staple for the entire genre. For example, pieces falling from top to bottom falls under scenes a faire, because there are plenty of games that have pieces falling from top to bottom that aren't Tetris (Puyo Puyo, Dr Mario, etc), and if Tetris held copyright to this then it would essentially hold copyright to the entire "crap falling from the top of the screen" genre.

Xio argue, and argue correctly, that a lot of the aspects they've copied are either critical to function or fall under scenes a faire, but the problem for them in this case is that they've copied far too closely for this argument to apply any more. To use an example explicitly mentioned in the case, they argue that a playing field that is higher than it is wide is a functional part of the game, and it not being the case would have a huge impact on the game. The court concedes that this is true, but then goes to point out that Xio haven't just copied a playing field higher than it is wide, but in fact have gone for the exact same 10x20 dimensions of a typical Tetris field. They're trying to use an argument to defend similar copies when they're being sued for making an exact copy.

The argument Xio have made is fine, and to a lot of the things it does technically still apply (a 12x20 field will functionally play differently to a 10x20 field), but the court have ruled that they're trying to take it too far, and to levels that are not practical and would unravel a huge amount of copyright law, which is why they've lost. They've copied too much for Mino to be functionally different from Tetris in a substantial enough way, hence losing the lawsuit.


And whilst this is a sad day for fangame makers who want to just completely rip-off Tetris and make their own version, there's a lot of precedent in here that implies if you want to make a version that uses the core Tetris gameplay of falling blocks and complete lines disappearing (which has deemed to be too tied into function to copyright) then you can quite comfortably so long as you change around other aspects of the game design a bit.

Posted by: meow Jun 13 2012, 12:38 PM

I also found it interesting that the court suggested that there were an unlimited number of ways to design the pieces, and then the court later stated that the fundamental rules of Tetris are not protected by copyright.

It's as if the court forgot or was not informed that the tetr in the uncopyrightable 'Tetris rules' means four and from four small blocks, there are only seven distinct pieces.

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 13 2012, 12:55 PM

QUOTE(Rosti_LFC @ Jun 13 2012, 02:14 PM) *

If there was someone who had the claim to have designed chess, and held the license for chess, then this lawsuit would be perfectly and obviously valid, and I don't really know what point you're trying to make. Chess is a game old enough to have become public domain, meaning nobody has the ground to sue anyone else over it, whilst Tetris isn't. What's your point?

My point is size of the board and set of pieces should be considered rule of the game and functional part of it. Why you would think those are expression (i.e. art) or trademark?

Rosti, you sound like it was obvious that TTC owns tetris gameplay. I can't agree with that. In case of more complicated game if you take gameplay and change artwork (graphics, sounds, animations) it would make game look and feel very different, but in case of tetris it dosn't, just because whole thing is so simple. game in question was made from scratch and everything it share with tetris are merely ideas.

I see how when interpreting game as piece of art you came with such verdict, but if you interpret game as piece of software then it is totally different. As a programmer I must say i agree 100% with Xio interpretation. In software world cloning is not copying. Most of software and games made are direct clone (in you term rip-off) of other software or game. When you make game your "expression" is code you write and graphics you make.

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 13 2012, 01:27 PM

Thanks Rosti for the analysis - that makes complete sense Smile.png

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Jun 13 2012, 03:32 PM

QUOTE(Wojtek @ Jun 13 2012, 12:55 PM) *

My point is size of the board and set of pieces should be considered rule of the game and functional part of it. Why you would think those are expression (i.e. art)?

Because video games are a massive grey area that combine a huge amount a variables between physical products and artistic works, and the experience you get is a combination of many of them.

I also think you're misunderstanding the term "functional part" in the way it applies context and taking it too literally to say that anything with any function or impact on the function is a functional part (which is what Xio tried to do) - also caffeine is doing the same thing with "function of the game", which is basically outlined in the case to be falling blocks and completed lines disappearing. Also, the combination of functional parts is arguably what makes up the trade dress for a game as simple as Tetris.

The pieces moving how they do is something that can be used elsewhere (say on a 16x16 board instead). It's a functional part and you could use it in other games. The board for chess is also a functional part - it's used for checkers. But when you combine the functional parts of the board size and design, of the different pieces, and of the way the pieces move, then you're just producing something that is a complete copy of chess with no attempt to innovate or be creative whatsoever. And given it's a complete copy, it'll look and play basically the same and you can then be sued under copyright law for attempting to make money off what is clearly not your own idea.

QUOTE(Wojtek @ Jun 13 2012, 12:55 PM) *

In software world cloning is not copying, I most of software and games made are direct clone (in you term rip-off) of other software or game.

If you make a piece of software, and it includes more than a certain number of lines of code (I forget the number) which is identical to another piece of code, they can potentially sue you for breach of copyright, unless it's a case where it'd be difficult to code another way, or restricting use of that piece of code would be overly prohibitive, in which case it's scenes a faire and isn't covered by copyright law. You can also sue for non-literal elements such as code structure or or organisation.

But this is all somewhat irrelevant, because the fundamental issue is intent.

If Xio had made a game that loosely used the principles of Tetris but in a way that people would use the term "inspired by Tetris", then they'd be fine. But they've not. They've wholesale just stolen the entire game design, they've admitted to stealing the game design, and they've admitted to changing as little as they thought they had to in order to avoid lawsuit under their fairly smartass "you can't defend functions under copyright" extension argument.

All of these laws regarding copyright not covering function, and scenes a faire, are to protect creativity. They are to make sure that a single act of copyright cannot cover non-competing products and people who have genuinely been creative and innovative themselves but just so happened to have some overlap with something that's already out there. This is completely not the case here, and Xio have been very open that it is not the case. You say "game in question was made from scratch", but Xio make it abundantly clear that it wasn't.

As was stated in the court case, the extension of copyright not covering function than Xio were trying to make would essentially completely remove any copyright law for software unless you're copying actual chunks of code or graphics, which obliterates any protection for the actual functionality of the software through copyright (which is important here, because software patents are pretty dodgy and in some countries [pretty sure most of the EU] you can't actually patent software at all). This would mean that anyone making and attempting to sell a piece of software, be it a video game or otherwise, could have the actual design and use behind it completely copied by another party and sold by them instead, and all they'd have to do is code it from scratch and not use the exact same artwork. It would be like if you could just re-record a song someone else wrote and release it as your own with no risk of lawsuit whatsoever.

There's far more to software than just writing the code up and making the visuals, and in this case that's exactly the part of the software that Xio completely ripped off, and it's the part that the court has deemed is covered by copyright law.

QUOTE(meow @ Jun 13 2012, 12:38 PM) *

It's as if the court forgot or was not informed that the tetr in the uncopyrightable 'Tetris rules' means four and from four small blocks, there are only seven distinct pieces.

It's not that they forgot or were not informed - it's that it's not relevant.

And if you're going to make pieces from scratch and not just steal the seven Tetris ones (because, you know, you're not just trying to shamelessly emulate Tetris or anything) then you do have a pretty massive number of possible pieces to play with.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 13 2012, 03:41 PM

QUOTE(meow @ Jun 13 2012, 07:38 AM) *

It's as if the court forgot or was not informed that the tetr in the uncopyrightable 'Tetris rules' means four and from four small blocks, there are only seven distinct pieces.

I believe you're referring to this:
QUOTE
The pieces in Tetris are based on combining four equally sized squares in different
patterns, but the idea of Tetris—fitting different shaped pieces together to form
complete lines—can be achieved with nearly limitless shaped pieces and geometric
shapes. Xio’s expert, Jason Begy, agreed at his deposition that a “a game designer could
design the playing pieces for a video game in an almost unlimited number of ways” and
that the specific Tetris pieces were “not necessary to design a puzzle video game.” Pl.
Stmt of Undisputed Fact, ¶ 53.

Xio is trying to invoke the doctrine of merger, which means that the idea and the expression of the idea are inseparable. Apparently Xio's expert said that there are an unlimited number of ways to express the Tetris idea. Therefore, there is no merger. Interestingly, the Judge references this as "Pl. Stmt of Undisputed Fact, ¶ 53." It looks as though the defendant failed to dispute that there are indeed a limited number of ways of expressing the Tetris idea.

Posted by: benmullen Jun 13 2012, 04:56 PM

without many viable tetris company platforms that offer the type of gameplay that the players want, a ruling like this could seriously damage the game.

It would leave a HUGE vacum the they seem either unable or unwilling to fill.


Posted by: Integration Jun 13 2012, 05:08 PM

Mino:



EA's Tetris for iPhone:



Unfortunately, I can't find a video or screenshot for the multiplayer. Meanwhile, EA's Tetris version has been http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFAhOeSFBvo, but it seems to have happened after the creation of Mino.

My conclusion: Mino doesn't look like a 100% rip-off. And I can't understand, how copyright of a very simple, 28 year old video game, can still be owned by a company, which was founded more than 10 years later.

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Jun 13 2012, 07:35 PM

Copyright can be bought and sold. If there was a source of ownership for the original video game and creation of rights in the first place (which there was) then it's easily possible for a company formed later to own those rights by buying them. It's not like TTC randomly came along and just acquired intellectual property that was previously public domain. It's the same reason that companies like P&G and Unilever can own the rights to hundreds of different household brands through purchasing them off smaller companies.

Also it's not claiming that it's a direct rip-off of specifically EA Tetris. If it was, then I'd expect EA would be in on the case given it's in their financial interests. It would be a dumb move anyway though because they'd heavily be restricting the scope of what's being ripped off to a specific product, which is a far more difficult point to prove and wouldn't set a precedent for other clones ripping off other products. Instead they've claimed that Xio has copied guideline Tetris and the specific gameplay design principles that go into that, which is a far easier case to win as there's far more material to back it up.

QUOTE(caffeine @ Jun 13 2012, 03:41 PM) *

It looks as though the defendant failed to dispute that there are indeed a limited number of ways of expressing the Tetris idea.

They conceded that they couldn't dispute it, because in the context here there aren't really a limited number of ways of expressing the "Tetris idea" [that blocks of some description fall and fit together and clear lines]. There's a finite number of sets of blocks at practical disposal, obviously, but the number is still massive.

When designing a falling blocks games there are a huge number of different pieces you can choose from. If you don't limit yourself to pieces that are fully connected shapes, and allow maybe a handful of 3 and 5 block pieces, then you've got a huge amount of variation in there. Yet out of all this variation Xio picked the exact combination of seven pieces that is standard for Tetris, and which Tetris has a strong claim to in terms of design rights and trade dress.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 13 2012, 08:39 PM

QUOTE(Rosti_LFC @ Jun 13 2012, 02:35 PM) *

When designing a falling blocks games there are a huge number of different pieces you can choose from. If you don't limit yourself to pieces that are fully connected shapes, and allow maybe a handful of 3 and 5 block pieces, then you've got a huge amount of variation in there. Yet out of all this variation Xio picked the exact combination of seven pieces that is standard for Tetris, and which Tetris has a strong claim to in terms of design rights and trade dress.

One-sided tetrominoes used in a playfield that is taller than is wide is de jure functional. A competitor's inability to use these features would make them unable to compete effectively. These combination of features make the game interesting and challenging in the first place. In other words, they are not merely part of the trade dress used to distinguish one product from another. They are part of the functions necessary to establishing the idea (i.e. the gameplay) that consumers enjoy.

Posted by: Integration Jun 13 2012, 09:29 PM

QUOTE(Rosti_LFC @ Jun 13 2012, 09:35 PM) *
Also it's not claiming that it's a direct rip-off of specifically EA Tetris. If it was, then I'd expect EA would be in on the case given it's in their financial interests. It would be a dumb move anyway though because they'd heavily be restricting the scope of what's being ripped off to a specific product, which is a far more difficult point to prove and wouldn't set a precedent for other clones ripping off other products. Instead they've claimed that Xio has copied guideline Tetris and the specific gameplay design principles that go into that, which is a far easier case to win as there's far more material to back it up.

So if there are no issues with graphics, layout or sounds, then why does the article reference to Tetris for iPhone? It seems to me, that every game using TTC's (or even Tetris') basic gameplay mechanics can be successfully sued by the argument "We have already created a Tetris game on that platform, so you are not allowed to". Or the other way around: what must commercial developers fulfil to be protected? Would a combination of memoryless randomizer, different spawning orientions & colors and a unique way to send garbage lines even help you?

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Jun 13 2012, 09:42 PM

QUOTE(caffeine @ Jun 13 2012, 08:39 PM) *

One-sided tetrominoes used in a playfield that is taller than is wide is de jure functional. A competitor's inability to use these features would make them unable to compete effectively. These combination of features make the game interesting and challenging in the first place. In other words, they are not merely part of the trade dress used to distinguish one product from another. They are part of the functions necessary to establishing the idea (i.e. the gameplay) that consumers enjoy.

This is covered in the legal document (page 31, about halfway down):

QUOTE
Xio defends copying the exact size of the playing field—20 units high by 10 units wide—by saying that a rule of the game is to have a board that it higher than it is wide. But having a board higher than it is wide is not the issue; Xio copied a field that was the exact same dimensions as Tetris. Even assuming it is a rule to have a field higher than it is wide, which the Court does not necessarily find, it is not a rule to have the playfield be exactly 20 units by 10 units. Xio was free to program a puzzle game with the playing field designed "in an almost unlimited number of ways" as admitted by Xio’s expert.

Xio was not limited to those precise dimensions and was free to take the general idea of having a long game board and express it in its own unique way. For example, it could have had a field three times as high as it is wide or 15 units high by 8 units wide, without copying the exact game dimensions and infringing the look and feel of Tetris’s expression. Thus, I find this to be protectible expression that Xio infringed.


In short, yeah, you're perfectly fine to use a playing field that is taller than it is wide. But you're not fine to use one that is exactly 20x10, or at least not when you're nicking a whole load of other stuff at the same time.

In my opinion the sad thing here is not the ruling itself, but the fact that a ruling that sets such an important precedent like this one has happened in the way that it has, and in a court case that, frankly, was never going to go against TTC.

This dude has shamelessly ripped off Tetris. He is not, like the Cultris or Nullpo devs, attempting to make a cool game that is based around Tetris gameplay for the purposes of filling the currently poorly populated PC Tetris market. He is merely ripping off the concept of official Tetris games, changing as little as he possibly can (basically the name and not using pre-existing graphics, which would be a totally idiotic move not to do anyway), and selling it as a smartphone app with the intention to make some easy money. And he's completely open about his intentions behind the whole thing and his apparently smartass loophole to why he's fine. He's not trying to make a better product to break an existing monopoly, he's just trying to steal someone else's creative work for his own gain.

Basically, he's creating a clone that is in the largest possible way exactly what TTC don't ever want to happen, for fairly obvious reasons. It's also the sort of behaviour that copyright law is obviously in place to attempt to stop. Which means that the court were practically never going to rule in his favour, because setting that sort of precedent basically means that anyone with the resources to clone an existing video game can do so without reprimand, as long as they don't steal the name and exact graphics.

Because this Xio guy has been so much of a dick, it's basically pushed the court into defining what classes as a functional aspect and what classes as trade dress really far towards the "everything is trade dress" side because it's basically the only way to have the copyright law remain defensible against people ripping off games in the way that Mino has done. If there was a shred of creativity about Mino, then there's a chance he could sensibly argue a lot of these features to be necessary for the game design to function, but there isn't. He's not used a 20x10 field for any reasons of gameplay being better; he's used 20x10 because it's what official Tetris games use, and has then tried to defend it as though he did it for the reason of gameplay being better/feasible/playable/whatever, and it hasn't worked.

QUOTE(Integration @ Jun 13 2012, 09:29 PM) *

Or the other way around: what must commercial developers fulfil to be protected? Would a combination of memoryless randomizer, different spawning orientions & colors and a unique way to send garbage lines even help you?

They might not make your a** immortal to being sued, but all of those would definitely help you, because they would show that you're making a game that is fundamentally different to Tetris (which could be unintentional and a result of you having a sh** attention to detail, but that's hard to prove). The thing is, if you have a 16x10 field, the game concept would still work, you've created a game that isn't a direct copy, and by the words of the legal stuff said here, you're potentially fine.

What it says in this case is that things like the basic gameplay mechanics (which it defines as being falling blocks that fit together and lines are cleared and stuff) are not covered by copyright and are public domain. So if you want to design a game that uses those gameplay mechanics, you are perfectly entitled to. If you create the game around those mechanics from the ground up then you'll probably come up with something that is similar, but functionally distinct from Tetris, and you're fine. If you can justify any things that are the same (for example the playing field size) with "we explored options but found this one was better for reasons X, Y and Z" then you'd be helping yourself out immensely as basically saying there's only one good solution and it happens to be the same one used in Tetris (this is really hard to prove though and is far from a solid defence).

The copyright law works so that it shouldn't infringe people who want to make games that happen to play similarly to Tetris but were not intended to directly be a Tetris clone. The problem in this particular court case is that Mino was intended to directly be a Tetris clone, hence losing the ruling and hence setting a precedent that is pretty conservative and has such a large impact on potential fangames.

Posted by: meow Jun 14 2012, 12:11 AM

I'd just like to interject for a moment, if I'm not mistaken, Xio Interactive's author (and CEO) is a woman by the name of Desiree Golden.

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Jun 14 2012, 01:27 AM

QUOTE(meow @ Jun 14 2012, 12:11 AM) *

I'd just like to interject for a moment, if I'm not mistaken, Xio Interactive's author (and CEO) is a woman by the name of Desiree Golden.


Didn't pick up at the time of reading the name that she was female (in fairness it's only mentioned like once near the start of the document).

Still don't retract anything I've said Sticking Out Tongue.png

Posted by: XaeL Jun 14 2012, 01:49 AM

It was obvious that they were going to lose.

By comparing the two products to a layman with no knowledge of Mino, they would be both be identified as Tetris. Not "like tetris", but "tetris".

Posted by: Beastin_Shen Jun 14 2012, 06:15 PM

rosti and his sensibility, i wasted money on my pitchfork

Posted by: caffeine Jun 14 2012, 07:25 PM

QUOTE(Rosti_LFC @ Jun 13 2012, 04:42 PM) *

This is covered in the legal document (page 31, about halfway down):
In short, yeah, you're perfectly fine to use a playing field that is taller than it is wide. But you're not fine to use one that is exactly 20x10, or at least not when you're nicking a whole load of other stuff at the same time.

I don't understand how this contradicts my point. Having a 10x20 playfield is functional. Trade dress is meant to protect against competitors using design choices that do not contribute to the utility or function of the product. A 10x20 playfield is logical in the context of the idea behind Tetris and cannot be protected by trade dress.

Consider the following games and their playfield dimensions:Notice something? They all have a 1:2 width by height ratio. This is because this is a logical aesthetic used by many falling block genre games: clearly scene-a-faire. This is not just some superficial design that Tetris uses to distinguish its product from others, so it cannot be protected by trade dress.

Those games mostly use dominoes. Tetris uses tetrominoes, so it makes sense to have a wider playfield. Once again, having it 10 units wide is bona fide de jure functional. Too narrow and the game becomes too difficult. Too wide and the game becomes too easy.

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Jun 14 2012, 07:41 PM

QUOTE(caffeine @ Jun 14 2012, 07:25 PM) *

Once again, having it 10 units wide is bona fide de jure functional. Too narrow and the game becomes too difficult. Too wide and the game becomes too easy.

And like I said, if they'd done any sort of actual game design they could have maybe passed off the idea that it's the playing field size that works best. But they didn't, so the argument of "that is the optimal field size and Tetris shouldn't have a monopoly on it" falls because in reality they put no thought into it whatsoever and just copied whatever field size official Tetris games use.

I don't feel they're taking each individual element and saying "you stole this element and we are not deeming it functional" (as much as that's how it comes across in the case report, but with the way legal cases work there's not really another way of doing it). It's the combination of stealing pretty much all functional elements in the exact same format and combination as official Tetris games, and trying to make money from it. Steal the pieces but change the well size? Not Tetris. Keep the 20x10 well size but use a couple of extra unique pieces? Not Tetris. Copy all of the above and more exactly how Tetris does it? That's Tetris.

Also note that this in the first section of the document, and is copyright stuff - not trade dress.

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 14 2012, 07:41 PM

wouldn't wider make it harder and narrower make it easier?

Posted by: caffeine Jun 14 2012, 07:58 PM

QUOTE(Rosti_LFC @ Jun 14 2012, 02:41 PM) *

Copy all of the above and more exactly how Tetris does it? That's Tetris.

It is not a question of "is it Tetris?" or not. It's a question of "is it protected by copyright and/or trade dress?" When the feature or even combination of features serve a function that is important to the quality of the product, then it cannot be protected. This is explained in the PDF. The court ruled that "these elements are not mandated by the use or purpose of the game because numerous other choices are available to a game designer without affecting the functionality of the game." My point is that these elements are in fact mandated by the use and purpose of the game. For some reason Xio failed to show this, and that is why I believe they lost.

QUOTE(Paul676 @ Jun 14 2012, 02:41 PM) *

wouldn't wider make it harder and narrower make it easier?

A wider playfield offers more options to the player. This is why it's easier to stack up a side 4-wide than a middle 4-wide. Splitting the 6-wide stack into two 3-wide stacks gives the player less space to work with. It's a tighter fit.

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 14 2012, 08:43 PM

that's because you've got gaps either side. You can skim the hell out of a thin one but not a wide one. You need to play perfect for more to get a wide line.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 14 2012, 09:11 PM

For every column more you give the player, you're also giving him at least one extra placement that he didn't have before. The more potential placements a player has, the more options. The more options, the less he'll get stuck playing a bad placement that creates a hole.

This is easy to demonstrate. With the bag randomizer and hold, it's easy enough for an experienced player to score consecutive Tetrises without creating field instabilities. Without those instabilities, there's no need to skim off singles, doubles, and/or triples.

I'm saying it's more difficult to play in a narrower playfield. Let's test out a 6-wide playfield.



What about a 4-wide field?



I played normally without going backwards to find an alternative placement that would work. To me, this is clearly more difficult to play without creating holes than with a 10-wide playfield.

P.S. I'm not claiming these two examples as a be all and end all proof. They're just to illustrate why less options make the game more difficult.

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 14 2012, 10:09 PM

I agree it's harder to stack for tetrises, but I'd say it's easier to clear lines in a thinner field, and thus harder to die.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 14 2012, 11:14 PM

I downloaded http://www.colinfahey.com/tetris/tetris.html. I tweaked the settings to narrow the playfield and ran some games using Pierre Dellacherie's algorithm. After 10 games, the algorithm completed an average of 413 lines on a 6x20 playfield. It completed an average of 3,956 lines on an 8x10 playfield. I started a game of 10x20, but gave up after it cleared around 40,000 lines without topping out. According to Fahey's website, Pierre Dellacherie's algorithm plays an average of 631,167 lines before topping out on a 10x20 playfield. This clearly shows that widening the playfield makes it easier to survive.

CODE
Game # 6-w   8-w

1      575   4682
2      369   1243
3      759   2711
4      85    8077
5      156   2595
6      825   1417
7      108   1854
8      830   9829
9      191   1307
10     231   5846
        
Avr    412.9 3956.1

Posted by: XaeL Jun 14 2012, 11:47 PM

I'm pretty sure that it is easier to upstack in a wider playfield. (i.e. sing player).

However for multiplayer, you need higher downstack efficiency to "dig" the same amount of garbage (i.e. u need more pieces to go down). It is easier to "dig" with more columns but u require more pieces.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 14 2012, 11:53 PM

QUOTE(XaeL @ Jun 14 2012, 06:47 PM) *

However for multiplayer, you need higher downstack efficiency to "dig" the same amount of garbage (i.e. u need more pieces to go down). It is easier to "dig" with more columns but u require more pieces.

Widening the playfield would favor downstacking even further. Clearing a garbage row requires one piece. Clearing an upstack row requires x/4 pieces, where x =the number of columns wide. As x increases, the number of pieces needed to clear a row of upstack also increases.

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 15 2012, 12:50 AM

I'm thinking single rather than multi. Just in terms of survival. You aren't telling me that a 3x20 playfield is harder to survive in than 20x20? (I would spawn vertical...)

Posted by: caffeine Jun 15 2012, 12:55 AM

QUOTE(Paul676 @ Jun 14 2012, 07:50 PM) *

I'm thinking single rather than multi. Just in terms of survival. You aren't telling me that a 3x20 playfield is harder to survive in than 20x20? (I would spawn vertical...)

I'm sorry but I fail to see your reasoning. Did you see my post concerning the AI tests?

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 15 2012, 02:11 AM

Yes, they were irrelevant. I don't care how clean the stack is if you wanna tetris. I agree with you on that, it stands to reason. I'm saying that for most people, who can't stack well, a narrower well (we're talking 3 or 4 wide here) is easier to stack in (I'm talking freeform stacking).

Posted by: caffeine Jun 15 2012, 02:17 AM

I'm sorry. I guess I should've been clearer. The AI in question is optimized for survival. It rarely makes Tetrises.

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 15 2012, 02:23 AM

AIs are still irrelevant - I agree with you that if you stack well and, crucially, never misdrop, you're more likely to do well with a wider field. But if you misdrop or stack imperfectly, if you've got a 30 wide field, you'll have greater chance of not making a line. See blockbox co-op (doesn't exist any more) for evidence that a 20 wide well is harder than a 10 wide one..

Posted by: caffeine Jun 15 2012, 02:28 AM

Why is there a greater chance of not making a line in a wider field? If anything, it's easier. With a narrower field, you'll more likely need to stack over the problem area since there are fewer places elsewhere to go.

Also, didn't BB co-op go into 20G? That's more difficult, but not because the field is wider.

The AI example is relevant. The difference in lines between the narrower and wider playfields is significant. Every time I increase the width by two, the lines the AI is able to complete increases by at least an order of magnitude. It can only point to the fact that narrower fields are intrinsically more difficult to survive in. It doesn't have to do with how good the player is. It instead speaks to the nature of geometric tessellation.

Posted by: Paul676 Jun 15 2012, 02:39 AM

We can all agree that 1x20 is easiest. 2x20, assuming non-bastet, is next easiest. Then it gets harder to tell. I think 3x10 is next easiest, because no-one stacks to the top in a 3-wide combo. The highest you're likely to get is 5 lines up, and even then there are really simple rules. 4x10 I'd say is next. Then it gets harder, because what caffeine's saying and what I'm saying balances out. Possibly caffeine, you'd draw the line earlier.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 15 2012, 02:45 AM

1x20 is the most difficult. 6/7ths of the time, the player will top out immediately (if they are able to IRS the first piece). The player will top out 100% of the time by the second piece (in bag games). The same thing happens with 2x20 and 3x20 fields. I just tested the AI in a 4x20, and (as to be expected) it tops out even sooner on average than it does in a 6x20 field.

Edit: I forgot about games that have ARE. If there's ARE and a player can IRS, he can survive at first in 2x20 and 3x20 fields. However, it's simple enough to demonstrate why these super narrow fields are very difficult to survive.




Posted by: Paul676 Jun 15 2012, 02:20 PM

you win

Posted by: XaeL Jun 16 2012, 05:03 AM

QUOTE(Paul676 @ Jun 15 2012, 02:20 PM) *

you win

Its pretty hard to win when you're WRONG lol.

Posted by: Paradox Jun 16 2012, 12:17 PM

I think this thread got off topic

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 16 2012, 01:24 PM

Everybody is sentenced to play EA Tetris.

Posted by: tepples Jun 21 2012, 03:07 PM

Lockjaw has been voluntarily withdrawn pending the appeal of this case. I worry for Emacs.

Posted by: benmullen Jun 21 2012, 09:53 PM

they cant take NES away Wink.png jus sayin

Posted by: Caithness Jun 22 2012, 01:47 AM

You know they would if they could.

Posted by: benmullen Jun 22 2012, 02:19 AM

QUOTE(Caithness @ Jun 22 2012, 01:47 AM) *

You know they would if they could.



I should should quote Charten Heston "Out of mt cold, dead, hands!!!!"

Posted by: XaeL Jun 22 2012, 05:47 AM

QUOTE(tepples @ Jun 21 2012, 03:07 PM) *

Lockjaw has been voluntarily withdrawn pending the appeal of this case. I worry for Emacs.

I'm confused. Whats gonna happen to nullpomino?

Posted by: Confugal Jun 22 2012, 02:34 PM

We can tell the TTC that the functional difference between NPM and their similar games is that NPM doesn't reproduce the "suck" aspect. Honestly, there's a problem when the TTC's multiplayer games feels like an ersatz of a clone.

Posted by: StevieSmiley Jun 23 2012, 04:59 PM

QUOTE(XaeL @ Jun 22 2012, 05:47 AM) *

I'm confused. Whats gonna happen to nullpomino?


Most likely, nothing since nullpomino is offered for free. Also, the playing field can be changed as well as the sheer amount of options that tetris does not offer. ( despite the obvious defaults )

But to be safe, perhaps he should make it a taller playing field as default with no colors on the minos, using those funny 'part pieces' LOL!

Posted by: meow Jun 23 2012, 11:04 PM

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/06/defining-tetris-how-courts-judge-gaming-clones/

Posted by: Magnanimous Jun 24 2012, 04:48 AM

QUOTE(meow's link)
In defending Mino, lawyers for Xio Interactive didn't deny that they were heavily influenced by Tetris, copying almost all of the game's basic elements wholesale. The defense's main argument, instead, was that the things it copied—everything from the shape and color of the blocks and the way that they rotate to the dimensions of the playfield—were actually integral to the underlying rules of the game, and therefore not subject to copyright protection. The argument, basically, was that Tetris is so simple and abstract that every part of the game is a basic "rule" that can be legally copied.

Yeah... I'm not surprised that they lost. At least now we know what not to do.

I would love to have more (default) variations in field dimensions. 10-wide seems pretty much optimal imo, but playing with other sizes is still fun. Changing the dimensions in-game sounds interesting if it's handled right, and I don't think any TTC game has done that.

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Jun 24 2012, 11:54 AM

I don't think TTC would do that - it makes it significantly harder to defend the Tetris brand if you broaden what actually constitutes an official Tetris game.

The main thinking behind the guideline was almost certainly to try and unify for the players what a Tetris game is, but the creation of the guideline also makes it significantly easier to defend games on account of it being a very specific thing. Generally Tetris-y gameplay is hard to defend, but if someone copies the exact specifics of the guideline then it's a far more obvious infringement on intellectual property. Any time they deviate from the guideline they blur what makes an official game.

Posted by: zaphod77 Jun 25 2012, 07:26 PM

A field twice as high as it is wide is scenes a faire. That much is obvious.

THe width of ten for tetris is actually very important.

A multiple of four makes the game foreverable under memoryless randomiser. Hence, 8 or 12 wide is out.

If you make the field width odd, then you are vulnerable to a run of squares ending the game.

So 9 or 11 is out.

So 10 wide and 20 tall really does appear to be the best.

You can tweak the randomizer to make other field widths playable, but the core game was developed with a memoryless one, and said randomizer influences the design.

AS long as the mechanic of clearing horizontal lines by filling them in, which is a core rule of tetris is used, the seven basic shapes and 90 degree rotation are a requirement to have a game that is playable, but not trivial.

The following things are, in my opinion, expression in a tetris style game.

1) rotation system. 90 degree rotation itself is scenes' a faire, but ARS and SRS are very different. The former is not part of the guideline, and is thus fair game i think. Smile.png Alterntive rotation systems, such as DRS have also been made.
2) piece colors. You can make them different easily enough, though making them bright and distinctive is scenes a faire.
3) lockdown system. We have move reset, step reset, entry reset, zero lock delay, etc. Move reset is what the guideline demands currently.
4) Number plus exact position of the piece previews. Moving them elsewhere OR changing the number is not a core rule.
5) scoring system. Scoring is not part of the core rules.
6) level system.


Note that TTC themselves has messed around with a lot of these.

The following are pretty much required for an implementation of the core tetris rules to be any good.

10x20 field
use of the seven tetrominos.
90 degree rotation
At least one piece preview
Lock delay (the days of gravity lock are long past, and nothing without lock delay can compete now)

Notably, the TGM series changes enough to be distinct from Guideline Tetris, and should not require a license from TTC. It shows the creativeity and redesign that Xio claims is not needed, yet still contains the seven basic shapes, the same field size, and all the core rules. HOWEVER, the TGM series is also an authentic tetris game, and thus under their protection somehow.

A game that clones neither the guideline, nor tgm should be in the clear, even if it contains only the seven minos.

The impression I got now was they cloned the guideline, and changes some of the colors. And if that's really all they did, then yeah I can see them losing.

Posted by: XaeL Jun 26 2012, 02:11 AM

QUOTE(zaphod77 @ Jun 25 2012, 07:26 PM) *



A multiple of four makes the game foreverable under memoryless randomiser. Hence, 8 or 12 wide is out.


plz explain

Posted by: Magnanimous Jun 26 2012, 07:39 AM

QUOTE(zaphod77 @ Jun 25 2012, 12:26 PM) *
THe width of ten for tetris is actually very important.

A multiple of four makes the game foreverable under memoryless randomiser. Hence, 8 or 12 wide is out.

If you make the field width odd, then you are vulnerable to a run of squares ending the game.

So 9 or 11 is out.

So 10 wide and 20 tall really does appear to be the best.

lolwat. These are only important if your game lasts millions of pieces... Getting even five squares in a row is super rare with memoryless.

The rest of your post, I agree with.

Posted by: necrosaro Jun 26 2012, 04:40 PM

In my (non-legal-professional) opinion, this case was effectively decided by a few quite basic decisions by the judge. First, here is a reminder of the official statement on how copyright applies to games, from the US Copyright Office (my emphasis):

QUOTE
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.


So the question is: What is this unprotected 'idea for a game' that TTC's "Tetris" embodies, the 'similar principles' that copyright law doesn't prevent others from developing similar games based on? Isn't the idea of the game that TTC's "Tetris" expresses something along the lines of a computer game where you stack a randomly-ordered one-by-one string of the "free tetrominoes" in a vertical rectangular well to form horizontal lines?

Apparently not, said the judge. According to the judge's opinion, the concept of using tetrominoes as game pieces, along with a vertical well, are not part of the general idea for (TTC-brand) Tetris, but rather, form its copyrighted expression. This (in my opinion, overly broad) determination allowed the judge to decide that the unique shape of the (TTC-brand) Tetris pieces and the playfield size are part of its distinctive visual expression, allowing an "ordinary observer" to find "substantial similarity" between (TTC-brand) Tetris and Mino, and thus copyright infringement.

The interesting thing is that there is no evidence or argument behind the judge's decision whether or not to include the set of free tetrominoes or the general shape of the playfield in the 'idea' of TTC-brand Tetris. There was no method cited to determine their inclusion or exclusion, the judge just stated (paraphrase) 'OK guys, I have decided, this is the idea for the game that (TTC-brand) Tetris expresses', leaving no room to scrutinize or argue about the details of what should or should not be the idea.

I expect the process behind the particular determination of this 'idea' to be the main contention of any possible circuit court appeal in this case. If the use of tetromino game pieces was in fact determined to be part of the game's 'idea', I don't think a finding of substantial similarity would have been quite as obvious (because so much of the 'ordinary observer' similarity of the two games at first glance has to do with the shape of the pieces themselves).

There is another contentious point in relation to the 'scenes a faire' concept of the doctrine of merger defense that Xio raised. The judge basically said (paraphrase) "the scenes a faire case law doesn't apply at all here, because Tetris has no relation to the real world and is thus purely fanciful". This statement misinterprets 'fanciful' in the case law to mean 'having no real world representation', where it is actually intended to mean 'more unique and original than a stock or commonplace concept'. This eliminated any consideration of the 'scenes a faire' within commonplace, but non-representational, concepts derived from any existing physical or computer puzzle game genres as having any bearing on this case, which I think was an oversight that we will probably also see Xio argue against in any possible appeal.

Posted by: caffeine Jun 26 2012, 04:52 PM

QUOTE(XaeL @ Jun 25 2012, 09:11 PM) *

plz explain

See http://www.iam.ubc.ca/theses/Brzustowski/brzustowski.html for an explanation of why it is impossible to play forever in a 10 wide field. It has to do with how, inevitably, the memoryless randomizer will produce a sequence of SZSZSZ pieces. You can't just stack them vertically on top of each other since you'll make an odd number of towers for one piece and an even number for the other. This causes an imbalance which isn't sustainable.

Further Tetris maths show that no matter how you stack them, you'll keep making holes until you die (see the thesis for proof). However, if the field is 8 or 12 columns wide, you'll create an even number of S-towers and an even number of Z-towers. You'll be able to survive this particular death sequence.

Posted by: zaphod77 Jun 26 2012, 04:53 PM

QUOTE(XaeL @ Jun 26 2012, 02:11 AM) *

plz explain


What he said. Smile.png

and, well i've gotten long strings of squares in a few older tetris games, especially ones that collect entropy during gameplay instead of just power through their LCG one step at a time.

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 27 2012, 07:16 AM

Tetris Holding argues that Mino infringed the following copyrightable elements:
...
The display of a "shadow" piece beneath the Tetriminos as they fall;
funny because this game do not even have piece shadow
The color change when the Tetriminos enter lock-down mode
if you look closely you will notice that color do not change, but instead there is little glow around active piece (in judge's language "it is different way to express the idea")
The bright, distinct colors used for each of the Tetrimino pieces;
actually in one of two available modes (that's like half of a game, no?) all pieces are in different shades of blue
The way the Tetrimino pieces appear to move and rotate in the playfield;
(not like there is big problem with this one, but rather to made things clear) this game is not any close to SRS (but it has some kind of wallckicks and guideline like initial orientation)

QUOTE
The interesting thing is that there is no evidence or argument behind the judge's decision whether or not to include the set of free tetrominoes or the general shape of the playfield in the 'idea' of TTC-brand Tetris. There was no method cited to determine their inclusion or exclusion, the judge just stated (paraphrase) 'OK guys, I have decided, this is the idea for the game that (TTC-brand) Tetris expresses', leaving no room to scrutinize or argue about the details of what should or should not be the idea.

This is exactly biggest problem i see in judge's reasoning. since when idea of tetris game do not include use of tetrominos? also this definition clearly comes from nowhere.

I suggest mental excercise. Take list of allegy infinging elsemets. remove items that do not apply to mino (like piece shadow), remove items that judge said are core idea of tetris thus not copyrightable (like clearing complete lines), remove things that are also core idea of tetris just for some wierd reason not in judge's tetris definition (use of tetrominos), remove things that apply to most-if-not-all falling puzzle genre (like display of next piece), remove things that can be only done in limited number of ways and ttc used most or all in diffrent products already (like the visual delineation of individual blocks). what lefts?

copyright trolls will troll over copyright. and Rosti will troll in topics like this.

Posted by: necrosaro Jun 27 2012, 04:21 PM

I also find it worth mentioning in detail (although Xio did not assert this in their official defense): Many of the specific items that TTC claimed their game(s) were being infringed were in fact not their original creation, i.e. they were originally introduced in unlicensed or third-party Tetris variants that TTC does not own the copyrights to.

I wanted to make a detailed list of these, so here is a list of the specific copyright infringements TTC claimed in their lawsuit, and the first Tetris game copyrights they were associated with:


Here are some of the other copyrighted features asserted by TTC, and the first versions in which they were asserted (does anyone know of examples of any Tetris variants with these features that predate the games mentioned here?):
And here are the 'core' copyright assertions, that TTC asserted in every variant of Tetris from its inception:
Note that even the judge's (imo overly broad) description of the 'idea' of Tetris implicitly discards most (but not all) of these 'core' assertions from copyright protection (marked with 'x' above):

QUOTE
Tetris is a puzzle game where a user manipulates pieces composed of square blocks, each made into a different geometric shape, that fall from the top of the game board to the bottom where the pieces accumulate. The user is given a new piece after the current one reaches the bottom of the available game space. While a piece is falling, the user rotates it in order to fit it in with the accumulated pieces. The object of the puzzle is to fill all spaces along a horizontal line. If that is accomplished, the line is erased, points are earned, and more of the game board is available for play. But if the pieces accumulate and reach the top of the screen, then the game is over. These then are the general, abstract ideas underlying Tetris and cannot be protected by copyright nor can expressive elements that are inseparable from them.


Taking all of this into account, you can see that the real proper deciding factor in this case is whether the seven tetrominoes, and the long vertical rectangle playing field are properly part of the 'idea' of tetris or only part of its copyrighted expression.

Posted by: bigwig Jun 27 2012, 06:00 PM

Although I do not know when the rule went into effect, the license agreement currently used to allow third party developers to make their own variants stipulates that any innovation in game mode or feature can be used by any other licensed developer.

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 27 2012, 07:40 PM

QUOTE(bigwig @ Jun 27 2012, 08:00 PM) *

Although I do not know when the rule went into effect, the license agreement currently used to allow third party developers to make their own variants stipulates that any innovation in game mode or feature can be used by any other licensed developer.

necrosaro say about unlicenced games in pre-TTC times.

Posted by: XaeL Jun 27 2012, 10:47 PM

QUOTE(necrosaro @ Jun 27 2012, 04:21 PM) *

Many of the specific items that TTC claimed their game(s) were being infringed were in fact not their original creation, i.e. they were originally introduced in unlicensed or third-party Tetris variants that TTC does not own the copyrights to.

I'm pretty sure stealing someones idea and then copyrighting it before they do is fair game.
QUOTE

(One could argue that since there are copyrighted variants of Tetris featuring both delineated and undelineated blocks, one has no choice but to copy one way or another on this point.)


This is EXACTLY TTC's strategy. Copyright EVERYTHING individually, and no matter what "infinite combination" you come up with, TTC has done it before. E.g. Individually delineated (NES) vs non-delineated (GameBoy).

Say hypothetically you have previews. They sue you for having previews because their tetris games have previews.
Say you don't have previews. They sue you for having no previews because they say that their tetris games have no previews, and show a picture of the original tetris.

They have a CRAPLoad of orientation systems: SRS,ARS, NES, Original, etc.
Since they only need to show say 4 to 5 out of 7 of ur starting orientations are the same as yours, and SRS+ARS have already taken all the logical 2-step finesse versions, You can't even make a useful starting orientation without getting sued for that too.
E.g. for 2 step finesse to work, you need flat spawns. Oh wait thats taken by SRS. ok we'll just flip them. OH F*** THATS TAKEN BY ARS.


Well width -> they've got several ranging from 16 to 20. BAM Sue. Goodluck trying to choose something thats 10 wide.

Garbage -> None of their multiplayer games have more than 1 hole, but in the sample case, they claim "garbage with 1 or more holes". Also they use 60% change, change on attack, basically every useful combination has been done in a game so you can't even choose a fair garbage system without infringing.

Posted by: necrosaro Jun 28 2012, 04:05 PM

QUOTE(bigwig @ Jun 27 2012, 06:00 PM) *

Although I do not know when the rule went into effect, the license agreement currently used to allow third party developers to make their own variants stipulates that any innovation in game mode or feature can be used by any other licensed developer.


This may be the case (I haven't read the actual licensing agreement contract being referred to), but unless TTC required the third-party developer to assign the relevant copyright to them (which would be extremely surprising), it would still make it impossible for TTC to include a copyright infringement claim on such feature without ownership of the original copyrighted work in which the feature first appeared. The other possible thing TTC could do in their licensing agreement is force any third-party developer to join TTC in a lawsuit with their respective infringement claims (this might be more plausible, but didn't happen in this case).

QUOTE(XaeL @ Jun 27 2012, 10:47 PM) *

I'm pretty sure stealing someones idea and then copyrighting it before they do is fair game.


Actually no, it's not fair game, nobody can 'copyright an idea before they do'. First of all, an 'idea' can't be copyrighted in the first place (see my previous post on idea vs. expression). But more to the point, these days, copyright is automatic and happens the moment an idea is first set down in a fixed work. The US keeps a copyright registration database, but registering a copyright only gives you extra certification that your work was created / published on certain dates. Even without an official copyright registration, if it can be proved that the original work was indeed created/published first, then the latter work loses any claim to originality it might have asserted.

Something interesting about the Tetris copyrights is that Mirrorsoft has a registered US copyright for their 1988 dubiously-licensed "Tetris: The Soviet Challenge" game, with a publication date (1988-01-28) that actually predates Pajitnov's "Tetris v3.12" (1988-09-01) and "Tetris version 2" (1988-02-24) publication dates (The original "Tetris Version 0" and "Tetris version 1" copyright registrations don't have publication dates, though their creation date is listed as 1985.) This means that according to the US copyright office, the earliest published Tetris game actually belongs to Mirrorsoft, not TTC.

Posted by: XaeL Jun 28 2012, 10:42 PM

QUOTE(necrosaro @ Jun 28 2012, 04:05 PM) *

This may be the case (I haven't read the actual licensing agreement contract being referred to), but unless TTC required the third-party developer to assign the relevant copyright to them (which would be extremely surprising), it would still make it impossible for TTC to include a copyright infringement claim on such feature without ownership of the original copyrighted work in which the feature first appeared. The other possible thing TTC could do in their licensing agreement is force any third-party developer to join TTC in a lawsuit with their respective infringement claims (this might be more plausible, but didn't happen in this case).
Actually no, it's not fair game, nobody can 'copyright an idea before they do'. First of all, an 'idea' can't be copyrighted in the first place (see my previous post on idea vs. expression). But more to the point, these days, copyright is automatic and happens the moment an idea is first set down in a fixed work. The US keeps a copyright registration database, but registering a copyright only gives you extra certification that your work was created / published on certain dates. Even without an official copyright registration, if it can be proved that the original work was indeed created/published first, then the latter work loses any claim to originality it might have asserted.

Something interesting about the Tetris copyrights is that Mirrorsoft has a registered US copyright for their 1988 dubiously-licensed "Tetris: The Soviet Challenge" game, with a publication date (1988-01-28) that actually predates Pajitnov's "Tetris v3.12" (1988-09-01) and "Tetris version 2" (1988-02-24) publication dates (The original "Tetris Version 0" and "Tetris version 1" copyright registrations don't have publication dates, though their creation date is listed as 1985.) This means that according to the US copyright office, the earliest published Tetris game actually belongs to Mirrorsoft, not TTC.


are you saying xio lost coz they had sh** lawyers?

Coz i was surprised by a lot of the arguments that they could have brought up but didnt.

Posted by: Wojtek Jun 29 2012, 12:25 AM

QUOTE(XaeL @ Jun 29 2012, 12:42 AM) *

are you saying xio lost coz they had sh** lawyers?

Coz i was surprised by a lot of the arguments that they could have brought up but didnt.

how do you know what Xio lawyers said? I guess judge verdict document only quote things that support her decision and not things that have not convinced her. This is why Xio sounds so wrong in this document, because point is to show they were wrong. Notice how we don't read much about what Tetris Company said, I guess they are wrong on many things too.

Posted by: XaeL Jun 29 2012, 01:01 AM

QUOTE(Wojtek @ Jun 29 2012, 12:25 AM) *

how do you know what Xio lawyers said? I guess judge verdict document only quote things that support her decision and not things that have not convinced her. This is why Xio sounds so wrong in this document, because point is to show they are wrong. We don't read much about what Tetris Company said, i guess there are also wrong on many things too.

Oh ok

Posted by: necrosaro Jun 29 2012, 04:18 PM

QUOTE(Wojtek @ Jun 29 2012, 12:25 AM) *

how do you know what Xio lawyers said? I guess judge verdict document only quote things that support her decision and not things that have not convinced her. This is why Xio sounds so wrong in this document, because point is to show they were wrong. Notice how we don't read much about what Tetris Company said, I guess they are wrong on many things too.


Xio's defense brief is also public, so you can read what they actually said. Yes, the judge's opinion didn't acknowledge much of their defense, but Xio also focused their brief on the defense that all of Tetris game mechanics are 'functional' and thus uncopyrightable, which allowed the judge to pretty readily decide against them after deciding against that defense. One of the more interesting things I found the defense, however, was that they cited a Parker Brothers puzzle game called http://boardgamegeek.com/image/25752/universe, which I hadn't been aware of before this:

QUOTE
Further consider Parker Brothers’ board game Universe, which has a copyright date of 1967 and has a number of features in common with Tetris- specifically, players rotate and reflect brightly-colored pentominos (whose blocks are individually delineated) and place them on a grid ranging from ten by ten to a larger grid.


Pretty interesting. It seems that there are several other pre-Tetris colored-polyomino tile-placement board games that demonstrate similar principles, such as http://boardgamegeek.com/image/202163/vagabondo?size=medium, for example.

Posted by: gif Aug 4 2012, 08:22 AM

Hmmm http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html


QUOTE

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Aug 4 2012, 10:13 AM

QUOTE(gif @ Aug 4 2012, 08:22 AM) *

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game...

The 'idea' behind Tetris being "you tessellate blocks and they clear lines when you complete them" - it's well stated in the court case that this alone isn't protected

QUOTE(gif @ Aug 4 2012, 08:22 AM) *

...its name or title...

They're covered by trademark law (if you register them, which TTC have), not copyright

QUOTE(gif @ Aug 4 2012, 08:22 AM) *

or the method or methods for playing it

You can hardly copyright "using a keyboard/gamepad", and this was never a point of contention in the Xio case.

QUOTE(gif @ Aug 4 2012, 08:22 AM) *

Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

The key word here being "similar". Not "exactly the same" principles, which is what Mino was judged to be.

But yeah, all of these add up to a general point that if fangame developers put a bit of creativity into the gameplay and interface then as long as they can afford to defend any lawsuit they'd probably be OK. Which has been said before in this thread.

Posted by: Wojtek Aug 4 2012, 11:41 AM

QUOTE(Rosti_LFC @ Aug 4 2012, 12:13 PM) *
...

Mr pretty cool guy, please stop finally, you are making me sick. Somehow this is not how games copyright works outside tetris company. I don't know if you just trolling so hard or what?

Posted by: Rosti_LFC Aug 4 2012, 01:13 PM

QUOTE(Wojtek @ Aug 4 2012, 11:41 AM) *

Somehow this is not how games copyright works outside tetris company.

It totally does work that way outside Tetris. The difference is that most games these days are far more complex and it's far easier to take the basic idea and create something that, while the core gameplay is the same, fundamentally has a different look and feel to it.

Or, alternatively you get games where the concept isn't registered to anyone, so clones are a free-for-all (as is seen with LoL and all the other DotA clones), or where the company which came up with the idea is a fairly small independent venture without the financial ability to sustain a major lawsuit (as is the case for most of the games that Zynga has shamelessly ripped off).

Tetris sits in a fairly unique niche of being one of the few simplistic old-school games that is still being held as intellectual property and is being monetised. Most other games out there are complex enough to allow side-stepping, or are no longer being claimed as IP and are therefore not subject to copyright complaints. And most of the existing lawsuits in this area are from decades ago, where the legal issues around software copyright and software patents weren't so heavily in favour of the original creators.

Regardless of stuff said in this thread, the overlying fact is that the court, what with all its lawyers and judges and whatnot, decided that this is how copyright law works in the US, and until that decision gets overturned I really don't see how a programmer from Poland (who seems to have a penchant for making clones of existing games, and therefore can be said to have considerable bias) can claim to understand the US copyright and surrounding legal system better.

Posted by: Wojtek Dec 18 2012, 04:29 AM

i wonder will taito be sued too?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1B7jxuznYoo

Posted by: zaphod77 Dec 29 2012, 04:11 PM

DOn't you mean will taito sue

But seriously, it seems that TTCs strategy is they own everything in any authentic tetris game. It's right in their guideline document. So yeah, it really looks like their strategy is to be able to point at your tetromino game, and be able to say that every part of it is directly ripped from SOME official game.

Also, it seems that there is a very specific reason TGM was made an Authentic Tetris Game, despite failure to follow the Guideline. Yup, it's because it covers most of the useful deviations from the Guideline. It was not simply them throwing Japan a bone. TTC recognizes that it's a good game, and thus wishes to be able to prosecute those who clone it.

Guideline has flat side down. TGM has flat side up.
Guideline has move rest. TGM has step reset.
Guideline has Cyan i piece. TGM has red I piece.
Guideline has outline ghot. TGM has faded copy ghost.
Guideline has hard drop. TGM has firm drop.
Guideline has SRS. TGM has ARS, which is the most useful rotation system known that doesn't fit it.

I'm not sure Mihara realized what TTC was up to when they made his game Authentic... Note that Mihara is known to respect original tetromino games, such as DTET. He just doesn't want HIS game being cloned.

Posted by: Wojtek Dec 29 2012, 07:15 PM

QUOTE(zaphod77 @ Dec 29 2012, 05:11 PM) *

DOn't you mean will taito sue

no.

Posted by: Paradox Dec 29 2012, 08:13 PM

this has to be one of the worst companies ever lol. Sue everyone remotely similar to tetris, copy other game to use as their own.

Posted by: caffeine Feb 4 2013, 04:29 PM

http://eon.businesswire.com/news/eon/20130204005384/en/Tetris/tetris

Posted by: Barneey Feb 4 2013, 04:39 PM

Rest in pieces

Posted by: XaeL Feb 4 2013, 11:22 PM

QUOTE(zaphod77 @ Dec 29 2012, 04:11 PM) *

Guideline has flat side down. TGM has flat side up.
Guideline has move rest. TGM has step reset.
Guideline has Cyan i piece. TGM has red I piece.
Guideline has outline ghot. TGM has faded copy ghost.
Guideline has hard drop. TGM has firm drop.
Guideline has SRS. TGM has ARS, which is the most useful rotation system known that doesn't fit it.

Exactly.

And for block appearances they have everything too.

Posted by: Sisu Jul 11 2013, 10:34 PM

how long was Mino available on the iTunes store? Undecided.png

Posted by: Sisu Jan 4 2014, 02:27 AM

http://www.cardozoaelj.com/2013/12/23/tetris-holding-v-xio-interactive-isnt-as-great-a-case-as-video-game-developers-think-it-is/#.Usdvq6NlDFp

Posted by: tepples Jan 9 2014, 03:20 AM

Is the Free Software Foundation next? https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/emacs/Amusements.html, and Mr. Pajitnov has in the past http://news.slashdot.org/story/08/02/26/1859249/tetris-creator-claims-foss-destroys-the-market that "free software should never have existed" because it "destroys the market".

Anyway, when I read the opinion (I am not a lawyer), the wording appeared to imply that Tetris Holding's strongest copyright claim is to the set of seven Tetriminos. So here's a workaround:


The result is the piece set shown below, which comes closer to that of Rampart.
Attached Image

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