Patent application title: System and Method to Levy and Collect Taxes in a Virtual Environment
Andrew S. Van Luchene (Santa Fe, NM, US)
Raymond J. Mueller (Palm Beach Gardens, FL, US)
LEVIATHAN ENTERTAINMENT, LLC
IPC8 Class: AA63F924FI
Class name: Including means for processing electronic data (e.g., computer/video game, etc.) with communication link (e.g., television broadcast, etc.) network type (e.g., computer network, etc.)
Publication date: 2008-08-21
Patent application number: 20080200253
Patent application title: System and Method to Levy and Collect Taxes in a Virtual Environment
Andrew S. Van Luchene
Raymond J. Mueller
GONZALES PATENT SERVICES
LEVIATHAN ENTERTAINMENT, LLC
Origin: ALBUQUERQUE, NM US
IPC8 Class: AA63F924FI
A virtual environment in which players are charged and able to charge
taxes for various taxable activities. The tax may be levied by a
governmental authority or other entity or by one or more characters in
the metaverse. The tax may be imposed at the time of a taxable activity,
at periodic intervals, or upon the occurrence of an event. The tax may be
imposed for a specific purpose, e.g. to create a fund to use as insurance
against possible harms, threats, or misdeeds, to protect the tax payers
from impending or realized threats, or for any or no reason.
1. A method comprising:providing a metaverse wherein players interact with
each other and an environment via characters that are physically
manifested in the metaverse as avatars;maintaining a virtual financial
account for a character in the metaverse, wherein the virtual financial
account includes information related to the current amount of available
virtual funds in the character's possession;monitoring the activities of
the character in the metaverse;determining if an activity is
taxable;determining the tax due for the activity; andlevying the tax due
against the financial account.
2. The method of claim 1 further comprising determining if there are sufficient funds in the virtual financial account to cover the tax due.
3. The method of claim 2 further comprising assessing a penalty against the character if there are insufficient funds in the virtual financial account to cover the tax due.
4. The method of claim 3 wherein the penalty is assessment of a real world currency fee against a real world financial instrument associated with the player controlling the character.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein determining the tax due comprises determining a tax rate.
6. The method of claim 5 wherein the tax rate is calculated in real time based on an identified revenue generation goal.
7. The method of claim 5 wherein the tax rate is based on the total wealth of the character.
8. The method of claim 5 wherein the tax rate is based on a player attribute associated with the character, wherein the player attribute is selected from the group consisting of: race, class and skill set.
9. The method of claim 5 wherein the tax rate is based on the age of the character.
10. The method of claim 5 further comprising determining whether the character is a member of a guild and the tax rate is based on the player's guild.
11. The method of claim 1 further comprising determining that the character has created an item.
13. The method of claim 11 further comprising determining that creating the item is a taxable activity.
14. The method of claim 11 further comprising determining that the character has sold the item.
15. The method of claim 14 further comprising determining that selling the item is a taxable activity.
16. The method of claim 14 further comprising:determining that a second character has purchased the item;determining that purchasing the item is a taxable activity; andlevying a tax for the purchase of the item against a financial account associated with the second character.
17. The method of claim 5 wherein the tax rate determined by one or more characters in the metaverse.
18. The method of claim 1 further comprising assessing the tax at the time the taxable activity takes place.
19. The method of claim 1 further comprising assessing the tax at a time after the taxable activity has take place.
20. The method of claim 1 further comprising assessing the tax when the player controlling the character attempts to exit the game.
The present application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/676,848 "Virtual Environment with Alerts" filed Feb. 20, 2007, which is incorporated by reference.
The popularity and growth of online video games is dramatic and continually increasing. Historically, many of these games were single player versions, or were limited the number players in a local or wide area network, including use of the Internet. Modern versions of video games and virtual environments now provide for massive multiplayer online games or MMOGs.
Several of these games now provide opportunities and infrastructure for players to make or exchange virtual and/or real currency, create and own property, including intellectual property and other tangible and intangible assets, and convert these assets including virtual currency, goods and services with actual currency, goods and services.
Anytime there is real economic value to something, e.g., personal assets, there is also a need to provide some level of protection to ensure security of those assets. In the real world, governments are established to provide its citizens with a reasonable degree of security for their assets, such as their homes, cars, intellectual property, etc. The value of intangible assets in the virtual world are no less valuable and are deserving of similar protections in both the real and virtual worlds.
Despite the substantial expansion of the features, functions, uses and applications of these massive, multiplayer games, none have yet to develop, establish or enforce methods to ensure the long-term economic viability of these virtual environments nor for the general security of the assets transferred, purchased or created within them by character players, NPC's or the games themselves.
There is a need for an equivalent or improved virtual governmental agency or system to provide asset registration and protection. As any government requires revenues to sustain itself and the services it provides, there is also a need to collect revenues in the form of taxes or tariffs. Therefore, a method and system to automatically or manually assess, levy, and collect taxes is desirable.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a block diagram depicting a network according to an embodiment of the present disclosure.
In a video game or a MMOG, it is vital that the assets used within the game be protected. In a real world setting, governments are established to provide such protections. Equivalents to such as system are lacking in the virtual world, thereby forcing virtual "citizens" i.e., player characters and/or game manufacturers to seek real-world resolutions to disputes occurring in the virtual world. In an embodiment of the present invention, game objects or other assets (whether possessing real world value or not) are protected by a virtual government, with virtual and real-world enforcement methods.
To support the virtual government and to provide it with sufficient power to deliver these protections, as with any real world government, sources of revenues and the collection of these revenues, i.e., Taxes, are necessary. Accordingly, according to one embodiment of the present disclosure, player characters or Entities may be assessed a Tax. The Calculated Tax Amount may be levied against the appropriate entity(ies) and collected via manual or automated methods, as described in greater detail below.
For the purposes of the present disclosure:
Turn--may include the completion of one "cycle of game play" which may include any one or more of the following: the start and end of one action, sequence of actions, or achievement of a goal, and/or the completion of these by more than one player, and/or a set or variable amount of game play time by one or more player characters, and/or any point defined in a game or MMOG whereby one or more Player Characters (and/or NPC's) ceases action and another takes control, etc.
Tax--may include any compulsory or other financial obligation including any payment, fine or involuntary fee levied upon and/or paid by or extracted or otherwise collected from individuals, character players, NPC's, game manufacturers or any other Entity, to a third party, including other character players, a government (real or virtual), e.g., to a federal, state, or local government (real or virtual) or to functional equivalents of (real or virtual) federal, state, or local governments, including cities, tribes, secessionist movements or revolutionary movements, dictators, monarchs, and like.
Tax Basis--may include the value upon which a tax is calculated or determined, and may include any one or more of the purchase price, development cost, market value, present value, depreciated value, replacement value, or any other method to determine an object's value and/or may include an income amount, either onetime or periodic income, such as monthly or annual income.
Tax Rate--may include either a percentage or fixed or variable dollar amount.
Calculated Tax Amount--may include, for example, the product of the Tax Basis multiplied by a Tax Rate, or any other total tax amount as calculated by multiplying a Tax Rate times a Tax Basis, or by adding up fixed or variable dollar Taxes for a given period of time.
Governing Authority--may include any one or more Player Characters and/or Entities and/or software routine(s), duly established by any one or more of the majority or supermajority of Player Characters, Entities, etc., and/or the game manufacturer, and/or any other body appointed, anointed, elected or otherwise charged with the duty and responsibilities to (including but not limited to): a) Define Tax Basis and/or Rates, b) Establish Tax Rules or Laws, c) Determine Total Taxes, Fines, Interest and/or penalties, d) Collection of Taxes, e) imposition of other fines, charges, fees, penalties, f) repossession of goods, objects, or other assets including tangible and intangible property, g) enforcing any one or more of the proceeding or any other laws, taxes, etc.
Grievance Types--may include any type of complaint one or more Player Characters and/or NPC's and/or Entities may lodge against one or more related or third party Player Characters and/or NPC's and/or Entities including, but not limited to any one or more of the following types: a) failure to perform according to an executed contract, b) failure to deliver a good, object or service when promised or as planned, c) making false or fraudulent statements in a contract or binding agreement, d) libel or slander, e) destruction of property, f) violation of any valid law, ruling, court order, game rules, or any other rule, law or ordinance then validly in effect, g) delivery of a good, object or service with poor quality or workmanship, including build quality, materials quality, software design flaws or errors, or h) any other failing that results in lost income, wages, skill levels and/or use of the good, object or service, or any portion or measurable percentage of usage or effectiveness of same.
Entity--may include any one or more of a Character Player, NPC, game manufacturer, software developer, in-game business, or any other individual or entity that interacts with or plays a game, or provides or manufactures game objects or any other game (real or imaginary, or virtual) assets, or any individual or groups of individuals or groups of Character Players, that create or otherwise generate real or virtual currency (or money) or other value (tangible or intangible). If only Player Character or Entity is referenced, it may mean Player Character and/or Entity.
Virtual Title may include a software module or application or any portion thereof and/or a record in a database that indicates, stores, tracks or otherwise documents the virtual owner or owners of one or more virtual items. In an embodiment, c. Characters cannot use a virtual item unless they are first registered on the virtual title. A fee can be paid to transfer title of the item to another character.
Virtual Activity may include any activity of a player or player character that can be measured by the game server or other application.
Notification methods may include but are not limited to: a. Email message b. Telephone or cell phone c. Instant Message d. Text Message e. Physical Mail f. Writing a record or entry to a file or database g. Voice mail message h. Pager i. Graphic, text or audio message delivered by the game on screen to the receiving player and/or delivered by another character, or NPC j. Any combination of any of the above.
Alert may include the transfer or storage of information or otherwise communicating with, by, between or among any two or more of the following, including, but not limited to any real or virtual: a) players, b) game owners, c) game or other servers, d) player characters, e) NPC's, f) exchanges, g) game devices or controllers, h) cell phone or other communications hardware and/or networks, i) databases, j) software applications, k) legal agencies, 1) governing bodies, m) software interfaces, n) and/or any combination of any of the above, which may be initiated by and/or based upon an alert event or other action. Examples of systems in which alerts may be used in connection with virtual environments and metaverses are described, for example, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/676,848, which is incorporated by reference above.
Virtual Purchase Total may include the total virtual cash or cash equivalent needed to purchase a virtual item or attribute at or from a virtual shop or bank in a MMPOG.
Alert Event may include any change in, of or to any condition or state, and includes any action, opposite action, unexpected action, desire for action, or failure to act, and thus Alert Event includes, but is not limited to any one or more of: 1. When or after any one or more variables or data changes or is expected or is about to change within a game application, service, API, communications network or one or more databases, or database variables or element, e.g., a balance is reached or exceeded, including, but not limited to: a. time a player or character account has been active or inactive b. number of complaints or compliments by other players/characters for a given player/character c. amount of time and/or quality and/or number of times a player or player character has provided assistance or other help or tutelage to another player and/or player character d. amount of time and/or quality and/or number of times a player or player character spends managing, directing or otherwise controlling one or more NPC's e. attributes and virtual assets or debts of the player/character f. player or character total or frequency of purchases of virtual cash outside or within the game environment g. number of loans and contracts that the character has outstanding and/or their balances h. payment history and timeliness of payments for any loans or other payment obligations, e.g., tax or other fee payment history i. guild or family of the player or character j. number of times the character has defaulted or paid timely on a loan or other contract k. age of the player account l. age of the player m. real world credit scores, points, creditworthiness or payment history n. experience level of the player or one or more of his characters o. annual income of the player or one or more of his character p. payment history of the character q. production level of the character, e.g., ability or historical performance in producing objects within the game r. Current assets or liabilities, e.g., net worth of a player character s. The number of active characters in a player account t. The size of the character's guild or family in the game environment u. The age of the account of the player v. The virtual transaction volume of the character or player w. Membership status of the character, e.g., premium member vs. basic member of the video game or credit card holder status, e.g., gold or platinum members x. Age of the video game or credit card account, y. Killing monsters in a game environment z. Joining a Guild in a game environment aa. Completing a quest in a game environment bb. Solving or completed a game parameter in a game environment cc. Paying a bill timely dd. Failure to pay a bill when due ee. Randomly ff. Any activity or outcome or expected or desired or undesirable outcome within the game or associated with the player's and/or the any one or more of the player character's financial condition (real or virtual) and/or the credit card(s) and/or credit line(s) gg. How many times the player or player character requests credit or such credit is checked or held or is otherwise encumbered hh. A range of amounts or values or reaching or falling below a threshold associated with any of the above (as appropriate) ii. When or after information is transmitted and/or shared (e.g. via a communications package or other mechanism) between two or more applications, game services, servers, financial institutions, or any other entities, e.g., a message sent between two servers to settle a debt or payment. jj. When or after a step or procedure (e.g., of software, a script, a user-defined process) is executed, e.g. when a penalty or interest amount is charged to an account, or an action is taken by or within a game. kk. When or after an application or service (e.g., a software service) is started, paused, stopped, proceeds to a certain point, or is changed. ll. When or after an item becomes or may become available for use or sale by an NPC or Player Character and/or at any given point during construction of the item, e.g., at a construction milestone. mm. When or after a character has reached or may reach a certain level or has started and/or completed a certain mission or game objective or goal within a mission. nn. When or after a player has obtained or may obtain or fails to obtain a certain attribute or resource. oo. When or after a player is logged into or out of the game or another participating game, e.g., when a friend logs into a particular game, and/or when a player remains logged in or out for a given period of time. pp. When or after a character or NPC has been created, modified, harmed, killed or destroyed in a game, and/or some other action is taken by or otherwise affects or should have affected one or more player or player characters. qq. When or after a player's account or any attribute of any player character is and/or any of his financial data or other information that may be or should have been changed, added to or removed, lost or damaged. rr. When or after a price, fee, tax, or other financial amount changes or should have changed (e.g., increases or decreases or is established or eliminated, or is expected, calculated or projected to change). ss. A trend changes or should or should not have changed or is expected to change, e.g., a particular rate of spending increases or decreases. tt. A battle or wager is or should or should not have or is expected to be started, won or lost, or an interim objective is achieved or is not achieved. uu. An object or service should or should not be or is made available for sale or the price changes or is about to or is otherwise expected to change. vv. A marketing offer should or should not be or is generated, determined or presented. ww. A player should or should not or otherwise joins or retires from a game. xx. A player fails to or completes a task, level, challenge, duty, service, mission, etc. yy. A new game or version of an existing game should or should not be or is brought online or offline or is available or not available for play. zz. A game should or should not be or is or is expected to be turned off for servicing or is no longer available for play (temporarily or permanently, to some, certain or all players). aaa. A tax amount or rate should be, should not be or is created, changed, deleted, reached, falls below or increased or decreased by an amount or percentage or may soon change or is expected to change. bbb. An item or object is expected to and/or should or should not be or is otherwise identified, stolen, found, created, bought, sold, encumbered, used, deployed, returned, compromised, modified or destroyed. ccc. One more players and/or servers and/or applications wishes, determines or requests or should or expected to wish, determine or request to notify another one or more players and/or servers and/or applications via an alert message or messages and/or when or if a player responds or fails (or should fail) to respond to an alert. ddd. When a player is expected or should or should not be or is logged in to a system (e.g., the virtual world, an external instant messenger system). eee. When a date and/or time approaches, is reached or is past. fff. When a virtual auction should or should not or does start or is ending or has ended. ggg. When an item within a virtual auction should or should not or does come up for bid or has been sold or has not been sold. hhh. When payment is made or is or will, or should or should not become due for a virtual purchase or on any loan and/or when one or more payments are missed, or based upon a payment term, condition or type. iii. When a loan penalty or interest is or should or should not be applied. jjj. When or after a reward or point should or should not be or is assigned to a financial account or when or after a certain threshold is or should or should not be reached, e.g., when a player accrues sufficient points to purchase a desired item. kkk. When a player should or should not or is expected or otherwise opens, closes or applies for a loan and/or makes or fails to make a payment on a loan and/or makes the wrong or unexpected payment on a loan. lll. When the credit score, credit history or risk profile of a player or player character is updated or changed or changed a certain percentage. mmm. When or after one or more player characters, NPC's or any other real or virtual person or item moves from one (real or virtual) position to another, or from one position to a specific position, or plans to use, applies for, is expected to use or fail to use, or uses one path vs. an expected or required path, or deviates from one path to another path, or proceeds faster or slower than required or expected or not at all. nnn. The negative or opposite of any one or more of the forgoing. ooo. A partial occurrence or greater occurrence or outcome of any one or more of the forgoing. ppp. A change in the rate or frequency of any one or more of the forgoing. qqq. And/or any one or more or any combination of any of the above, which are collectively referred to as an "alert event".
Credit Card--includes a credit instrument issued by a real or virtual world institution to a player that allows the player to make purchases by providing an account identifier (e.g. a credit card number) rather than cash or other currency. An example is a credit card like those issued by Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. For the purposes of the present disclosure, the term "Credit card" is intended in a very broad sense and is not limited to those situations in which a player's purchases are made on credit (i.e. where payments for those purchases is not due until a later time) but also includes financial instruments such as debit cards, check cards, lines of credit and the like.
Virtual credit card--a financial instrument issued in a virtual environment that acts in the virtual environment for virtual currency the way a real world credit card acts in the real world for real currency.
Real Cash Value--the value in real dollars of the virtual currency. This value can be determined by multiplying the value of a virtual currency amount by the current exchange rate to real dollars.
Total virtual obligation amount--includes the total amount of the virtual financial obligation(s) associated with a player character's account.
Virtual Contract--an enforceable agreement between a first player character and either another player character, a game server, or a third party. Some examples of virtual contracts are provided in U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/652,036, and U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/279,991, 11/621,050, 11/355,232, abd 11/624,662 each of which are hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
Virtual World--may include a world created in an online game such as World of Warcraft, or a virtual community such as Second Life, Eve or There.com.
Virtual Creditor--may include a first player character or other entity who is owed a virtual obligation by a second player character.
Virtual Credit Score--may include a score given to player characters in a video game based on one or more of the following criteria: the virtual assets they possess, the age of the character account, the type of account, e.g. basic or premium, the available credit line of the credit card associated with the account, the existing virtual financial obligations of the player character account, the player character's payment history including days to pay, amounts overdue or delinquent, and/or the player character's real world credit score, and/or the factors used in the real world to determine a credit score.
Virtual Financial Account--may include a virtual account issued to a player character by a virtual bank, game server or third party where virtual cash can be deposited and withdrawn.
Virtual Financial Obligation--may include an agreement by a player character or entity to pay one or more game attributes to another player character, entity or game server.
Virtual Financial Intermediary--may include institutions such as, but not necessarily limited to, depository institutions, contractual savings institutions, and investment intermediaries which offer financial products and services for use within the virtual environment. The various financial intermediaries available in the virtual environment may each serve different or overlapping purposes and provide means for using, saving, borrowing and transferring currency.
Virtual Financial Obligation Value--may include the "in game" or virtual value of an obligation. For virtual cash (or other currency) the value may be stated as a virtual and/or real cash (or other currency) amount. For other game attributes, the value can be determined by generating a virtual cash market value for the item based on the current value in an online marketplace or exchange.
Billing Information--may include any information pertaining to billing a player for activities related to a game or virtual environment, including, but not necessarily limited to, playing the game, accessing the game, purchasing goods or services, etc. Billing information may include such real world information as a billing address, credit card account number, bank account number, pay pal account number or other payment facilitator, or the account number of any other financial entity providing a real world credit line or any other payment-related information.
Character or "player character"--may include a persona in a video game that is created and controlled by a player.
Avatar--the virtual representation of a player character.
Character Account--may include an account that tracks character attributes.
Character Attribute--includes any quality, trait, feature or characteristic a particular Character can have that is stored in the corresponding Character Account. Character Attributes may include, but are not be limited to: 1. A character score 2. A virtual object 3. The physical appearance of a character 4. An emblem or mark 5. A synthetic voice 6. Virtual currency 7. Virtual help points or credits 8. The ability to join groups of other players at a later time 9. A score for subsequent matching of later game parameters 10. A relationship with another character 11. A genetic profile or makeup 12. A skill or skill level 13. A ranking
Character Life--a fixed or variable, finite or infinite period of virtual or real world time that a player character can exist in a game environment.
Character Skills--includes game attributes inherent in or acquired by a player character during game play such as, but not limited to: the ability to cast (certain) spells, foretell the future, read minds, use (certain) weapons, cook, hunt, find herbs, assemble herbs into potions, mine, assemble objects into other objects, fly, and/or enchant other player characters.
Computer Generated (CGC) or Non-Player (NPC) Character--includes any character that is created and/or controlled by the game system and/or a computer program and/or rules established by the game system and/or a player and not by a player on a continuous basis. Under some circumstances, NPCs may be initially created or controlled by a player for limited periods of time.
Game performance parameter--includes any aspect of a Video Game by which a player character's performance can be measured. Game Parameters shall include, but not be limited to: 1. Completing all or part of a mission 2. Playing for a certain period of time 3. Winning a match against another player character or computer generated character 4. Reaching a certain level or score 5. using or obtaining an ability or technology 6. kill/death ratios 7. obtaining, creating or modifying an object 8. solving a puzzle 9. accuracy with weapons 10. effective use of the proper weapon 11. killing a certain character/creature 12. getting through or to a certain geographic area 13. decreasing or increasing Karma Points 14. getting, buying, exchanging or learning a new skill or player attribute 15. having a child 16. getting married 17. obtaining, buying, trading, producing or developing raw materials 18. producing goods or services 19. earning income 20. earning a higher rank in an army 21. winning an election among two or more player characters 22. achieving deity or other status 23. improving player character status or caste 24. assisting other player characters with any of the above 25. speed of accomplishing or changing the rate or trends of any or all of the above.
In-game Marketplace--a virtual environment where Characters can exchange items, attributes, or any other exchangeable game element.
Novice Player--any player who would generally be considered to be a "beginner" at playing the game, includes, for example, a player that is identified as requiring the help of an expert to complete a Game Parameter.
Player--a person who controls a character in a video game or other virtual environment; includes an individual who can register an account with a Video Game Central Server or within a peer-to-peer network and create Characters that can interact with other Characters in a Virtual Environment, and/or that can authorize a NPC to act on the player's behalf.
Player Account--a database, file, program, or the like that maintains player related information including, but not limited to, personal, billing, and character account information. The database, file, program etc. may be computer implemented and may reside on a Video Game Central Server or within a peer-to-peer network that hosts or manages a video game or other virtual environment.
Player Attribute--includes any attribute that can be applied to a player account. Player Attributes shall include, but not be limited to: 1. Real Currency. 2. Discount of monthly fees for playing game. 3. Monthly fee for playing a game. 4. Interest rates for use of or borrowing real or virtual cash amounts. 5. Global character attribute settings for all characters created by player across multiple games. 6. Rewards for encouraging another player to signup to play.
Video Game--a game played on a Video Game Console that may or may not be networked to a Video Game Central Server or within a peer-to-peer network. A video game may also include a metaverse or virtual environment in which players are able to interact with each other and/or the environment, without necessarily competing against each other or any thing.
Video Game Console--a device that allows a player to access a video game. A video game console may, but does not necessarily, comprise a CPU, memory and optional permanent storage residing at a player location that can allow for the playing of video games. Examples include, home PCs, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony Playstation.
Video Game Central Server--a CPU, memory and permanent or temporary storage that is in communication with or capable of communicating with multiple Video Game Consoles so that multiple players can access and play a video game. The multiple players may or may not be in different locations.
Massive multi player online games (MMOGs) or massive multi-player role-playing games (MMORPGs) are computer game which are capable of supporting hundreds, thousands, or millions of players simultaneously. Typically, this type of game is played in a giant persistent world where the game continues playing regardless of whether or not real players are logged in. Players commonly access these games through a network such as the Internet, and may or may not be required to purchase additional software or hardware in order to play the game. Such networks allow for people all over the world to participate and interact with each other in a virtual environment. The present disclosure provides systems and methods which contribute to the evolution and longevity of such a game.
The herein described aspects and drawings illustrate components contained within, or connected with other components that permit play in the virtual environment. It is to be understood that such depicted designs are merely exemplary and that many other designs may be implemented to achieve the same functionality. Any arrangement of components to achieve the same functionality is effectively associated such that the desired functionality is achieved. FIG. 1 provides an exemplary network which may be used to support a virtual environment.
Referring to FIG. 1, a network system 10 according to one embodiment includes a central server 20 in communication with a plurality of video game playing units 18. Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that any number of video game playing units may be in communication with the central server. Typically, the number of video game playing units changes at various times as players join games and as players stop playing games. Similarly, more than one server may operate to coordinate the activities of the video game playing units, as is well known in the art.
Central server 20 may comprise any computing device (e.g., one or more computers) capable of communicating with other computing devices. The server 20 typically comprises a processor which is in communication with a storage device, such as an appropriate combination of RAM, ROM, hard disk, and other well known storage media. Central server 20 may comprise one or more personal computers, web servers, dedicated game servers, video game consoles, any combination of the foregoing, or the like.
Each video game device 18 may comprise any device capable of communicating with central server 20, providing video game information to a player, and transmitting the player's desired actions to the central server. Each video game device typically comprises a processor which is in communication with a storage device, such as an appropriate combination of RAM, ROM, hard disk, and other well known storage media. Suitable video game devices include, but are not limited to, personal computers, video game consoles, mobile phones, and personal data assistants (PDAs).
Some or all of video game 17 can be stored on central server 20. Alternatively, some or all of video game 17 may be stored on the individual video game devices 18. Typically, the video game devices are able to communicate with one another. Such communication may or may not be facilitated by central server 20. Accordingly, a player 19a accessing video game 17 via game device 18a may be able to play with a player 19b accessing video game 17 via game device 18b. As shown, it may be possible for multiple players (e.g. 19c, 19d) to access central server 20 via the same game device (e g. 18c).
Regardless of whether video game 17 is stored on central server 20 or video game devices 18, server 20 is typically configured to facilitate play of the game between multiple game players.
Those having skill in the art will recognize that there is little distinction between hardware and software implementations. The use of hardware or software is generally a choice of convenience or design based on the relative importance of speed, accuracy, flexibility and predictability. There are therefore various vehicles by which processes and/or systems described herein can be effected (e.g., hardware, software, and/or firmware) and that the preferred vehicle will vary with the context in which the technologies are deployed.
At least a portion of the devices and/or processes described herein can be integrated into a data processing system with a reasonable amount of experimentation. Those having skill in the art will recognize that a typical data processing system generally includes one or more of a system unit housing, a video display device, memory, processors, operating systems, drivers, graphical user interfaces, and application programs, interaction devices such as a touch pad or screen, and/or control systems including feedback loops and control motors. A typical data processing system may be implemented utilizing any suitable commercially available components to create the gaming environment described herein.
As stated above, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure, player characters or Entities are assessed a Tax. The Calculated Tax Amount is levied against the appropriate entity(ies) and collected via manual or automated methods, such as those described below.
For example, after each "Turn" in a game, a Tax may be levied and the Tax Basis might be the difference in net worth of a Player Character before and after a Turn. Other examples include Taxes based upon any one or more of: a) The gross or net income of one or more Player Characters, or other Entities, b) The number or value of objects created, or c) The number of hours or value or charges associated with services rendered by one Entity to another Entity during a Turn, or at set or variable times or dates during game play.
The Tax Basis, Tax Rate or Amounts and/or the Total Calculated Tax Amount(s) may be fixed and/or variable and may be assessed at any time, including at the beginning, middle or end of the Game or any Turn, all depending upon or based on the taxing authority's need or desire for revenue. The need for revenue may be driven, for example, by a desire from a government entity to provide adequate protection to the Player Characters, or other related or third party Entities. However, alternative motives, including greed, infrastructure creation, etc. or no motive at all may exist.
If the motive is to protect a population, the amount of protection available within an MMOG or other game may depend upon the amount of Tax revenues collected and available to provide such protections.
The Tax Rates may be automatically calculated and assessed or the rates may be pre-established by the game manufacturer, and/or by the players themselves, either under a democracy, wherein each Entity may have equal or disproportional voting rights, and/or under a representative government, whereby the Player Characters or other Entities vote for a smaller subset of Player Characters who, in turn, make decisions on behalf of their constituents.
In an embodiment, Tax Rates are automatically determined by first determining the level of total tax revenues required to provide sufficient insurance or guarantees that any given Player Characters' objects or other in-game assets are adequately protected. In this case, the system multiplies the total value of all assets times a rate to purchase third party, real-world insurance, in sufficient quantity to protect all game assets. Sufficient insurance may be purchased to guard any one or more of the game's or Character Player's: a) hardware, b) software, c) assets, e.g., game objects, d) income sources, e) virtual or game based insurance, f) escrowed funds, assets, etc., g) outcomes of game or Character Player, or NPC or other Entity supplied goods, objects, services, funds transfer, insurance, and the like, and/or h) any other tangible or intangible asset, including, but not limited to a patent, service, trade name or trademark, song, software component or module, report, information, data, whether real or imaginary or otherwise.
In another embodiment, Tax Rates are fixed by the game manufacturer and periodically levied and collected from the Player Characters all according to rules, times and rates established by the game manufacturer.
In yet another embodiment, Tax Rates are established, either one time, or periodically by the Player Characters and/or their representatives and collected at the times and from the Entities determined by the Player Characters and/or their duly authorized representatives.
According to one embodiment, however calculated, levied and apportioned, when joining a game or MMOG, players, characters and/or other entities, agree to be bound by the terms and conditions that have been established, whomever by.
Furthermore, these agreements may include cross-game enforcement and recognition provisions. In such cases, the Player Characters and/or other Entities may agree that income, debts, taxes, etc., generated in one game, may be delivered, assessed or collected in another game. For example, if a Player Character fails to pay any debts or Taxes when due in one game, that game may submit a request for payment from any other games that have similarly agreed to be bound by these terms and conditions, and, assuming adequate financial means are present in said second game, payment may be manually or automatically transmitted from one game to the other.
According to an embodiment, players, characters, and/or entities may agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of the game as established and/or as revised from time-to-time. In some embodiments, this acknowledgment is created as a "real world" contract wherein players, characters and/or other entities, agree to secure their financial obligations, using a credit card or other real world financial instrument(s). This may be a credit instrument issued by a third party financial institution such as Visa or MasterCard, or it may be any other trusted financial institution, including, banks, insurance companies, or perhaps new institutions established by the game manufacturers and/or players or other entities.
According to an embodiment, enforcement or collection of a Tax from a Player Character or other Entity may be accomplished by any one or more of: a) a charge against the Player Character's (or applicable Entities') credit card, b) repossession of an asset, game object or part of an asset or game object, c) prevention of further use of an asset or object or part of an asset or object, d) eviction from a property or depriving a Player Character or Entity the use or access to a property or part of a property or structure or part of a structure, e) suspension of authorized access to all or part of the game space and/or access to any other participating game or MMOG in a network of games, f) a lien on an asset, g) preclusion of a Character Player or other Entity from continuing to provide a good or service or collection of any income or other compensation for any such goods or services, removing real or virtual currency from a Character Player's or other Entities' game accounts (e.g., bank accounts, or scores), or i) by causing the death of a Player Character or other Entity or by threatening or performing any of the aforementioned actions within the game and/or any other third party game that is participating in a network of games or MMOG's wherein the Player Character and/or third party Entity maintains any form of tangible or intangible assets and/or where additional credit or other financial instruments are accessible.
According to some embodiments, in the event that a Player Character or third party Entity is delinquent on any payment when due, in addition to the collection methods defined above, collection may be effected by: a) submission of the debt to a collection agency (real or imaginary), in which case, the debt may be collected from the indebted party from real world sources of income, and/or from real sources within the game or from those of other participating games. Exemplary systems and methods for effecting a virtual collection agency are described, for example, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/693,549, which is hereby incorporated by reference.
An example of the use of a tax within a game might be as follows: In Second Life, if a Player Character creates a new object for another Player Character, the first Player Character might charge $100 LD for the Object. In this example, the majority of Player Characters (or the Second Life game itself) has determined that, on average, ten percent of goods and services turn out to be fraudulent and/or defective, therefore a Tax Rate of 10% is assessed on all financial transactions. Therefore, in this example, the first Player Character (or alternatively the second Player Character) is assessed a Tax of 10% of the total transaction, or, $10 LDs. This fee is collected at the time of the transaction from the owing Player Character and kept in a general or segregated fund. These funds may then be used in the future by the game to provide security or assurances for other Player Character transactions.
In one embodiment, in the event that a Player Character discovers that a good, object or service does not satisfy the original commitment, that Player Character may lodge a complaint against the Player Character providing the good, object or service. The Player Character providing such good, object or service may then respond to the complaint and respond to an arbiter or other body established, such as a court, to determine which Player Character's position holds true.
In the event that the Player Character who supplied the good, object or Service is found at fault, any one or more actions may be taken including, but not limited to,: a) remit the funds to the Player Character not at fault, b) levy a fine or Tax against the at fault Player Character, c) impose additional charges or fines for damages or punitive damages, d) collect funds and/or fines and/or damages using a credit card or other financial instrument and/or from real or imaginary currency or funds maintained in an account of the at fault Player Character, e) temporarily or permanently preclude the at fault Player Character from creating, selling or otherwise providing said goods, objects and/or services, and/or temporarily or permanently banning said Player Character from providing any goods, objects or services, f) temporarily or permanently preclude the at fault Player Character from receiving income, funds or other remuneration from any other Player Characters or Entities, or g) any other form of fine, penalty, or modification to the at fault Player Character's ability to play the game or any affiliated game, and/or reduce that at fault Player Character's skill or performance levels, h) repossess the at fault Player Character's goods or objects or other tangible or intangible property to pay a debt, fine or damages, i) collect additional fines or Taxes to compensate the other Player Character for time or lost revenues and/or legal fees, etc., or j) any combination of any two or more of these actions.
In the event that the Player Character who ordered the good, object or service is found to have made a false or otherwise unfounded claim any one or more actions may be taken including, but not limited to: a) Charge the accusing Player Character for time or wages lost, damages, legal and/or court fees, etc, or the amount requested in a counter claim, if any, or b) Record the event in the Player Character's database, or c) Preclude or prevent the Player Character from filing any further grievances for a specified period time, which time may or may not be pre-established or set by the game manufacturer or the majority or supermajority of other Player Characters or based upon the severity of the false claim, or the amount of the claim, or a percentage of the claim, etc., or d) temporarily or permanently preclude the at the Player Character from receiving income, funds or other remuneration from any other Player Characters or Entities, or e) any other form of fine, penalty, or modification to the Player Character's ability to play the game or any affiliated game, and/or reduce the Player Character's skill or performance levels, f) repossess the Player Character's goods or objects or other tangible or intangible property to pay a debt, fine or damages, g) collect additional fines or Taxes to compensate the other Player Character for time or lost revenues and/or legal fees, etc., or h) any combination of any two or more of these actions.
According to some embodiments, if a Governing Authority is unable to collect any amount when due from a Player Character, Entity, defendant or complainant, it may impose and/or enforce other penalties, including, for example, preventing further game play (either temporarily, or until all fines are paid with interest and any other charges, or permanently), and/or reducing or otherwise impeding the Player Character or Entities' ability to effectively play the game (temporarily or permanently or until such time as all fines and penalties have been collected, or for any other proscribed period of time), and/or repossess objects, goods, or other tangible or intangible property.
Accordingly, system 10 may be configured to perform the various functions described above may incorporate one or more servers capable of running any number and/or combination of software modules configured to perform various tasks. Exemplary combinations of servers and software modules useful for the presently-described system include:
A Central Server hosting or in electronic communication with: 1. Game Program 2. Game Databases 3. Billing Program 4. Credit Program 5. Tax Program 6. Notification Program 7. Enforcement Program
A Game Console hosting or in electronic communication with: 1. Game Program
System 10 may further include a number of databases configured to store and associate the various types of data that are used by the system to perform the functions described above. Exemplary databases useful for the presently-described system include:
Player or Entity Database 1. Player GUID 2. Player Name 3. Player Address 4. Player Billing/Collections Information 5. Player Character GUID(s) 1-N
Character Database 1. Character GUID 2. Asset Registry w/Value 1-N 3. Saved Game Result(s) 1-N 4. Fines/Penalties Due 1-N 5. Grievance ID 6. Penalty Amount Due 7. Penalty Due Date 8. Interest If Overdue 9. Other Penalties if unpaid
Grievance Types Database 1. Grievance Type ID 2. Grievance Type Title 3. Grievance Type Descriptor 4. Fines/Penalties For At Fault Player 1-N 5. Other Penalties If Fines Not Paid 1-N
Case Database 1. Case GUID 2. Complainant GUID 1-N 3. Defendant GUID 1-N 4. Grievance Type 1-N 5. Complainant Case Notes 6. Defendant Case Notes 7. Notices 1-N 8. Outcomes and Penalties 1-N
Laws/Rules Database 1. Law or Rule GUID 2. Law or Rule Title 3. Law or Rule Descriptor 4. Law or Rule Fines, Penalties, Consequences 1-N 5. Law or Rule Interpretation Guidelines 1-N
Accordingly, a system such as that described herein will be configured to perform various functions, such as those described above, by performing various method steps in order to accomplish one or more given tasks. Non-limiting examples of methods that may be performed by a system and the steps that the system may execute in order to perform these methods are described below:
Enforce tax penalties: 1. Receive Grievance from one or more Player Characters, NPC's or Entities (individually or collectively a "complainant"). 2. Determine grievance type lodged against any one or more Player Characters, NPC's or Entities (individually or collectively the "defendant") 3. Receive the complainant's case 4. Receive the defendant's response 5. Determine the at fault player Character or Entity, or percentage of fault among multiple complainant's and/or defendants. 6. Determine the Tax, fine or other charges/penalties 7. Notify all parties 8. Record the outcome and total charges, fines, penalties, etc. 9. Receive or Collect the charges, fines, penalties, etc. or 10. Enforce other penalties.
Enforce and Levy Taxes 1. Determine Tax Basis 2. Determine Tax Rate 3. Determine Tax Frequency 4. Determine Calculated Total Tax 5. Notify Player Character and/or Entities of Tax 6. Receive or Collect the Tax or 7. Enforce other penalties for non-payment of Tax(es)
According to another embodiment, the present disclosure provides methods and systems to provide access to a massive multi player online game in exchange for monthly virtual cash payments that are secured with a real world credit card. For example, a game provider or third party service charges its players a percentage virtual tax or commission based on some or all of one or more or any combination of the player's: activity, property, assets, skills, account type, family, and/or credit history in the game. This charge may be applied in lieu of or in addition to charging a fixed monthly or other fees to play. For example, Player Characters produce attributes that, when sold (or traded, disposed of or modified), can be taxed by the game environment. Player Characters may also receive income from services or as otherwise provide by or generated within the game, which income may also be taxed by the game. Virtual currency can be converted into real currency using an exchange.
The system tracks activity and charges virtual taxes on that activity. For example, at the end of each month, or any other determined interval(s), the system determines if the taxes collected are adequate to partially or completely offset the monthly or other fees due (if any). In one embodiment, if the virtual taxes collected are adequate, i.e., equal to or greater than the fees due from a given player, the player's account is flagged as having been paid. In another embodiment, any excess fees paid are returned in whole or in part to the player. Conversely, if the virtual taxes are inadequate, a virtual or real currency value is assigned to the virtual tax amount owing and that amount is subtracted from the minimum fee due. The real or virtual currency remainder is then charged to the player's credit card or other financial account on file and/or the player may be notified prior to such charge to permit said player the opportunity to pay the remainder using virtual or real currency and/or to select a credit card or other financial instrument other than the default or registered credit card(s) on file.
In an embodiment, the system may alert one or more players or other entities via use of an alert system. For example, the system might alert a player that an unpaid tax is or will be coming due. In another embodiment, the system might alert a player that he has overpaid his taxes and/or has sufficient excess fees paid to permit the purchase of one or more items from a catalog. Methods for sending such alerts are disclosed in further detail later on in the present disclosure.
Taxes can be calculated, assessed, charged, levied or generated, or virtual credits can be given for any one or more of the following activities, including but not limited to: 1. time, matches, battles, activities or turns played or partially played in the game world and/or between or among multiple video games or other applications 2. creation, modification, use, transfer, disposal or destruction (in part or in whole) loss, theft, and/or registration or creation or transfer or modification of title or other activities involving or related to any tangible or intangible attributes, assets, income, loss, gain, liabilities or items that are acquired, deposited, transferred, disposed of or destroyed (in whole or in part), sold or traded, bartered or otherwise affected in the game world and/or between two or more game worlds or applications, and/or the real world and/or any combination thereof 3. virtual or real currency acquired, generated, counterfeited, deposited, withdrawn, lost, stolen, disposed of or destroyed (in whole or in part), transferred, sold or traded in the game world or between the game and real world, and/or between two or more game worlds or applications or any combination thereof 4. creation, trade, acceptance, disposal, destruction, acquisition, modification, registration, transportation, transferal, loss, theft, storage, expansion, renewals or extensions of any one or more of, including, but not limited to any new or used tangible or intangible attributes, including items, assets, liabilities, performance obligations, currency (real or virtual), avatars, property, life, skills or any abilities, potions, spells, names, clans, families, parents, children, accounts, financial instruments and the like and/or any delivery or acceptance or loss or benefit of or from/to any service. 5. time, matches, battles, activities or turns started, used, completed or missed or partially missed when the player was otherwise required or generally expected to play 6. messages or any communications between two or more players, player characters, NPC's, or information processing services, e.g., news or other information services, cell phone companies, Internet providers, game server owners, the game or games themselves, etc., said communications may be in any form including e-mail, instant, voice or text messages, recordings, data storage, transfers of items, objects, attributes, news stories, video, audio, or any other data or tangible or intangible property, such as data transfer between a player and another player or game to game or between one or more players and one or more games. 7. creating, writing, modifying, or use of any video game or other software application(s), and/or any database or other information contained in any such video game or software application, and/or any communications between two or more video games and/or player characters between two or more video games, video game consuls, or between a video game or player character 8. creation, providing or use of any game servers or game consuls or permission to time spent or access or use of same or any applications or hardware associated with said game servers or consuls.
In addition or in the alternate, any actual revenues (real or virtual) received by individuals, player characters, NPC's, avatars or other entities (whether tangible or intangible), a tax is charged on the part or the entire amount received.
In certain embodiments of the present invention a ceiling or cap may be established to limit the total tax paid for any given transaction and/or over a certain period of time, e.g., a maximum tax amount per turn, hour, day, month or year.
In another embodiment, the taxes are calculated and are not compared with any target or other total tax due or expected, instead or in addition, the game simply charges and collects the taxes based upon any one or more of the methods disclosed herein. In such cases, the amount of taxes collected may be less than, equal to or greater than the fees that may otherwise be charged to a player on a periodic basis, e.g., monthly payment options.
In yet another embodiment, players are given a choice when they sign up as to which payment method they prefer, e.g., via taxes or via fixed or variable monthly fees, or taxes, plus fees, etc., or any combination of these options. In one embodiment, players may not change their preferences after the start of play, while in other cases, players may be given the option to change their payment method once, or more than once. When making such changes, players may or may not be offered the same or similar options and/or such options may be offered but at a different price point than the original offer(s).
Taxes on the virtual or real value of game attributes created, acquired, traded, disposed of and/or sold (or otherwise) by a player can be applied in real or near real-time, on a per session, or other periodic basis, e.g. per turn, hourly, daily, weekly or monthly, such application may be on a "cash" or an "accrual" basis. The system can retrieve a periodic log of all attributes (or any other tangible or intangible item) that are either acquired, created, gathered, traded, disposed or destroyed (in whole or in part), deposited, transferred, bartered, modified, improved, and or sold and apply a tax rate to the attributes to determine a tax value or tax due. In one embodiment, when amounts are due, a credit line may be pinged or held until such amounts are actually paid. In the event the amounts due are not paid, the credit card is charged for all or part of the outstanding amounts due.
Tax rates may be fixed or variable. For example, tax rates may be a fixed percentage for all players regardless of income, or the rates may increase for those at higher income levels, i.e., a progressive tax. In another example, the rates may be fixed for certain transactions, e.g., a sales tax rate of 7% may apply to all sales of goods and/or services, but income tax rates may vary by income, or class, or age, or any other one or more characteristics. In yet another example, sales tax rates may be higher and/or a new or additional tax may be calculated and assessed when or if the business is transacted between two or more game servers or video game applications, with a portion of the tax revenues going to each of the affected game servers or applications or other entities. In another embodiment, rates may be different for salaried income as opposed to a sale of goods or services. Rates may be flat, e.g., 10% at all income levels or progressive, as with the current US tax system. Rates may vary depending upon the age, skill level or other attributes of the player, and/or the player's avatar, clan, ranking, membership level (e.g., gold vs. platinum player), fixed or variable game play rates, e.g., a player that pays a fixed fee of $50 per month to play the video game, may have lower income taxes than a player that pays only $25 per month to play. Taxes may be random, flat, regressive or progressive.
Taxes may change over time, i.e., increase or decrease. Such changes may be determined by any one or more of the following, including, but not limited to: random chance, the game owner, the game software, rules or genetic algorithms, simple majority or super majority vote of two or more players or player characters or NPCs, or other forms of governance, e.g., via a dictator, king, queen, despot, president, governor, tax collector, congress, senate, etc., or any combination of the foregoing, etc. Said changes may be designed to maximize revenues for the game owner, or to maximize or optimize game play, or to encourage or discourage additional players or growth of the game or the game's economy, or to extend or shorten game play, or to enforce rules and regulations or to relax such rules and regulations, or to encourage or retard the growth of part or all the virtual economy and/or inflation or exchange rates of any real or virtual currencies, or other financial instruments and/or to affect the current or expected future value of any one or more of any properties, financial accounts, real estate, assets, liabilities, game or other revenues.
Information and/or Taxes may be reported, distributed and/or shared with or between the game server, owners, players, video games, applications, local governing bodies and/or with any other real or virtual governing body, e.g., any virtual or real world local, State or Federal agency, e.g., the US IRS. Prior to inserting, trading, creating, encumbrance of or otherwise acquiring or disposal or destruction of all or any part of any new or other object, attribute player or player character, or other tangible or intangible item or currency or other financial instrument into a game, the player may be required to divulge the source of the item (including, for example, its title history, etc.) and the amount paid or promised to be paid or other terms and conditions for the item (etc.). This way, deals that may be conducted in whole or in part "outside the virtual space" or without the knowledge or participation of the virtual space, are controlled as if they occurred partially or entirely within the virtual space. In one embodiment, only items that have a verifiable history (i.e., have existed only within the game and/or within other games that support or provide for such tracking, control and history or title) or title are permitted to be acquired, encumbered, traded, sold, used, stolen, transferred, created, bartered, etc., within the system. The system (and/or other compatible systems, e.g., a system that is certified and complies with established rules) could track what each player reports and identify any anomalies, which may be an indicator of fraudulent activities. E.g., most people buying a tank offline (i.e., outside the game environment) are paying $2 each. Then, a player starts logging in new tanks saying he only paid $0.10 or, conversely $20 each. This may not necessarily mean there is fraud, but an investigation is indicated.
In addition or in the alternate, all or some items that are sold or acquired outside of the game must be registered and various information may be recorded, for example, the selling price, time/date of the transaction, names of affected parties, values paid or received and/or other information may be automatically recorded. In addition or alternatively, the game may establish minimum or maximum market values or acceptable ranges for individual, groups or classes of items. Such minimums, maximums or ranges may or may not be based upon actual or reported valuations and/or actual values as determined or witnessed or experienced within the virtual game space. Such valuations may also be adjusted from time to time for no reason or for any one or more of the following reasons (as may be determined by the any one or more of the game owners, developers, the game itself, or by any vote or otherwise agreed upon by either the parties in control of such terms and conditions and/or by those affected by such terms and conditions), including, but not limited to: inflation rates, arbitrary times/amounts, randomly, game GDP growth rates, actual transactions for specific items or classes of items or groups of items, or across all items, taxes, changes in exchange rates, changes in growth rate objectives, by vote (simple majority or super majority) or via votes by an elected body or representatives granted the power and authority to recommend and/or impose such changes, or based upon the last actual selling or purchase or barter price or the highest, lowest, average, weighted average, moving weighted average, or most recent price of the item or any other mathematical calculation imposed by any authorized or governing body, or via any method(s) of calculation including neural nets, genetic algorithms or other statistical methods designed to optimize or otherwise generally control or determine tax rates, methods and other variables, and/or any combination of the forgoing.
All items created in a game can also automatically have a virtual title generated or updated for them. A character may be required to associate his name with the title in order to use (and/or sell, dispose of, barter, create, etc.) the item. A fee for registering the virtual title with the character can be charged to the player character and treated as virtual taxes. In an embodiment, such title tracking system or providence is automated and contained within the game itself. In another embodiment, part or all of such a title system resides outside of the game, but is otherwise in communication with the game. Such communications may be persistent or on a transaction or other periodic basis.
The player can be given the option of paying a monthly fee with "world cash," or with virtual currency taxed to his characters or account or other authorized entity, e.g., his bank or accounting firm or other third party. In an embodiment, when the player logs in, logs out, or at any other prescribed time(s), a screen notifies him if he has enough tax credits to pay for his monthly fee and/or to continue play. The player can elect to use the credits to pay for his monthly fee, or to save the credits, which can be used for other purposes, such as purchasing items in a catalog. A player may pay any fees when due with real or virtual cash, tax credits, or any combination of these options. In one embodiment, the video game or game server automatically deducts taxes when due from the player's real or virtual financial accounts. In another embodiment, the tax system resides in part or in whole outside the game, and serves one or more games. In this manner, a single taxing system can serve several or numerous video games, sharing revenues among them as agreed upon by the game owners or as determined by the tax system.
The real or virtual cash payment can have a monthly or other periodic limit. For example, once a character has earned $30 worth of virtual tax credits in a month, the taxes are no longer charged to his character account for that month.
In addition or in the alternate, as a player's activity increases in the game environment, his tax rate can decline. For example, a player who generates up to 1000 units of virtual credit could be taxed 10%, 1001-2000 8%, 2001-5000 5%, and so on.
All or just selected characters associated with a given player account can or may be required to contribute to the tax payment amount.
In another embodiment, if taxes are not automatically collected, and/or if the player character has insufficient real or virtual funds (or credit lines) to pay taxes (and any interest or penalties, if any) when due, the player character may suffer from one or more of the following penalties including, but not limited to temporary or permanent: restrictions to play the game or part of the game, damage or other loss to an item, player character, points awarded, restricted access to, or use of or partial loss of any assets, items, game space, missions, characters, avatars, skills, communications abilities, etc., or temporary or limited play, such as slower character movement (or speed of communications) or response times, limited access to services or income, e.g., a garnishing of wages until the tax debts (plus interest if any) are collected in part or in full, artificial "lag" imposed on the player or the player character(s) of the player, or any other penalties or restrictions determined by the game owner, game server or any other authorized entity, e.g., an elected official, body, bank, agency, etc.
According to an embodiment, third parties can rent server space from the game provider and provide this structure to other players in the game. In one embodiment, the game server may charge a monthly virtual or real fee to the third party or other player, who then sells play time on the game server to other players. All or part of the fees paid can be in virtual or real dollars, that are secured with a real world credit card that is charged if the virtual fees collected in a given month are not adequate to cover the specified monthly fee.
In one embodiment, a player may be given the option of paying a periodic fee with cash, services or with virtual money taxed to his characters or via a credit card or other financial instrument. For example, the fee could be free for 10% of the virtual cash collected in a given month with a fixed minimum. In addition or in the alternate, the fee could be half price for 7% of the virtual cash in a given month with a fixed minimum. In another embodiment, the character has to pay a minimum monthly virtual cash amount, or his credit card is charged a minimum monthly fee.
In one embodiment, all the characters associated with a given player account can contribute to the monthly payment. Alternatively, it may be the voluntary or involuntary duty of less than all the characters associated with a given account to make such payments. In the event that a limited number of players do not make payment(s), the final amounts owed may fall to those not generally required to make such tax payments, which payments may also include penalties and/or interest.
In another embodiment, a character may be given a reduced monthly fee or a monthly fee credit for the amount of time he manages NPCs and/or provides other services in or to the game environment.
A third party server or third party entity, as opposed to the game server, can charge the periodic fee or any other fee disclosed herein.
Accordingly, the presently described system may comprise a plurality of various hardware and/or software components. It will be understood that a nearly unlimited number of variations are possible and that such description is intended to provide a non-limiting example of an implementation that could be utilized but should not be used to define the entire scope of the invention.
Accordingly, system 10 may be configured to perform the various functions described above may incorporate one or more servers capable of running any number and/or combination of software modules configured to perform various tasks. Exemplary combinations of servers and software modules useful for the presently-described system include: 1. A Game Server a. Player Activity/Event Tracking Program b. Fee Determination Program c. Virtual Title Program d. Currency Conversion Program e. Periodic Billing Program f. Alerts Program 2. Exchange Server a. Currency Conversion Program b. Item Exchange Program 3. Real World Billing Account Server a. Player Billing Program b. Revenue Distribution Program 4. Game Server Franchisee Server (for third parties who rent game space from game server) a. Franchise Monitoring Program b. Player Activity Tracking Program 5. Billing Provider Server a. Periodic Billing Program b. Revenue Distribution Program
System 10 may further include a number of databases configured to store and associate the various types of data that are used by the system to perform the functions described above. Exemplary databases useful for the presently-described system include:
Game Server 1. Player Database a. Player ID b. Player Personal Info c. Player Real Currency Account Information d. Player Character Name 1-n e. Account created date/time f. Characters Owned or Controlled ID 1-n 2. Player Financial Information Database a. Player ID b. Fee Plan/Preferences c. Player Billing Information 1. Credit Card(s) 1-n 2. Billing Preference 3. Account type 4. Currency Preferences d. Player Account Balances 1-n 1. Current Amount Due--Total a. Details 1-n i. Date/Time ii. Due From ID iii. Due Amount iv. Due Currency v. Terms and Conditions 2. Current Amounts Owed--Total a. Details 1-n i. Date/Time ii. Owed by ID iii. Owed Amount iv. Owed Currency v. Terms and Conditions 3. Financial Transaction History 1-N a. Transaction ID b. Date/Time of Transaction c. Type d. Amount 3. Player Character Database a. Character ID b. Character Name c. Title ID d. Character Attributes 1-n e. Character Rules 1-n f. Virtual Cash Currency Preferences 1-n g. Real Cash Currency Preferences 1-n h. Virtual Cash Account 1-n 1. Account Number 1-n 2. Account Balance 1-n i. Real Cash Account 1-n 1. Account Number 1-n 2. Account Balance 1-n j. Credit Card Account 1-n 1. Account Number 1-n 2. Account Balance 1-n k. Virtual Item ID 1-n 4. Currency Conversion Database a. Currency ID b. Currency Description c. Usage Rules 1-n d. Exchange Rate/Date 1-n e. Exchange Fees 1-n 5. Player Character Activity Database a. Player Character Name/ID 1-n b. Date/Time/Duration of Activity c. Activities 1-n 1. Activity Name 2. Activity Type 3. Quantity 1-N 4. Quality 5. Narrative/Additional Info 1-N 6. Outcomes 1-N 6. Tax Rule Rate Database a. Tax Rule ID 1-N 1. Applies To--Item/Activities IDs 1-n a. Application Rules 1-N i. Tax Name ii. Tax Method iii. Tax Rate iv. Default Currency 7. Franchisee Database a. Franchisee ID 1-N 1. Name 2. Player, Character or other Owner Ids 1-n 3. Ownership Percentages 4. Personal Information 5. Terms and Conditions 6. Financial Data a. Billing Information b. Currency Preferences c. Payment Terms d. Revenue Sharing Terms 8. Virtual Transaction Database 9. Transaction ID a. Date/Time b. Type of Transaction c. Player ID 1-n 1. Character ID 1-n 2. Title ID 1-n d. Third Party ID 1-n e. Franchisee/or other ID 1-n f. Financial Data 1. Bill To ID, Date & % 1-n 2. Bill From ID, Date & % 1-n g. Terms Data 1. Creation/Use Rules 2. Payment Terms 3. Interest Terms 4. Penalty Terms h. Item ID 1-n 1. Item Title ID 1-n i. Other Transaction Data (varies based on transaction type) 10. Virtual Item Database a. Item ID b. Item Title ID c. Item Description d. Free Form Notes 1-n e. Item Attributes 1-n f. Item Rules (i.e., construction, use, disposal, restrictions, etc.)--1-n g. Financial Information 1. Original Cost 2. Original Currency Type 3. Improvements 1-n 4. Lifespan 5. Health 6. Damage 7. Depreciation 8. Current Value 9. Current Value Currency Type 10. Liens 1-n 11. Loans 1-n 11. Virtual Title Database a. Item Title ID b. Item ID c. Original Creator/Player ID and Ownership % 1-n d. Created Date e. Current Owner/Player ID and Ownership % 1-n f. Manifest Data 1. All Previous Owners/Player IDs (1-N) 2. Original Ownership Percentages 1-n 3. Remaining ownership interest percentages 4. Remaining Liens/Loans outstanding 1-n
Exchange Server 1. Currency Conversion Database a. Currency ID b. Currency Description c. Usage Rules 1-n d. Exchange Rate/Date 1-n e. Exchange Fees 1-n 2. Fee Database a. Fee ID b. Fee Description c. Fee Amount/Calculation Method d. Fee Usage Rules 1-n
Real World Billing Account Server 1. Player Account Database a. Player ID b. Player Personal Info c. Player Real Currency Account Information d. Player Financial Account Information e. Player Games Played Id 1-n 1. Player Character Name 1-n a. Account created date/time b. Characters Owned or Controlled ID 1-n i. Player Billing Information 1. Credit Card(s) 1-n 2. Billing Preference 3. Account type 4. Currency Preferences ii. Player Account Balances 1-n 1. Current Amount Due--Total a. Details 1-n i. Date/Time ii. Due From ID iii. Due Amount iv. Due Currency v. Terms and Conditions 2. Current Amounts Owed--Total a. Details 1-n i. Date/Time ii. Owed by ID iii. Owed Amount iv. Owed Currency v. Terms and Conditions 3. Financial Transaction History 1-N a. Transaction ID b. Date/Time of Transaction c. Type d. Amount
Game Server Franchisee Server 1. Franchisee Database a. Franchisee ID Number b. Franchisee Name c. Franchisee Billing Information d. Games Supported 1-N e. Servers Supported 1-N 2. Activity Database a. Activity ID 1. Time/Date 2. Transaction Type 3. Amount 4. Description 5. Game ID 6. Server ID
Accordingly, a system such as that described herein will be configured to perform various functions, such as those described above, by performing various method steps in order to accomplish one or more given tasks. Non-limiting examples of methods that may be performed by a system and the steps that the system may execute in order to perform these methods are described below:
Determine and Apply Real World Fee Based on Player Activity and Player Billing Preferences 1. Load Databases 2. Receive and Store Player Billing Preferences 3. Track Player Activity 4. Determine and Store Fee Due based on Activity, Fee or Tax Tables 5. Charge Fee Due to Player Real World Account (periodic limit, multi character) 6. Notify Player of fee due (email, on log in, etc)
Distribute Fees 1. Retrieve Fee/Tax Collected 2. Determine parties who are entitled to fee/tax and amount of fee they are entitled to 3. Allocate fee/tax to appropriate parties based on rules
Create Virtual Title for Virtual Items 1. Receive an indication that a virtual item has been created 2. Generate a registration number 3. Assign registration number to virtual item
Create new virtual title and Store virtual item registration number with title 1. Determine fee due for item creation and/or registration 2. Charge fee to item creator account 3. Output registration number to item creator
Update Virtual Title Database 1. Receive an indication that a virtual item has been sold 2. Determine fee(s) due from item buyer and/or seller 3. Charge fee(s) due to appropriate entities 4. Register new item owner 5. Transmit item registration number to new item owner
Other exemplary programs or modules that may be employed by a system according to the present disclosure include the following programs which may have the following capabilities:
Setup/Maintain Databases and Player Activity/Event Tracking Program (Primary Routine) 1. Load Databases and Rules Databases 2. Receive indication that tracking event has occurred 3. Execute Periodic Billing Program 4. Execute Revenue Distribution Program 5. Execute Virtual Title Program 6. Execute Alerts Program 7. Update Databases
Periodic Billing Program 1. Determine if event is taxable 2. If taxable, determine tax amount due 3. Send tax notice (if applicable) 4. Collect tax (if applicable) 5. Execute Currency Conversion Program (if required)
Revenue Distribution Program 1. Determine if collected tax/or other revenues, fees or duties should be shared/distributed and to whom or when 2. Notify Affected Parties (if applicable) 3. Execute Currency Conversion Program (only if and as required) 4. Distribute Collected Taxes/Funds as and when required
Virtual Title Program 1. Determine if title should be created, changed or deleted 2. Create, change or delete Virtual Title as required 3. Notify all affected Parties (if applicable)
Currency Conversion Program 1. Determine if currency conversion is required 2. Calculate currency conversion rates 3. Determine currency conversion fees, duties or tariffs 4. Collect fees, duties or tariffs for currency conversion (if applicable) 5. Execute Revenue Distribution Program (if and as required)
According to yet another embodiment, certain player characters can assign variable tax rates to other player characters that they are affiliated with.
A player character can be affiliated with other player characters by, for example: 1. Being the head of a guild 2. Being a government official of a city 3. Being the player character with the highest level or rank 4. Being in possession of certain game attributes 5. Being in a certain place in the game environment
A player character can assign tax levels to other player characters based on, for example: 1. The total or per turn wealth of a player character 2. The race, class, and skills of a player character 3. The age of a player character 4. The level of a player character 5. Whether a player character is in possession of certain game attributes 6. Whether a player character is in possession of a certain technology or skill 7. The size of a player character's family 8. The citizenship of player character 9. The guild of a player character 10. The number of NPCs employed by a player character 11. The land parcels owned by a player character
Taxes can also be taken at different rates based on various game attributes acquired by a player character. These attributes include, but are not limited to: 1. Raw materials generated by the player character or NPCs employed by him 2. Land parcels owned by a player character 3. Days or hours worked by a NPC hired by the player character 4. The virtual money obtained by a player character
Taxes can be charged, for example, when a game attribute is obtained, on a per turn basis, on an escalating or declining scale over time, as payments over time with interest, and/or when a character dies and passes his game attributes on to other player characters.
Exemplary types of taxes include, but are not limited to: 1. Sales Tax 2. Labor Tax 3. Land Tax 4. Employment Tax 5. Capital Gains Tax 6. Luxury Tax
According to various embodiments, game attributes that are sold by a player character can be taxed immediately, or taxes can be waived if a new or qualifying game attribute is purchased with the proceeds of the sale.
Alternatively, the game server can assign variable tax rates to the various transactions player characters can make with each other and NPCs
Taxes can be applied, for example: 1. in real time, 2. every x virtual or real time period, 3. when a player character logs out of game play, 4. when a player character enters a certain section of the game environment, 5. when a player character interacts with another player character
According to another embodiment, when virtual currency is converted, a percentage is taken by the game environment as taxes. Furthermore, when virtual currency is converted, a 1099 or other appropriate tax reporting document may be printed by the game environment and filed or electronically filed with the virtual government
When interpreting the terms in the disclosure or claims, the term "variation" of an invention means an embodiment of the invention, unless expressly specified otherwise.
A reference to "another embodiment" in describing an embodiment does not imply that the referenced embodiment is mutually exclusive with another embodiment (e.g., an embodiment described before the referenced embodiment), unless expressly specified otherwise.
The terms "including", "comprising" and variations thereof mean "including but not limited to", unless expressly specified otherwise.
The term "consisting of" and variations thereof mean "including and limited to", unless expressly specified otherwise.
The terms "a", "an" and "the" mean "one or more", unless expressly specified otherwise.
The term "plurality" means "two or more", unless expressly specified otherwise.
The term "herein" means "in this patent application, including anything which may be incorporated by reference", unless expressly specified otherwise.
The phrase "at least one of", when such phrase modifies a plurality of things (such as an enumerated list of things) means any combination of one or more of those things, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the phrase "at least one of a widget, a car and a wheel" means either (i) a widget, (ii) a car, (iii) a wheel, (iv) a widget and a car, (v) a widget and a wheel, (vi) a car and a wheel, or (vii) a widget, a car and a wheel.
The phrase "based on" does not mean "based only on", unless expressly specified otherwise. In other words, the phrase "based on" describes both "based only on" and "based at least on".
The term "represent" and like terms are not exclusive, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the term "represents" does not mean "represents only", unless expressly specified otherwise. In other words, the phrase "the data represents a credit card number" describes both "the data represents only a credit card number" and "the data represents a credit card number and the data also represents something else".
The term "whereby" is used herein only to precede a clause or other set of words that express only the intended result, objective or consequence of something that is previously and explicitly recited. Thus, when the term "whereby" is used in a claim, the clause or other words that the term "whereby" modifies do not establish specific further limitations of the claim or otherwise restricts the meaning or scope of the claim.
The term "e.g." and like terms means "for example", and thus does not limit the term or phrase it explains. For example, in the sentence "the computer sends data (e.g., instructions, a data structure) over the Internet", the term "e.g." explains that "instructions" are an example of "data" that the computer may send over the Internet, and also explains that "a data structure" is an example of "data" that the computer may send over the Internet. However, both "instructions" and "a data structure" are merely examples of "data", and other things besides "instructions" and "a data structure" can be "data".
The term "determining" and grammatical variants thereof (e.g., to determine a price, determining a value, determine an object which meets a certain criterion) is used in an extremely broad sense. The term "determining" encompasses a wide variety of actions and therefore "determining" can include calculating, computing, processing, deriving, investigating, looking up (e.g., looking up in a table, a database or another data structure), ascertaining and the like. Also, "determining" can include receiving (e.g., receiving information), accessing (e.g., accessing data in a memory) and the like. Also, "determining" can include resolving, selecting, choosing, establishing, and the like. It does not imply certainty or absolute precision, and does not imply that mathematical processing, numerical methods or an algorithm process be used. Therefore "determining" can include estimating, predicting, guessing and the like.
It will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that the various processes described herein may be implemented by, e.g., appropriately programmed general purpose computers and computing devices. Typically a processor (e.g., one or more microprocessors, one or more microcontrollers, one or more digital signal processors) will receive instructions (e.g., from a memory or like device), and execute those instructions, thereby performing one or more processes defined by those instructions.
A "processor" means one or more microprocessors, central processing units (CPUs), computing devices, microcontrollers, digital signal processors, or like devices or any combination thereof. Thus a description of a process is likewise a description of an apparatus for performing the process. The apparatus can include, e.g., a processor and those input devices and output devices that are appropriate to perform the method. Further, programs that implement such methods (as well as other types of data) may be stored and transmitted using a variety of media (e.g., computer readable media) in a number of manners. In some embodiments, hard-wired circuitry or custom hardware may be used in place of, or in combination with, some or all of the software instructions that can implement the processes of various embodiments. Thus, various combinations of hardware and software may be used instead of software only.
The term "computer-readable medium" refers to any medium that participates in providing data (e.g., instructions, data structures) which may be read by a computer, a processor or a like device. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media. Non-volatile media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks and other persistent memory. Volatile media include dynamic random access memory (DRAM), which typically constitutes the main memory. Transmission media include coaxial cables, copper wire and fiber optics, including the wires that comprise a system bus coupled to the processor. Transmission media may include or convey acoustic waves, light waves and electromagnetic emissions, such as those generated during radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, DVD, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, an EPROM, a FLASH-EEPROM, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave as described hereinafter, or any other medium from which a computer can read.
Various forms of computer readable media may be involved in carrying data (e.g. sequences of instructions) to a processor. For example, data may be (i) delivered from RAM to a processor; (ii) carried over a wireless transmission medium; (iii) formatted and/or transmitted according to numerous formats, standards or protocols, such as Ethernet (or IEEE 802.3), SAP, ATP, Bluetooth®, and TCP/IP, TDMA, CDMA, and 3G; and/or (iv) encrypted to ensure privacy or prevent fraud in any of a variety of ways well known in the art.
Thus a description of a process is likewise a description of a computer-readable medium storing a program for performing the process. The computer-readable medium can store (in any appropriate format) those program elements which are appropriate to perform the method.
Just as the description of various steps in a process does not indicate that all the described steps are required, embodiments of an apparatus include a computer/computing device operable to perform some (but not necessarily all) of the described process.
Likewise, just as the description of various steps in a process does not indicate that all the described steps are required, embodiments of a computer-readable medium storing a program or data structure include a computer-readable medium storing a program that, when executed, can cause a processor to perform some (but not necessarily all) of the described process.
Where databases are described, it will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that (i) alternative database structures to those described may be readily employed, and (ii) other memory structures besides databases may be readily employed. Any illustrations or descriptions of any sample databases presented herein are illustrative arrangements for stored representations of information. Any number of other arrangements may be employed besides those suggested by, e.g., tables illustrated in drawings or elsewhere. Similarly, any illustrated entries of the databases represent exemplary information only; one of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the number and content of the entries can be different from those described herein. Further, despite any depiction of the databases as tables, other formats (including relational databases, object-based models and/or distributed databases) are well known and could be used to store and manipulate the data types described herein. Likewise, object methods or behaviors of a database can be used to implement various processes, such as the described herein. In addition, the databases may, in a known manner, be stored locally or remotely from any device(s) which access data in the database.
Various embodiments can be configured to work in a network environment including a computer that is in communication (e.g., via a communications network) with one or more devices. The computer may communicate with the devices directly or indirectly, via any wired or wireless medium (e.g. the Internet, LAN, WAN or Ethernet, Token Ring, a telephone line, a cable line, a radio channel, an optical communications line, commercial on-line service providers, bulletin board systems, a satellite communications link, or a combination of any of the above). Each of the devices may themselves comprise computers or other computing devices, such as those based on the Intel® Pentium® or Centrino® processor, that are adapted to communicate with the computer. Any number and type of devices may be in communication with the computer.
In an embodiment, a server computer or centralized authority may not be necessary or desirable. For example, the present invention may, in an embodiment, be practiced on one or more devices without a central authority. In such an embodiment, any functions described herein as performed by the server computer or data described as stored on the server computer may instead be performed by or stored on one or more such devices.
Of course it will be appreciated that the systems methods described herein are provided for the purposes of example only and that none of the above systems methods should be interpreted as necessarily requiring any of the disclosed components or steps nor should they be interpreted as necessarily excluding any additional components or steps. Furthermore, it will be understood that while various embodiments are described, such embodiments should not be interpreted as being exclusive of the inclusion of other embodiments or parts of other embodiments.
The invention is described with reference to several embodiments. However, the invention is not limited to the embodiments disclosed, and those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the invention is readily applicable to many other diverse embodiments and applications as are reflected in the range of real world financial institutions, instruments and activities. Accordingly, the subject matter of the present disclosure includes all novel and nonobvious combinations and subcombinations of the various systems, methods configurations, embodiments, features, functions, and/or properties disclosed herein.
Where a limitation of a first claim would cover one of a feature as well as more than one of a feature (e.g., a limitation such as "at least one widget" covers one widget as well as more than one widget), and where in a second claim that depends on the first claim, the second claim uses a definite article "the" to refer to the limitation (e.g., "the widget"), this does not imply that the first claim covers only one of the feature, and this does not imply that the second claim covers only one of the feature (e.g., "the widget" can cover both one widget and more than one widget).
Each claim in a set of claims has a different scope. Therefore, for example, where a limitation is explicitly recited in a dependent claim, but not explicitly recited in any claim from which the dependent claim depends (directly or indirectly), that limitation is not to be read into any claim from which the dependent claim depends.
When an ordinal number (such as "first", "second", "third" and so on) is used as an adjective before a term, that ordinal number is used (unless expressly specified otherwise) merely to indicate a particular feature, such as to distinguish that particular feature from another feature that is described by the same term or by a similar term. For example, a "first widget" may be so named merely to distinguish it from, e.g., a "second widget". Thus, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers "first" and "second" before the term "widget" does not indicate any other relationship between the two widgets, and likewise does not indicate any other characteristics of either or both widgets. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers "first" and "second" before the term "widget" (1) does not indicate that either widget comes before or after any other in order or location; (2) does not indicate that either widget occurs or acts before or after any other in time; and (3) does not indicate that either widget ranks above or below any other, as in importance or quality. In addition, the mere usage of ordinal numbers does not define a numerical limit to the features identified with the ordinal numbers. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers "first" and "second" before the term "widget" does not indicate that there must be no more than two widgets.
When a single device or article is described herein, more than one device/article (whether or not they cooperate) may alternatively be used in place of the single device/article that is described. Accordingly, the functionality that is described as being possessed by a device may alternatively be possessed by more than one device/article (whether or not they cooperate).
Similarly, where more than one device or article is described herein (whether or not they cooperate), a single device/article may alternatively be used in place of the more than one device or article that is described. For example, a plurality of computer-based devices may be substituted with a single computer-based device. Accordingly, the various functionality that is described as being possessed by more than one device or article may alternatively be possessed by a single device/article.
The functionality and/or the features of a single device that is described may be alternatively embodied by one or more other devices which are described but are not explicitly described as having such functionality/features. Thus, other embodiments need not include the described device itself, but rather can include the one or more other devices which would, in those other embodiments, have such functionality/features.
Numerous embodiments are described in this patent application, and are presented for illustrative purposes only. The described embodiments are not, and are not intended to be, limiting in any sense. The presently disclosed invention(s) are widely applicable to numerous embodiments, as is readily apparent from the disclosure. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the disclosed invention(s) may be practiced with various modifications and alterations, such as structural, logical, software, and electrical modifications. Although particular features of the disclosed invention(s) may be described with reference to one or more particular embodiments and/or drawings, it should be understood that such features are not limited to usage in the one or more particular embodiments or drawings with reference to which they are described, unless expressly specified otherwise.
The present disclosure is neither a literal description of all embodiments of the invention nor a listing of features of the invention which must be present in all embodiments.
Neither the Title (set forth at the beginning of the first page of this patent application) nor the Abstract (set forth at the end of this patent application) is to be taken as limiting in any way as the scope of the disclosed invention(s). An Abstract has been included in this application merely because an Abstract of not more than 150 words is required under 37 C.F.R. §1.72(b).
The title of this patent application and headings of sections provided in this patent application are for convenience only, and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.
Devices that are described as in communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. On the contrary, such devices need only transmit to each other as necessary or desirable, and may actually refrain from exchanging data most of the time. For example, a machine in communication with another machine via the Internet may not transmit data to the other machine for long period of time (e.g. weeks at a time). In addition, devices that are in communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries.
A description of an embodiment with several components or features does not imply that all or even any of such components/features are required. On the contrary, a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of the present invention(s). Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no component/feature is essential or required.
Although process steps, algorithms or the like may be described in a sequential order, such processes may be configured to work in different orders. In other words, any sequence or order of steps that may be explicitly described does not necessarily indicate a requirement that the steps be performed in that order. On the contrary, the steps of processes described herein may be performed in any order practical. Further, some steps may be performed simultaneously despite being described or implied as occurring non-simultaneously (e.g., because one step is described after the other step). Moreover, the illustration of a process by its depiction in a drawing does not imply that the illustrated process is exclusive of other variations and modifications thereto, does not imply that the illustrated process or any of its steps are necessary to the invention, and does not imply that the illustrated process is preferred.
Although a process may be described as including a plurality of steps, that does not imply that all or any of the steps are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other processes that omit some or all of the described steps. Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no step is essential or required.
Although a product may be described as including a plurality of components, aspects, qualities, characteristics and/or features, that does not indicate that all of the plurality are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other products that omit some or all of the described plurality.
Unless expressly specified otherwise, an enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are mutually exclusive. Therefore it is possible, but not necessarily true, that something can be considered to be, or fit the definition of, two or more of the items in an enumerated list. Also, an item in the enumerated list can be a subset (a specific type of) of another item in the enumerated list. For example, the enumerated list "a computer, a laptop, a PDA" does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are mutually exclusive--e.g., an item can be both a laptop and a computer, and a "laptop" can be a subset of (a specific type of) a "computer".
Likewise, unless expressly specified otherwise, an enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are collectively exhaustive or otherwise comprehensive of any category. For example, the enumerated list "a computer, a laptop, a PDA" does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are comprehensive of any category.
Further, an enumerated listing of items does not imply that the items are ordered in any manner according to the order in which they are enumerated.
In a claim, a limitation of the claim which includes the phrase "means for" or the phrase "step for" means that 35 U.S.C. §112, paragraph 6, applies to that limitation.
In a claim, a limitation of the claim which does not include the phrase "means for" or the phrase "step for" means that 35 U.S.C. §112, paragraph 6 does not apply to that limitation, regardless of whether that limitation recites a function without recitation of structure, material or acts for performing that function. For example, in a claim, the mere use of the phrase "step of" or the phrase "steps of" in referring to one or more steps of the claim or of another claim does not mean that 35 U.S.C. §112, paragraph 6, applies to that step(s).
With respect to a means or a step for performing a specified function in accordance with 35 U.S.C. §112, paragraph 6, the corresponding structure, material or acts described in the specification, and equivalents thereof, may perform additional functions as well as the specified function.
Computers, processors, computing devices and like products are structures that can perform a wide variety of functions. Such products can be operable to perform a specified function by executing one or more programs, such as a program stored in a memory device of that product or in a memory device which that product accesses. Unless expressly specified otherwise, such a program need not be based on any particular algorithm, such as any particular algorithm that might be disclosed in this patent application. It is well known to one of ordinary skill in the art that a specified function may be implemented via different algorithms, and any of a number of different algorithms would be a mere design choice for carrying out the specified function.
Therefore, with respect to a means or a step for performing a specified function in accordance with 35 U.S.C. §112, paragraph 6, structure corresponding to a specified function includes any product programmed to perform the specified function. Such structure includes programmed products which perform the function, regardless of whether such product is programmed with (i) a disclosed algorithm for performing the function, (ii) an algorithm that is similar to a disclosed algorithm, or (iii) a different algorithm for performing the function.
The present disclosure provides, to one of ordinary skill in the art, an enabling description of several embodiments and/or inventions. Some of these embodiments and/or inventions may not be claimed in this patent application, but may nevertheless be claimed in one or more continuing applications that claim the benefit of priority of this patent application. Applicants intend to file additional applications to pursue patents for subject matter that has been disclosed and enabled but not claimed in this patent application.
Patent applications by Andrew S. Van Luchene, Santa Fe, NM US
Patent applications by Raymond J. Mueller, Palm Beach Gardens, FL US
Patent applications by LEVIATHAN ENTERTAINMENT, LLC
Patent applications in class Network type (e.g., computer network, etc.)
Patent applications in all subclasses Network type (e.g., computer network, etc.)