Pioneer Patent Case Intellivision Infringes

Video Game Law Blog

July 21, 1982

(This is an archived case summary)

Magnavox claimed that Mattel had, through the manufacture, use and sale of Intellivision video games, infringed Magnavox's “Television Gaming Apparatus” patent, issued in 1972. This action was the remaining one out of five which were commenced by Magnavox against various parties. The four other cases settled outside of court.

This was apparently the first patent trial to involve a computer-based video game that embodied a microprocessor. It should also be noted that Mattel did not challenge the validity of the patent it allegedly infringed.

The Court stated that because this was one of the pioneer patents on which the video game industry was based, the technology that was available for the manufacture of games allowed Mattel to create low-cost games with a much greater complexity than what was contemplated in the Magnavox patent. The use of these currently available technologies to create a video game did not alter the basic nature of those games or avoid, because of their increased complexity, the “simpler” Magnavox patent.

The Court pointed to the fact that the Mattel Intellivision game used digital circuitry with a microprocessor, whereas the technology that was disclosed in the Magnavox patent was based on an analog system. The Court determined that these two technologies were fully equivalent to each other within the context of the patent and that the mere substitution of digital circuitry was not sufficient to avoid patent infringement.

Finally, the Court discussed the scope of “pioneer patents” and stated that patent law and the judicial treatment of patent law give these “pioneer patents” the broadest protection. This is because pioneer patents introduce a wholly new device or one of such novelty and importance as to mark a distinct step in the progress of the art, which is entitled to protection despite its role in the “creation” of an industry.
The Court found that Mattel's Intellivision had infringed the Magnavox patent and awarded reasonable royalties.

Magnavox Co. v. Mattel, Inc.
1982, US Dist. Ct., ED Illinois
US Dist. LEXIS 13773
KEYWORDS: patent – pioneer patents – infringement