Sunday, September 19, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?

The South Carolina Gamecocks are 3-0. A very nice start. Drew Brees and the Saints won their opener but it was filled with tense moments. The Redskins beat the Cowboys, just barely, and Rex Ryan’s mother is upset with him because of his colorful choice of language. And, fantasy football season is in full swing.

Fantasy Football is basically a Computerized Statistical Football Game – A method and apparatus for playing football on a computer system based upon actual football performances by a database of football players. The computer football game is played by a league of individuals, each of whom can individually, or in groups, own a franchise. Franchises select their players in an initial draft. The starting players are then selected by individual franchise owners. Wins and losses for the computer football games occur by calculating a total of each individual player’s points who make up the team. The calculation of points is done automatically either manually or using actual weekly performance by individual NFL players as the basis for determining points.

So reads the abstract of US Patent 4,918,603 filed in August 1, 1988 and granted April 17, 1990. A pretty quick turnaround by the Patent Office.

This patent is cited as being the seminal work in patenting of fantasy sports inventions. The patent is classified as an amusement device – a simulated athletic event including a simulated projectile (I’m guessing that would be the football) that includes a means for processing electronic data. Is this a game or is it a business method? Is it a game that is a business method?

One of the inventors, Patrick Hughes, who had been playing fantasy football with his friends, patented his version of the game, secured a license with the NFL Players Association and NFL properties and proceeded to find a corporate sponsor, Miller Brewing Company. With Miller’s backing the game was soon being played in 6,300 sports bars around the country.

The inventors went on to extend their fantasy sports empire to basketball where they received an endorsement from Cal Ripkin, Jr. and basketball where Grant Hill became part of their celebrity deal. Fox Sports even had a version branded as Terry Bradshaw Fantasy Football.

The ‘603 patent has three claims – one independent and two dependent. Here are all three claims:

What is claimed is:

1. A computer for playing football based upon actual football games, comprising:

means for setting up individual football franchises;

means for drafting actual football players into said franchises;

means for selecting starting player rosters from said actual football players;

means for trading said actual football players;

means for scoring performances of said actual football players based upon actual game scores such that franchises automatically calculate a composite win or loss score from a total of said individual actual football players' scores;

said players' scores are for quarterbacks, running backs and pass receivers in a first group and kickers in a second group; and

wherein said players in said first and second groups receive bonus points.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said bonus points for said first and seconds groups are based upon complex or difficult plays.

3. The apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said complex and difficult plays include extra points for a quarterback who receives or runs for said touchdown, extra points for said running back for throwing or receiving a touchdown pass, and extra points for said pass receive for passing the ball or running for a touchdown.

Here are some links to some of the inventor’s other sports fantasy patents.

7614944 – Systems and methods for providing multi-level fantasy sports contests…

7,001,279 - Systems and methods for providing multiple user support for shared user equipment in a fantasy sports contest application.

7,548,242 - Systems and methods for integrating graphic animation technologies in fantasy sports contest applications.

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