Local game inventor wins $1.6 million settlement

Dr. Michael Larson shows the game “Khet” which he co-developed with two of his former students.

In a patent-stealing case that pitted a small toy company against one of the country’s toy making giants, the little guy won.

A Louisiana federal jury has awarded nearly $1.6 million in damages to a game company, owned by UCCS professor Michael Larson, that accused MGA Entertainment of copying its patented laser beam strategy board game.

The David-and-Goliath battle, which played out in district court and a federal court of appeals, ends a five-year battle.

The jury found that the MGA, the maker of the popular Bratz doll and Little Tykes toy line, was liable for willful patent infringement of Innovention Toys LLC’s laser and mirrors strategy board game “Khet,” according to a statement issued by Innovention counsel Agility IP Law, Law360 online news reported.

The jury deliberated for less than three hours before handing down its verdict for the plaintiff on Friday.

“The verdict was a long time coming, but we’re gratified that the jury recognized that MGA copied our laser game,” said  Larson, a developer of the game and co-founder of Innovention. Larson also is an engineering professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and the director of the Mind Studios.

It’s a case that highlighted the ins and outs of U.S. patent law and had attorneys blogging like anxious spectators about which company would emerge as the victor.

The suit revolved around the board game “Khet,” which Larson developed with two of his students. He said the strategy game, where players manipulate reflective and non-reflective pieces in conjunction with an on-board laser beam, incorporates U.S. Patent No. 7,264,242, titled, “Light-reflecting board game,” which was issued in September 2007, a month before the suit was filed.

According to Innovention, the patent-in-suit was unlawfully co-opted by MGA, which introduced its own competing game, “Laser Battle,” and sold it through retailers and co-defendants Wal-Mart and Toys ‘R’ Us.

Innovention almost lost a significant portion of its suit in 2011, when U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman granted partial summary judgment for the defendants, questioning the game company’s figures supporting its argument for lost profits.

However,  the judge revived the lost profits claim, finding his court had applied too stringent a test by denying Innovention’s manufacturing evidence and allowed it to become admissible at trial.

Innovention counsel Jim Otteson of Agility IP told Law360 he was pleased with the court’s decision, noting his client’s extensive wait for adjudication of the matter.

“We’re very gratified that Innovention has finally gotten justice after waiting such a long time,” Otteson said, saying that the total damages verdict was split between $1.4 million in lost profit damages and $170,000 in provisional rights damages.

Throughout the trial, Khet was allowed to continue its sales of its game while MGA had to stop selling its version of the game. In 2010, Innovention’s engineers redesigned Khet and came out with Khet 2.0. It’s a smaller package, which helped with costs and allowed the company to ship to overseas distributors.

Khet fans have started clubs and tournaments around the game and it continues to pick up awards including “Best of the Toy Fair,” and “The Swedish Family Game of the Year.” And, Innoventions just signed a deal with Toys “R” Us.

Khet was on pace to sell 100,000 games in 2011,” Larson said.

That equates to about $3.4 million in sales. And by Innovention’s calculations, the laser board game and the patent were worth the fight.

Read the CSBJ article on Larson’s court battle.

One Response to Local game inventor wins $1.6 million settlement

  1. This is awesome! I only wish the settlement was bigger. MGA blatantly stole Larson’s idea with the idea that we are a bigger company and just outwait them in a court battle as the legal costs pile up. I’m not sure if 1.6 million is enough money to send a messages to MGA or any other game company that reverse engineering a smaller guy’s idea is not ok.

    Hyrum Choate
    November 19, 2012 at 10:39 am