Call of Duty
Patrick A. Lujin talks intellectual property and video games
Published in 2019 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers magazine on November 13, 2019
In a world dominated by screens, coupled with a career in technology, Patrick Lujin still finds time to unplug. The intellectual property attorney recently spent a week chaperoning a group of highschoolers on a mission trip to Honduras, where WiFi was sparse and putting down his tech was partly the point. “It was a nice break,” he says with a laugh.
As a former in-house counsel for Microsoft who focused on software patents, Lujin was in on the ground floor of gaming in 2001 when the company released the Xbox. Of course, he had no idea his career path would soon be closely tied to gaming—or how big a global influence gaming would have. “It’s pretty amazing just how ingrained video games are becoming everywhere: Look at colleges, the economy,” says Lujin. “Esports has really taken off and now colleges are offering ‘athletic scholarships’ for gamers. With games on smartphones … it seems like it’s just continuing to boom.” (For the record, Lujin used to game with his kids. “Until my son started outperforming me,” he says.)
Patent litigation is a “fun challenge” for Lujin, even though it gets pretty tough. “Oftentimes, you’re dealing with relatively complex technology and legal issues,” he says. “The litigation certainly requires technical experts in addition to damages experts, so it becomes very complicated most of the time.”
Lujin wasn’t entirely sure of his path, but he knew the job market was good for engineers. Drawn to software and computer technology, he studied electrical engineering in college. He was working as an electrical design engineer when a few of his buddies began law school. His interest was piqued, then solidified when he found patent law.
“I’ve heard people say that patent law is a good career for engineers with short attention spans,” says Lujin. “If you’re a design engineer, you might work 18 months or longer on a project and you’re going through all the testing. At the end, you’ve got your solution. But if you’re a patent attorney, you basically just talk to the inventor at the end. You don’t have to wait that 18 months to see how it’s going to come out. I still wanted to be involved in the technical side, but I enjoyed not living the entire process.”
After Lujin left Microsoft, he returned to Shook Hardy, where he’d previously practiced. Around that time, the intellectual property litigation team was representing Sony after it was sued for trademark infringement in Kansas City. At issue: Frosty Treats, a Kansas City-based ice cream brand, contended that an animated clown in Sony’s Twisted Metal: Small Brawl infringed on the clown printed on the side of its well-recognized trucks. Sony won.
“Microsoft and Sony were some of the building blocks that led to the video game work,” says Lujin. “It was basically through word of mouth that Activision learned about us, and we ended up representing them in several cases. It’s turned out to be a pretty good niche.”
Activision, one of the world’s largest gaming and entertainment companies, develops popular games like Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch and Candy Crush. In one case, Uniloc, a company that obtains, licenses and enforces patents, sued Activision over infringement on technology used for login authentication and protection of video games from piracy.
“The judge called us all down to East Texas, where there was other litigation going on over the same patent, for a status conference. You had to book your hotel room as fast as possible because there were 100-and-something defendants,” says Lujin. “They all had to send their national counsel down there to figure out how the case was going to be handled with so many defendants.”
After years of litigation, the number of defendants was down to two—Activision and Electronic Arts (EA). The day before Thanksgiving 2014, the parties met one last time. “During this mediation, Activision reached a confidential settlement with Uniloc,” Lujin says. “EA went on to trial and the jury awarded $4.86 million in damages.”
The former engineer favorite part of patent law is problem-solving. “I enjoy learning how things work,” he says. “I like being exposed to different technology, and a lot of times it’s cutting-edge.”
Particularly in the video game work.
“You visit with the people who developed the game to find out how it works, how and when they developed it,” he says. “They’re always interesting people. It’s usually an enjoyable discussion, even though we’re there to defend a claim of infringement.”
If you have a kid who’s more into gaming than homework, it might not be all that bad. Here are some schools that offer to level up prospective students with esports scholarships:
- Georgia State University
- University of California-Irvine
- Boise State University
- Georgia Southern University
- University of Utah
- Texas Wesleyan
- University of South Carolina Sumpter