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Guarding Intellectual Property

27 October, 2009 (11:50) | Literature Review | By: admin

Roberts, Paul F., “Havok Finds Haven for Game Codes,” eWeek 22, no. 40 (2005): C1-C11.

In my previous post about incremental innovation, I noted that intellectual property becomes particularly important within a stagnant industry.  Rather than continue to develop new technologies for each game, studios often rely on one or two of the most consistently successful technologies developed by other companies.  Thus, the studio that develops these coveted technologies have the most to gain from a rational industry uninterested in radical innovation.

In Paul F. Roberts’ 2005 article, he presents an example of just how important such technological IP can be.  Irish company Havok, developer of the Havok Physics Engine, has sold its tech to several successful game franchises, chief among them the Madden NFL franchise from EA Sports.  At the time this article was written, Havok’s engine was receiving a great deal of praise, but it was also under attack by hackers looking to leak the engine’s code to the Internet.  In fact, hackers did succeed in leaking the source code for Half-Life 2, which included portions of Havok’s code.  Because of this breach in security, Havok was forced to take measures to protect its code from future theft, using a variety of digital theft prevention services, which occasionally made accessing Havok’s services more difficult for those entitled to it.

Clearly, Havok and others in the industry recognize the importance of protecting coveted IP, perhaps the most valuable resource in a stagnant industry.  Despite complaints from those who said the security made using Havok’s engine more difficult, the studio maintained that such protection was absolutely necessary for the continued success of their company.  Havok certainly recognizes the power that it derives from this engine.  With so many game studios depending upon Havok’s technology to provide the physics processing so that the developers can focus on making incremental innovations in other areas, Havok can essentially set the terms of use for its product, no matter how difficult or annoying they may be, without worrying about industry backlash.  This may be one of few incentives for other companies to develop their own major innovations: the potential to reign over a particular segment of the industry.

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