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The 80’s had no play like it: An Invention Analysis on the Game Boy


Is it possible to manipulate an invention to fit the bill of a hungry global market? Could we discover which inventions are unique, but surprisingly not yet released into the world? Distinct products like these are bound to hit the roof and precipitate into success. In 1989, an engineer at Nintendo, named Satoru Okada, designed such a product that attracted new gamers of every age, gender, and background from all over the world. Today we will use LOCI’s software technology, Invention Analysis (IA), to evaluate the novelty of the patent behind the Game Boy game console that sold over 1 million units in just a few weeks.


Before we pressed Start to play, LOCI backdated the current patent data landscape to 1988. We wanted to properly demonstrate an analysis in its time of relevance when it was first introduced to the world. This way the LOCI Invention Analysis will access even more minute details like relevant competitors and patents that were granted, abandoned, or pending at the time.

Additionally, when we backdate previously existing patents, we discover the correct CPC’s to which each patent belongs. CPC, also known as Cooperative Patent Classification, is a patent classification system jointly developed by the European Patent Office and United States Patent and Trademark Office. Using the CPC, Invention Analysis has the capability to locate where in the global landscape the invention or idea belongs and its related CPC’s in which similar patents are found. Users can use this information to discover alternative applications of their idea and possibilities to enter new markets that haven’t been considered just yet.


The Score

Figure 1: A brief overview of how the Game Boy scored in Invention Analysis.

We input the Game Boy patent data into the LOCI Invention Analysis tool, where it produced a ton of information we’ve cut down to bite-sized pieces. An overall LOCI Score of 66 resulted from the IA, including a list of 40 relevant and missing Keywords, 80 Related Documents, and 24 CPC’s. (Figure 1) This score of 66 is considered average, as it indicates that your invention or idea may be patentable and is fairly average when compared with the novelty of other ideas in the patent database. The Game Boy had its competitors like Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx, TurboExpress, and Watara Supervision, just to name a few. But how did the monochrome, game console with no backlight win the hearts of millions and convert countless non-gamers?

Let’s examine the underlying scores that contribute to the overall LOCI score. In this particular case, the overall LOCI Score is a combination of top results from granted, abandoned, and pending analyses from the global patent system in 1988. It’s worth mentioning again that the point of using Invention Analysis is not to achieve a perfect score of 100.

IA scores around 70-90 are considered the optimal range for an inventor to aspire to reach. That said, there was a perfect score of 100 for Granted and Abandoned patents in the year the Game Boy came into existence. In simpler terms, there were literally no similar ideas (under related CPC categories) that were granted, or abandoned around this time because the field of handheld gaming hardware was only starting to launch. The LOCI developer who led our time travel expedition back to the 1988-1989 patent landscape, Mike, was surprised to see that there were no patents granted back then. He commented that even though there were pending patents, Nintendo was really on the forefront of the gaming market.

The LOCI Score for Pending patents resulted as a ‘somewhat unique’ score of 66. Pending patents are defined as patent applications that have been submitted to the USPTO but have not been granted yet. One of the many values in gathering Pending patents results is that these patents represent some of the newest ideas in their related fields.


Top Related Documents

The number of Top Related Documents came down to 80 results. Top Related Documents easily describe the view of the surrounding IP landscape. The most relevant documents can be evaluated to compare one’s invention to in order to tweak, differentiate, and improve. The value in doing so is due to the current patent process that requires an inventor to “search all previous public disclosures (prior art) including, but not limited to, previously patented inventions…to determine if your invention has been publicly disclosed” (1).

Similar content to the Game Boy included inventions with headlines like: “Handheld electronic game playing device with replaceable..,” “Electronically operable games scoring apparatus,” “Electronic game machine suitable for chance and gambling…,” “Video game apparatus integral with airplane passenger seat,” “Electronic game apparatus and method,” “Electronic card game,” “Video game with control of movement and rate of movement,” and “Manually programmable video gaming system.”


Figure 2: The results for Top Related Documents collected existing documents that were ‘Dangerously Related’’ to the invention that was input. In this case, the Game Boy was up against similar inventions that could have reaped success before it all.



In the next level, we examine the Keywords section. Invention Analysis gathers both common and ‘missing’ terms and displays the words in blue and red clouds. The blue cloud is filled with commonly used topics and terms that provide a frame of reference for the author of the patent or IA. The Game Boy IA returned with a cloud of blue keywords like display, means, game, electronic, held, hand, memory, machine, surface, processing accordance, etc. The red cloud consists of ‘missing’ terms that are additional keywords that were not in the invention description, but could be relevant and worth considering. The cloud of red keywords suggested the following terms to be relevant: light, circuit, electrodes, elements, input, voltage, source, and image. (Figure 3)

Some of the red keywords may surprise you and come across as seemingly irrelevant. However, upon further examination of the Top Related Documents, you’ll see that matching patents were not for hand-held consoles, but for items like a full sized gaming machine or a device to be used on the rear of an airplane seat. Nonetheless there is value in considering key words from related patents for various reasons, such as exploring varying uses for your invention or identifying different but related markets and audiences your invention could impact.


Figure 3: Special keywords from an Invention Analysis on the Game Boy help to shed light on areas of innovation that may be unexplored by the aspiring inventor.


Final Round

Although we can look back and see how obviously unique the Game Boy ultimately came to be, it was not quite the same when it was internally received at Nintendo. According to a source, Nintendo employees gave the Game Boy a derogatory nickname, “DameGame,” where dame meant “hopeless” or “lame” in the Japanese language. (3) Nintendo isn’t finished with their legendary Game Boy console, as it was discovered that a playable Game Boy phone case is currently in the works. (2) Ideas – big or small, silly or grave – should not be overlooked or wasted without first evaluating its value in the world of IP.

What can you create with the power of LOCI?

Figure 4: Nintendo filed a patent for a playable Game Boy phone case on October 2018.



Learn more about LOCI.

More about LOCI Invention Analysis

LOCI Invention Analysis helps new inventors determine the novelty and demand for their ideas before they spend money trying to patent. This is a huge cost savings of about 95% compared to traditional patent attorney searches. LOCI Invention Analysis can also help guide inventors toward “white space” where there are relatively few existing patents, where demand is high, so the inventor has the best possible chance of being awarded a patent, and/or selling their idea. Inventors can submit multiple iterations to help refine their idea and identify alternative applications of their invention. The ultimate goal of the inventor while using Invention Analysis is to achieve an optimal “LOCI Score” which indicates that their idea is unique, and in high demand.

More about LOCI

LOCI’s mission is to disrupt the global patent industry, and to change the way the world invents and values ideas. We specialize in simplifying the patent search process by utilizing unique visualizations and providing comprehensive analysis to help determine the novelty and demand of an idea. To further understand the landscape of IP and learn more about LOCI, sign up for the latest updates above or visit our website here.

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