Pong // Magnavox Vs. Atari

Gameplay screenshot of the arcade game Pong(1972)

In 1972, Atari’s electronic table tennis game Pong became a bonafide craze—and Ralph Baer, inventor of the Magnavox Odyssey gaming console, sought legal action against Atari. Baer claimed that Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell had copied Magnavox’s version of electronic Ping-Pong after Bushnell played the game at a Magnavox dealership demo a few months before Pong was released.

Facts:

In 1975 Ralph Baer and Magnavox, creators of the first home console system – the Magnavox Odyssey – sued Atari (and many other companies) for their clones of the Magnavox Odyssey’s ‘Tennis’ game. The Atari game in question was ‘Pong.’

Due to the patents held by Baer and Magnavox parent company Sanders Associates, and coupled with the fact that there was ample evidence of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell having played ‘Tennis’ at a product exhibition, Atari decided to settle the case outside of the courts. Other companies were also forced to pay royalties for similar ‘Pong’ clones.

As part of the June 1976 settlement, Magnavox would obtain rights to any Atari products released for the next year. Atari therefore decided not to release any new titles for the next year. This was the first strike from Magnavox, Sanders and Baer in what was to become a lucrative business of defending their intellectual property and receiving license fees.

In 1985 Nintendo was fast becoming a video game titan themselves, leading the invasion of the third generation of consoles, but even they could not stand up to the watertight patent laws, and after attempting to invalidate Baer’s patents, they were forced to continue paying royalties to Sanders




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