Virtual Pet Patents

Virtual Pet Design & Consulting Services

This page provides major virtual pet patent information to virtual pet designers as a service by Polson Enterprises. The patents provide extensive data and design information about virtual pets in several formats.

If you are interested in wireless virtual pets for mobile phones, please see our Wireless Virtual Pets for Mobile Phones page.

Virtual Pet Patents

Patents can be viewed for free from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office web site as well as from the Delphion site. The USPTO site requires a tiff viewer to see the graphics. Delphion requires the Adobe Acrobat viewer for graphics and only serves the first page for free.
Few of the early keychain pets were patented in the U.S. Some of the early pets are represented in the Japanese patent literature. Now several pets and related technologies are being patented. Virtual Pet patents include:

Recent Patents

  • A Series of Ganz / Webkinz Patent Applications -
    U.S. Patent Application 2008/0009350 published 10 Jan 2008, 2008/0009351 published 10 Jan 2008, 2008/0026666 published 31 Jan 2008, 2008/0040230 published 14 Feb 2008, 2008/0040297 published 14 Feb 2008. All the applications are titled, "System and Method for Toy Adoption Marketing" and are continuations of applications filed in 2003 and 2004 covering the popular Webkinz pet, its online virtual world, and how buying a physical plush pet allows you to enter the online world.

  • U.S. Patent Application 2008/0027673 Method for Tracking and Rewarding a Child's Exercise Activity by Use of a Pedometer and Computer Interface published 31 Jan 2008. A pet shaped pedometer uploads to an online virtual pet site. Points are earned for actual activity, then used to care for your virtual pet.

  • U.S. Patent Application 2008/0009345 Gaming System With Authentication Token Support published 10 Jan 2008. Presence of a physical token that can be authenticated by interacting with the computer allows particular actions in the game.

  • U.S. Patent Application 2007/0197297 Apparatus and Methods of Physical Game Components published 23 Aug 2007. Method of authenticating the possession of physical objects, then moving them into an online world or moving "values" to the online world for use in interactive games.

  • U.S. Patent Application 2007/0143679 Virtual Character with Realtime Content Input published 21 Jun 2007. Virtual character reacts to external real time inputs (such as actual weather being reported for the pets location).

  • U.S. Patent Application 2007/0111795 Virtual Entity on a Network published 17 May 2007. A character/avatar such as a dog can be shared between you and your friends over the phone. The pet can only be in one place at once and develops over time.

  • U.S. Patent 7104884 Breeding, Simulation Apparatus for Virtual Creatures issued 12 Sept 2006 to Bandai. A Tamagotchi patent.

  • U.S. Patent 7,089.083 Electronic Pet System, Network System, Robot, and Storage Medium issued 8 August 2006 to Sony. An Aibo patent.

  • U.S. Patent 6,681,150 Insect Robot issued 20 Jan 2004 to Bandai. Patent for their lifelike virtual insects.

  • U.S. Patent Application 2003/0080987 Methods and Apparatus for Providing Haptic Feedback in Interacting with Virtual Pets published 1 May 2003. Invented by Louis B. Rosenberg of Immersion Corporation (the company that got into it with Microsoft and Sony on patent infringement of vibratory feedback of virtual fishing machines).

    Historical Patents

  • U.S. Patent #5,572,646
    Apparatus for Displaying Images of Living Things to Show Growing and/or Moving of the Living Thing
    Assigned to Casio Computer. This was one of the first patents to discuss how to visually create growth stages for virtual pets. The primary example in the patent is a virtual plant that requires water, light and manure. It is an early example of the use of symbols (water, light and manure) to represent selectable virtual pet care actions.

  • U.S. Patent #5,580,308
    Electronic Battle Game Playing Apparatus with Facial Montage Generation
    Assigned to Casio Computer describes the electronics and step procedures behind an early hand held fighting game.

  • U.S. Patent #5,685,096
    Swimming Toy Fish Aquarium Having Magnetic Drive System for Magnetically Driving the Toy Fish in the Aquarium
    Assigned to Masudaya Corporation of Japan. Two rows of rotating magnets below the aquarium move virtual fish.

  • U.S. Patent #5,754,740
    Production System
    Assigned to Fujita Limited discusses how virtual creatures react in real time with users including diurnal (time of day) and other activities. It captured the concept of time going forward in the life of the pet, even when the device was shut off for long periods of time. The pet still needed sleep, food, etc even if it was not being cared for.

  • U.S. Patent #5,956,501
    Disease Simulation System and Method Assigned to Health Hero Network. This virtual pet helps children understand how to treat and deal with chronic diseases. It is further developed in patent #6,167,362

  • U.S. Patent #5,966,526
    Simulation Device for Fostering a Virtual Creature
    Assigned to Bandai. This is a linking (coupling) "Tamagotchi like" virtual pet (Mesutchi and Osutchi). It called users when it needed attention (beeping) and had the ability to "couple". Two pets were physically connected together for reproduction. The new personality of the new pet was based personalities of the coupled pets. The patent cites our web site as reference material. Filed 1997.

  • U.S. Patent #5,971,855
    Apparatus and Method of Communicating Between Electronic Games
    Assigned to Tiger Electronics teaches how small handheld games can communicate with each other through a communications port and also be linked to a PC via a serial port to communicate with a central processing computer or a web site. This could allow the pets to be reprogrammed, unlock hidden features, interactive play and the logging of record scores.

  • U.S. Patent #5,982,390
    Controlling Personality Manifestations by Objects in a Computer Assisted Animation Environment
    An independent inventor teaches "encapsulating" a virtual character's identity as a software "object" so the character's speech, actions, morals, movements are consistent with the intention of the designer.

  • U.S. Patent #6,020,892
    Process for Producing and Controlling Animated Facial Representations
    An independent inventor describes the use motion capture equipment to develop high and low resolution facial expresion data from humans, dogs, fish and other animals for use in virtual games.

  • U.S. Patent #6,048,209
    Doll Simulating Adaptive Infant Behavior
    Independent inventor describes a doll that responds to the level of care given to it and cites several other hi-tech dolls in the references.

  • U.S. Patent #6,056,618
    Toy Character With Electronic Activities-Oriented Game Unit
    Independent inventor claims use of a keychain pet cabled to a stuffed animal (like a teddy bear). You take care of the keychain pet to make the stuffed pet feel good.

  • U.S. Patent #6,141,019
    Creature Animation and Simulation Technique
    Two independent inventors describe a means to model body joints to make virtual creatures appear more life-like on a computer in real time.

  • U.S. Patent #6,148,770
    Aquatic Landscape Ornamental Device
    Independent inventor in Taiwan describes a magnetic means to make aquarium plants more "life-like". Magnets cause them to appear swimming and wriggling in the water.

  • U.S. Patent #6,167,362
    Motivational Tool for Adherence to Medical Regimen
    Assigned to Health Hero Network, Inc.. This virtual pet helps children understand how to treat and deal with chronic diseases (diabetes, ashtma, obesity, hypertension) and adults to deal with similar diseases as well as coronary artery function, panic disorder, and nicotine addiction. It even allows the setting of target variables by the patient (their own goals). The patent is lengthy, well written and very informative. It also cites information from our web site.

  • U.S. Patent #6,171,189
    Video Game Device and Storage Medium on Which Video Game Program is Stored
    Assigned to Sega Enterprises. This patent speaks of inheritance probabilities of a plurality of virtual pet characters. It references Mindscape Entertainment's Creatures pets.

  • U.S. Patent #6,175,857
    Method and Apparatus for Processing Attached e-mail Data and Storage Medium for Processing Program for Attached Data
    Assigned to Sony Corporation concerns the use of a virtual pet training device that helps beginners learn how to send email. The specifically mention the use of "internet TV" boxes (boxes that sit on-top TV's and allow internet access).

  • U.S. Patent #6,213,871
    Nurturing Simulation Apparatus for Virtual Creatures
    Assigned to Bandai. Tamagotchi patent focusing on the hardware (the "egg") filed in 1997.

  • U.S. Patent #6,227,966
    Simulation Device for Fostering a Virtual Creature
    Assigned to Bandai This patent focuses on the pets ability to detect "a call from an external source". Pet outcome depends on timely sound input (voice) by the user. Filed in 1997.

  • U.S. Patent #6,240,393
    Aggregating and Pooling Weight Loss Information in a Communication System with Feedback
    Assigned to Health Pro Network teaches the concept of a weight loss group reporting individual progress to a central point and then receiving overall aggregate feedback via a virtual pet or similar device.

  • U.S. Patent #6,249,780
    Control System for Controlling Object Using Pseudo-Emotions and Pseudo-Personality Generation in the Object assigned to Yamaha and autonomous device behaves adaptively to user. One application specifically mentioned is robot pets.

  • U.S. Patent #6,251,010
    Game Machine Apparatus and Method with Enhanced Time-Related Display of Pokemon-Type Characters Assigned to Nintendo. This covers the time components (including time zone) of the Gamebody Pokemon game.

  • U.S. Patent #6,251,012
    Game System and Storage Device Readable by Computer
    Assigned to Konami Co. Ltd. in Japan describes and breeding and competition game. The abstract shows Pikachu (a Pokemon character).

  • U.S. Patent #6,253,167
    Client Apparatus, Image Display Controlling Method Shared Virtual Space Providing Apparatus and Method, and Program Providing Medium
    Assigned to Sony Corporation teaches a shared virtual space in which several users can share and breed the same virtual life object and the use of VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language).

  • U.S. Patent #6,267,677
    Game Machine and Storage Medium Therefor
    Assigned to Nintendo and covers the Pokeman / Pocket Monster game for a gameboy "cartridge" type device.

  • U.S. Patent #6,268,872
    Client Apparatus, Image Display Controlling Method, Shared Virtual Space Providing Apparatus and Method, and Program Providing Medium
    Assigned to Sony Corporation is an avatar patent, but the specifications section provides some detailed coverage of the development of virtual pets.

  • U.S. Patent #6,273,815
    Virtual Electronic Pet and Use Therewith
    Independent inventors propose virtual pets having additional behaviours if the user can guess the name of the behaviour within a certain time limit.

  • U.S. Patent #6,278,985
    Virtual Element Selection Device and Method Using Neural Network
    Assigned to NEC Corporation indications from users are converted by a neural network into a new element of virtual life. The new element displaces the old one to make it possible to select new elements which reflect the users intentions.

  • U.S. Patent #6,287,193
    Hand-held Game With Visual Display and Feedback
    Independent inventors bring some of the user feedback features of virtual pets to rotating toys like tops and yoyos.

  • U.S. Patent #6,287,200
    Relative Positioning and Virtual Objects for Mobile Devices
    Assigned to Nokia Corporation teaches the use of GPS devices on real people to play games with each other based on physical positions via WAP or similar mobile devices.

  • U.S. Patent #6,290,565
    Interactive Game Apparatus with Game Play Controlled by User Modifiable Toy
    Assigned to Nearlife. Three dimensional physical toy (like a fish) composed of attachments (fins, tail, etc) is connected to a computer. You can interact with the fish on the computer and it reflects the components used in the physical construction of the fish. Some components have sensors to detect motion, bending, etc.

  • U.S. Patent #6,292,198
    Information Processing Apparatus, Information Processing Method and Information Providing Medium
    Assigned to Sony Corporation covers virtual reality pets and avatars with object collision detection.

  • U.S. Patent #6,313,843
    Apparatus and Method for Controlling Image Display, and Recording Medium Storing Program for Controlling Image Display
    Assigned to Cassio Computer is a PDA pet with individual characteristics determined by the name you select for the pet. They use a Hampster as an example, resembling the popular Happy House Virtual Hampster downloadable pet.

  • U.S. Patent #6,340,978
    Method and Apparatus for Recording and Presenting Life Stories
    Assigned to Making Everlasting Memories, Ltd. is predominately targeted as a tombstone enhancement (view and listen to media of a persons life) but can also be used for deceased pets.

  • U.S. Patent #6,389,633
    Low Cost Brushing Behavior Reinforcement Toothbrush
    Independent inventor proposes toothbrush that rewards proper brushing with a virtual pet game. Part of virtual pet's life is dependent on proper brushing.

  • U.S. Patent #6,405,249
    Information processing apparatus and method, information processing system and program providing medium
    Assigned to Sony. Part of a series of patents and patent applications from Sony covering aviatar and virual pet "shared spaces".

  • U.S. Patent #6,406,370
    Method for controlling character behavior in video garmes, video game machine, and computer-readable recording medium on which video game program is recorded.
    Assigned to Konami Co. Ltd. This patent extensively discusses ways to control virtual pet behavior and includes many excellent references. Players interact with a virtual pet and it takes on a temperment based on your interaction.

    Patent Applications (not yet granted)

  • U.S. Patent Application #US2001/0002365 A1 published 31 May 2001
    Data Communications Device and Method of Processing Transmitted Data Invented by Mitsuru Minakuchi, Matsafumi Hirata and Tudahide Shibao all of Japan. Radio phone captures virtual pets of several types including mice, rabbits, turtles, raccoons and giraffes. Users care for these wireless pets and can also view them on TV. Pets are distributed in local areas by independent groups (such as at a sports stadium or in a mall) and can contain advertising features.

  • U.S. Patent Application #US2001/0007825 A1 published 12 July 2001
    Pedometer With Game Mode
    Assigned to Nintendo. This pedometer attempts to move childern away from the games boxes and out for walk. Based on a Gameboy, it counts your steps and they are given as a present to your virtual pet. You have to walk to keep your virtual pet happy. An interesting twist for our sedentary youth. The filed it 26 Feb 2001 and may have paid for early publication to get it published in a little over 4 months. Early publication is used to warn potential infringers.

  • U.S. Patent Application #US2001/0036859 A1 published 1 Nov 2001
    Breeding Simulation Apparatus for Virtual Creatures
    Invented by Akihiro Yoki. The device is similar to the Digimon keychain pet, but is not yet assigned. It is a continuation in part of patent 6,213,871 (a Bandai patent) filed in Feb. 1997.

  • U.S. Patent Application #US 2001/0049248 A1 published 6 Dec. 2001
    Computerized Toy
    Assigned to Silverlit Toys. Computerized toy system adopts different attitudes and positions. Enough limbs and joints are used to provide natural and smooth movement. The skin appearance may be fur or plush type body. The abstract graphic shows two robotic dogs.

  • U.S. Patent Application #US2002/0016128 A1 published 7 Feb. 2002
    Interactive Toy, Reaction Behavior Pattern Generating Device and Reaction Behavior Pattern Generating Method
    Assigned to Tomy Company. Abstract shows a robotic dog. Teaches methods of generating behaviors based on a score of level of attention and care paid to the pet.

  • U.S. Patent Application #US2002/0022523 published 21 Feb. 2002
    Learning / Growing System Using Living Goods and Method Thereof
    Assigned to LG Electronics, Inc. The toy itself connects to the internet. Learning and growing experiences are supplied by real goods (cheetos, nabisco, cokes, health club membership). Will be financed by banner ads from real-life goods.

  • U.S. Patent Application #US20020024312 published 28 Feb. 2002.
    Robotic and Action Deciding Method for Robot
    Invented by Tsuyoshi Takagi. Robotic pet has a decision process allowing it to react differently to the same input from different people (users).

  • U.S. Patent Application #U.S.2002/0028704 A1 published 7 Mar. 2002
    Information Gathering and Personalization Techniques
    Invented by Mark Bloomfield and Tanya Cheyne (both of London). Small device resembling a keychain pet is used to collect information on user and alert user when they are in a specific place at a specific time (come in and buy theatre tickets). Interface is a virtual character that is trained by user to participate on user's behalf in virtual games.

  • U.S. Patent Application #U.S. 2002/0035405 A1 published 21 Mar. 2002
    Storage medium, robot, information processing device and electronic pet system.
    Group of Japanese inventors propose creating an IC (spirit) card. Small card basically stores the soul of a virtual pet. The spirit card can be moved between various devices.

    Design Patents

  • U.S. Design Patents #D398,659, D396,887, D405,125, D405,475 (Mesutchi and Osutchi) and D407,760 (Angelgotchi)
  • Game Housings Assigned to Sony. Several virtual pet housings.

  • U.S. Design Patent #D394,856
    Virtual Reality Pet
    Independent inventor design patent on the Octopet keychain pet, a well known 8-in-1 pet.

  • U.S. Design Patent #D416,291
    Hand Held Electric Game
    Assigned to Nintendo. Nintendo Game Boy patent.

  • U.S. Design Patents #D397,728, D399,537 and D399,906
    Electronic game housings
    Assigned to Tiger Electronics. Keychain pet housings. The last two have feet.

  • U.S. Design Patent #D450,783
    Aquarium Toy
    Assigned to Tomy Company. Small virtual aquarium.

    Robot Dogs & Furby Patents
  • Sony's Aibo robot dog is covered by many patents including: 5,929,585, 6,219,588, 6,308,114 and Design Patents D418,551, DD421,634 and D431, 270

  • Tomy Company's robot dogs are covered by Design Patent D445,849. Additional protection has been sought in U.S. Patent Application #US2002/0016128 A1, published 7 Feb. 2002. This application shows a robotic dog and teaches methods of generating behaviors based on a score of level of attention and care paid to the pet.

  • Tiger Electronics' robot dog efforts are covered by at least one patent, 6,149,490

  • Tiger Electonics Fuby is covered by a U.S. Patent #6,149,490, the appearance of the pet by Design Patent #D423,611 and the appearance of the inside of the pet by Design Patent #419,209.

  • Miscellenous Reference Information

    Polson Enterprises Research Services

    We have been working with virtual pets since mid 1996. and assist in the development of virtual pets in all formats. We provide technical, market and patent information support, identify potential partners, review pet designs and maintain a vast library of virtual pet materials in all media forms (wireless, mechanical pets, keychain pets, java pets, online pets, CD rom pets, robots, vp downloads, game cartridges, board games, playing cards, etc).

    Polson Enterprises web site: provides further information on our services.

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