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US5497479: Method and apparatus for remotely controlling and monitoring the use of computer software

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Filing Information

Inventor(s) Gary D. Hornbuckle ·
Assignee(s) SofTel, Inc. ·
Attorney/Agent(s) LaRiviere, Grubman & Payne ·
Primary Examiner Robert B. Harrell ·
Application Number US8395617
Filing date 02/28/1995
Issue date 03/05/1996
Predicted expiration date 04/28/2009
U.S. Classifications 395/491  · 364/DIG.1  ·
International Classifications G06F 1300  ·
Kind CodeA
International Classifications 364DIG. 1;DIG. 2;400;410;411;406 ·
Related U.S. Application DataRELATED APPLICATIONS
This application is a continuation of prior U.S. patent application Ser. No. 07/509,979 filed on Apr. 20, 1990, now abandoned, which was a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 07/345,083 filed on Apr. 28, 1989, now abandoned.
20 Claims, No Drawings


Abstract

Remote control of the use of computer data and video game software is described in a system for renting computer software which derives use and billing information, prevents unauthorized use, maintains integrity of the software and controls related intercomputer communications. A user at a target game computer "downloads" programs or data, via a telephone line and remote control modules, from a central host computer. Usage of the video game software or data by the game computer or other accounting data are recorded and stored and, at predetermined times, the host computer "uploads" the usage data for processing. Other features include: (1) software and usage security for rental software programs; (2) a polynomial generator/checker for generating block check characters for assuring integrity of data transmitted and received; (3) a voice-data switch for switching between data communication and normal telephone communication; and (4) an audio amplifier and speaker for monitoring of activity on the communication line during data transfers.

Independent Claims | See all claims (20)

  1. 1. Apparatus for remotely controlling and monitoring the use of a computer game program comprising:first and second computers, said first computer having means for storage of a plurality of selectable computer game programs, and having communicating means for communicating with said second computer for downloading said computer game programs to said second computer and for monitoring the use of said computer game programs by said second computer, said first computer remotely controlling said second computer to transmit at predetermined times data indicating elapsed time of use of said downloaded computer game programs;said communicating means including a first transmitting and receiving means at said first computer, and a second transmitting and receiving means at said second computer;said first transmitting and receiving means and said second transmitting and receiving means including a microprocessor for control thereof, a program memory for storage of a program executed by said microprocessor, a read/write memory, a real time clock for enabling measurement of elapsed time of use of said downloaded computer game programs, a priority interrupt control circuit coupled to said microprocessor, means for indicating status conditions of said communicating means, and a modem for sending and receiving data;said first transmitting and receiving means coupled to said first computer for transmitting a program and associated program information from said first computer and for receiving said data indicating elapsed time of use to be supplied to said first computer;said second transmitting and receiving means coupled to said first transmitting and receiving means and coupled to said second computer by an interface device for receiving the program and associated program information transmitted from said first transmitting and receiving means and for transmitting said data indicating elapsed time of use to said first transmitting and receiving means;said interface device coupled between said second computer and said second transmitting and receiving means for adapting said second transmitting and receiving means to said second computer, said second computer being provided with a slot for receiving computer game cartridges, said interface device formed as a plug-in adapter that mates with said slot provided in said second computer;encryption means coupled to said first computer and to said first transmitting and receiving means for encrypting at least one preselected portion of the program and associated program information to be transmitted from said first transmitting and receiving means to form an encrypted information module, said encryption means including a first encryption key for encrypting said encrypted information module, said preselected portion including at least one portion of a computer program essential to the correct execution thereof;decryption means coupled to said second transmitting and receiving means for decrypting said encrypted information module to form a decrypted information module, said decryption means including a copy of said first encryption key for decrypting said encrypted information module; andtransfer means for transferring said decrypted information module to said second computer for execution by said second computer and for deleting said decrypted information module from said second computer when execution by said second computer of the received program and program information is entirely completed.
  2. 10. In a system having a central means for storage of a plurality of computer game programs, and having communicating means for communicating with a game computer for downloading said computer game programs to said game computer and for monitoring the use of said computer game programs by said game computer, said game computer being controlled to transmit at predetermined times data indicating elapsed time of use of downloaded computer game programs, a remote control device for controlling and monitoring the use of said downloaded computer game programs that include encrypted portions in said computer, said remote control device comprising:a microprocessor for control thereof, a program memory for storage of a program executed by said microprocessor in control of said remote control device, a read/write memory, a real time clock for enabling said remote control device to provide elapsed time of use of said downloaded computer game programs, a priority interrupt control circuit coupled to said microprocessor, means for indicating status conditions within said remote control device, and a modem for sending and receiving data;first coupling means including an adapter device coupling said remote control device to said computer for transferring preselected portions of said computer programs that include encrypted portions between said remote control device and said game computer;said adapter device coupled between said remote control device and said game computer for adapting said remote control device to said game computer, said game computer being provided with a slot for receiving computer game cartridges, said adapter device being formed as a plug-in cartridge adapted for use with said slot provided in said game computer;monitoring means coupled to said first coupling means for monitoring usage of said computer game programs in said game computer and for developing time accounting data relative to said usage; anddecryption means coupled to said first coupling means for decrypting preselected encrypted portions of said computer game programs, said decryption means including a first encryption key for use by the decryption means in decrypting said preselected encrypted portions of said computer game programs, said first coupling means transferring said preselected encrypted portions of said computer game programs from said game computer to said decryption means when said computer game programs are loaded into said game computer, said decryption means decrypting said preselected encrypted portions of said computer game programs, said first coupling means transferring said decrypted preselected portions of said computer game programs from said decryption means to said game computer for execution, said monitoring means monitoring the usage of said computer game programs from the point in time of the transfer of said decrypted preselected portions of said computer game programs from said decryption means to said game computer.
  3. 20.20. A method of providing computer game programs to authorized users on a rental basis, said method comprising the steps of:storing in a host computer a plurality of computer game programs available to be selected by authorized users at a game computer;establishing a connection between said host computer and a host remote control module;establishing a connection between said host remote control module and a public telephone network;establishing a connection between said public telephone network and a game computer remote control module;establishing a connection between said game computer remote control module and said game computer by way of an interface device formed as a plug-in adapter that mates with a game cartridge slot provided in said game computer;selecting a computer game program to be used on a rental basis at said game computer;selecting a key module of said selected computer game program that is essential to the operation of said selected computer game program, said selected computer game program not operable without said key module;encrypting said key module in said host remote control module with a first encryption key;encrypting said first encryption key and transmitting said first encryption key to said game computer separately;downloading said selected game computer program, including said encrypted key module, to said game computer remote control module along with an operating system modification routine;checking errors in said selected game computer program and said operating system modification routine as received at said game computer remote control module;retransmitting portions of said selected computer game program and portions of said operating system modification routine if errors are detected;modifying the operating system of said game computer utilizing said operating system modification routine, said operating system modification routine including a procedure for initiating the decryption of said key module;disconnecting said host computer from said game computer;decrypting said first decryption key at said game computer;fetching said encrypted key module of said game computer program;sending said encrypted key module of said computer game program to a decryption means associated with said game computer;decrypting said encrypted key module under the control of said operating system modification routine to form a decrypted key module, utilizing said first encryption key in said decryption means associated with said game computer;transferring said decrypted key module from said decryption means to said game computer for execution as part of said game computer program; anddeleting said decrypted key module from said game computer when execution of said game computer program is complete, said operating system modification routine initiating said deletion of said decrypted key module.

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