How to create a computer game? Flying museums, reverse engineering and other adventures of Mr Michał Czubak #teamJWP

13 September 2023

Why did you decide to become an attorney-at-law?

For a long time, I have been trying to find my place. In college, I wanted to become a judge, I was fascinated by labour law. During the course of my legal traineeship I started working in court and my view changed drastically. Seeing the “behind the scenes” of working in court, I found that I needed something a bit more dynamic in my life. Another person, who inspired me, was my mentor. He had been working as a judge for many years, and for similar reasons developed his career as a representative. I like this profession because every day we have a new case in a new court, always new clients… The life in court begins when a case is filed and ends when a sentence is issued, but the professional life of an attorney-at-law begins much earlier. It might never reach court or it may end much later than that, if, for example, there are problems with the enforcement of the judgement. I value this diversity.

Has your interest in intellectual property law developed while working in court? Was it one extraordinary case which caught your attention or a whole series of them?

These were rather accidental cases. I have worked for almost three years in a civil department of a regional court, back then there were no intellectual property courts, and cases in the field of copyright were in the jurisdiction of civil departments. We had some cases related to musicians, band names, a few from the publishing market, so copyright was my introduction to this field of law. After I passed the professional exam, an opportunity appeared to move into the newly created departments of intellectual property. I was an assistant with experience, so I took this opportunity and ended up in the newly created department of intellectual property, where I worked with judges on cases strictly within the IP area, while leaving the general and vast civil law behind. I encountered entirely new subjects from the domain of industrial property. Now I can call them “classics”, back then that area was absolutely new to me.

What fascinates you most about industrial property law at the moment, which area?

Definitely patent cases. I would like to develop my skills within this area, the subject of technology has always been dear to me. It’s a mixture of law with something entirely different. There is no denying that technology is usually very far from the law, and that is what I find fascinating. Working with people whose views on protecting inventions are so entirely different is also interesting. Scientists often want to publish the results of their work in journals and earn points at their university. But from our perspective, it’s essential to protect the technological solution from disclosure before we file the application. Otherwise, the possibility to receive a protective title for it might be lost. Another area which I find fascinating and which I would like to pursue is the area of new technologies, the gaming industry in particular. It is a very interesting, complex system, there are aspects of copyright, as well as industrial design, when you look at the graphic interfaces of apps or games, which theoretically could be protected. Patent issues arise from time to time in the area of game mechanics, which can also be protected.

You supervised work in the field of gathering materials for games. Tell us more about this experience.

Yes, for many years, I have worked with a company which develops modules for computer games. It’s a company that operates in the domain of aircraft simulators.
Planes are an amalgamation of technology, starting from aerodynamics, through propulsion, avionics and ending with optoelectronics. From this experience came my passion for aviation and my desire to do a pilot’s licence in the future. However, at that time, the arrangement with co-creating computer games was more financially available and achievable. From being interested in the game, I moved to working on it. Successively, I began to take on aspects of collecting materials for its production. Creating aircraft simulators is based on recreating the real object as faithfully as possible. It requires extensive technical documentation, and as these are usually military planes, it is necessary to acquire documentation which is often classified. And if we try to recreate a plane from 60 years ago, there is in turn a problem with its availability, it is already in some archive or a museum. I had to learn a lot and then I had to develop communication with various institutions at home and abroad.
Technical documentation provides knowledge of the technological solutions and the functioning of a plane, but then you have to recreate its visual layer. In the past, it was done with the use of technical drawings, based on which graphic artists created 3D models and textures. Today, technology allows us to create models using laser scanning, photogrammetry and other technological solutions which make the process easier and the resulting model much more faithful to the original. There are a lot of surfaces and areas in the plane that are shaped in a variable way, e.g. the geometry of the airfoil is very difficult to reproduce in the model because it changes from the wing tip to the centre wing and from the leading edge to the trailing edge. Laser scanning gives us a measurement which is a perfect recreation of the real object and allows the graphic designer to “draw on it” in a way, and to create their own model that is, on the one hand, a faithful copy and, on the other, usable in a computer game.

It reminds me a bit of the work of an archaeologist, where did you get the deepest insight into game material? Was it a museum, or a different institution?

These were documentation archives at military institutions, two in the United States and one in Australia. I applied for access to documents, but in the United States it’s always problematic because many documents related to national security, especially those about military facilities, are classified. You have to work through mechanisms such as the Freedom of Information Act, apply to the right institution for access. There, an official verifies your eligibility and whether the disclosure of information is compatible with the interest of the State. Our view has always been that accessing materials about planes from 50 or 60 years ago no longer poses any threat to the State, but the official has their guidelines and, unfortunately, we have often unfortunately been denied access to information.

And have you also been confronted with the issue of intellectual property rights in this process?

Yes, this subject appeared on the occasion of laser scanning and acquiring models. We used to be able to treat a model created from scratch by a graphic designer, based on drawings and photographs, as subject to copyright. In this case, since a model was never a 100% faithful reproduction of reality, due to the limitations of transferring an object from photographs from a 2D plane to a 3D space, there was a creative input, the creative stamp of the creator. With scanning, on the other hand, the person doing the scanning did not have to be a graphic designer, they could have been a technician because the scanner downloads the measurements, which are then merged and processed in the software, finally giving us a finished model, so in this case we were dealing with an object that was questionable as to whether it could be copyrighted, precisely because of the lack of creative input. Now we have an analogical discussions about artificial intelligence that creates texts or images, which are compilations of existing works, but they are created by an artificial intelligence so again the question is: can we protect these works on the basis of copyright?

History likes to repeat itself…

Similar disputes about, for example, using objects, whether within the area of trademarks or design, appeared very often in the United States. The computer game industry, which has a rather strong area of games about the military, meets on different grounds with claims from the people who created the real objects, i.e. from plane manufacturers. It’s hard to recreate, for example, a plane which had been manufactured by a particular company for years, and not call it the original name, which serves to identify it, but then we enter the domain of using somebody else’s trademark and there is a potential for conflict. This type of problem can be solved by a licence, but not necessarily, because there are other issues such as whether the company that creates such a model can afford to pay a large manufacturer, in this case an aircraft company, the expected sum.

Why did you decide to work at JWP?

I have wanted to work here for a long time because of JWP’s reputation. JWP is a large company, it’s not a boutique law company, so it offers more opportunities for development and more empowerment. For two years, I have also been a trainee patent and trademark attorney, my Mentor is Tomasz Grucelski, so I have decided to work here also because it gave us an opportunity to cooperate more closely.

How does your perception of working at JWP compare to everyday reality?

A lot of things have been confirmed, as evidenced by the range of cases I am currently working on. It’s not just copyright issues, but there are also a lot of those relating to trademarks and, above all, the area that interests me most, patents. We also work on projects related to new technologies, which is exactly what I have expected.

And what are your plans? Are you going to become a pilot in 10 years?

I would like it to happen much sooner! As I get older, all sorts of problems progress, in my case it’s eyesight problems, so the sooner I get on with it, the easier it will be for me to make it happen.

Are you going to transport people or to fly a fighter plane? 😊

No, I am not planning either a career in the military area, there it would be unfortunately impossible, firstly because of my age, secondly again because of my eyesight. The requirements set by our military are very high, a candidate must be virtually a perfect human, and there are very few of those around. Pilots go through rigorous physical tests and health exams, also mental health. A career of a commercial flight pilot also currently doesn’t interest me, I think it’s too late for such decisions at this point. But I was never interested in flying from point A to point B, anyway. I would like to fly recreationally in small planes, popularly known as light aircraft, and I may also try my hand at aerobatic machines.

You have mentioned Tomasz Grucelski, who is your Mentor. How does such a cooperation look like?

The role of a Mentor is taken on by experienced experts who decide to teach, share their experience and guide the development of trainees or people who are at the beginning of their career. Tomasz and I have worked together for a while now; when I was still a trainee, I asked for jobs and additional tasks from the area of IP. And now, the role of a mentor has been combined with the role of boss, I no longer have to ask for it, I get it whether I want it or not. 😉 Tomasz is still the person I can always turn to when I have a question, the person I can ask to give an opinion or to help and guide me in matters that are still partially new to me.

And why did you choose Tomasz for this role?

We get along very well. We met by accident, when I decided to pursue the career of a patent and trademark attorney. The requirement of having a mentor was a problem for me, at the level of submitting documents it is necessary though. I did not know any patent and trademark attorneys, so I asked at the company if there was anyone who might be interested in guiding my training. And this person turned out to be Tomasz.

How did you know about the existence of JWP then?

I remembered JWP mainly from my work in court, thought then I knew them only on paper, from incoming pleadings.

Has something made you take notice of our company? Perhaps it was the number of cases won by JWP? 😉

I never kept statistics, so I can’t say what JWP’s efficiency was, but I know for certain that JWP stood out because of the quality of pleadings and because of how they kept their documentation. The professionalism was evident, at least from the documentation side of things, since as an assistant I had no direct contact with attorneys in the courtroom. I could at best listen to the recordings from the proceedings, but it’s one thing seeing someone in action and another just listening to a recording. I mainly acted on what I knew from the documentation and that is where the company’s quality stood out.

Could you please tell me, because it sounded intriguing, what is reverse engineering?

This is the result of laser scanning, when a scan in the shape of a point cloud can be turned into a three dimensional shape, which can then be recreated, e.g. in a CAD environment. Reverse engineering which produces a virtual model is used not just in computer games, but mostly in different kinds of scientific work and reconstruction jobs, where it makes it possible to recreate or redesign damaged objects. An example I remember due to my area of interest is an attempt at recreating different elements of an engine or components which have not been manufactured for a long time. There are museums, so called flying museums, where people try to keep historic machines in flying condition. Due to the fact that the spare parts have not been manufactured for 5, 10 or 60 years, it is necessary to produce them using a different, artisanal method. If the museum has no or insufficient documentation, a much better solution may be to use reverse engineering, i.e. to scan the object and transfer the shape into virtual reality, where the design of the part can be made to enable its production

One question to conclude our conversation. Addressed specifically to you, as I see you are observing reality from a bird’s eye view. 😊 What do you think is the best definition of innovation?

For me, innovation is associated with patents and with the creation of new technical solutions that change the reality around us. This is how I see innovation.


Thank you for the inspiring conversation!


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