The filing lists the camera as automatically following "interest values" around the playing field.
It's something of an understatement to say that League of Legends is popular. Recent statistics pegged the game as having more than 27 million daily players over the course of 2013. As if that weren't enough, the game even has its own world championship series and is a favorite of streamers and online spectators.
Developer Riot is apparently taking League's status as a spectator sport seriously with a new patent filing for a "self-moving camera" that can be used to follow "interest values" around the map without a need for human control. For League of Legends, this would most likely apply to players or objectives such as turrets and jungle camps.
In the filing for the patent, titled "Systems and methods that enable a spectator's experience for online active games," Riot states that there is an interest among viewers of any popular activity to watch organized tournaments and events. However, when it comes to League of Legends, "the current spectator experience is somewhat limited. Accordingly, systems and methods to enable an improved spectator experience would be desirable," Riot writes.
Over on Reddit, poster Esports-Patent-Atty, who identifies as a patent attorney and League of Legends fan, speculates that Riot could use this filing to prevent other MOBA games like DOTA 2 from using a similar feature. However, Esports-Patent-Atty lists that Riot has previously advocated against restrictive IP laws such as SOPA, so they may take a more liberal stance with this patent. Esports-Patent-Atty also notes that Riot has patent applications for their Tribunal and matchmaking features.
Update: Riot has posted on their website that they have no interest in using any of their patents offensively. "The U.S. patent system is broken and needs reform," Riot wrote. "We won't get in the way of anyone else building awesome spectator features, but we do want to make sure League of Legends players can always spectate freely."
Riot states that part of the reason for their patent applications is to protect themselves from patent trolls, who regularly make a habit of going after video game companies. Also worth noting is how Riot has previously given permission to its community to use its IP for fan projects that are either given away for free or only generate ad revenue.
Riot's post ends with a link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Defend Innovation project, which is designed to address U.S. patent reform.