One of the biggest things that big publishers complain about these days is the sale and use of old, second-hand games, and they might finally be able to do something about it. According to NeoGAF member gofreak, Sony has acquired a patent that could essentially curb the sale/use of second-hand games. The technology works by supplying a contact-less RF tag with each copy of a game. The tag can remember if it has been tied to a different machine or user account previously, and the system checks the tag before the game is started.
Sony looks like it wants to destroy the used games market
The main focus of the patent seems to be an attempt to curb the sale of used games, but it also has the potential to curb piracy, at least temporarily. Of course, considering the sheer number of pirates and crackers active today, it is possible the RF tag system would be cracked soon.
The technology has the potential to cause problems for legitimate gamers, though. If a console malfunctions, a gamer could essentially lose their entire game library for the console. It is possible that Sony may have researched the technology for use in its next console, referred to in development circles as the Orbis.
Some more details can be seen in the 'detailed description' section of the patent filing: "According to the present embodiment, realized is the electronic content processing system that reliably restricts the use of electronic content dealt in the second-hand markets. As a result, the dealing of electronic content in the second-hand markets is suppressed, which in turn supports the redistribution of part of proceeds from sales of the electronic content to the developers. Though in the following description a game application (AP) is exemplified as the electronic content, the present embodiment is similarly applicable to various kinds of electronic content such as an office suite, images, and music content."
Judging by this, Sony seems to be going for the throat of the second-hand games market. There have been rumours before this that the next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft will have technology that prevents the use of second-hand games. Such rumours were also present before the launch of the PlayStation 3, but as is evident, it wasn't executed by Sony.