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Several Publishers Sued for Infringing 3D Patent 358

Posted by Zonk
from the i-have-patented-the-cube-rubiks-pay-up dept.
jok writes "According to a story on GameDaily, law firm McKool Smith is suing several publishers for infringing their patent on a "Method and Apparatus for Spherical Planning", filed in 1988. Among the companies being sued are several big names, such as Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Vivendi Universal, Sega."
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Several Publishers Sued for Infringing 3D Patent

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  • by ahsile (187881) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:15PM (#10703302) Homepage Journal
    I quote:

    "Common sense says it's ridiculous, and from a moral standpoint it's outrageous," anonymous employee at major publisher.
    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:17PM (#10703339) Homepage
      This is blatant patent squatting, and it's completely asinine that this sort of thing is legal. The entire purpose is to make money without actually doing anything, and the end result is that it stifles innovation. The patent system in this country needs a major overhaul.
    • by WebCowboy (196209) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:12PM (#10704142)
      My first thought was "why the hell would a LAW FIRM file patent relating to digital image processing"? My second thought was "why would they wait over 16 YEARS to defend their patent"?

      Not only is the patent itself flimsy at best, the way it is being used is obviously exploitation. Have we all lost sight of why patents were established in the first place? I don't recall the intention was to STIFLE innovation and provide an avenue to generate a sudden, large revenue stream for the patent holder.

      Was not the original intent of the patent system to provide incentive for inventors to develop and produce their invention? Wasn't the idea to provide a temporary period of protection to the inventor to establish himself in the market for his invention without getting ripped off by an unscrupulous competitor?

      I think that if I am right then the patent system should be overhauled and be more restrictive--especially since it was built around the invention of physical devices. Not just in what is patented, but how patents are granted.

      If there already isn't such a provision in place, the patent applicant should be required to demonstrate his intent to USE the information in his patent. Before a patent is granted, I think there must be an "invention sponsor"--either an organisation set up by the inventor himself or an initial licensee--that submits a business plan or similar evidence that the invention will be used and marketed. The patent then could be provisionally granted for a short term (5 years maybe?) and at the end of this term, if there is no progress then the patent is expired and cannot be renewed (though an inventor could start the filing process from scratch).

      I think that even if this sounds harsh, lawyers and unscrupulous businessmen have demonstrated they cannot be trusted with an overly permissive patent system. It is an obvious perversion of the system when the patent holder is obviously not in a business related to the patent and has gone for years with no licensee or partner to apply the invention. If patent holders want a high-level of protection for their ideas, I don't think it is too much to ask for them to provide a high-level of detail as to their intent in applying the patent.

      • My first thought was "why the hell would a LAW FIRM file patent relating to digital image processing"?


        They probably bought a bunch of patents with the intention of filing infringment lawsuits.

        My second thought was "why would they wait over 16 YEARS to defend their patent"?


        They had to wait until someone was making money off of something similar enough to be the target of a lawsuit. You can sue anyone for anything, but lawyers are smart enough to know that there's no point in suing someone who doesn'
      • by leabre (304234) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @01:35AM (#10707784)
        My first thought was "why the hell would a LAW FIRM file patent relating to digital image processing"? My second thought was "why would they wait over 16 YEARS to defend their patent"?

        Obviously we're talking about an inventor that really wants his idea to succeed and not be stolen by people who actually produce something, rather than sit on the luerals. ...Have we all lost sight of why patents were established in the first place?

        No, this is why they were established, so we can sue the unfortunate chap that was second inline to file for a patent application on the idea, er, invention I mean.

        I don't recall the intention was to STIFLE innovation and provide an avenue to generate a sudden, large revenue stream for the patent holder.

        Of course it is, don't you know, the incentive to patent something is so you can wait until the market is dependant on something that you patented and then sue them when there's no turning back. Its called long-term investment. Why try to bring it to market NOW when everyone else will in 16 years and then you can sue them for "damages"...?

        Was not the original intent of the patent system to provide incentive for inventors to develop and produce their invention? Wasn't the idea to provide a temporary period of protection to the inventor to establish himself in the market for his invention without getting ripped off by an unscrupulous competitor?

        Not really, because that would be too benificial to society and anit-capitalist.

        I think that if I am right then the patent system should be overhauled and be more restrictive

        Good thing it isn't up to you.

        especially since it was built around the invention of physical devices. Not just in what is patented, but how patents are granted.

        Our days have changed, we live in an intellectual society. That way we can lay off all or local workers and re-hire many more in some other country who can do the same work for cheaper and good quality. Good thing we don't have to actually produce something anymore, instead, we just need to "think" of it and voila... instant riches.

        If there already isn't such a provision in place, the patent applicant should be required to demonstrate his intent to USE the information in his patent

        Again, how would such a provision benefits all of our bought-and-paid-for congress-criters? Or the corporations?

        The patent then could be provisionally granted for a short term (5 years maybe?) and at the end of this term, if there is no progress then the patent is expired and cannot be renewed (though an inventor could start the filing process from scratch).

        This isn't in the best interest of a modern, capitalistic society. This would be a step backwards towards "progress" or more closely akin to Americas "developing" years. Why would we want that?

        I'm done now..
  • by lifeblender (806214) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:16PM (#10703319)
    If that was in 1988, how much longer will that patent last?
    • How long do elephants live again?
    • Patents are for 20 years. This one will run out on either April 6, 2007 or March 29, 2008 depending on if it runs out on the filing date or the publishing date. Thats assuming its not renewed for another 20 years.
      • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:27PM (#10703508)
        To quote Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

        As TRIPS agreement declares, the term of an issued patent is twenty years from earliest claimed filing date. In the United States, for applications filed prior to June 8, 1995, the patent term is seventeen years from the issue date. For applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, the term is twenty years from the earliest claimed filing date. The rules for patents in force and pending at the transition date (June 8, 1995) are significantly more complicated but grant the patentee whichever term is longer.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:31PM (#10703564)
        US Patents can't be "renewed." 20 years from filing and that's it (it used to be 17 years from issuance, but the law changed in 1995).

        There are "maintenance fees" required to keep it alive during that whole time (due at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years from issuance), but you don't get to "renew" for another 20. At least not in the US. And not anywhere else in the world that I know of, either.
    • 1988?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AltaMannen (568693) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:13PM (#10704164)
      So what about the hundreds of 3D Amiga demos (and ST, c64, etc.) that used exactly that technology before 1988? There is a lot of published source code (and how-to guides) for those around. The patent is essentially an obvious re-implementation of something that already existed in published form way before the patent was applied for.
  • Yikes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:16PM (#10703322)
    Does this mean I'm no longer allowed to play UT??
    • Re:Yikes! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ibanez (37490)
      Imagine how much havoc you could cause on gameing forums if you took this, made up some stuff about this new information making it illegal to play games by these publishers till its sorted out...:D

      Blake
  • by fembots (753724) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:16PM (#10703323) Homepage
    Have lawyers finally realized "why sue (and win) for others if we can do the same thing for ourselves"?

    Now the middlemen are selling direct! You own a patent, you file a lawsuit, and you take all the profits^H^H^H^H^H^H^H compensation.

    The article has mentioned enough "common sense" and "ridiculous" so I guess we have get the point.

    What's interesting is why/how did a law firm get this patent? Did it 'invent' 3D on monitor, or did it purchased the patent from a third party? The patent's inventor is "Waller, William G. (Portland, OR)" but McKool Smith is claiming these 12 companies infringed on their (not their client's) patent.

    Either way, it's going to get ugly because this is a law firm, it probably has all the resources and knowledge to do well in court, and we all know owner-operators usually work harder.
    • Huh, huh!

      "McKool" What a loser!

    • by MichaelDelving (546586) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:45PM (#10703738)

      >where/how did a law firm get this patent?

      I am the "inventor" of three patents, yet receive no proceeds from them. Well, I did receive a nice salary and some share options...

      It's called work. You sign intellectual property papers, then they start telling you what to do and pay you for it. In the course of your job, you invent things. The company pays for all the lawyering, and processing fees. Sometimes, the company licenses or assigns/sells the rights to other companies. One of those might very well be a law firm.

      When the bubble popped, and I dot-bombed, our intellectual property law firm expressed interest in one of my patents. But it eventually sold to another company for $60k. Which with any other liquidated assets went to the VCs.

      But hey, I'm not bitter or anything!

    • What's interesting is why/how did a law firm get this patent? Did it 'invent' 3D on monitor, or did it purchased the patent from a third party?

      Just what we need, lawyers with a hobby. I am picturing Matlock in the back room bent over a C64 and a cup of coffee tweaking code at 2:00 AM after studying a stack of leagal briefs.

      I am surprised it has taken so long for a law firm to get into this business. Lawyers have a parasitic relationship with society. Symbiotic relationships do not feel like someone is
  • by four2five (645777) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:16PM (#10703330) Homepage
    Because they seem to be the largest growth industry as of late. This is ridiculous, just like the Eolas patent.....Ben Franklin's descendants should try and patent electricity, it just might go through in the systems current state.
  • Snowballing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by metlin (258108) * on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:17PM (#10703334) Journal
    A few more such patents, and this will end up snowballing companies into realizing how futile their patents are.

    Slowly, companies are beginning to realize that although they could make money suing people, they could also get sued by equally greedy asshats.

    It's only a matter of time. You can only be so stupid.
    • by pogle (71293) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:21PM (#10703416) Homepage
      "You can only be so stupid."

      You're new here arent you?
    • That's why the companies with the patents don't actually produce anything. They're just lawyers who buy patents and go around suing. They don't actually do anything that could infringe on patents held by others.
    • by Progman3K (515744) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:40PM (#10703677)
      It's only a matter of time before China finishes off the rest of the lot.

      China's economy is booming precisely because they don't have any of this ridiculous patenting.

      Once China has the upper hand, it could turn around, rifle through the patents, scoop up all the ones owned by anyone willing to sell them and launch an attack against the remaining copmanies with them.

      Forget missles, baby! Here come the patent-wars!

    • Re:Snowballing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xigxag (167441)
      A few more such patents, and this will end up snowballing companies into realizing how futile their patents are.

      Unfortunately, I disagree. The large companies just consider this as a business expense. Eventually they will either settle for an undisclosed sum, license for the agreed terms or litigate the matter into oblivion. Of course, nobody wants to pay unnecessary expenses, but overall, they LIKE this sort of behavior. Why? Because it keeps smaller companies from even coming to the table. It enf
    • Re:Snowballing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica (681592)
      Except that what's actually happening is even worse: Law firms are realizing they can sue with impunity since they don't actually use any patents. So instead of the real industries figuring out that they're hurting themselves and stopping, everybody loses but the lawyers.
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:17PM (#10703335) Homepage Journal
    should expire after 5 years. I am generally an advocate of patents for VERY SPECIFIC things that obviously required a lot of R&D, but lets face it, if you can't make money off a patent in 5 years, you are in the wrong industry........
    • by metlin (258108) * on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:19PM (#10703384) Journal
      Not necessarily.

      The problem is that some ideas are not quite scaleable, and the technology nor adoption may exist at the time of filing the patent.

      Hence the longer duration given for adoption of a patented technology.

      It's a very valid and nice reason, unfortunately lawyer motherfuckers like these abuse the system.
      • Even if the patented technology can be built right now, it could take more than 5 years just to find the funding to turn it into a viable business, and even if the funding is found, it could take more than 5 years to turn a profit. I agree with the idea that patents should be granted only for very specific things, but the duration of a patent as it stands is probably about right.
        • by zurab (188064) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @06:10PM (#10704832)
          There is no reason why software, business model, design, etc. patents cannot be granted for a shorter period of time than other patents that may take longer time to turn into a product. How the funding is found or what profit is made does not depend only on the length of the patent period; it also depends on the quality of an invention, its industry, state of the economy, management, market demand, the intent of the patent holder, etc, etc, etc. So, you cannot take some average mean for patenting and producing a spacecraft engine and apply that period of time to a patent storing ID cookies on a client for "one-click" shopping.

          On an unrelated note, if a patent applicant does not intend to invest their time and/or money, or seek investors to create and sell or otherwise benefit from the invention, then their patent should be revoked within a reasonable time (maybe 6 months to 1 year for software, longer for some other industries). It doesn't make sense to have purely law firms sitting on 15-19 year old half-vague patents without any intent to accomplish anything, and at the end of the patent period start suing legitimate businesses that actually create products and drive the economy forward.

          IMO, these types of changes are needed for the patent system to "promote science and useful arts(?)" and not just act as a market competition and innovation deterrent, a effective cartel-type defensive mechanism, and a convenient revenue source for "IP" lawyers.
      • by operagost (62405) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:34PM (#10703597) Homepage Journal
        The problem is that some ideas are not quite scaleable, and the technology nor adoption may exist at the time of filing the patent.
        In that case, I'm filing the patent for my antimatter engine now.
    • Seeing as how one computer generation elapses about every 18 to 24 months, how about 4 or 4.5 years for an experation? And one that also requires you to have a working implementation at time of filing? That way you get people that actually develope something instead of patenting where the market is going.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        And one that also requires you to have a working implementation at time of filing?

        The problem with this is that it'd discourage individuals from sharing their innovative ideas. Most individuals cannot compete on a monitary scale with the R&D funds available to large corporations. Yet individuals have just as innovative ideas as members of large corporations. These innovative ideas should not be stifled due to lack of funds.
        • How are they not stifled now? They cannot afford the R&D or the lawyers to get and keep a patent themselves. All a company has to do is threaten to sue an individual into the ground unless he takes this generous offer.

          Does it really matter if they have a case or not? Would you risk everything on the gamble that the system might work this time?

        • by Ironsides (739422) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:47PM (#10703765) Homepage Journal
          These innovative ideas should not be stifled due to lack of funds.

          The patent system wasn't created to patent objects that never get created. It was made so that people who come up with an idea can create it and sell it with monopoly ownership on that idea for a limited ammount of time. It would be like Eli Whitney filing a patent for a mechanical methode of seperating coton seads from coton without inventing the coton gin.

          Being able to patent an idea without having to have a working implementation stifles work because otherwise people who have the same idea and actually put the work in to develope a working implementation would have to pay money to those that just see where the market is going. Like the company that is saying that anyone who does streaming media owes them money. They saw where the market was going and patented the idea. They didn't make any form of product while other people did. Neither did they try to sell their concept to others. They are just trying to rake in money from liscensing for it.

          Patents were made so that the ideas and knowlege behind something eventually reach the public domain. By not developing the knowlege and only patenting the idea, you are not doing this. You are stifling the system. Hence why there should be a working implementation.
    • I agree with the 5 year duration.

      However, the USPTO pedency for softwrae cases is about 4-5 years. So, 99% of your patent time will be wasted in the PTO fighting for your patent.

      Changing software patents to 5 years after issue, just leads to submarine patents.

      In either case, you have the difficulty of defining what is a software patent and what isn't. How much hardware can be in a software claim before it isn't software anymore?
      Because if we have a "one drop" rule, I am always adding some peice of HW t
  • Molyneux, I'm looking in your direction... but lots of games had spherical texture views of the gameworld, but they were usually just representing a simple rectangular map, like in SimEarth and StarControl II.
  • by stanmann (602645) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:18PM (#10703354) Journal
    So is this patent on Pi? or just on a technique for simulating depth, for prior art, do I need to pull up van gogh or dali? or just mario 1?
    • Personally, I think it goes back to at least Newton and Leibniz (though there's been recent arguments that Archimedes beat them both) when it comes to approximating a smooth curve/surface/whatever with a large number of small lines/planes/whatever. It's called "integration."

      Maybe they should go after those folks who still publish paper integration tables. Have we all paid the proper fees to solve the double integral of [n d(theta) d(phi)]?
  • uspto (Score:5, Informative)

    by Coneasfast (690509) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:18PM (#10703361)
    uspto link [uspto.gov]
  • by fembots (753724) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:18PM (#10703368) Homepage
    Due to pending lawsuit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:19PM (#10703372)
    By the time it comes out the patent will be expired!
  • by MooseByte (751829) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:20PM (#10703396)

    "The patent is ridiculously broad. It's purely McKool Smith trying to make money. It's an abuse of the legal system"

    McKool Smith? WTF kind of name is that for a law firm? Sounds like a shakedown scam operation from GTA:San Andreas.

  • And I hope that day comes sooner rather than later. This is about as asinine as suing others over "patenting" online coupons or graphical images. With every day I live, the more I despise lawyers. Vioxx lawsuits, personal injury attorneys, bogus technology patent lawsuits... It never ends. It's next to impossible to do business in this country anymore. Please, lord, make it stop!!
  • 1) read slashdot story on "Method and Apparatus for Spherical Planning" 2) patent "Method and Apparatus for Cubic Planning" 3) wait 16 years 4) profit!!!
  • by LordKronos (470910) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:20PM (#10703402) Homepage
    According to the filing [uspto.gov], the patent is "Method and apparatus for spherical panning".
  • by Underholdning (758194) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:25PM (#10703480) Homepage Journal
    "The patent is ridiculously broad. It's purely McKool Smith trying to make money"
    Actually, I don't want to waste my breath calling McKool Smith names. The big perpetrator here is the patent system and the patent offices who allows these general patents.
    • "The patent is ridiculously broad. It's purely McKool Smith trying to make money"

      Actually, I don't want to waste my breath calling McKool Smith names. The big perpetrator here is the patent system and the patent offices who allows these general patents.

      Just because it's legal to abuse the patent system like this, that doesn't make it ethical. I think napalm is too light a punishment for parasite companies like McKool Smith.
  • by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:26PM (#10703486)
    Here [mckoolsmith.com] is an article that discusses how Kool, Smith uses data mining techniques to find patent violations. This is apparently the focus of their practice and the article mentions some of their clients.

    To give you an idea of where they are coming from, and it's purely money, here is the title of another article featuring McKool, Smith: Patent field yields high-tech gold"

    I think that tells us that we will see more and more of this.

  • Not sued by McKool (Score:5, Informative)

    by GuyZero (303599) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:27PM (#10703512)

    For those who find it odd that a law firm would own such a patent, they don't. The editors managed to munge this somehow... a quick trip to the patent database here [uspto.gov] shows that th epatent is currently assigned to Tektronix, which makes a bit more sense. As an old, slowly dying company, Tektronix is doing what many companies do and seeking to "monetize their intellectual property assets", which unfortunately involves suing the living bejezus out of everyone in sight.

    • which unfortunately involves suing the living bejezus out of everyone in sight.

      I have a living bejezus in me?

      So what you are really saying is that they aren't just lawyers, they're exorsits?
    • Tektronix... ah how low the once mighty have fallen... Reminds me of a phrase writ upon a pedestal ... "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
  • Not to troll, but, couldn't this journalist have done a little more than just quote from one anonymous employee of a major publisher?
  • Typo first; the patent is actually for a "Method and apparatus for spherical panning", not "planning" (GameDAILY got this wrong too) and appears to have originally been assigned to Tektronix, perhaps best known for making printers and, IIRC, UNIX Terminals.

    To quote the abstract from the USPTO page [uspto.gov]: "A graphics display terminal performs a pan operation with respect to a view motion center to effectuate spherical panning, thereby providing perspective and non-perspective views. Three dimensional instruction

  • From the patent (Score:5, Informative)

    by claytongulick (725397) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:31PM (#10703555) Homepage
    What is claimed is:

    1. A three-dimensional panning method comprising the steps of:

    storing applied graphic information representing a three-dimensional object in a first three-dimensional coordinate modeling space;

    defining a second three-dimensional coordinate space as a viewing space from which the object may be viewed, the viewing space being movable at a selected radial distance around a selected reference point in the modeling space;

    inputting and storing further information including panning information specifying a position from which to view the object;

    moving the viewing space to the specified position in response to the panning information, effecting a transform of the coordinates of the object to the viewing space and to a two-dimensional coordinate screen space; and

    displaying a two-dimensional image of the transformed coordinates, providing a view of the object from the panned-to-position.

    2. The method of claim 1 where the step of moving the viewing space includes the step of orienting said viewing space with respect to the object, by varying at least one of pitch, yaw, and roll attitudes of said viewing space.

    3. The method of claim 1 where the step of inputting further information includes the step of identifying a center of projection relative to the specified view position.

    4. The method of claim 1 where the step of inputting further information includes the step of specifying a radial distance at which the object may be viewed.

    5. The method of claim 1 where the step of inputting further information includes the step of specifying viewing window size as a degree of magnification of the displayed image.

    6. The method of claim 1 where the step of inputting further information includes the step of specifying one of parallel and perspective transforms.

    7. Apparatus for performing a three-dimensional panning operation, comprising:

    memory means for storing entered information including applied graphic and panning information and a control program, the graphic information representing a three-dimensional object in a first three-dimensional coodinate modeling space;

    input means for entering information including panning information for panning to a selected position from which to view the object;

    processing means coupled to the input and memory means, and responsive to the panning information and execution of the program, for defining a second three-dimensional coordinate space as a viewing space from which the object may be observed, and for moving the viewing space, a selected radial distance around a selected reference point in the modeling space, to the selected position, effecting a transform of the coordinates of the object to the viewing space and to a two-dimensional coordinate screen space; and

    means for displaying a two-dimensional image of the transformed coordinates, providing a view of the object from the panned-to position.

    8. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein the processing means includes a means for orienting the viewing space with respect to the object, by varying at least one of pitch, yaw, and roll attitudes of said viewing space.

    9. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein the input means includes a means for identifying a center of projection relative to the selected view position.

    10. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein the input mean includes a means for specifying a radial distance at which the object may be viewed.

    11. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein the input means includes a means for specifying a view window size as a degree of magnification of the displayed image.

    12. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein the input means includes a means for specifying one of parallel and perspective transforms.
    • Re:From the patent (Score:2, Interesting)

      by KiloByte (825081)
      Don't be ridiculous.

      When I've read an article about BSP as an early high-school kid, I invented what this patent does without any outside help, using just school-level math (a math profile class, but still). And I'm not anywhere even close to a genius.

      What they have patented is just the basic perspective and rotation.
    • Re:From the patent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LSD-OBS (183415) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:06PM (#10704039)
      My brain got sore from reading that after the first few sentences, but in effect what they're saying is they've patented the multiplying of two 4x4 matrices, or the multiplying of a 3 or 4 component vector by a 3x4 or 4x4 component matrix -- which gives you your object space -> world space, or world space -> camera space transform (or the concatenation thereof).

      Hello, this has been around since the fucking dawn of Cartesian math!
  • by Andr0s (824479) <dunkelzahn@rocketmail.com> on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:32PM (#10703569)
    This is ridiculous.

    I find the fact they're trying to claim the feasibility of patenting a, for computer graphics, very basic concept, nearly as amusing as the fact that they were allowed to patent it in the first place.

    Having checked US Patent Database [uspto.gov] for the description of the said patent, I think I'll go ahead and patent... oh... 'Method of creating secondary colors by combining the three primary colors' ? The matter adressed by this patent is, IMVHO, not unique intelectual property - it describes a potential approach to a certain problem on an abstract plane, without describing practical solutions?

    Disclaimer: I lack sufficient knowledge of legalese, so I might have missread and missinterpreted the patent description. However, my modesty prevents me from admitting I might be wrong.
  • If that patent really has a leg to stand on, why not sue 3d app makers like Alias as well? Surely there's more profit that way...

    Or are they counting on the game companies to simply settle?
  • From the article: "McKool Smith is financing their major litigation against the 12 publishers by threatening smaller companies and then getting them to settle"

    So they threaten some smaller companies, some of those could give in, and settlements provide the ammo for going after bigger fish (sounds very much SCO tactics to me).

    Maybe some of those big boys should step in and help with legal support for the small guys (eg. in a legal defense fund), so that this McKool firm has a hard time getting any settle

  • A patent on "spherical planning" (maybe something related to planning sequences of viewpoints under contraints) might have had some novelty in the 1980's.

    This patent seems to be on being able to "spherically pan", i.e., change the direction you are looking into, in a 3D graphics system. The claimed novelty, such as it is, isn't even that, it seems to be that the 3D models are "downloaded" and that the user can manipulate them "locally" within the 3D graphics "terminal".

    The problems with this patent claim
  • by ThosLives (686517) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:37PM (#10703631) Journal
    I actually read the patent [uspto.gov] and it's basically a patent on using matrix transforms to set up a model space and a viewer. Considering I wrote something that does this in about 2 hours about 2 weeks ago, does that mean I'm infringing upon this patent? I used simple coordinate transforms that I learned in geometry. Should it be possible to patent mathematical processes? (IMHO, no, since you should be the discoverer of something - but discovery is not the same as ownership!)

    The thing we ought to, as responsible slashdotters, push on the USPTO is not even "prior art" as most of the crowd pushes on, but the "unobvious to one skilled in the art" clause. Anyone who deals with coordinate transforms - in physics, graphics, or whatever, would have come up with the use of matrix manipulations to view graphics information based on viewer position. The other half of this "invention" is manipulating the viewpoints in a manner which emulates reality - basically it's a patent for an interface which is the same as you or I walking around an object to get a different vantage point.

    That aside, there is the issue that 3D graphics have been out in the mainstream for over 10 years and nobody brought this patent up. I hope they're going to lose on statute of limitations.

    Perhaps we should draft and file a Friend of the Court brief?

  • A graphics display terminal performs a pan operation with respect to a view motion center to effectuate spherical panning, thereby providing perspective and non-perspective views. Three dimensional instructions stored in terminal memory are re-transformed in accordance with a panned direction. Also a zoom feature is provided so that displayed images may be magnified as desired.

    Is it me, or does it sound like they patented Bullet Time?

    Also, can someone tell me exactly what this means?:

    This is a con
  • Prior art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CokoBWare (584686) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:38PM (#10703641)
    Atari ST, Amiga, and even C64 had some games that all had 3-D rendered environments... before 1989... All someone needs to do is dig up these games (I can't remember their names) and show the prior art. I think these lawyers will eventually lose their stupid patent infringement bullshit crap and they'll get beat up on by some other large nasty lawyers who are good at beating up stupid lawyers.
  • ...whoever has the gold, makes the rules.

    Patent fishing never works if you are too ambitious and go after the big bucks right out of the gate. How many examples of this have we seen here on /.?

    Sue a couple of small fish. Get favorable court time first. Then go for the gold.

    It's like the Vikings have said for ages - pillage first, then burn!

  • by d_jedi (773213) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:42PM (#10703702)
    The patent itself seems legitimate enough (there's actually technical detail, there.. and I'm not certain how much was known or "obvious" about 3D graphics in the late '80s).. but waiting 16 years to file suit is simply ridiculous.

    Isn't there some provision that says the patent holder must try to minimize damages? Or am I thinking of something else (trademark?)
  • Prior art - 1983 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:44PM (#10703727)
    Bowyer, A. & Woodwark, J.R. (1983) A Programmer's Geometry Butterworths ISBN 0-408-01242-0

    Toward the end of the book - the entire first claim is provided - all subroutines necessary for panning.

    Hell - I even did my first 3d movie in tectronix 4010 escape sequences using them (moving around a cube - it looked like the cube was rotating except for the offset center).
  • http://www.mckoolsmith.com/pr_071603.html
    To meet the growing demand for intellectual property work, the article notes that many litigation law firms hired patent specialists. In 2000, McKool Smith jumped ahead of the curve with the hiring of Gordon White, a 24-year veteran of intellectual property law who also holds a master's degree in electrical engineering. The Statesman describes Mr. White as "one of the godfathers of IP legal practice in Texas."

    An EE? At a law firm? Does he read slashdot? Doesn't
  • 3D patent?

    I think God already has the prior art on creating three dimensional objects.
  • McKool Smith (Score:3, Insightful)

    by j0nb0y (107699) <.jonboy300. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:55PM (#10703865) Homepage
    I for one am glad that McKool Smith is aggressively pursuing those that would rip off McKool Smith's innovative technologies just to make a buck. Without this patent, McKool Smith would have never been able to develop innovative games such as... what? There are no games developed by McKool Smith? Surely with such an innovative technology McKool Smith would have been able to make *great* games. Alas, there are none, because McKool Smith is just a lawyer, not a game developer. This is good for McKool Smith, however, for a number of reasons. The first is that lawyers are the most powerful lobby in Congress. It's practically impossible to pass legislation that would cut down on dear McKool's profits. It's partially because of this that Litigation is the fastest growing industry in the United States. An industry with no product. An industry that lives by leeching from other industries. An industry whose growth, if left unchecked, will cripple our economy. An industry whose growth will remain unchecked, because of a virtual stranglehold on the political process in this country.
  • Quite strange... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LSD-OBS (183415) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:02PM (#10703968)
    ... that Id Software is missing from the list.

    And also any of the companies that develop the really serious quantum / particle physics and medical scan 3D data visualization software.

    It's obvious that these guys just want to make a big scene.
  • Favorite quote from the patent:

    "A graphics display terminal performs a pan operation with respect to a view motion center to effectuate spherical panning, thereby providing perspective and non-perspective views."

    Now I see why they call it an 'abstract'.
  • by nattt (568106) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:12PM (#10704145)
    Reading the patent, which is obviously a bad patent as a) not inventive, b) it's obvious, c) it's trivial, d) it's too broad, e) plenty of prior art, but it describes a system of the camera moving around an object in a spherical fashion, which is the exact oposite of what happens in a game. If they had the guts, they should go after SGI, and anyone else who has written 3d modelling software, not games companies.

    Not only should the patent be removed, but the companies involved should be fined for filing a bogus patent, and the law company disbarred for filing frivolous law suits.

    Alternatively, they should win their cases, and this should me more evidence of the evil of software patents, and all software patents should therefore be removed. Rant over...
  • SPAM and lawsuits... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gnuman99 (746007) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @06:02PM (#10704734)
    Hi all,

    Just got this spam about two days ago.. Maybe it is related..

    ------------------

    Dear Business Professional,
    You were referred you to me by an online listing about 3D graphic accelerators and I contacted you for a well-paid part-time consulting opportunity as an "Expert Witness".

    In behalf of my client, I am looking for people who ideally have a Ph.D. and that are interested to assist as "Expert Witnesses" for a prestigious litigation case to possibly set precedence in the graphic processor industry. It is required to work on this case for up to 100 hours in the next 8 months. This would be a great way for you to create an extra source of income. Here are the details...

    Demonstrated at least 10-15 years of successful experience in the 3D graphic accelerator industry
    Knows how to valuate technology in this area
    Ideally, has published articles about 3D graphic accelerators
    Participated in at least one litigation case related to the software and hardware industry.
    Excellent communications capability for written, verbal, and one-on-one persuasion

    The goal is to consult our client as an equal partner and evaluate the case as an expert witness. The candidates will possibly meet executive teams of well know companies, partners of law firms and other interesting people beneficial to further advance their career. The candidate can be located anywhere in the US to fulfill this consulting agreement.

    Please provide quantified examples of your success, resume, references and your relevant experience matching the above requirements ASAP. The project start date would be immediately after selection of the consultant.

    If you know other experts that might also be interested in this consulting opportunity, feel free to forward this announcement, and let your friends know about it. The selection process of consultants to be interviewed will be based on the responses you provide with your reply email. The start date for the interviews will follow immediately after selection of the most appropriate consultants.

    We are on a short timeline and honor a quick response on this message.

    Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,
    Jorg Huser

    CEO / Founder
    Micro Survivor, Inc.
    Phone +1-408-690-2464
    Fax +1-408-516-9814
    Email jorg@microsurvivor.com

    Enabling Emerging Business
    http://www.microsurvivor.com

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