Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Government Patents Entertainment Games News

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Several Publishers Sued for Infringing 3D Patent

Comments Filter:
  • uspto (Score:5, Informative)

    by Coneasfast (690509) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:18PM (#10703361)
    uspto link [uspto.gov]
  • by Ironsides (739422) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:20PM (#10703400) Homepage Journal
    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 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 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:32PM (#10703574)
    From what I know, the patent in question was purchased by a company called American Video Graphics, whose business model seems to be litigation.

    As I understand it, they claim that any game where you can rotate the camera around your character is covered, so just about any 3rd person game. And any hardware that performs this, so graphics card manufacturers and makers of video game consoles are also being sued. They are sure shooting for the moon on this one.
  • 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?

  • 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).
  • 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!

  • by black mariah (654971) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:58PM (#10703899)
    You're thinking of trademarks. Patents aren't like that. You don't have to try to defend patents unless you really want to. THAT is what should be changed about patent law. You should be forced to defend it the same as you are with trademarks. That would keep things like this from happening, without totally fucking up the patent system.
  • by Raffaello (230287) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:08PM (#10704076)
    Kerry was a Prosecutor first. After two years as a prosecutor, he went into private practice, where he won, among other cases, a judgement against a company that used carpet fibers instead of human hair in their "hair" transplants.

    Guess what? The reason there are a lot of law suits is that there are a lot of scumbag businesses out there who will continue to cheat people unless they are sued.

    The answer is not some sort of prohibitive "legal reform." The answer is to turn the Republicans, the party of sleazy scumbag businesses (Enron anybody?) - out of office.
  • 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.
  • Re:Prior art - 1983 (Score:3, Informative)

    by StudyOfEfficiency (826511) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:14PM (#10704168)
    Color me surprised. This book actually exists. Thanks AC [amazon.com]!
  • Re:uspto (Score:3, Informative)

    by Carnildo (712617) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:16PM (#10704195) Homepage Journal
    The mathematical perspective transforms weren't well-understood until about the 17th century. Euclid wouldn't have had a clue about this stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:27PM (#10704345)
    It seems that either one of these would be prior art to this patent. In Stellar 7, I seems to remember that if yoy died, there would be a replay from the outside of your tank blowing up. That would take care of the two separate coordinates the patent is talking about.

    Also, more obviously, with FlightSim, when the view is taken outside the Plane with the camera pointed at the plane. I don't think this was in the first few Flight Simulators, but I'm pretty sure it was before 1988. Flight Simulator started in 1979.

    http://simflight.com/~fshistory/fsh/index.htm
  • Re:Prior art - 1983 (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:34PM (#10704405)
    Funny. Tectronix is the actual owner of the patent we're discussing.
  • by Random Hacker (748151) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:35PM (#10704417)
    The "prior art" here comes from the Rennaissance, when cartesian coordinates were introduced and classical Greek geometry was reworked as algebra. It is obscene that the PO allows this sort of thing to be patented, but we all know that there are hundreds more like these. And Congress won't do a damn thing to fix it.
  • by TheHonestTruth (759975) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:35PM (#10704418) Journal
    Dear sir or madam: you obviously have no grasp of patent law. Everything you quoted is completely irrelevant. The part you want to look at 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.

    That is a claim. That is what determines if you are infringing or not. Forget the sepcification since that is just telling you of one way of practicing the invention. Note that the claim does not mention who makes your CPU or what display technology you are using. Therefore, it isn't "legal" if you use and AMD processor.

    -truth

  • by flyboy974 (624054) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:39PM (#10704460)
    The matrix equations for this complete patent were invented in 1843. It seems that applying this to an 8086 computer is what they are trying to say is unique about the patent.

    Although I believe there are some books written in the 1970's (and referred to in the parent application) that refer to the fundamentals of computer graphics. I would bet money that they detail the matrix functions in one of those books. BTW, when did Microprose first start on FlightSim 1.0? Let alone any cad program used by Boeing or some other aviation/military firm.

    From the Google answers:

    So, to the shortcut. It turns out when all the dust settles that the multiplication among rotations is isomorphic to multiplication of unit quaternions. Quaternions, in case you've not seen them before, are a kind of four-dimensional generalization of complex numbers. They were "invented" by William Hamilton in 1843:
    Sir William Rowan Hamilton [st-and.ac.uk]
    Google Answers article on 3d Math [google.com]
  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:43PM (#10704504) Journal
    Not that it's much on topic. but here goes...

    Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira married John Heinz III in 1966. John Heinz's family owned large shares of the HJ Heinz ketchup company, but his father (Jack Heinz) was the last to play an active role in management. In the late 1980s, the family diversified their assets, and divested themselves of most of their HJ Heinz shares.

    John Heinz entered politics in 1971 when he successfully ran for the House, (as a Republican.) In 1976, he entered the Senate, and served until his death in 1991. Subsequently, Theresa Heinz inherited much of John Heinz's fortune, the remainder devolving to various charitable foundations and family trusts.

    In 1995, Theresa Heinz married Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
  • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:46PM (#10704544)
    Patent Law Of The People's Republic of China [most.gov.cn]

    It's an interesting read that demolishes Slashdot myths. Successful world traders tend to share certain values. You'll find english language links here to the Chinese law of copyright, trademark, etc.

  • by joranbelar (567325) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @06:00PM (#10704717) Homepage

    Nevermind, I misread. Patents filed before June 8, 1995 go by their issue date, which in this case was March 29, 1988.

    In other words, the suits are quite timely given that the the patent expires on March 29, 2005.

  • Re:Prior art - 1983 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @06:19PM (#10704937)
    Prior art: 1974

    Spinning high-dimensional data clouds has been popular in Statistics since the 1970's. I wrote a program to do this in 1982 on a character terminal. (fortran on a microvax).

    FISHERKELLER, M. A., FRIEDMAN, J. H. and TUKEY, J. W. (1974a). PRIM-9, an interactive multidimensional data display and analysis sy stem, 1974. Sound film, 25 minutes. Bin-88 Productions, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Video tape available through the ASA Video Library.

  • Descartes (Score:2, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @06:34PM (#10705084) Homepage Journal

    Euclid didn't work with analytic geometry, which associates numbers to points in space. You'd have to look to the Descartes estate for that.

    And they're not suing CAD vendors because CAD vendors have a chance of being large enough to win by exhaustion.

  • by Cryptnotic (154382) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @07:42PM (#10705759) Homepage

    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't have enough money to pay to settle or to pay a judgement.

  • Typo in Article? (Score:2, Informative)

    by dubstar (565060) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @08:23PM (#10706097)
    From the link provided by parent - 'Method and apparatus for spherical PANNING'. Not PLANNING.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @03:50AM (#10708399)
    It's not a matter of expiration date, but whether the infringements occurred before the expiration date. Even if the patent had expired by now, they would be free to sue for past infringements.

    And yes, I'd shoot these lawyers.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Working...