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Patents The Courts Games

RuneScape Developer Victorious Over Patent Troll 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the vanquishing-trolls dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Gamasutra reports that a US District Court judge has dismissed the patent infringement lawsuit brought against RuneScape developer Jagex discussed previously on Slashdot. Judge David Folsom last week dismissed online chat company Paltalk's claims that Jagex infringed on Paltalk patents relating to online network communications. The judge's ruling only resolved Jagex's case. Microsoft settled with Paltalk for an undisclosed sum in 2009 after the online communication technology company sued over the patents in a $90 million claim. That settlement opened the door to Paltalk's claims against other game companies, including Blizzard, Turbine, SOE and NCSoft. Paltalk alleged in the Jagex-related suit that it had suffered 'tens of millions of dollars' in damages. Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard said in a statement, 'It is exceedingly unfortunate that the US legal system can force a company with a sole presence in Cambridge, UK to incur a seven-digit expense and waste over a year of management time on a case with absolutely no merit,' and that Jagex 'will not hesitate to vigorously defend our position against any patent trolls who bring lawsuits against us in the future.'"
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RuneScape Developer Victorious Over Patent Troll

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    RuneScape managed to run+escape the patent troll?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    people still play runescape...?

    • by subanark (937286) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:34AM (#34279148)
      Maybe you've stopped playing, but runescape is a game aimed at middle school and high school kids. Its simple, has a free ad supported version along with a low cost subscription non-ad version. It can be played from public computers without needing to install any software right in your browser. It provides the standard grind for rewards (with skill points you get to keep forever).

      With runescape you get a good deal for what you pay for. It is falls in that nice nitch between causal (farmville) and hardcore (WoW) MMO gamers.
      • Amazed at how many parents play RS. I have talked to several that started playing just checking into what their kids were doing and got hooked. I made a character helping my wife one day, and still play a few hours a month. Casual enough it does not feel hard core (I would never play WOW for instance), yet deep enough to hold your interest. Jagex mentioned they were even surprised when they studied their demographics, but I have never seen them published anywhere.
    • by lgw (121541) on Friday November 19, 2010 @10:14AM (#34281068) Journal

      people still play runescape...?

      WoW has 12M subscribers, RuneScape has 10M, others are far behind. In terms of player, rather than subscribers, it's hard to get hard numbers, but Dofus claims 10M, and I hear there's a free Asian MMO with > 25M players (but can't find evidence of what game that is).

  • Money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:46AM (#34278988)

    Microsoft has money, why do they always settle with patent trolls? They can afford to fight, and probably win, a lot of these cases. Perhaps the trolls know this and agree to settle for pittance, rather than getting in a court battle.

    • Re:Money (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kailoran (887304) on Friday November 19, 2010 @02:50AM (#34279002)
      If Microsoft fought patent trolls they would be in effect fighting the entire patent system, and could end up accidentally overthrowing all software patents. That wouldn't be good for Microsoft.
      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday November 19, 2010 @05:19AM (#34279494) Journal

        MS is not SETTLING with patent trolls, it is funding them. MS can afford patent troll payouts, 90 million is peanuts to them. And even if it was 9 billion, then that would be price for burdening all their competitors with endless patent troll battles. I let the tick feed on my rich blood and release a billion offspring on my enemies who cannot afford the loss of blood.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 91degrees (207121)
        I think this is Microsoft's reason. I think that "That wouldn't be good for Microsoft." is simply wrong.

        Microsoft is sued a lot for patent infringement in suits with various levels of merit. Even if they win, they lose since it costs money to defend these cases.

        Microsoft will occasionally licence their patents and will occasionally sue for patent infringement bt this is a very small part of their business. It's also something that is largely avoided. Microsoft has big enough PR problems withut bei
    • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:19AM (#34279098)

      Look at the Immersion rumble lawsuit. MS settled with Immersion, part of the settlement was that Immersion was to turn their guns on Sony and then pay MS back with the money Immersion got from Sony.

      So MS bolster's Immersions patents by settling and making them look valid, also giving Immersion money to sustain a lawsuit against Sony. MS gets to help crimp Sony's business and help keep out other companies from the gaming market without looking like a patent troll themselves. Well, until the truth leaks out.

      Short version: they're scum.

      http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/archives/147162.asp [seattlepi.com]

      • by Alistair Hutton (889794) on Friday November 19, 2010 @07:05AM (#34279926) Homepage
        Immersion's patents were very, very valid, they didn't need Microsoft settling with them to make them look any more valid. Why do you think Nintendo used a different method of achieving rumble with the N64?

        The Immersion patents were for an actual physical invention, the proper and just use of a patent application, that both Microsoft and Sony blatantly ripped off.

        • by openfrog (897716)

          Immersion's patents were very, very valid,

          I don't have the time to actually RTFP, but would like to make sure that you don't miss the comment of evanism (here somewhere below), who did:

          What a monstrous pile of drivel. Pages and pages of confused circular talk couched in language so broad you could apply it to anything you want. It's insane when a patent is awarded for something like this, when it was designed for a lightbulb, or an electric motor or gunpowder, but this pseudo-IT-speak is dreadful. I would say the lawyer who wrote it didn't know what the Internet was or how it operates. Bloody American patent system

          Which makes the quote in the post worth repeating, and I like the typical Biritish understatement in which it is formulated:

          It is exceedingly unfortunate that the US legal system can force a company with a sole presence in Cambridge, UK to incur a seven-digit expense and waste over a year of management time on a case with absolutely no merit.

          • by Tim C (15259)

            That's all well and good, but that's about Paltalk's patents, not the Immersion ones that the GP is talking about.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          How can an unbalanced weight on a motor's spindle be a valid patent? Controlling the wobble frequency is a function of rotation speed, something women's sex toys have been doing for decades.

          • How can an unbalanced weight on a motor's spindle be a valid patent? Controlling the wobble frequency is a function of rotation speed, something women's sex toys have been doing for decades.

            Best prior art ever!

    • by Andy_R (114137)

      My guess (and it is just a guess) is that a settlement for an undisclosed sum with Microsoft is beneficial for both sides, if that sum is in the region of $1.

      Microsoft gets a potential expensive irritant go away and sue their competitors instead, and the troll gets to scare people by saying 'Microsoft folded, so you should too' to everyone else.

  • And so where do we get to donate to cover said 7 figure expense and otherwise bitchslap said patent trolls?

    Checkbook's right here. And they still suck.

    • by elwin_windleaf (643442) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:03AM (#34279040) Homepage

      A simple way to donate back would be to buy one of their upgraded accounts for a little while. While RuneScape is a free MMORPG, I think their business model revolves around these upgraded accounts, and that would probably be the easiest way to support them.

      Otherwise, their corporate site has a contact page (http://www.jagex.com/corporate/Contact/contact.ws [jagex.com]) with a bunch of email addresses. I imagine that any one of them would work, especially if the message was "I have this money I'd like you to have". :)

    • by mcvos (645701)

      What I want to know is: if RuneScape only has an office in the UK, why was this lawsuit handled under the US legal system? Shouldn't the lawsuit have been taking place in the UK in the first place?

      • by arivanov (12034) on Friday November 19, 2010 @06:57AM (#34279884) Homepage

        Unfortunately, most registrar's are USA based.

        So if a UK company sued in a USA court does a no-show, the troll wins by default. They can then get a court order and have the company USA assets which includes their domain transferred to them. This may include even a co.uk domain as long as it has been registered through Verisign or any of the other USA based registrars. If that is not enough they may get court orders and force any USA ISP to filter out (or deny routing) to any of the UK company servers and thus cut off any USA traffic.

        So in cases like this there are 3 options:

        1. Shut off any USA business you may have completely. That is what non-Internet companies like for example diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies making generics do. In the Internet case this is rather difficult.

        2. Pay up.

        3. Fight it on the troll's home turf

        This happens both ways by the way though the usual weapon in UK courts is not patents - it is libel and copyright. As a result a lot of USA Internet companies now filter out UK blocks altogether to minimise their libel exposure.

        • by pjt33 (739471) on Friday November 19, 2010 @10:14AM (#34281070)

          Jagex may have personnel only in the UK (I think Gerhard was being a bit inaccurate - there certainly used to be also a tiny office in London), but a large number of their servers are in the US because a large proportion of their clients are in the US and they want low latency. If those servers were seized it would mess the company up very badly.

        • 1. Shut off any USA business you may have completely. That is what non-Internet companies like for example diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies making generics do. In the Internet case this is rather difficult.

          I was waiting for a drug that my daughter takes to come off-patent so prices would drop. Then the generic showed up. Then it disappeared. Now it hasn't returned an my only option is to pay for the brand name. It's quite ridiculous, and even worse for those with even more expensive drugs.

  • by evanism (600676) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:11AM (#34279070) Journal
    What a monstrous pile of drivel. Pages and pages of confused circular talk couched in language so broad you could apply it to anything you want. It's insane when a patent is awarded for something like this, when it was designed for a lightbulb, or an electric motor or gunpowder, but this pseudo-IT-speak is dreadful. I would say the lawyer who wrote it didn't know what the Internet was or how it operates. Bloody American patent system
    • by mikael (484)

      Sadly, these lawsuits aren't new - some companies filed patents on multi-player network games in the 1980's, and proceeded to sue other game companies for using those techniques, despite the fact that similar games had been written and designed at universities and other research labs in the 60's and 70's. Even bedroom game programmers had worked on multi-player games using RS-232 ports.

      Tales of Silicon Valley: Bruce Damer on Maze War [cnet.com]

  • New Boss (Score:5, Funny)

    by SnakeEater251 (872793) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:17AM (#34279088) Homepage
    In a few weeks, Jagex will release an update to Runescape that will allow you to fight a brand new boss, Paltalk the giant Troll.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Paltalk the giant Troll.

      Will he be some worthless lvl 1 cannon fodder that only drops poop? ;)

    • Someone reposted your comment on the official runescape forums, with very little context. Tons of people are going to see your comment and think it is a planned future update, without even knowing of this lawsuit.
  • by Arguendo (931986) on Friday November 19, 2010 @03:39AM (#34279164)
    I hate patent trolls as much as the next guy, but it's a little misleading to complain about being hauled into the U.S. legal system as a foreigner. U.S. patents only have legal effect for U.S. sales. If you sell significant enough quantities to make a patent suit worthwhile in the U.S., you've got a decent U.S. presence. That said, congratulations for beating a troll in East Texas - and before trial no less. Not an easy thing to do.
    • by bieber (998013)
      Are you sure about that? I would assume that if you're selling a completely intangible product over the Internet, there's really no need to have a presence in any country other than your base of operations. At most, maybe support centers in countries that speak other languages primarily, if they constitute a large enough portion of your market...
      • by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday November 19, 2010 @05:10AM (#34279468) Homepage

        Just an anecdote here. I have a small software company in Europe. We sold our software to one customer in the USA - against the advice of our lawyer, who said to stay out of the US market. A year or so later, a person in that company who had been using our software lost her job. Her hubby had free legal services through UAW, and she could use them. So she figured she'd give it a try: sue us and claim that our software caused her to be fired.

        Needless to say, we had to look into the situation. It turns out that basically any US court, even the local court in Nowhereville, can use the so-called "long-arm statute" to claim jurisdiction - just because you sold to a customer in their neighborhood. The fact that the signed purchase contract specifies a different jurisdiction is apparently irrelevant.

        Sure, one could just not show up in court. But then you lose, regardless of the merits of the case. While any verdict might be impossible to collect, ultimately it might mean that no one from our company would dare travel to the US. It's not the kind of thing you want hanging over your head forever.

        In our case, there was a happy ending. The fact that we actually got a US lawyer to write a rather pointed letter about the stupidity of the claim was enough to get the UAW attorney to back down. Still, it could have gotten really ugly. Needless to say, we have never taken another US customer. Life is too short for this kind of crap.

        • I sincerely apologize for the lawyers of our country and the foul people who would wield them.

          We've been trying to thin the lawyer's numbers for some years now, but silver prices are astronomical and there's a shortage on ammunition lately.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by evanism (600676)
            wooden stakes and holy water?
          • Fortunately, given the recent success of a movie-series-that-shall-not-be-named, there is now an abundant supply of natural predators: werewolves and vampires.

            Once the werewolves and vampires have taken care of the lawyers, we can send in gorillas with silver stakes to take care of them. After that, we can wait until winter, and the gorillas will all freeze!
        • by ginbot462 (626023)

          Don't worry, when US final up and tanks it. The stocks crash and burn (again). And this sends economic shock waves amplifying across the pond ... That upcoming Dark Age from US, your Welcome! You are a Visigoth right?

        • I wouldn't use your story as a bad example. Any idiot can walk into city hall and file a suit. How far it goes is the measure of the justice system. And, that's where our problem is.

  • Reclaim your legal fee's and make them hurt!!

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