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The Courts Government Patents Entertainment Games News

Several Publishers Sued for Infringing 3D Patent 358

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 lifeblender ( 806214 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:16PM (#10703319)
    If that was in 1988, how much longer will that patent last?
  • 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........
  • ILM could be next (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:18PM (#10703370)
    "...a method that uses a moving plane to show 3-D image..."

    Sounds like the 2 1/2 D methods pioneered by ILM and used by nearly every compositing/post house on the planet.

  • by Electric Eye ( 5518 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:20PM (#10703397)
    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!!
  • by nz_mincemeat ( 192600 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:34PM (#10703589) Homepage
    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?
  • 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!

  • 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?)
  • by DrWho520 ( 655973 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:45PM (#10703744) Journal
    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 ripping the host's small intestines out their ear.
  • Re:From the patent (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @04:54PM (#10703842)
    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.
  • 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.
  • by Schweg ( 730121 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:12PM (#10704140)
    I started using Silicon Graphics workstations in 1986. At that point, their 3d graphics library GL (not OpenGL) was already well defined, and provided tools to easily manipulate transforms between different coordinate spaces. The contents of this patent seem to be covered by the functionality of that library, as far as I can tell.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:13PM (#10704158)
    Or, to put it another way (quoting the supreme court)

    "It was never the object of those laws to grant a monopoly for every trifling device, every shadow of a shade of an idea, which would naturally and spontaneously occur to any skilled mechanic or operator in the ordinary progress of manufactures. Such an indiscriminate creation of exclusive privileges tends rater to obstruct than to stimulate invention. It creates a class of speculative schemers who make it their business to watch the advancing wave of improvement, and gather its foam in the form of patented monopolies, which enable them to lay a heavy tax upon the industry of the country, without contributing anything to the real advancement of the arts. It embarrasses the honest pursuit of business with fears and apprehensions of concealed liens and unknown liabilities lawsuits and vexatious accountings for profits made in good faith."

    (Atlantic Works v. Brady, 1017 U.S. 192, 200 (1882)).

  • by red floyd ( 220712 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:44PM (#10704515)
    Bzzzt! And thank you for playing. Here's [sjgames.com] your lovely parting gift.

    The concept of the "graphics" card has been around since at least 1981.
    The original IBM PC had no on-board graphics, and you could choose between an MDA (text only, monochrome), or a CGA (640x200x2 or 320x240x4, or text: 8 color). It may predate the PC, but IIRC, it was considered revolutionary at the time.

    Your last sentence is also wrong. You had to change both your monitor and graphics card to go from EGA to VGA.

    EGA used a 9-pin connector with digital level outputs. VGA used a 15-pin connector with analog level outputs. Thus the need to swap monitors -- unless you were using something like a NEC MultiSync, in which case, you kept the monitor and opened your system unit and swapped the graphics card.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:50PM (#10704588)
    Well political opinions aside... I'm not sure how your example is relevant. Here we have a number of legitimate large companies being sued by a scumbag company. Not a scumbag company being sued.
  • Re:Yikes! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ibanez ( 37490 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @05:51PM (#10704598)
    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

  • 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.

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    Enabling Emerging Business
  • Mod parent up!! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by plupster ( 689587 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @06:05PM (#10704765)
    My thougths exactly. If you don't understand that matrices part you migth want to read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_projection [wikipedia.org].
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @12:31AM (#10707424)
    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)]?
  • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Wednesday November 03, 2004 @08:45AM (#10709270) Homepage
    I think that this is attacking the problem at the wrong place. The problem does not occur when a case is started. The problem is way before that. There are actually two problems:

    1. Submarine patents. A company should be allowed at most x month to file a lawsuit, when a third party infriges. In case it is filed after that delay, the company should prove that it had no "reasonable" way of knowing the patent was infriged before x month prior to the filing of the lawsuit.

    2. Stupid patents with well-known prior art. A company should be liable of "malpractice" (or something else) if it cannot produce proof that they did a thorough research of prior art before filing the patent.

    In clear, the lawyer shouldn't be at risk here, or they would accept to do that only for huge amount of money and little people could not afford them any longer (or less than now). But the client should be held responsible of its actions.

    Letting a well-known infriger base its business on your patent should automatically void him of any threat regarding that patent after 12 or 18 month.

    Filing a patent when you perfectly know there are piles of prior art out there should be made illegal, and thus punished.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger