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The Courts Government Entertainment Games News To Extend Virtual World Lawsuit To Second Life, WoW 106

FiveRings writes "BusinessInsider has a story about, a company that inherited the patent on virtual worlds from the Starlight Starbright Foundation and is taking it to court against NCSoft over the company's various MMOs. If successful, he will press on and sue the makers of Second Life and World of Warcraft as well. The article notes that the NCSoft case is being held in east Texas, which has been a favorable venue for patent trolls in the past."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted. To Extend Virtual World Lawsuit To Second Life, WoW

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  • Heh. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:39AM (#27177673)
    I'm going to sue God because I came up with the concept of 4-dimensional space-time.
    • I think there is enough "prior use" of this to invalidate your patent.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Since when has prior use stopped a patent?
    • Re:Heh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:00AM (#27177773) Homepage

      I'm going to sue God because I came up with the concept of 4-dimensional space-time.

      Yeah! And when he defends himself, he'll have to say how many dimensions their really are to show the patent doesn't apply. Trick God into verifying string theory!

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Your honour, the defendant has failed to appear in court and there is no defense offered. I move to rule in favour of the Plaintiff."

        "Granted. All of space-time up to the 4th dimension is granted to the Plaintiff, an 'Anonymous Coward'. Court adjourned.

    • Unfortunately, God runs his organization like the mob, with his wiseguy Archangels who will burn your city to the ground if you piss him off.

      Hmmm, maybe we should hope this troll sues God...

  • by LiquidHAL ( 801263 ) <{LiquidHAL} {at} {}> on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:40AM (#27177683)

    Someone needs to patent the patent troll business model and sue this guy for infringement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Idiomatick ( 976696 )
      I tried. I put in the forms 2 years ago now but they haven't made it through yet. The reason there are so many trolls like this is because all these patents were granted in the 70s. Nobody new can troll since the patent line is like 5years long now. Everyone is just buying worthless old companies for their patents to troll with.
    • by KronosReaver ( 932860 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:52AM (#27177743)

      Already been done.
      United States Patent Application - 20080270152 - October 30, 2008 []

      Patent Acquisition and Assertion by a (Non-Inventor) First Party Against a Second Party


      Methods for a first party to acquire and assert a patent property against a second party are disclosed. The methods include obtaining an equity interest in the patent property. The methods further include writing a claim within the scope of the patent property. The claim is written to cover a product of the second party where the product includes a secret aspect. The methods further include filing the claim with a patent office. The methods sometimes include offering a license of the patent property to the second party after the patent property issues as a patent with the claim. The methods sometimes include asserting infringement of the claim by the second party after the patent property issues as a patent with the claim. The methods sometimes include negotiating a cross-license with the second party based on the assertion of infringement of the claim, where under the cross-license the first party obtains a license to an intellectual property right from the second party. The methods sometime include attempting to obtain a monetary settlement from the second party based on the assertion of infringement of the claim.

    • Let's just form a raiding group, and declare open season on the patent trolls. Find a few of these bastards hanging from telephone poles, and maybe they'll think twice. Personally, I'd like to see an open season on all lawyers, with no bag limit, that runs from Jan. 1 - Dec. 31. Bag a big bag o' crap today, and make the world a better place!
  • Are they +5 armor Patent Trolls?
  • do these guys have anything at all to do with Ron Britvich? He could, conceivably, have some non-virtual ground to stand on.

  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:44AM (#27177699) Journal
    Blizzard makes a few handy billion per year. I imagine they could front a defense that would make the SCO epic look like a parking infringement notice.
    • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:33AM (#27177893)

      Blizzard makes a few handy billion per year. I imagine they could front a defense that would make the SCO epic look like a parking infringement notice.

      Honestly, I doubt it. There's a reason IBM's lawyers are typically known as the Nazgul, they've got a reputation as the most dangerous lawyers money can buy so if they couldn't end it sooner and bloodier for SCO, chances are nobody could have.

      Add to that the fact that this is about patents instead of copyright, which are usually much more vague in their phrasing, and you'd see that *if* they do win against NCSoft, I believe Blizzard is in for some serious pain next. The US is obssessed over protecting the concept of "IP" as of late, and it shows on both laws and judgements.

      • by EvilIdler ( 21087 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:18AM (#27178463)

        OK, send in the Nazgul, then: []

        IBM has many projects related to virtual worlds.

      • Actually, the Nazgul have been very methodical and deliberate in the SCO proceeding, albeit in the face of epic discovery delay shenanigans. Novell's law firm Morrison and Foster (domain name -!) have been the vicious attack dogs. Probably has to do more with strategy ("crush them into neutronium" vs. "get our money before it's gone") than capability.
      • by Chas ( 5144 )

        SCO: We need all your paperwork.
        IBM: You don't really mean that do you? *SMIRK*


        SCO: Uh, what are these semitrailers doing here?
        IBM: Well, these ten are the first of 50 loads with all the paperwork.
        SCO: Uhh...
        IBM: And we'll be billing you for the time it took to compile, and the costs necessary to deliver it.
        SCO: But...
        IBM: Yes, we know you barely have enough to buy stuff on the value menu at Wendy's. The term used in Russia is "To

        • That's what they did to the DOJ, but is certainly not what happened with SCO.

          SCO demanded (and got) their entire code repository and programmer notes for AIX and some other products going back to the dawn of time, and IBM strenuously objected as it meant thousands of lawyer- and coder-hours to detangle those repositories from others on the same system that they knew they were never going to see a dime for. Not one line of which appeared in SCO's final post-discovery complaint.

      • I doubt it, firstly the life online thing is not assumable for they would have you believe.
        The patent is about living your life as you would in normal life, but in a world online shared through the internet.

        How often during a day, do you stroll over the hill to that orc camp and kill a few orcs for yourself....or ride a raptor down to the sealine and then jump into the sea to the sunken ship and run into fishmen living under the sea that attack you, or even say run into a giant fel-reaver that i

        • The Sims online would be closer to getting sued then WoW!

        • by Draek ( 916851 )

          Well, that's why I said *if* they win over NCSoft. More likely than not this will get thrown out as it deserves, perhaps after some small donations to NCSoft's legal team courtesy of Sony and Blizzard, but any argument that Blizzard could use for WoW NCSoft could use for Tabula Rasa or Guild Wars so if they lose I don't think it'll be as clear-cut for Blizzard as some people believe.

        • Thanks, mate. Due to a cascade of associations I can no longer think of Fel Reaver without imagining it being stenciled with RIAA across the pecs.
    • That's why it's only if they win. A precedence would have been set.

  • He might want to press on and sue Blizzard for WoW, but I imagine both they and Sony will have plenty to say at this initial case. Hopefully when this fails it destroys in the process.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem is that IP is like the One Ring. You can fight off one army of lawyers, but then many years later another picks it out of the battlefield and starts the cycle again. Like the One Ring IP always corrupts those who seek to use it. There's no "Mt. Doom" for IP to actually go to die.

      • Hmm, a very apt analysis, except I disagree with '''There's no "Mt. Doom" for IP to actually go to die.'''

        Very Clearly, Duke Nukem Forever has found its way to Mt. Doom. :p

        • by PIBM ( 588930 )

          And actually, Mt. Doom could be personallized (?) as a time lapse after which the patent dies anyway.

  • I also hope that they'll get burned into the pavement. I understand the importance of wanting to have patents for intellectual property. However, I think you should only be able to apply for patents AFTER you have created some kind of working implementation of your idea. All these broad patents are just political bull dust.
    • The patent system is being blatantly misused and judges are enforcing the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Sadly you can only enforce the letter of the law since the spirit is open to interpretation. I'm fairly sure that most reasonable human beings would agree that patents should protect legitamite inventors and innovators from having their ideas stolen, not be used to patent basic concepts on the off chance they'll be used in the future so you can get rich, or to patent existing techno
      • I'd agree, the 2-D to 3-D transformation is pretty insignificant in the functionality of what actually goes on. In either case, heading and location of your avatar are passed from the client to the server. The server passes your information on to others, and others back to you.

        All adding a dimension does is tact on a couple extra bytes to each transfer.

        • All adding a dimension does is tact on a couple extra bytes to each transfer.

          And conveniently allows the patent to ignore prior art that was 2D based.

          It's like me patenting exactly the same thing but stipulating that it applies to virtual reality worlds that go beyond 3D reprentations of worlds on 2D monitors. Hmmm, maybe I should do it.

  • hardcores kick the brains outta the litigants and their attorneys in the first chance they get.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They're still scheduling the raid. Remember to sign up! Plenty of DPS slots left, NCSoft will be main tank, still looking for heals.

  • Asking for it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1WingedAngel ( 575467 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:32AM (#27177889) Homepage

    IANAL, but I can't see where rattling your saber at a couple of big dogs while suing the small fish isn't begging to have some timely amicus briefs filed by the opposition.

    I'm pretty sure that's why the more successful patent trolls get a bunch of smaller cases on the books as precedent before going after the guys with real money.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @03:52AM (#27178187)

    Imagine this happening to WoW. Now, imagine Blizzard deciding to say "ok, we'll withdraw from the US market. Btw, dear folks who have been playing for 5+ years now and lose everything that's dear to you, THIS is the company that made us shut down. Maybe you find something creative to do with your life".

    Who said mob rule has to be a bad thing?

  • Prior art (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nominar ( 1226732 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @04:03AM (#27178219)
    Patent filed in Aug 3 2000. Prior art in the form of launched MMORPGs: Dec 31 1996 The Realm Online Sep 30 1997 Ultima Online Sep ?? 1998 Lineage: The Blood Pledge Mar 16 1999 Everquest Oct 31 1999 Asheron's Call Source: []
    • Neuromancer 1982
      Tron 1982
      A Dream of Wessex 1977
    • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

      by Psychochild ( 64124 ) <psychochild @ g m> on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:07AM (#27178689) Homepage

      Unfortunately, the creator of doesn't consider Meridian 59 worthy of mentioning, but it was launched in September, 1996.

      However, the problem is that the patent is an extension of a previous patent, number 6,219,045 [], dated November 12, 1996. A proper defense would require that that you go after that patent as well, as I was told by lawyer I know. There's still prior art to be had, but it's not quite so easy to find it.

      If you want to read more about the NCSoft lawsuit issues and patent problems relating to game development, I posted up about this a little while ago on my professional MMO development blog: []

      Have fun.

      • Quake - June 22, 1996 After reading the abstract of the patent that you linked, it seems that Quake would fit the bill nicely for prior art. /shrug IANAL and all that...
      • There's still prior art to be had, but it's not quite so easy to find it.

        Persistent virtual worlds have existed since the 70's. They had a snail mail interface.

        Flying Buffalo []

        The first multi-player play-by-mail game (probably Starweb) may not be considered persistent (it had victory conditions, and games ended), but persistent games followed. I played a game called Empyrian Challenge in the early to mid 80's. It was a large-scale, persistent game.

        Playing by email was a logical extension. Playing in realtime was a logical extension. Adding 3D graphics was a logical extension (pr

      • Don't forget The Shadow of Yserbius which was on The Sierra Network/TSN. This was around in 1992.

    • If we're talking about virtual worlds, shouldn't MUDs qualify as prior art?
      • I believe that the patent in question specifically applies to 3d environments. However, it only describes having what is basically an IRC window in a 3d environment. Think Second Life but with walls inhibiting the freedom of movement. Now given the prior existance of IRC, MUDs, and 3D games well before this patent was filed, it should be fairly easy to see that the combination of them is obvious and thus not patentable. I'm fairly sure that most sci-fi shows involving networked computers that were made prio
    • Here's some more appropriate prior art []. The article was published 20th Jan 2000 and the patent was not filed until August. I suspect that the patent was written after reading the article. The main claim of the patent is a "scalable" system because updates are not total. That is exactly what is described in that series of articles going back to the first one.

    • by Fozzyuw ( 950608 )

      MMO's where around a lot longer than the 1990's. I believe they reach back into the 1970's with text based MUD's. You can just look up Richard Bartle's [] work history. He first worked on MUD1 in 1978, with MUD2 in 1980. And there was a strong case that EQ ripped off DikuMUD [] which was launched in 1990.

      Everything since the 1970's have just been some minor extensions of these concepts. They added some graphics, changed how the server structure worked, etc. But the 'prior art' idea of the whole thing has be

      • The patent in question isn't dealing with MMO's in general, but MMO's that consist of 3D environments. That being said, there is still plenty of prior art to go around with this ridiculous patent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by daten ( 575013 )
      The company doing the suing also launched their 3D MMO product in 1996.
  • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:49AM (#27178855)

    I thought I had stumbled into another gamer's nightmare (I have them often)....

    Lead Attorney for the Plaintiff: Your Honor, I intend to prove that NCSoft has intentionally, and willfully, violated the....

    Lead Attorney for NCSoft: FUCK YOU!!

    Lead Attorney for the Plaintiff: Your Honor! I must strenuously object!

    Your Honor: Fuck you!

    It seems one man's nightmare can be another man's wetdream......

  • Prior art? Try 1991 (Score:3, Informative)

    by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:23AM (#27179283) Homepage []

    Neverwinter Nights, the first graphical MMORPG, had all the elements most modern ones have (though far cruder of course), ran from 1991 to 1997.

    There are, of course MUD's far older than that which were persistent worlds.

    • Neverwinter Nights, the first graphical MMORPG, had all the elements most modern ones have (though far cruder of course), ran from 1991 to 1997.

      Except the ability to look up at the sky.

    • by Wylfing ( 144940 )

      There are, of course MUD's far older than that which were persistent worlds.

      Yes, MUDs are c.1986 or so. However, the patent in question specifies 3D graphics, so MUDs per se are not prior art. They should be...I mean, I am sure I am not the only one reading Slashdot who frittered away thousands of hours on Epic and Bigboy at the end of the 80s, and more than once thinking "I wonder if there's a way for this kind of game to have graphics?" That idea probably occurred to huge numbers of MUD nerds a huge numbe

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )
      Compuserve had MMO games back in the '80's. Islands of Kesmai [] was an RPG. It was ASCII based, but otherwise quite recognizable as a member of the the MMORPG genre.
  • This is from news page..

    May 19, 2008, the pioneer platform in 3D virtual communities announced today the appointment of a new non-executive board member; Thomas Duterme. Mr. Duterme is currently a New Business Development Manager who assesses new business opportunities at Google. Joining Worlds' board, it is expected that he will help to drive the expansion of the Company's pioneering patented 3D technology.

  • This lends so much to the idea that some things should have never been patentable in the first place. personally, virtual worlds seems like an obvious concept. hell, if you want to get picky, every fiction author creates one in one sense or another. burn down our patent system and build a new one.
  • Very Broad Patent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by infalliable ( 1239578 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @09:07AM (#27179597)

    Reading their patent claims, they're patent is VERY broad and IMO pretty obvious.

    It's basically saying that the client passes avatar location and heading to the server, and the server passes the info on all other nearby characters back to the clients. Thinking about the problem for a couple seconds, you should be able to determine that it MUST work this way.

    Any MMO game with a central server pretty much has no option other to work this way.

    End software patents!

  • [] Looks like they're fishing for money, they may need this.. Blizzard has deep pockets.
  • The earliest virtual worlds I remember were described in Vernor Vinge's "True Names" and William Gibson's "Neuromancer" Don't these count as prior art? How about that silly game Adventure, sure it was only one user when I first saw it but it had other characters and action. How about email lists? Those are multi-user virtual worlds. They have their own community, libraries, written and unwritten rules. Seems like the culture itself has produced sufficient prior art to make the patent absurd.
  • (or isn't a patent troll, like Caldera (who bought SCO before they started suing).

    I remember participating in back in 1996. How many of your precious 3D MMO environments existed then? []

    I think many of you are reacting emotionally to any threat against your favorite current games. But please do a little research before the name calling. As much as I disagree with intellectua
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Duradin ( 1261418 )

      Holding the case in East Texas? Check.
      Sat on the patent for at least five years? Check.
      Suing over a patent that is obvious enough for multiple entities to independently and simultaneously develop? Check.
      Testing the waters with the little guys first? Check.

      Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck. Or in this case patent troll.

      How much was your check for astroturfing?

      • by daten ( 575013 )

        Holding the case in East Texas? Check.

        So anyone suing over an alleged patent violation is automatically a "troll"?

        Sat on the patent for at least five years? Check.

        They were actively using and advancing the technology involved, I wouldn't call this "sitting on it".

        Suing over a patent that is obvious enough for multiple entities to independently and simultaneously develop? Check.

        I agree that most patents are bullshit for this reason. I don't know that this one is. It's easy to say after the fact, but the company doing the suing in the case is at least the first one I personally came across with the product described, making prior art a little harder to argue.

        Testing the waters with the little guys first? Check.

        I'll admit I don't know the legal history here,

        • East Texas is patent troll central. If you need a judge that's going to side in favor of the troll, you get the case heard there. If it was a legit claim it would have been heard elsewhere.

          They got the patent in 2000. The companies they are suing released their products years later. If they weren't a troll, they'd have brought it up as the projects were announced publicly or shortly after being released. Trolls wait until their victims have money and a reason to pay.

          Why go after a game with ~200k subscriber

          • by daten ( 575013 )

            Thanks for taking the time to explain. That's an interesting thing to know about Texas.

            In regards to wikipedia and not keeping current with the most fashionable ad hominem attacks, I don't mind not representing the majority on slashdot. The general quality of the comments hasn't been increasing over the last 10 years. Most of the time I stick to the headlines and links.

            Do all of your posts end with an attempted insult?

  • As a hobbyist game developer, this pisses me off and scares the shit out of me at the same time. If I were to ever try to join a small indie game company, or start one of my own, I would feel like every little feature, concept, algorithm, or artwork I add to a game could infringe on some vague bullshit patent, even if I came up with the idea on my own. It's assholes like these that are subduing ideas and the chances of new companies to enter the market. Fuck them.

  • Of course they go after financially hurting NCSoft to try and establish a precedent before going after the Blizzard Juggernaut. Cowards.
  • In May 1996, Ultima Online: Shattered Legacy is shown at the 1996 E3 Expo. ultima online had "2d" graphics but is a 3d game (it has x y and z coordinates)

Disks travel in packs.