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Major MMO Publishers Sued For Patent Infringement

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the prior-what-now dept.

Patents 232

GameboyRMH writes "The Boston Globe reports that major MMO publishers (Blizzard, Turbine, SOE, NCSoft, and Jagex) are being sued by Paltalk, which holds a patent on 'sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment' — a patent that would seem to apply to any multiplayer game played between multiple systems, at the very least. Paltalk has already received an out-of-court settlement from Microsoft earlier this year in relation to a lawsuit over the Halo games. If Microsoft can't fend off Paltalk's legal attacks, the odds don't look good for their latest group of targets."

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232 comments

Software patents need to die. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463449)

Software patents need to drink paint and retard themselves out of existence.

Even more durable than paint! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463473)

What's hard to remove is nigger grease. If you have ever gone to a swimming pool only to find that a bunch of blacks are already swimming in it then you know what nigger grease is all about. It is easiest to see right after they exit the water. It's a thin film on the surface of the water deposited by the vast quantities of oil that their overactive glands produce. Seriously we can be carbon neutral tomorrow if we found a way to make biodiesel out of it as the supply is abundant. Anyway, if you swim in a pool like that you will feel yourself coated with the nigger grease. It is not pleasant. Is there a filter somewhere that can remove even KFC-fortified nigger grease?

My first thought (0)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463451)

My first thought was this is great anything to force innovation. Something more then the same old, same old in MMO gaming.

But then again sounds a bit broad, as do many a patent these days.

Re:My first thought (4, Funny)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463487)

I'm tired and going to bed but a quick Google netted patent 5822523. http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5822523 [google.com]

Re:My first thought (1)

Vapula (14703) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463675)

This is clearly after the first MUD (dikuMUD)... prior art ?

Not prior art (3, Funny)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463709)

The patent seem to be about reducing network traffic on multi-server systems, and having some way of aggregating messages to groups of clients. I think most early MUDs are single server systems connecting directly to clients and unlikely to be prior art.

Re:Not prior art (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463863)

Sounds like IRC then?

Re:My first thought (5, Informative)

Grail (18233) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463707)

Patent 5822523, summarised:

The number of communications required to keep a game with N players updated with each other is O(N!). This patent suggests a method by which the communications are sent to a central server, with the server sending regular updates to each player of all the actions taken by the other N-1 players. The server includes the ability for clients to become part of a "group" which further limits the amount of communication required to something less than O(N). The patent attempts to claim the Nagle algorithm as a unique invention (ie: hold on to outgoing messages for a short time to potentially squeeze more data into one packet).

"Group" in this context would be similar to "instance" in World of Warcraft or "grid" in EVE Online.

If someone can explain how this is not an obvious solution to the problem, as evidenced by the parallel development of this technology by every MMO out there, I'd love to hear it.

Re:My first thought (4, Insightful)

putaro (235078) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463725)

If you read through the patent, it's basically the same as a mailing list that sends out digests. Trivial.

Re:My first thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463905)

Patent 5822523, summarised:

The number of communications required to keep a game with N players updated with each other is O(N!). This patent suggests a method by which the communications are sent to a central server, with the server sending regular updates to each player of all the actions taken by the other N-1 players. The server includes the ability for clients to become part of a "group" which further limits the amount of communication required to something less than O(N). The patent attempts to claim the Nagle algorithm as a unique invention (ie: hold on to outgoing messages for a short time to potentially squeeze more data into one packet).

"Group" in this context would be similar to "instance" in World of Warcraft or "grid" in EVE Online.

If someone can explain how this is not an obvious solution to the problem, as evidenced by the parallel development of this technology by every MMO out there, I'd love to hear it.

Well, I can think of some workarounds. The model described lacks modern approach. It presumes asymmetric system with "master" server and "slave" clients who source only data they produce and sink the world status from server(s). Ditch server and make peer to peer connections only between in-game-adjacent players, the ones in "range of consequentiality", to exchange updates on "actions taken". Stream common (environment) data updates as torrents to all online participants. Billing and access control could be established by keeping all traffic encrypted while providing constant supply of expiring short-lived cryptographic keys for interconnections.

Re:My first thought (1)

TheP4st (1164315) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463931)

Sounds quite a lot like quiz games over IRC to me.

Re:My first thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464085)

MMO's disable nagle between the client and server because it causes latency. Twitchy commands require the sub-100ms type of latency, and WoW specifically disabled nagle some years ago.

Re:My first thought (2, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464221)

Patent 5822523, summarised:

The number of communications required to keep a game with N players updated with each other is O(N!). This patent suggests a method by which the communications are sent to a central server, with the server sending regular updates to each player of all the actions taken by the other N-1 players.

So far it sounds exactly like how a MUD works.

The server includes the ability for clients to become part of a "group" which further limits the amount of communication required to something less than O(N). The patent attempts to claim the Nagle algorithm as a unique invention (ie: hold on to outgoing messages for a short time to potentially squeeze more data into one packet).

"Group" in this context would be similar to "instance" in World of Warcraft or "grid" in EVE Online.

I'm not familiar with WoW or EVE terminology, but is there any chance that this might be similar to a "room" in a MUD?

Re:My first thought (1)

Rabbitbunny (1202531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464385)

He should have said "zone" in WoW, but yes. Same thing.

Re:My first thought (3, Informative)

xmundt (415364) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463739)

And in a good example of previous art, MANY years ago, I used a chat program called "powwow" (yes, created by the Native American community), that not only allowed group interactions, but, had shared games, and the ability to surf the Net as a group (one URL click would take the entire group to that website) and many other group interactions.
            Since this pedated paltalk, I suspect that the awards should go someplace BESIDES into their pocket.
          here are some comments about Powwow....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paltalk

Re:My first thought (3, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463761)

Since this pedated paltalk, [...]

Pedated?

Did it molest paltalk when it was young?

Re:My first thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464197)

actually, PowWow was created by John McAfee, the guy who's "other" venture is rumored to make AV software.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PowWow_%28chat_program%29

You're damn right it is too broad (3, Informative)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463493)

Shared data creating a digital environment ... that could apply to Git, Subversion, Remote desktop, shell servers, IRC...

The good thing is that Blizzard should have enough resources to blow that patent out of the water.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

Alcohol Fueled (603402) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463539)

I agree that Blizzard should have enough resources to blow the patent out of the water, but if Microsoft ended up settling... would Blizzard stand a chance? Or do you maybe think Microsoft took the easy, hassle free way out, and just paid to license the patent without extending the trial any longer?

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463595)

MS probably saw the value in pay them off, and then let them take out our competition so that we have a monopoly....

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463597)

It wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft took the easy way out because it put more strength behind patents. A cry of "look - even we comply with patents, so we must keep them" or something similar.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (3, Insightful)

vxvxvxvx (745287) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463607)

Also possible that Paltalk offered to settle for some trivially small amount of money, in order to make their claims look more legit. If they can claim they sued MS and settled it may scare others, even if the settlement was $0.02. Just keep the amount confidential and nobody has to know.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (2, Insightful)

Arimus (198136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463555)

Err... Microsoft coughed up over Halo, and I'd bet MS have more laywers to parachute in than Blizzard could even dream of.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (3, Insightful)

asmussen (2306) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463611)

Just because Microsoft coughed up a settlement doesn't mean that Microsoft doesn't have the resources to beat a lawsuit over the issue. It just means that their bean counters did some math and decided that it would cost less to pay these guys off than it would to fight them. Blizzard may decide to react differently, particularly since their flagship cash cow product is being attacked. We might have seen a different reaction from Microsoft had it been Windows that the lawsuit claimed infringed on their patent.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

chriseyre2000 (603088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463613)

Microsoft don't want to say that software patents are a bad idea. Blizzard will have no problems with that one.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (2, Interesting)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463605)

The good thing is that Blizzard should have enough resources to blow that patent out of the water.

And Microsoft didn't?
One would assume that M$ (only using the $ for relevance) found that it would be simpler and cheaper to just pay a (probably) small fee than spend years in court al la SCO. Therefore Blizzard probably would do the same, although this isn't core business to Microsoft but *is* to Blizzard so they might want to defend.
Perhaps it's because companies don't fight these claims often enough, that software patents continue to eat up our sanity.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464239)

One would assume that M$ (only using the $ for relevance) found that it would be simpler and cheaper to just pay a (probably) small fee than spend years in court al la SCO. Therefore Blizzard probably would do the same, although this isn't core business to Microsoft but *is* to Blizzard so they might want to defend.

I don't think Blizzard has as much stake in defending the validity of software patents in general (unlike MS). And this touches Blizard's flagship product. And Blizzard seems like mostly pretty good guys, so they might want to fight this just on principle.

Perhaps it's because companies don't fight these claims often enough, that software patents continue to eat up our sanity.

Exactly. That's why I hope Blizzard fights this with all they have.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

StoneOldman79 (1497187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463637)

Yes and No, I agree it is to broad but the patent mentioned above by negRo_slim seems to be a multicast based system.
So actually it more or less applies to "real-time" data sharing with lots of hosts.
Which does not apply to any of the examples you mentioned...
It is however a patent that is lame. The multicast protocol by itself is sort of prior art.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463661)

So actually it more or less applies to "real-time" data sharing with lots of hosts. Which does not apply to any of the examples you mentioned...

Such as IRC?

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463687)

I don't understand why so many geeks on Slashdot have no concept how the patent system "works".

I can patent a method of using IRC to arrange the delivery of baked goods and that would be a valid patent (actually, it's probably already patented). The patent would include a vague description of IRC. Geeks would read the patent and say "that's just IRC!!" and get all huffy about it. Well, duh, that's not the point, the point is I figured out a way to use IRC to get you baked goods.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463773)

the point is I figured out a way to use IRC to get you baked goods.

No, you didn't.

I figured a way to use a comunication media to distribute items much before.

My lawyer would be contacting you right now.

Re:You're damn right it is too broad (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464301)

I can patent a method of using IRC to arrange the delivery of baked goods and that would be a valid patent (actually, it's probably already patented).

No idea whether it would be valid legally because the patent office is out with the fairies but it shouldn't be valid. That's just a particular instance of the use of IRC which is a general purpose communication medium. Because it is a general purpose communication medium no patent for a specific instance of that communication should be possible. An "instance of" relation not a "use of" relation. An "instance of" relation should never be patentable because there is always prior art.

The patent office, and you to some degree, seem to be confused about the difference between words and ideas (is a file system a database?), whether ideas are the same and different (are two shades of the color orange the same or different?) and whether one idea is contained by another (is using a car to move something different from using a vehicle to move something?). The patent office doesn't seem to understand even simple concepts like Venn diagrams [wikipedia.org] and the fact that words and meanings have varying overlaps and relationships. Specifically, patenting something simply because somebody has renamed and reduced the coverage of an existing concept should not be possible.

---

Every new patent is a new law; another opportunity for a lawyer to make money at the expense of the wider community.

Anything major predating Oct 13 1998 .. (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464173)

There will be lots of major applications that use client/server architecture to manage data for clients before that date, "Exchange mail server" or similar software should be very much covered also (no time to study the patent though). Microsoft or Activision law team should pursue invalidation aggressively, such patents are just too dangerous, not to mention the trollie surely has no real world application for this.

Re:My first thought (4, Interesting)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463733)

Back when I was doing my PhD, I (together with a friend) wrote a networked game called Xanadu (Xanadu - A New Adventure Dungeon Underground was the rather strained recursive acronym) for X workstations. We even connected across London from different colleges to the same server running on my Decstation 3100. That was in 1991, which seems to handily predate these patents. I still have a backup CDROM of the source code alongside all of my other (thesis) code ...

I remember pulling all-nighters in college, and I specifically remember the first time we successfully connected using the commandline client and moved a character from X,Y to X,Y+1, thus validating the movement routines - there were a lot of firsts for us back in that code: socket programming (thankyou Stevens), bitfields in structures, function pointer tables, etc. To see it all work at 3:00 am was a major high. Kid's stuff today, of course :)

Anyway, much as I'd love to think of myself as a prodigy, it seems this patent falls afoul of the obvious clause, and if blizzard or whomever want to get in touch for some patent-busting source code, just feel free :)

Simon

Re:My first thought (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463881)

I was at the University of Essex from 1982-1985 and I sacrificed all my mainframe time (meant to be for study purposes) to play the original MUD which started in 1978. I didn't read much of the two patents as the patent server seemed slashdotted, but they seem to be about reducing network traffic and also trying to get clients to see the same thing at the same time, and they don't seem to apply to single server, multi-client systems but to server network, multi-client systems instead.

Sorta (5, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463949)

As usual, Slashdot's summaries are the "OMG, here's a broad mis-representation of the patent, so we can whine about it" trolling. I swear if someone invented a new clock mechanism, it would come out on Slashdot as "OMG, they're patenting the cog." Because apparently some people just try that hard to belong to a big family of clueless whiners.

Actually searching for HearMe's patents (since TFA mentions that the patent was bought from HearMe) actually shows that they're a bit more speciffic than "showing the same world on two PCs". Not by much, mind you, but still. So the actual debate would be whether it's a multiplayer game, but whether it implements the exact synchronization algorithm described there.

And if you want to help those companies, knowing what they need help with, might help more. And just "it was a multiplayer" game ain't it.

The actual patents that seem even remotely relevant are these:

1. Method and apparatus for loosely synchronizing closed free running raster displays [uspto.gov]

The problem is that I can't see how it even remotely applies to multiplayer games, except via an equivocation fallacy. It's about "seeing the same thing" in a much more literal way: literally seeing not just the same scene, but the exact same image and synchronizing the frames. As in, the VSync signal comes at the same moment.

I don't think any game does that at all.

It includes such tidbits as temporarily changing the video mode to interlaced (which should look the same, according to them -- except to anyone who isn't blind, it isn't), to change the timings on one monitor, then switch back to non-interlaced when the sync signals synchronized with each other.

Again, I don't think any actual game does that. I don't think interlaced modes are even used at all nowadays.

The second problem with it, is that it's been filed on 23 December 1997, i.e., a good 3 months after the launch of Ultima Online. So if they actually want to push the "it's about seeing the same thing" equivocation, it seems to me the defense doesn't even have to go as far back in time as your Xanadu. UO already showed the same thing.

2. Server-group messaging system for interactive applications [uspto.gov]

Basically this one is about this: you have a server and X clients, and all clients are sending packets to all other clients. Think, an IRC channel, basically. So they propose that instead of dumbly routing between clients, the server aggregates the packets and sends the aggregates periodically.

The first problem is that a MMO only does that in a very loose sense. It sends the resulting status, rather than the bundled messages from all other players.

The second problem is that even if they want to push the equivocation that that status processing is a form of aggregation, MUDs already did that. Whenever you entered a room and god a "PrincessLayMe and MrMacho are standing here", it was effectively an aggregate result of the previous movements of the two players.

Of course, this has the caveat that their patent actually mentions aggregating over an interval, and sending the status periodicially, which MUDs did not.

However here comes the third problem: the patent was applied in 1999, a solid two years after UO which _did_ do just that.

Just to clarify (3, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464243)

Just to clarify, after reading the patents a bit, HearMe does look to me like a bit of a patent troll or potential patent troll. Everything reads like the kind of guess about what a game might need, by someone who never actually programmed a game.

E.g., trying to sychronize the VSync on two computers seems such a profoundly useless and counter-productive thing, that it boggles the mind. Let's just say it would prevent the following 3 people from playing together:

- Tom, who has a 60 Hz TFT

- Dick, who plays on a CRT in 85 Hz

- Harry, who bought one of the new bundles of NVidia 3D glasses and a 120 Hz monitor required for it

It's not just that any synchronization in the sync signal would last exactly one frame, it's that forcing the 3 computers to display the exact same image would prevent Harry from getting any stereoscopic 3D effect. (He needs alternating frames rendered from slightly different view points, which the other two don't and it would make them see double if they did.)

E.g., just collecting and routing aggregates is

1. Useless in that literal form not only for games, but for IM clients too (which seems to be all that HearMe actually did make). If the messages in a chat room are that fast that you gain anything with an aggregation time so small that it's unnoticeable to users, then it'll scroll too fast to read anyway. And if you aggregate over several seconds, it produces abrupt chunks of scrolling that actually are disruptive and annoying.

2. Already done pretty much anyone who ever wrote a batch job that runs periodically. And I'm pretty sure that, for example, that FidoNet already worked that way.

Ah, wait, they have the patent troll "over the internet" clause. And FidoNet wasn't over the Internet. Sorry.

Well, even then I'm pretty sure at least some mail servers and NNTP servers work exactly that way. For a backbone system, the mail or news servers down the line are the "clients", and it aggregates the mails or news items instead of routing each individually to each client.

Re:My first thought (5, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464367)

My first thought was this is great anything to force innovation. Something more then the same old, same old in MMO gaming.

  But then again sounds a bit broad, as do many a patent these days.

On the other hand, an online game where none of the players would share the same environment would be more challenging !

- So shall we conquer the castle ? You have flaming arrows, right ?
- I'm feeding my pink ponies
- What space station is that castle on again ?
- Has anybody got spare rifle grenades ?
- Wait, we have to act in sync
- Ooops, gotta go, the unicorn is here !
- wait, what ?
- I think a castle just floated by
- floated ? Wait, where are you ?
- It's behind that large asteroid !
- Never mind about the grenades, I found a RPG, let's go !
- Ok, let's pause for a moment, this doesn't make sense
- They have fighters in orbit ! I'm on it !
- I'll cover you with the RPG !
- I'm so going back to Wow...

Uh... Nethack anyone (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463491)

Seriously. The amount of prior art on this one is more than enough to keep these trolls at bay.

Re:Uh... Nethack anyone (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463571)

I was thinking more along the lines of MUD

Re:Uh... Nethack anyone (1)

moro_666 (414422) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463587)

Damn it feels so good to be thousands of miles away from the US.

However, i hope that you enrich your laws sometime soon with "patents can be ignored if their build-up is just plain stupid blackmail"

Re:Uh... Nethack anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463853)

However, i hope that you enrich your laws sometime soon

Preferably before they successfully export those screwed up laws to lands where common sense occationally function.

Re:Uh... Nethack anyone (2, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463633)

Nethack isn't multi-user, but there are plenty of multi-player games both graphical and otherwise going back YEARS. Various versions of MUD would fit the bill, as would games like Netrek, Ultima Online, etc. Even many Amiga / ST games let people connect 2 or more systems with serial cables for primitive network gaming.

digital TV? (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463499)

'sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment'

Well there goes digital TV then....

It sounds like (1)

Alcohol Fueled (603402) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463501)

this Paltalk company could end up making a LOT of money trying to enforce their patent. If they've already gotten a settlement from Microsoft, what's to stop them from doing the same to every company that makes an online game? They're already going after Blizzard and the others in TFA, but what about other companies? Would say, a company that runs an online poker game be a valid target? You *are* being shown the same 'digital environment' as others at the same time, even if it is just a poker table. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Re:It sounds like (1)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463845)

I think going after blizzard is a bit premature. sure, they got microsoft to bend over, but that must have been a gamble, even if the settlement was for less money than the transaction charge. given how many things this patent covers, they should have started small and hit the less heard of and profitable MMOs etc etc to build up more precedent and funds for their lawyer horde, then started building their way up to the bigger fish.

Gamespy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463503)

Isn't Gamespy's matchmaking service, x-fire, etc, prior art? Or hell, given what Paltalk is, IRC

Is a web page a digital environment? (3, Funny)

popo (107611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463509)

... because if it is, that's a whole lot of prior art...

Re:Is a web page a digital environment? (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463875)

Why don't they try to sue bittorrent too? Or mirroring websites. Or Google for having a hundreds of servers to share the load of loading a website.

Too broad a patent.

Re:Is a web page a digital environment? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463915)

Did you read guys the patent at all? (Yeah, I know, of course not, what a stupid question.)

The patent is not about "digital environments", "sharing stuff" or "making stuff online". What it's about is a very specific method to reduce network rate and latency in server group messaging systems - making the communication more efficient.

It doesn't relate to web pages, bittorrent or mirroring in any way at all. Also, if you manage to dig up an earlier server group messaging system with reduced network rate and latency that isn't proof of prior art unless it's using the same method.

You see, it's not the concept or idea of doing something (the goal) that is patented, but rather how it's done (the solution).

Wonderful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463511)

Anything connected...this patent says it isn't allowed. It apparently invalidates any MUDsI played 15 ago, and the AOL games...so it must be valid.

Way to go winning a patent, assholes. You know they're always valid.

Jagex? Really? (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463531)

This is the closest thing I have seen to a Runescape reference on slashdot.

Sadly its because of patent trolling, Oh well.

Re:Jagex? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463923)

Runescape is a piece of shit.

There, that's a reference for you.

Somebody find the claims of the patent (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463537)

That way, there's actually something substantive to discuss.

Re:Somebody find the claims of the patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463731)

Here is the abstract:

"A method for deploying interactive applications over a network containing host computers and group messaging servers is disclosed. The method operates in a conventional unicast network architecture comprised of conventional network links and unicast gateways and routers. The hosts send messages containing destination group addresses by unicast to the group messaging servers. The group addresses select message groups maintained by the group messaging servers. For each message group, the group messaging servers also maintain a list of all of the hosts that are members of the particular group. In its most simple implementation, the method consists of the group server receiving a message from a host containing a destination group address. Using the group address, the group messaging server then selects a message group which lists all of the host members of the group which are the targets of messages to the group. The group messaging server then forwards the message to each of the target hosts. In an interactive application, many messages will be arriving at the group server close to one another in time. Rather than simply forward each message to its targeted hosts, the group messaging server aggregates the contents of each of messages received during a specified time period and then sends an aggregated message to the targeted hosts. The time period can be defined in a number of ways. This method reduces the message traffic between hosts in a networked interactive application and contributes to reducing the latency in the communications between the hosts. "

Looks to be about aggregating message content for clients to reduce network traffic. Pretty broad there and I'd be very surprised if there is not enough prior art to bury it.

General rule of thumb: (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463543)

When you can find prior art in the Jargon File, your patent is stupid.

Doom multiplayer video came out in 1993 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463545)

Doom the first multiplayer video game using networked PC's came out in 1993 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiplayer_video_game.
The patents were filed Patent 5,822,523 (filed February 1996) and Patent 6,226,686 (filed September 1999) I don't see how they could be valid.

Re:Doom multiplayer video came out in 1993 (0)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463679)

Doom doesn't use the techniques described - its a single host sending messages out to many clients. The patent claims appear to be about multi-server configurations and reducing network traffic in such environments.

Re:Doom multiplayer video came out in 1993 (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463695)

Doom didn't use this method for its multiplayer game.

Re:Doom multiplayer video came out in 1993 (2, Informative)

gnupun (752725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463749)

Reading dozens of pages of legal patent-speak is not easy, but the main gist of the patent 5,822,523 is in claim 1 (paraphrased into english):
  • A bunch of game clients send messages to a game server
  • The game server collects these messages for a fixed period of time and aggregates all these messages into a big, aggregated message.
  • Once a fixed time interval has elapsed, the game server transmits the big, aggregated message back to all the clients. The clients then use this aggregated message to display the same shared environment on all machines

Seems obvious to me now, but it may have not been obvious in 1996. If you can prove Doom follows the same steps (isn't the source code available?), then there's prior art to invalidate it.

Re:Doom multiplayer video came out in 1993 (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463841)

According to the Background of the Invention section of the patent, the state-of-the-art when the patent was submitted was non-aggregate messaging, meaning, if 10 PCs were playing a LAN game, each PC would send 9 messages to the other clients to recreate the shared world resulting in 9 messages * 10 PCs = 900 messages, making it bandwidth intensive and slow. The patent uses a central server to aggregate the messages; the number of messages is reduced to 10 client messages + 1 aggregate message = 11 messages.

Re:Doom multiplayer video came out in 1993 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463965)

How about IRC?

Re:Doom multiplayer video came out in 1993 (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464047)

The patent sounds exactly like IRC, except does the the IRC server push the aggregated message to all the clients as the patent covers, or do the clients pull the aggregated message from the server (which is what IRC clients probably do)?

Other than pushing the aggregated message + creating an aggregate message based on messages within a time interval, I don't see much innovation over the concepts of IRC, e-mail, or general client/server aggregate on server/disperse to clients algorithms. But then again, I'm no lawyer.

Let's patent patenting (0)

Dr. Impossible (1580675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463557)

If I patent patenting, couldn't I just sue anyone who tries to patent anything? Since prior art is considered meaningless, there should be no reason why I couldn't do this.

Re:Let's patent patenting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463593)

Patent owning patents... or using patents in lawsuits.

Re:Let's patent patenting (2, Funny)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463871)

I already claimed a 1 to infinite recursion of the patent patenting patenting .... patent.

Sorry buddy.

(Oh, I also claimed the infinity + 1 recursive patent)

((I also claimed the grammar nazi patent. "a 1" is correct because you don't use "an won", for won is a homophone to one))

nfs? (1)

pjacquot (263715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463561)

does that patent try to cover file sharing by nfs?

Re:nfs? (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463713)

the patent is about load-balancing, not merely "sharing".

well (1)

Dayofswords (1548243) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463577)

seems that patent needs a review.

Re:well (1)

risk one (1013529) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463903)

seems that patent needs a review.

I believe Roger Ebert gave it two stars.

"share data to present a common DE to the users"? (1)

jsa95 (1571959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463579)

Don't most multi-user distributed systems (e.g. NFS) do that?

Re:"share data to present a common DE to the users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463663)

Patents don't cover the "what" but the "how". Sadly it is always the "what" that gets posted in these summaries.

settlements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463583)

moral of the story don't role over to these trolls.

And defendants should be able to get legal fees at least.

It's pretty simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463621)

'sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment' is a concept that existed long before Paltalk patented it. In fact, it exists today in the games that MMOs are a derivative of: text-based MUDS.

Not so fast... (3, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463627)

Sometimes it's cheaper to just pay off the plaintiff than to litigate. Blizzard has deeeeeeeeeeep pockets and has a reason to fight this. Let's see where this goes.

Re:Not so fast... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464169)

To don my specially insulated anti-Blizzard tinfoil hat for a moment, "deeeeeeeeeeep pockets and has a reason to fight this" could yield at least two very different outcomes.

I imagine you were suggesting that they would actually fight it, because of that reason (whatever it might be).

Alternatively, Blizz could use those deep pockets to settle as MS did, leaving a smaller competitor MMO company to fight it in court, or to also get fleeced. It would be a pretty ugly response/strategy, but I wouldn't put it past them just yet.

Re:Not so fast... (1)

jeti (105266) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464253)

And it gives the plaintiff the money to also sue your competition.

Overly broad ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29463635)

Sounds like you could appeal as the description is of an overly broad patent.

I'm gonna patent a system and method of doing stuff.

Didn't read TFA and I'm not a patent lawyer ...

Patents numbers 5,822,523 and 6,226,686 (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463659)

Both seem to be about collecting a number of messages together and sending them as one parcel to a host in order to reduce the amount of network traffic and also to ensure that each host on a local group receives an update at an approximately similar time. Its a little like receiving a digest of messages periodically instead of getting them one at a time. The US Patent server appears to be a little Slashdotted at the moment - I keep getting Maximum Number of Users reached messages.

Prior Art : MUD, BBS Doors, ... ? (2, Interesting)

Vapula (14703) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463665)

I didn't check the date of the pattent, but it may be interresting to check if MUD preclude this patent... Another kind of program that may preclude is some BBS doors and some programs that may have existed during the Spectrum/Commodore/Amstrad/... time

Obviously IANAL or a USian (2, Interesting)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463737)

Can someone who is knowledgeable about patent law explain to me how one district in the US can be so appealing for this kind of ligitgation when another is not?
I was under the impression that patents are awarded federally, however it seems that the actions are being taken at a very specific locality which is widely considered more sympathetic than everywhere else, rather than a national or federal court.
This seems very strange to me, surely the legal position on a federal issue should be consistent across the nation. Or the verdicts across low level courts should be able to be 'moderated'.

Re:Obviously IANAL or a USian (2, Informative)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463777)

The vast majority of civil cases are carried out through state courts. Each state has slightly different protocols and procedures. And if the order of a lower court is inconsistent with federal law, it is possible to bring a case up to a higher court. But this costs additional time and money.

In many ways the US is still a confederation of small pseudo-nations, although that has been changing rapidly for the past 100 years.

Also it's a matter of perspective, to me it would be strange for a single system to centrally govern 300 million people.

Re:Obviously IANAL or a USian (2, Interesting)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464163)

Thanks that does help. If I understand correctly elevation acts as the moderation, why doesn't this happen more often to prevent this court being such a troll haven? Or is it just that lots of patent lawyers remain (the sibling post by maroberts surmises)

PS I'm not saying that I beleive a single system should entriely govern 300 million people but if something is determined at the national level then the application of that should be consistent across the nation. Impossible I know but it seems this place is blatantly out of line with the rest of the country, perhaps even trying to be so. The federal authorities should at least be trying to prevent what we call here in Britain "a postcode lottery".

Re:Obviously IANAL or a USian (2, Interesting)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463851)

Each District (and Circuit) has procedural rules, which may or may not be favourable to the conduct of certain types of cases, and in addition the fact that a lot of Patent cases get done in this one district means that lots of patent lawyers hang out there. It's sort of a positive feedback loop...

Re:Obviously IANAL or a USian (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464271)

Each District (and Circuit) has procedural rules, which may or may not be favourable to the conduct of certain types of cases

Thanks, I think I see.
Is this just for civil proceedings or criminal ones? It just seems to me to be inherently unjust to have the outcome of a case be literally influenced by the location of the proceedings.

uh..servers? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463805)

Wouldn't any server/client system be affected? Any database? Or does it have to involve graphical representations of the data? Why is that distinction important?

Re:uh..servers? (1)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464027)

Good question.

Jagex are based in the UK, can they still be sued? (1)

kinarduk (734762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463877)

I suppose the real question is not if they can be sued, because of course anyone can sue anyone, it's whether or not they would have a case to answer, specifically because software patents are not valid in the UK. I understand that there are some minor exceptions to this rule, however I don't believe this patent falls under any of them. This will be very interesting.

If only it was that easy (1)

KitsuneSoftware (999119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463883)

The thing I dislike about patents is that it is in the self interest of their creators to make them unclear, obfuscated, and multi-layered in a way that means that even if the clearly over-general claim quoted in the summary is rejected in a court of law, the patent will still retain most of it's value. Having previously worked under them, will be interesting to see how Andrew Gower and Mark Gerhard deal with this.

Only in Shitmerica. (0, Offtopic)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#29463955)

i know a lot of you oldtimers who are still filled with last decade's propaganda and brainwashing will get angry with me and this will get downmodded, but, take the time to have a look at your country. everyone is trying any kind of means to extort money from anyone. patent trolls, strangling companies deceiving and milking users, filthy relations in between representatives and industry interests, corruption of justice .. anything goes.

im sure there is a goodly number of you who will be further infuriated because youre thinking america is the best place to live on earth still, 'far out'. i hate to break it to you that thats just another propaganda. there are a number of countries which surpassed america in their promise of freedom and wealth. i dont even need to mention which are these. and probably those of you who still think 'the american dream works' probably wouldnt have bothered to look further than your borders either. so ill save the effort.

but still take the time to reflect and realize that things are going bad in your country, and act up.

Re:Only in Shitmerica. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464059)

Your info is a little outdated methinks.

Most Americans have already done their reflecting and have decided to get their pitchforks extra sharp. Everyone has woken up from the American dream and is just waiting for the bankers and other oligarchs to make just *one* mis-step and nail them for raping this country.

Re:Only in Shitmerica. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464161)

Everyone has woken up from the American dream and is just waiting for the bankers and other oligarchs to make just *one* mis-step and nail them for raping this country.

Oh you're so right. They'll take action! The thingy a few months ago, what with the economy and all? Meh, that was just the last drop. We'll really do something next time. We won't let them take our money and run off with it ... again ... probably ... ah fuck it let's just watch TV.

Re:Only in Shitmerica. (2, Interesting)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464111)

While I agree with your sentiment, the problem is not exclusive to the USA. Every country seems to have a large number of people who are very impressionable and don't think critically enough. These people don't read enough books/articles to develop a well grounded worldview, and attempts to enlighten them are almost always futile. If half the country thinks it would be a good idea to elect Bush twice, what exactly am I supposed to do about it? If I was Venezuelan, what do you recommend I do to get rid of Chavez, or Castro, or the Chinese Communist Party? Even if most Iranians would rather not be ruled by the Ayatollah, it's not like they have much choice in the matter.

Assholes rule over idiots, it always has been that way and always will be. The only way to make a better society is to educate people to the point where they are capable of telling the difference between assholes, idiots, and smart well intentioned people.

Re:Only in Shitmerica. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464373)

You do need to mention which countries have a better promise of freedom and wealth. Many countries have a lot to offer, but I'd love to know where I can move to for more freedom and more wealth.

I think the reason you have fai

Does MS actually WANT to "fend off"? (4, Insightful)

jurgen (14843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464021)

Microsoft might not want to "fend off" some legal attacks... by paying a settlement, which they can easily do, they give the trolls the means to attack others who might NOT be able to afford a settlement, thus clearing the battlefield, err, market, for Microsoft's products.

I have no idea if this applies here, but this isn't cynicism... Corporations DO think this way. There is no morality involved, only the logic of competition in the markets, and there are no questions of legality, only those of court and settlement costs vs potential profits.

Patents and overseas developers. (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29464041)

Can anyone tell me what effect the stupid US software patents system would have on overseas developers where there is no software patent law?

If an MMO developer like Blizzard were based in Europe could they basically tell them to fo, or would they still be able to bring a case and prevent them accepting paying customers from the US?

Clearly this kind of suit severely impacts innovation- what indie would dare try and develop and online game if they're at risk of being sued or forced to settle such that they can't afford either? I'm intrigued to know if the impact flows beyond the US and impacts overseas developers too or if they can simply say "Sorry, your patent doesn't apply in my country, get lost"?

Any clarification on how the US software patents system affects us outside the US would be much appreciated.

How exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464289)

is something like this patentable?

Help an idiot out here. How is this different from saying 'More than one person looking at the same thing'?

Would Government Prior Art count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29464343)

Would Government developed software count for prior art? I was involved with some development on a Government Project in the 1980's (a "Game" btw) that might count.

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