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Activision Blizzard Sued For Patent Infringement Over WoW, CoD

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the good-luck-with-that dept.

Patents 194

New submitter thunderdanp writes with news that a company called Worlds Inc. has filed a patent suit against Activision Blizzard, targeting World of Warcraft and the Call of Duty series. The patents in question describe a "System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space." Worlds Inc. is quite glad that "their" technology has "helped the businesses of virtual worlds gaming and the sale of virtual goods to grow into a multibillion-dollar industry" — but now they want a cut.

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Let me guess (0, Troll)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679833)

They filed in Texas.

First sentence of the first article (5, Informative)

Roobles (1880882) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679873)

"Worlds Inc. filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, Inc., Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. and Activision Publishing, Inc. in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on March 30, 2012."

Re:First sentence of the first article (5, Funny)

Fned (43219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679999)

Wow.

They REALLY don't know what they're doing.

Re:First sentence of the first article (2)

ericloewe (2129490) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680047)

Beginner's mistake. All trolls must file in the Eastern District of Texas.

Re:First sentence of the first article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680345)

This is the first time I hope I get called for jury duty

Re:First sentence of the first article (4, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680405)

The law regarding venue has shifted in the past few years and it is now much harder to stay in the Eastern District of Texas, especially if both the plaintiff and defendant have only a nominal presence there (e.g. their products are sold there via the internet or they have a couple of retail outlets). In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304 (5th Cir. 2008); also see In re TS Tech. USA Corp., 551 F.3d 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2008); In re Genentech, Inc., 566 F.3d 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2009); In re Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., 587 F.3d 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2009); In re Nintendo Co., 589 F.3d 1194 (Fed. Cir. 2009); In re Zimmer Holdings, Inc., 609 F.3d 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2010); In re Acer Am. Corp., 626 F.3d 1252 (Fed. Cir. 2010); In re Microsoft Corp., 630 F.3d 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2011).

Anyway, the Eastern District of Texas's reputation as a pro-patentee district is a little undeserved. The statistics on that aren't super strong. For example, here are the patentee win rates among various popular districts, taken from Andrei Iancu and Jay Chung, Real Reasons the Eastern District of Texas Draws Patent Cases—Beyond Lore and Anecdote, 14 SMU Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 299 (2011).

District Jury Trial Win Rate
E.D. Virginia 79%
M.D. Florida 77%
N.D. Illinois 74%
E.D. Texas 73%
C.D. California 73%
W.D. Wisconsin 71%
N.D. California 66%
D. Minnesota 65%
D. New Jersey 64%
D.Delaware 61%
S.D. New York 53%

(NB: That's the jury trial win rate; less than 3% of patent cases end with a jury verdict, so don't think these stats show that patentees win patent cases left and right.)

As you can see, the Eastern District of Texas is only a little above the average there. Its affirmance rate at the Federal Circuit is similarly middle-of-the-pack, and it's also not the fastest district by a long shot, with an average time to jury verdict of almost 29 months, compared to Eastern Virginia and Western Wisconsin with 12 and 13 month pendencies, respectively.

Re:First sentence of the first article (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680595)

Definitely agree. I wrote something [slashdot.org] awhile back in response to someone else making a snarky comment about East Texas courts being patent troll friendly. Your numbers are more recent than mine, since mine were for 1995-2009, but mine also included data on summary judgments, which accounted for a decent number of case outcomes.

Long story short, it deserved the reputation of being a patent troll haven at one point (for about a year in the mid-2000s), but not any longer.

Re:First sentence of the first article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680845)

You realize you're saying that E.D. Tex. is "only a little above the average there" for courts that are generally considered patent plaintiff-friendly, right?

Re:Let me guess (2)

Necroman (61604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679903)

Nope, not in Eastern District of Texas. According to this article [ipfrontline.com] :

Worlds Inc. filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, Inc., Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. and Activision Publishing, Inc. in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on March 30, 2012.

Re:Let me guess (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680237)

isn't that another court that is very friendly to plaintiffs in patent lawsuits as well?

Re:Let me guess (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680555)

I don't believe so. Delaware and Florida Middle are the two district courts that have higher patent troll success rates than East Texas.

Sounds familiar (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679869)

Sounds familiar... is this a repost or did they sue other companies already? If the latter, what happened to those cases?

1970s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39679877)

Sorry was playing 0avatar, 0moriah, and other such games on PLATO in the 1970s. Hardly a deviation from the description of their invention.

Re:1970s (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680621)

Here's the thing... here I was hoping to shoot it down with prior art, mentioning stuff like DikuMUD, and such.... then I checked the patent and realized that it was filed in 2009.

WoW had already been on the market for several years by that point....

Priority date: 1995 (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680929)

it was filed in 2009

The patent "claims priority from U.S. Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/020,296, filed Nov. 13, 1995".

3D + customization + server-side PVS (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680945)

But were the avatars three-dimensional? And did they have server-side determination of what other players' avatars are visible to you? That's what the first claim covers.

How did they get a patent... (4, Insightful)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679881)

How did they even get a patent for this? They basically described every multiplayer video game for the past 20 years.

Re:How did they get a patent... (1, Informative)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680049)

Reading the patent, which was granted in 2009, it seems no different than what Second Life did in 2002, so at least that much is prior art. I have not used other virtual worlds, so not sure if there are even earlier 3D virtual worlds as prior art. The patent makes no mention of Second Life that I can find, which given it's popularity as a virtual world, is a glaring omission. World of Warcraft was released in 2004, and also predates the patent.

Re:How did they get a patent... (2)

Faluzeer (583626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680299)

Hmmm

If you read the patent, you will see it refers to earlier patent applications on a related theme from them. The earliest patent application goes back to November 1995, hence it is prior art from before that date that needs to be taken into consideration.

Re:How did they get a patent... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680667)

You mean like DikuMUD?

Re:How did they get a patent... (4, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680719)

Everything but the 3D aspect was done in AberMUD (which used a 2D graphical interface in a dedicated client). Basic GUI-driven avatar-based multi-player interactions via specialized clients can be traced back to XTrek at least (XTank didn't use clients per-se, since the server transmitted X protocol commands to the client display), since avatars could directly interact and players could chat via a console.

In terms of 3D interactions, Second Life was hardly the first. Alpha World was earlier and even that was derived from earlier attempts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Worlds [wikipedia.org]

Aha! Yes, Worlds Inc was responsible for Alpha World. That makes sense, and certainly Alpha World has a legitimate claim to being the direct ancestor of WoW, etc, and the platform that developed all of the technology used by Second Life, ad nausium. It's a push for them to claim the sole rights to MMORG Virtual Realities, though.

Re:How did they get a patent... (2)

CaptainLugnuts (2594663) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680887)

I'll raise you a decade. Midi Maze [wikipedia.org] for the Atari ST in 1987. 3D Networked multi-player game using MIDI for data communiations.

Server-side PVS determination (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680955)

The key part of the first claim, as I understand it, is server-side determination of which other avatars a given player is allowed to see: "wherein the client device does not receive position information of at least some avatars that fail to satisfy a participant condition imposed on avatars displayable on a client device display of the client device". For example, the server might hide other players that are too far away or players on the opposing team that are hidden behind walls.

Re:Server-side PVS determination (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39681105)

Sounds like Netrek [wikipedia.org] beat them by about 8 years.

A robust client–server model that reduces the data exchange to "need to know" information, limiting both the required bandwidth and the opportunities for players to cheat by obtaining more knowledge of the game world than their opponents.

Re:How did they get a patent... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39681073)

Re:How did they get a patent... (4, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680331)

That's what I thought at first - but the submitter linked to the wrong patent(s). They have several dating all the way back to the mid 90's that at least predate any commercial 3D MMORPGs.

Not saying they aren't stupid patents, but at the least they were not in fact stupid enough to try to sue their prior art...

Re:How did they get a patent... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680093)

After reading the patent it seems like they got it for a specific implementation, which they believe is similar to the one WOW uses.

Re:How did they get a patent... (0)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680133)

Which would be news maybe, if WoW didn't predate the patent by 5 years.

Re:How did they get a patent... (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680179)

They bought it from someone. If memory serves me it was sold by some charity. This patent has been around for a while. Worlds.com should be dead by now but they seam to have the life expectancy of SCO

Re:How did they get a patent... (1)

runeghost (2509522) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680189)

To the best of my knowledge, the US Patent Office doesn't actually check for prior art. They just take your money, make sure all the 'i's are dotted and 't's are crossed on your application form, and then issue the patent. Resolving things like prior art, or if what you're patenting is even patentable, is left as an exercise for lawyers.

Re:How did they get a patent... (2)

suutar (1860506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680499)

Looking at the first few claims, it looks like they basically took the concept and then started shaving off little bits to keep it from _quite_ matching anything they knew about. Basically an attempt to patent "this thing everybody's doing but only the pieces that nobody's done yet". Unless there's some interesting stuff in the later claims, I'd seriously question it on obviousness.

Filed (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39679883)

Filed: March 19, 2009

Re:Filed (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680967)

Please see geekoid's comment [slashdot.org] as to why the 2009 filing date isn't the date against which prior art is compared.

Re:Filed (1)

dlingman (1757250) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681167)

Well, it does actually date back to 1995. This application is a continuation of and claims priority from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/353,218 filed Jan. 13, 2009, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,945,856; which is a continuation of and claims priority from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/591,878, filed Nov. 2, 2006, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,493,558; which is a continuation of and claims priority from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/632,154, filed Aug. 3, 2000, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,181,690; which is a continuation of and claims priority from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/747,420, filed Nov. 12, 1996, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,219,045; which claims priority from U.S. Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/020,296, filed Nov. 13, 1995. The disclosures of all of the foregoing patent documents are incorporated herein by reference

technically 4d (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39679899)

Modern graphics cards all use 4*4 matrix multiplication. This patents only focuses on 3d. That math is a lot harder.

Prior Art (4, Interesting)

Nos9 (442559) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679917)

There is this obscure game called Everquest that does all of the described elements of the patents. Everquest released March 16th, 1999. The aforementioned patent was filed March 19th, 1999.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Rhywden (1940872) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679941)

Meridian 59 came even earlier in 1996.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Megor1 (621918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679983)

The patent was filed in March 19, 2009, WOW itself is prior ART...so is COD.... I DONT WANT TO LIVE ON THIS PLANET ANYMORE

Re:Prior Art (0)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680119)

The patent was filed in March 19, 2009, WOW itself is prior ART...so is COD.... I DONT WANT TO LIVE ON THIS PLANET ANYMORE

I saw that....
Assignee: Worlds.com, Inc. (Brookline, MA)
Appl. No.: 12/406,968
Filed: March 19, 2009
.....
What? They filed in 2009? ..... maybe I don't understand how patents work, doesn't it go by first to file? Everything is prior art then.

Ok nevermind, I read the patent and they're legit, from back in 1994 [google.com]

I think Blizzard is going to owe them some money.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680423)

OK, as I understand the patent system, you only have 1 year from the time of an invention to file, or you're done. This was enacted to stop submarine patents, as I understood it. The second thing is, we coded MUD's and were discussing the approach to handle graphical worlds in 92 or 93, and IIRC, there was a movement afoot to create a graphical muds around then as well. USENET would be your reference there. Habitat was the first recorded one launched in 86. M59 was launched in Dec 1995, I'm guessing the development cycle pre-dated the patents, and the 95 patent seems to state the basic same claims, upon a skim.

Seems like the core of the patent claims have copious prior art, and differs only by adding in the term "3D Graphical Avatar". Guess the "on the internet" was merely a copy-cat tactic.

Search the page for the word "continuation" (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680987)

you only have 1 year from the time of an invention to file

Open the patent and search the page (Ctrl+F) for the word "continuation" to see the real original filing date.

differs only by adding in the term "3D Graphical Avatar"

That and server-side determination of the PVS, as I explained elsewhere [slashdot.org] .

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680453)

The patent was filed on March 19, 2009, but it claims priority all the way back to 1995. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuing_patent_application

The name of the game in patents is the claims. So as long as each and every element of the claim finds support in the priority document (e.g., the 1995 application), patentability is judged as of 1995.

Therefore, WOW is not prior art unless it was released prior to 1995.

Also, in judging patentability, you need to assess that with respect to the claims. The claims define the legal rights of the patent.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680527)

I should also add, that this also (generally) means that the patent expires in 2016 - 20 years from the earliest priority date claimed (one minor patent technicality - the 1995 provisional application is not counted against patent term - so the earliest priority from the perspective of patent term is the 1996 application date.)

Whichever is longer (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681015)

this also (generally) means that the patent expires in 2016

Does the rule of 20 years after filing or 17 years after grant, whichever is longer [wikipedia.org] , for applications pending as of June 8, 1995, apply?

Re:Prior Art (1)

Bahamut_Omega (811064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680121)

In this case, I'd be hoping Activision Blizzard wins. I believe there is enough prior art with that the patents are tossed in the shredder. Some of the old services like Compuserve or The Sierra Network be considered fair game as prior art as well.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680285)

Yeah. I can't wait for 0x10c either.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680871)

negative. patent claims priority back to 1995.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680207)

Actually the Patent claims priority to a provisional application filed on Nov. 13, 1995. Therefore your Everquest example is NOT prior art. A patent may claim priority to another application. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuing_patent_application

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680231)

And while we're at it - in judging patentability AND assessing prior art, you have to look at the claims - not just what some idiot says the patent is about.

1. A method for enabling a first user to interact with other users in a virtual space, each user of the first user and the other users being associated with a three dimensional avatar representing said each user in the virtual space, the method comprising the steps of:

customizing, using a processor of a client device, an avatar in response to input by the first user;

receiving, by the client device, position information associated with fewer than all of the other user avatars in an interaction room of the virtual space, from a server process, wherein the client device does not receive position information of at least some avatars that fail to satisfy a participant condition imposed on avatars displayable on a client device display of the client device;

determining, by the client device, a displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display; and

displaying, on the client device display, the displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display.

The title and abstract are MEANINGLESS. THE NAME OF THE GAME IS THE CLAIM(s).

Re:Prior Art (2)

Fishbulb (32296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680367)

Forget that, there's this obscure game called netrek that beats Everquest by about ten years. And if you're going to talk about multiple users in 'virtual space', that's pretty much all netrek is.

Scratch that, beats it by 11 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netrek [wikipedia.org]

Re:Prior Art (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680421)

Netrek?

Island of Kesmai was on Compuserve in 1985.

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

Fully functional, multiplayer online game. It was the major influence on all to come. It was a great game as well, I was a member of a guild on IOK that STILL exists, on WoW. Not that I play WoW. But the guild is still there, the oldest online gaming guild ever. The Sun Clan of Warriors.

Anywho, I think that counts as prior art.

Re:Prior Art (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680761)

AberMUD is from around the same time, but both are just extensions of Essex MUD which is from 1980 according to the source code.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680433)

Doom was released in 1993. (CoD being a FPS game you get to use those too)

Multiplayer? 2-4 player networked coop mode and deathmatch available. Check!
3D Virtual world/setting? Check!
Central server passing out positional data? I think so. If not, Quake released 2 years or so later had it as an obvious extension of networked gaming.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680451)

How does this get modded so high? The patent is part of an unbroken chain dating back to a provisional in 1995. Further, it was filed in 2009, not 1999. To beat this patent, you need prior art from pre-1995.

They are already prepared to lose. (5, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679921)

I see that they made a spinoff company to litigate with so that when they lose they don't lose the shirts off their back when they lose, which they will.

Re:They are already prepared to lose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680619)

Maybe, but honestly, in this day and age it would just be stupid not to do this. Regardless whether you're a troll or have a legitimate patent related complaint.
Remember that laws and the legal systems aren't much about serving justice anymore. On this corporate planet they have been degraded to just another weapon to use to compete with. He who wields it best wins.

Survival of the fittest ain't what it used to be...

Re:They are already prepared to lose. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680659)

It's called a front organization (a shell corporation). They express purpose is to firewall liability from the parent company. They should be illegal if not already. It's bad enough the parent co is granted personhood. Even worse when it's used as a shield.

They can have the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39679933)

Minus the penalties for their creation's flaws. Let's see addictions, gold-spammers, broken relationships, a few murders.

Eleventy-million dollars should be sufficient. That's forty two gallons of Latinum.

hunt (2)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679935)

really really ancient unix network multiplayer game

----
        The object of the game hunt is to kill off the other players. There are no rooms, no treasures, and no monsters.
        Instead, you wander around a maze, find grenades, trip mines, and shoot down walls and players. The more players
        you kill before you die, the better your score is. If the -m flag is given, you enter the game as a monitor (you
        can see the action but you cannot play).

        hunt normally looks for an active game on the local network; if none is found, it starts one up on the local host.
        The location of the game may be specified by giving the host argument. This presupposes that a hunt game is
        already running on that host, see huntd(6) for details on how to setup a game on a specific host. If more than one
        game if found, you may pick which game to play in.

        The symbols on the screen are:
                    -|+ walls /\ diagonal (deflecting) walls
                    # doors (dispersion walls)
                    ; small mine
                    g large mine
                    : bullet
                    o grenade
                    O satchel charge
                    @ bomb
                    s small slime
                    $ big slime
                    >^v you facing right, left, up, or down
                    }{i! other players facing right, left, up, or down
                    * explosion
                    \|/
                    -*- grenade and large mine explosion /|\

----
chat was possible using other unix utilities so it was not part of the game

Re:hunt (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680057)

The patent clearly states 3D/VR implementations.

Re:hunt (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680351)

Hunt is more than 2D as "invisible" is a 3D parameter above the 2D rendering.
Hunt has you can't see behind you as well.
Hunt even has dynamic environments in that the walls can be destroyed and restored.

Hunt is VR in that you can't see behind you and you can't see others or walls unless they are in your sight line.

You could make a 3D hunt client without changing any of the network code. And even play 3D hunt with other people on 2D clients without getting any advantages or disadvantages.

Was 3D hunt done before 1995? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681027)

You could make a 3D hunt client without changing any of the network code.

Could, but did anyone prior to 1995?

Obviousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680403)

MUDs moving to a graphical setting rather than text only. Obvious.
FPS gaming was actually using a 3d virtual world (albeit small worlds) before this patent was filed for. Doom was released in 1993 and featured 2-4 player coop and deathmatch modes in a 3D virtual world.

This is gonna drag on a bit but its gonna get kicked back to the Patent office for re-examination first, and should (rightly) fail.

"but now they want a cut." (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 2 years ago | (#39679997)

In other words: "Give me money for free! I don't feel like making an honest, productive living!!!"

A time limit needed (4, Insightful)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680011)

It's obvious that the lawsuits are ridiculous but what's most ridiculous is they are allowed to file after this many years. Usually there's a three year cut off. These companies, and some of them are the majors, sit back and let the totals add up until there are businesses valued in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars to sue. It's a blatant way of preventing the offender from modifying their product to avoid being sued and to rack up as much damages as possible before filing. Some minor tweaks in WoW might have avoided the lawsuit so they sit quietly until the damages are massive then sue. Without reading the patents it's hard to say but some of their claims involve things that have been standard in gaming for more than 20 years. The biggest advance in WoW was faster computers and connections allowing multiple players to interact. Also how could it have "helped the businesses of virtual worlds gaming and the sale of virtual goods to grow into a multibillion-dollar industry" when the ones being sued were never aware of the patents in the first place. It's like patenting the wheel then keeping it to yourself then claiming the car companies stole your design.

Re:A time limit needed (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680397)

sigh. I wish people wuiold make an effort tounderstand the things they complain about.

This is a continuous patent. It goes back to 1995

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuing_patent_application [wikipedia.org]

Please try to understand the basic concepts of things you don't like.
Anyone who doesn't do that is hating something based on a 'gut feeling'' which is useless.

Re:A time limit needed (1)

wmbetts (1306001) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680569)

Okay they patented something obvious in 1995 instead of 2005. His point is they patented something so obvious everyone in that field had 0 idea that the patented existed, but still came to the same conclusion.

Re:A time limit needed (1)

alienzed (732782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680741)

Yeah, it's only ok to do that if politics are involved!

Re:A time limit needed (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680943)

Ah, continuations on patents, that clever trick where you can legally claim to have invented something a decade before you actually thought of the idea.

Dates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680059)

WOW was released at the end of 2004. The patent in question was filed in 2009.

There must be something mighty good in the details of the patent to cover the fact that WOW is prior art.

But then you never know

Re:Dates? (1)

IQGQNAU (643228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680169)

Yeah, that's what I was gonna say. Not to mention the many virtual worlds and many MPORPGs that preceded WoW. Very weird. But not really so weird when you consider Oracle thinks they have billions worth of damages from Android when OpenJDK is GPL. All it takes for a lawsuit is a lawyer who figures he can make a buck and plaintiff crazy enough to pay.

I don't get it (1)

jeti (105266) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680089)

The patent was filed March 19, 2009 and only describes the basic steps to display avatars in a MMO setting. WoW was released in 2004 and it certainly hasn't been the first (3D) MMO. The abuse seems so obvious that I don't think a trial would last long. And AFAIK the loser now has to pay the costs of the proceedings.

Re:I don't get it (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680205)

The company's earliest patents go back to at least 1996 [google.com] and possibly earlier. You also have to remember that many patents are the result of continuations or divisionals and can thus claim the benefit of the filing date of the parent application. The other patents that I looked at seem to derive from the same early filing. You can't just look at the filing date of the application, you have to go up the chain.

And AFAIK the loser now has to pay the costs of the proceedings.

As a general rule this is not correct in the United States. Fee-shifting is possible in "exceptional" patent cases, but it's not very common. Even then it tends to be awarded in cases of willful patent infringement rather than in cases where the patent is invalid or uninfringed.

statute of limitations (2)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680117)

you should have a relatively short time limit to recognize your patent being used without permission and sue for it. waiting to see which business became profitable off you should invalidate your claim.

Re:statute of limitations (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680225)

There is a six year limitation on damages that functions similar to a statute of limitations. 35 U.S.C. 286 [cornell.edu] . The defenses of laches and waiver are also potentially available if a patent owner sits on their rights after becoming aware of possible infringement.

Re:statute of limitations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39681097)

Well, since you would have to have been a cave to not notice WoW, and WoW has been out for more than six years now, I'd say invalid claims.

Im flambait and AC and i know it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680149)

but this "litigation" problem needs to fixed /now/.

- A Blizzard fanboi (pre-activision) and EU resident.

"Vi förvandlar västvärlden till en plats FN vill skicka trupp till" - PST/Q (Swedish)

In 2008 they sued NC soft, and NCsoft settled. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680199)

http://massively.joystiq.com/2010/04/27/worlds-com-vs-ncsoft-lawsuit-settled/

from the article:
"Worlds.com president and sole full-time employee Thomas Kidrin has simply exhausted his resources. Kidrin was recently quoted as saying "if we do not develop any new projects, we would have to severely diminish our operations or halt them entirely,"

Patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680341)

They're fucking awful. They're shit! They're fucky screw!

Worlds Inc. is nothing but legal zombie, no IP... (5, Interesting)

kbonin (58917) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680401)

Those of us who worked and actually innovated in VR in the late 80s and early 90s have always been a little worried about Worlds, as they liked to run off to the patent office with all the ideas the collected from the rest of us. All of their patent claims existed in other products - even their first patents were an attempt to claim basic VR tech shown several years before by several groups, including the one I worked with (OnLive Traveler). There is plenty of prior art to invalidate these patents, but in our glorious patent system it will cost millions to do so. And like SCO, their legal zombie remains keep trying to extend old claims and collect something for the little invalid patent portfolio that was passed on when they shut down. The software patent apocalypse continues....

Re:Worlds Inc. is nothing but legal zombie, no IP. (3, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680483)

There is plenty of prior art to invalidate these patents, but in our glorious patent system it will cost millions to do so.

Requesting an ex parte reexamination costs $2,520, plus a fairly modest amount for a patent attorney to put together the request. The Patent Office takes it from there, and any litigation is typically stayed pending the result. Worlds' patent portfolio appears to be pretty small, only five patents, so all five could be thrown into reexam for not a lot of money. For a more hands-on approach there's inter partes reexamination, though it is a bit more expensive, but still cheaper than litigation. Litigation is not the only way to address a potentially invalid patent, depending on the defenses one plans to raise (i.e. not all possible defenses are available in reexamination).

Remember Worlds Chat? (1)

t4ng* (1092951) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680411)

I had completely forgotten about this company, but they had a 3D chat program back in the mid-90's called Worlds Chat. It had some innovative features like proximity filtering of messages. There was another program that came out a little later that allowed you to claim land and build structures on it, even allowing you to upload surface map image files for custom structures. It had proximity filtering of structure and map detail downloading. But it was horribly slow on dial-up and the average cpus of the time.

IANAL, but IMHO they could very well have a valid claim.

Re:Remember Worlds Chat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680775)

But it was horribly slow on dial-up and the average cpus of the time.

If they implemented, like claimed in their patent, a data-filter on the client, it's quite believable that it was slow, unnecessarily slow, on dial-ups.

Re:Remember Worlds Chat? (1)

xmundt (415364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681205)

Greetings and Salutations;
          Yes I was going to bring this up, if no one else mentioned it. It was quite an interesting concept, and, for the beta testing period was hugely popular. However, as a business model it was a massive fail. The day that World's Chat closed its free access and required a paid registration it lost about 99% of its customer base, and, I suspect that shortly thereafter it reached 100%.
          It was my understanding that their picture of reality was that businesses would set up conferences in their 3d VR world, and use that as a way of getting inexpensive "face time". This was a total failure. I suspect that at least three of the reasons were that there WERE speed issues, and, perhaps more importantly, it was too strange for upper level management to get their heads around. Adding to that the cost of the subscriptions and it was dead man walking.
            The same issues plagued the virtual world that they created. If they had worked on generating a revenue stream outside of user subscriptions perhaps they would have been successful.. In this case, the problem was that they were trying to get revenue from a world that had no point, except to allow the users to build amazingly elaborate world. Again, when it was free they had a fair number of users. once the charges started, folks disappeared in droves....

why are these patents being approved? (1)

daniel78 (2563977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680439)

Wow. Just wow. After reading the claims on the USPTO site it boggles the mind that such a patent could be granted in 2009. As a game developer myself, i can guarantee that every single thing mentioned in that patent has been done *at least* 10 years prior - probably more like 15 or 20. In addition, the history of the patent application (ie. the back and forth between applicant and examiner - all public record) is very illuminating - the arguments (for the claims being valid) being made are laughably simplistic, and the prior art considered is mostly limited to existing patents. Moreover, I find it *fucking offensive* that parasites like this can try to claim ownership over what is (for the most part) an extremely open, patent free, and innovative industry (albeit moreso in technology, than game ideas!). Ever been to GDC? Each year, hundreds of developers from competing companies will share the tips and tricks used in their latest technology, with no expectation of financial compensation. I have *never* heard a game developer complain that someone else was using their "invention" - much more likely they'd be flattered. The success of the games industry is in fact, a great counter-argument to those who argue that the elimination of patents (software or otherwise) would be catastrophic to inventors. Why are these patents being approved, and what recourse against the applicants do we have for applications that (presumably deliberately) ignore prior art - not to mention the waste of taxpayer money involved?

Re:why are these patents being approved? (0)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680785)

After reading the claims on the USPTO site it boggles the mind that such a patent could be granted in 2009. As a game developer myself, i can guarantee that every single thing mentioned in that patent has been done *at least* 10 years prior - probably more like 15 or 20

The patents in question date back to at least 1996. Anyway, if it's that easy to find prior art then the case should be a slam dunk.

the prior art considered is mostly limited to existing patents

The Patent Office's access to computer science-related prior art documents other than patents that are older than 1996 is not very good compared to the patent and patent application databases.

It does not help that the Patent Office fought tooth and nail against the patentability of software, thus finding itself completely unprepared to properly examine software patents once they were allowed. That continues to this day, with computer science and electrical engineering being some of the weakest technology areas in the examining corps. It also doesn't help that examiner retention is abysmal. The vast majority of examiners have less than three years of experience, since they tend to either burn out, return to industry, or become patent attorneys.

The short-term solution is to eliminate the presumption of validity. Longer-term solutions include tightening the enablement and written description requirements, increasing the Patent Office's budget by raising fees, and opening satellite offices near technology hubs like Silicon Valley and Seattle.

I find it *fucking offensive* that parasites like this can try to claim ownership over what is (for the most part) an extremely open, patent free, and innovative industry

Does it offend you that some people like to enforce property rights in their homes even though some people choose to live in communes?

Anyway, patent free? Check your hardware sometime. I guarantee that the device you posted that comment from is covered by thousands of patents, as is every gaming device on the market. As are the major operating systems on the market and many of the frameworks used to make games (e.g. DirectX). As are many related technologies like the servers that run XBox Live and the PSN. And lots of major players (e.g. Microsoft [google.com] ) own patents and applications related to video games. Here's one [google.com] from Microsoft on spectating in multiplayer games.

Open? The commercial gaming industry is quite closed, actually, with very few games being open source, and many publishers quite fiercely protecting their IP. Lawsuits over clones and copycats are as old as the industry itself [wikipedia.org] .

Patents don't affect games qua games much (e.g. a patent on a side-scrolling platformer) because copyright is free, instantaneous, international, broader in scope, and provides better remedies (e.g. statutory damages, criminal enforcement).

Ever been to GDC? Each year, hundreds of developers from competing companies will share the tips and tricks used in their latest technology, with no expectation of financial compensation. I have *never* heard a game developer complain that someone else was using their "invention" - much more likely they'd be flattered.

Don't confuse programmers with the video game business. A developer may be flattered if someone copies his or her code in violation of copyright. The business that employs the programmer may feel very differently. The same is true of other creative industries such as film (e.g. a director's response versus the movie studio's).

not to mention the waste of taxpayer money involved?

The Patent Office is funded by user fees, not taxpayer money. The federal courts are (mostly) funded by taxpayer money, but the entire judiciary has a budget of $6.8 billion. Patent cases account for about .8% of the trial caseload of the federal courts (~3000 out of 367,692 in 2011). Assuming that proportion is the same across the courts of appeals and the Supreme Court, that's $54.4 million. Not exactly a lot of money, especially when you consider that many of those cases don't involve software patents, much less game-related patents.

Re:why are these patents being approved? (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681035)

The patents in question date back to at least 1996. Anyway, if it's that easy to find prior art then the case should be a slam dunk.

The trick is apparently that they've used continuations in part, which allows them to patent new improvements on an existing patent in such a way that any prior art for them only counts if it predate the original patent - which in this case means that the prior art has to be over a decade older than the claimed inventions by Worlds Inc. I've no idea who thought this aspect of patent law was a good idea.

Too Many Lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680517)

I am lawyer. I am too lazy to contribute to society meaningfully. I went to law school so I deserve to be rich. I'll just leach off the work of others.

Duke 3d is more prior art (1)

bl968 (190792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680521)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Nukem_3D released 1996 and while doom is referenced, duke is not. I also think the detailed list of commands would not bode well for them since each program would have it's own language and functions. Most don't even use plain english such as world's "invention"

Brilliant (1)

haydensdaddy (1719524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680545)

What's wrong with these people at the patent office...? It's not like you have to be Einstein to work there... oh wait...

Basically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680599)

They took object-oriented MUD code added "LOL graphics renderer" and called it good.

Where's the infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39680751)

Claim 1: ..." determining, by the client device, a displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display; and displaying, on the client device display, the displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display."

For an infringement, this feature would need to be implemented. However, it seems to be quite stupid to implement something like this: If the client has more data than it needs to display, this a) costs unnecessary bandwidth and b) offers the user room to create a cheat to display things that should not be displayed. Therefore, I assume that WoW does not likely implement this feature. Furthermore, it would be quite difficult to prove this by black-box testing.

The other claims are dependent or simply the device for this claimed method.

Now, where's the infringement?

Re:Where's the infringement? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681013)

determining, by the client device, a displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display; and displaying, on the client device display, the displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display

What's interesting is in that very same claim, the server already removed avatars:

wherein the client device does not receive position information of at least some avatars that fail to satisfy a participant condition imposed on avatars displayable on a client device display of the client device;

So as long as the server removes all of the not-visible avatars or none of the not-visible avatars, it's not infringing. As far as "black box" though, I'd be tempted to guess that the server does some checks but not all... after all, WoW had all those warping loopholes people were using a while back so at least some processing of some kind is done client side. If WoW's server doesn't know where the user's avatar is actually standing, the best it could do is send all the avatars in the general area and the client figures out which it sees based on viewport direction.

"fewer than all of the other user avatars" (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39681087)

You're talking about the step of determining a PVS [wikipedia.org] on the client side. If this is the only place a PVS is the determined, then yes, it would waste bandwidth and enable cheating. But before that step is a step of the server sending a rough PVS: "receiving, by the client device, position information associated with fewer than all of the other user avatars in an interaction room of the virtual space, from a server process, wherein the client device does not receive position information of at least some avatars that fail to satisfy a participant condition". Anything with 3D avatars where the server evaluates a "participant condition" (i.e. a rough PVS) and the client refines this PVS is covered.

They invented the metaverse! (1)

daniel78 (2563977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39680911)

Hmm.... customizable avatars... virtual, 3d multi-user, environments. All thought of in 1995? These guys were true visionaries!
Or maybe they read Snow Crash which was published years earlier.

I'm just going to ignore the patent's laughably simplistic "instruction" on technical issues such as "position" and "orientation" and the blindingly obvious "invention" of the client not processing every avatar in the environment.

Too long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39681215)

If I remember correctly, patents have to be actively disputed in a timely manner in order to remain valid. Since WoW has been around since the early 2000's and has been fairly popular from the beginning (i.e. they were well known and not "hidden" in any way), *I* would rule that the troll allowed too much time to pass before suing and throw the whole thing out of court.

Even my Captcha says it's OBVIOUS. :D

Judith Challinger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39681219)

I have one of the Patent group. This patent seems be recent:

http://www.patentbuddy.com/Inventor/Challinger-Judith/11793998#More

Pete

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