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EFF Attacks Online Gaming Patent

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the foundation-smash dept.

Patents 126

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "The EFF is attacking more bogus patents. This time they're going after the 'method and system of playing games on a network' which covers tournament ladders, online rankings and advertisements. The patent in question has already been asserted against a number of small companies who know that licensing it is cheaper than litigating. Ars Technica's coverage mentions that Netrek looks like a good source of prior art. 'Netrek, an online multiplayer game with origins in the mid 1980s, makes use of much of the same technology described in Goldberg's patent. Much of the code for Netrek is open source, and its development is archived online; the source code was first posted to Usenet in late 1989. The EFF has also documented other instances of prior art with the assistance of students at the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.'"

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Dumb (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22306654)

Stupid...

Re:Dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22306804)

First post redundant? Gotta love slashdot... I know, I must be new here, don't reply me with that stupidity.

Re:Dumb (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306970)

Dumb[ (nt) ] -> would have been offtopic.
Dumb[Stupid...] -> is redundant in and on itself.

Re:Dumb (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307424)

In most cases I'd agree, but in this case the subject is the same as comment. It is self-redundant. However, I would have modded it "overrated". Either way, it serves to lower the AC's karma (he's logged in or he wouldn't have gotten the "Anonymous Modifier" and to make the comment less visible.

This comment is offtopic. As is yours. But as I have no need to be a karma whore (Karma-excellent) it doesn't matter. In fact I'm modding myself down by checking the "no karma bonus" box.

Of course, even though it is offtopic a mod may still mark it as interesting, informative, or insightful. I personally wish mods would stick to what fits best.

Prior art? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22306714)

There was top-down, space themed, multiplayer game on Athena (MIT) in the late 1980's that had Asteroid-like graphics. Anyone remember it?

Also does anyone remember a tile game (around the same time) with a train and tracks called "Software Engineer".

Prior art is sometimes everywhere.

Re:Prior art? (3, Insightful)

mrxak (727974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306742)

Isn't the patent office supposed to investigate these things and reject obvious patent claims? Sheesh guys, hire better experts. Maybe we need some from our numbers to go down to the patent office and apply for a job.

Re:Prior art? (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306844)

Of course now all developers have to do is ignore the patent and the cease-and-desist letters. If he tries to sue, countersue for defamation/damages/a tidy sum for you and your lawyer friend. All it will take is one lawsuit and this idiot is done for.

Re:Prior art? (3, Insightful)

Idiomatik (1228742) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307012)

The way it works in reality is that both side lose about 400~800 grand and then they'll withdraw. You might recoup some of the loss but it still wont be profitable. Cept for the IP lawyers....

Re:Prior art? (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307116)

If I'm not mistaken, that's if you actually try and make a case. So the assumption is that the patent-holder spends a large amount of money and the defendant merely holds up the prior art.

I have a feeling this patent is nothing more than an idle threat. The owner will likely take the money he has made so far and duck out instead of betting it all on a lawsuit.

Re:Prior art? (5, Insightful)

Idiomatik (1228742) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307358)

99% of the time the goal is to make the legal process take forever. So you have to pay legal fees, often can't work because they are mailing you 600page books of things you have to research and you still have living expenses. Your company will be stalled. Then they just wait for you to crack or run out of money. Even if all you do is hold up prior art the law isn't so simple. They'd have a long investigation on whether or not it truely is prior art, whether we can tell or not if it came first as humans can know nothing. That this supposed knowledge is just a flawed combination of our senses. My point is it doesnt matter if there is a case or not their only goal is to stall. Most people arent willing to give up their lives for often over 8months to show up some asshat. You end up in the hole near a million dollars, your company is certainly disbanded at this point and the company you stood up to has already hit 20victims since.

The only option in these cases is class-action. Or bend over and take it, film the experience and send it to the EFF who will hopefully have some luck finding you some cream.

Ignore 600 pages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22307928)

Just mail back "prior art ".

Cost: 1 stamp + 1 envelope

Use a home heater and burn the 600 pages to warm your house to offset the costs.

Do you think the judge would read the 600 pages?

Re:Prior art? (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22310456)

Or bend over and take it, film the experience and send it to the EFF who will hopefully have some luck finding you some cream.
I'm not a rich guy, but every year, usually in December, my wife and I scrape together one or two thousand bucks that we have saved up just for this purpose, and we donate it to organizations or charities that either directly push an agenda that is to our benefit or that do work in which we believe.

The EFF has been on that short list every year since 1998. As far as we're concerned, that $500-1000 that we send them is always money well spent.

If you care about these issues and you want to do something besides just cluck your tongue when you read about IP misuse, unlawful surveillance, etc., I suggest that you do a little reading at eff.org and if you are so moved, and if living in a free society and using a free Internet has been any benefit to you, pony up a few bucks to those worthy warriors who fight on our behalf.

Re:Prior art? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306858)

I vote for you doing that, I prefer getting paid decent wages.

Plus, these guys presumably get so many patent applications that they can't investigate every one.. and in December 1996 this probably sounded rather novel to the guy in the patent office who spent all his free time organising his vintage stamp collection.

Re:Prior art? (2, Interesting)

Loski (1233620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307380)

Mrxak The patent office is overburdened with prior art searches that must be conducted in a relatively short window of time. The current turnaround time on a patent application is 44 months, I believe the patent office will be rolling out a wiki-style patent community in which you would be able to contribute to the patent office's search for prior art and ultimately see a turnaround time of 7 months. Obviously, you would only be inclined to do so if you were deeply passionate/vested in a particular field of industry. Also, how would you go about hiring experts for emerging technologies, business proceses, and non-obvious uses? Its a bit tougher than it seems.

Re:Prior art? (1)

mrxak (727974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307504)

You're describing it like a manpower problem. So hire more people. All I'm saying is, it if strikes us as obvious or we can easily show prior art, then they need to hire some of us. Some kind of wiki isn't a bad idea either. But look, if they're getting too many patent applications than they can deal with, it's their own fault. They keep awarding patents for really dumb things, so everybody and their brother is now filing even more meaningless patents. Make the process stricter, and the number of patents coming in will have to drop when they realize they can't get away with it anymore. It costs money to file a patent. If 90% of your patents get rejected instantly, that's a lot of money down the drain. You'll probably not try to patent something meaningless again.

Re:Prior art? (1)

Loski (1233620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307588)

You got it. That's exactly what will begin to happen and to a large extent, at this point, it is a manpower problem. The PTO cannot simply hire more people. Although IP is a tremendous resource to the U.S. it is still an area that is underfunded. But I think this new initiative will have the effects that you speak of, mainly lowering the number of arbitary/malicious patent submissions. If there are more eyes to pry over the details, individuals and corps will be less inclined to submit bogus patents.

Re:Prior art? (2, Informative)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307530)

A patent examiner has typically 8 h of time to examine an application. So the applicant is supposed to help with the process by listing all applicable prior art and related patents - what is the basis of trying get patents overturned for having missed something relevant. But the patent examiner has to take a lot of what is presented to him as factual, or he'd never get anywhere. And so you get patents issued that should have never been granted in an ideal process, where the examiner is an expert in the field, and where the prior art is obvious (and not hidden in some 80's area source code).

4-5 hours ( in a 40 hour week) (3, Informative)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309220)

These guys are supposed to review 4 new patents & 5 backlogged patent applications every week. Half the time it takes me 4 hours to figure out what the hell these lawyers are obscuring, let alone start looking for prior art. As for the guy above who said they need better experts, these are usually guys out of college - often lawyers waiting to pass the bar. For the most part they have no experience in the field that the patent is in. Hence what is novel to them is quite frequently common sense to people in the field. To present an example, the moron who managed to get a triple linked list patented. How traversing a list in 3 modes using object references is novel when traversing in 1 & 2 modes using object references is standard 1st year programming I don't know.

Re:4-5 hours ( in a 40 hour week) (2, Insightful)

Ciggy (692030) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309482)

If the patent examiner can't work out what the patent's supposed to be protecting in a reasonable time, then the patent should be rejected; in reward for getting a monopoly, the patentee has to disclose how to "build" their invention.

If the patent application is complicated, and it's not clear what the invention is, nor how to "build" it, then the patentee has not fulfilled their part of the patent contract, and so should not get a monopoly on it. Simple really?

Re:Prior art? (1)

unbug (1188963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307062)

Wouldn't something like postal chess be prior art to some extent? After all, snail mail is a communication network.

Re:Prior art? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307694)

This was being done by commercial PC game companies before the filing date of this patent.

This sounds like another one of those "lets take an old idea" and add "internet" to the abstract and get a patent on it.

Re:Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22309704)

I have yet to see targeted advertising in postal chess, but I'm young...

or could it be that you have no fucking clue what the patent is about?

Conquest (1)

fishdan (569872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309272)

I believe the game you are looking for is called Conquest. It has of course been ported to Linux [radscan.com] , and still is quite fun for multiplayer.

Re:Prior art? (1)

C R Johnson (141) | more than 6 years ago | (#22310222)

The game you are referring to may be xpilot [xpilot.org]

Originally released in 1991 xpilot is still developed [sourceforge.net] and we still play.

-Cluster

Re:Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22310678)

That's it! Thank you so much. I'm apt-get'ing it right now. =)

Thanks again.

Netrek!? (4, Funny)

haeger (85819) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306752)

Oh, damn, that give back fond memories.
I nearly didn't finish my education because of that game.

I had to quit after breaking my 4:th mouse and it was beginning be embarrasing to go to the computer-support and ask for a new one.

Ah, the joys of ogging a base near their home planet or smacking a DD carrying 5 troops.

I'm getting withdrawal, I wonder if there's anyone still playing.

"BenDover", captain.

Re:Netrek!? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22306824)

Yeah, Netrek was great.. Last time I tried to play I couldn't find any servers with more than 1 or 2 people playing.

I wish there was a Nintendo DS client for it (and people actually playing it).

Re:Netrek!? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307056)

Oh, damn, that give back fond memories.
I nearly didn't finish my education because of that game.

For me it was Gemstone II on Compuserve, I read somewhere lately that it is still running.
At that time most of us wrote their own frontends to have a chance against the inhuman typists, especially for healers.

Re:Netrek!? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307082)

Oh the sweet part is the newbies (10 years gaming = newbie) playing other games are so easy to get by ogging.

I do it all the time in urban Terror. bad guys in the room? grab a grenade and click and hold fire as you run in, if they kill you the grenade will go off, if you make it to them the grenade goes off. it's a modern day ogging!

I need to see if a recent Netrek is available for OSX. I need to become less productive this week.

Re:Netrek!? (1)

Bootsy Collins (549938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307934)


Yeah, this reminded me of how much fun I had playing Netrek once upon a time.


So, just to see if anyone's still playing Netrek today, I immediately followed the link in the FA, went to netrek.org, and downloaded what their webpage had as the latest Linux client. Attempting to run it, I got "sorry, but this client has expired; you need to download a current one from ftp.netrek.org." I guess that's a clue as to the vitality of the community . . . .

Re:Netrek!? (1)

Fishbulb (32296) | more than 6 years ago | (#22310650)

Hey! I was that DD!

Commander Hoek.

EFF (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306758)

The joke's on them! They're using my method of debunking bogus patents by research into prior art! If only that guy hadn't patented blackmailing someone who is debunking bogus patents by brandishing your own patent for debunking bogus patents, I'd be rich! :(

Re:EFF (2, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307128)

The joke's on them! They're using my method of debunking bogus patents by research into prior art! If only that guy hadn't patented blackmailing someone who is debunking bogus patents by brandishing your own patent for debunking bogus patents, I'd be rich! :(
My client is the guy who patented blackmailing someone who is debunking bogus patents by brandishing your own patent for debunking bogus patents or, as we call it, BSWIDBPBBYOPFDBP.

I have to inform you that our product name in both it's long and short versions is a trademark. We require to immediately Cease and desist from using our product's long name without reference to the short name and the patent holder (ThatGuyYouHate inc.).

Thank you.

P.S.: We also hold rights over the song "BSWIDBPBBYOPFDBP" interpreted by TheSameGuy, so please inform us if you did read this post in loud voice.

Re:EFF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22307252)

"BSWIDBPBBYOPFDBP"

hmm, sounds like something David Lee Roth would scream out in the middle of a song.

You may want to check Van Halen for potential prior art.

Re:EFF (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307472)

After a little research I have discovered that the "British Society With Insecure Dogs Bought Postnatally (But Before Year Old Puppy Form) Dinner/Brunch Party" have already registered that trademark? Quit with your FUD Mr Thanshin or I shall be forced to unleash my pack of rabid pygmy ass-biting lawyers on your ass.

Re:EFF (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309444)

You know, that's just the problem.

The american legal system favors lawyers period. It's inherently an adversarial system where either side can start the fight and the winner is whoever bankrolls their attorneys the longest. Since you almost always automatically lose any lawsuit you fail to maintain or defend, it's nothing more than a war of attrition, a modern version of "chicken". With most lawsuits these days, someone has to give up before the case is over. Only a scant few actually make it to a verdict.

Only when lawyers stop making a shitload of money on legal fees and reimbursement of attorney's fees becomes mandatory (like it is in many countries in Europe) will our caseloads drop.

I am so sick of litigious companies with deep pockets I could puke! Thank god SCO finally ran out of money. I just hope the lawyers don't screw Novell in the ass.

How exactly was this innovative? (1, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306766)

Most of this stuff just seems to be flat out obvious. Granted, I've only read the abstract (which was just plain incoherent, if you ask me) and skimmed the actual patent. I fail to see anything of merit. It sets out a broad, nebulous set of rules that could be interpreted to be any number of things. I imagine that when this was filed the patent office had dummy mode set irrevocably on, a al BOFH.

This is a particularly bad patent, and kudos to the EFF. As we all know, small strokes fell mighty oaks.

Re:How exactly was this innovative? (5, Informative)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306832)

It sets out a broad, nebulous set of rules that could be interpreted to be any number of things.


Congratulations, I think you have just discovered what is known as "a legal document" of the sub-species "patent". Part of the reason that the grammar is so bad (to normal eyes) and wordy is so that they can make it mean everything (to scare people off) and something very specific (when they're litigating against someone and want to pick a specific point by picking a specific interpretation).

If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.

Re:How exactly was this innovative? (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307408)

If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.
At least they are attempting to address the issue and bring to light these broadcast patents that are 100% bullsh*t in the least. These patents don't just scare off businesses from using any sort of thing that falls into their ambiguous description, they are stifling creativity and innovation. I doubt that their patent will hold up the EFF's challenge, but imagine if it did. How many online games do you know that use this sort of method for determining rank or tiered tournaments. The EFF is just pulling the curtain away to show what is really behind the flawed methodology of the USPTO in need of reform.

equivalence (4, Insightful)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307488)

You say:

If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.


which is essentially the same as saying, "If only there was no incentive for companies to obtain patents in the first place." I understand that from the perspective of good/evil or innovation/abuse, the problem is most apparent with submarine patents like the one in the article. But even in a perfect world where all actors obtain only valid and meaningful patents, those patents will be used by the rightsholder as a cudgel against other individuals and companies, to protect the patent-holder's monopoly on whatever the covered claims might be.

The problem is with government-sanctioned monopolies in general. And that problem can only be solved if enough people get pissed off that we force government to do something about it. Companies have been pushing to expand patent protections for a long time; the public pushback is just getting started. We should all be happy that the SCOTUS has shown some willingness to recognize the public interest in limited patents, especially considering the corporate pressure to do the exact opposite.

I think it's great that the EFF is fighting, and winning, battles exactly like this one. Their battles raise the visibility of the issue, and might eventually lead to a world where little guys who are threatened with junk patents like this one are willing to stand up and fight rather than give the bullies their lunch money.

Re:equivalence (1)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308752)

If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.

which is essentially the same as saying, "If only there was no incentive for companies to obtain patents in the first place."

I read it as something like "I wish the patent examiners only granted valid patents.", but I suppose that wouldn't support your argument. We see what we want to see.

Re:equivalence (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309596)

That was actually my meaning - if only they didn't have to waste money on trying to get stupid patents overturned then the money could be spent on better things.

I don't have a problem with patents in theory, it is just the practice that goes wrong. Some degree of protection for a truly innovative invention would help the creator, but patenting obvious things and patenting thoughts/mathematics (software) is a failing of the patent office.

Not that I have much of a clue how bad the UK patents are, other than the fact that they've recently been told not to just reject software patents out of hand.

Re:equivalence (1)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22310028)

I read it as something like "I wish the patent examiners only granted valid patents."


I think your read is fair, and not necessarily inconsistent with mine, although maybe it doesn't go as far. But even "valid" patents can be used to harm consumers in ways that would shock the authors of the Constitution.

My point is that, as long as there is any system for awarding government-protected monoploy power, some bad actors will attempt to take advantage of that system.

Once a patent is granted, the system we have depends on an adversarial contest in the federal courts to resolve questions about patent validity. Unfortunately, the cost of patent litigation for private parties has grown to the point that it is often cheaper for small businesses to just license an abusive patent rather than expend the resources to fight the patent in court. This has created an economic "dead zone," where it makes good business sense from a purely financial perspective to obtain even questionable patents, because it is possible to use questionable patents to extract rents from small players who can't afford the high cost of putting up a good fight. The cost of putting up a BAD fight is unthinkable, because losing a patent infringement lawsuit could be ruinous. Since the potential for abuse is inherent in the system, and the dead zone means the system can no longer police itself efficiently, we need groups like the EFF to challenge the bad actors.

Sure, this is a stupid patent. But according to the rules of the system, it's "valid." By definition, the patent examiners grant only "valid" patents. They remain "valid" until someone challenges them, exactly like the EFF is doing here. If the EFF doesn't bring the challenge, the patent will remain "valid," because it doesn't make economic sense for anyone else to put up a fight (until the patent-holders pick a fight with, say, IBM or Sony).

And sure, it's dumb that this particular fight has to happen, especially because it took all of 20 minutes on /. for someone to post prior art in the comments, suggesting that the patent should never have been granted in the first place. But we are fortunate to live in a society which permits groups like the EFF and PubPat to take legal action in the public interest. Without them, this dumb patent would continue to be "valid" until it expired or the scurvy parasites who are enforcing it screwed up and threatened someone bigger and meaner than they are.

Re:How exactly was this innovative? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22307828)

...and wordy is so that they can make it mean everything (to scare people off)

The legal document is only a tool, but you are absolutely correct about its usage.

Consider carefully and rationally what is the purpose of a legal document in this case. Is it to inform? No, it's weapon of intimidation. What annoys me is that there's an entrenched assumption amplified here amongst the Slashdot group that there are two courses of action

i) Settle
ii) Litigate

There is a third perfectly valid strategy to intimidation and protection rackets, indeed it is the most effective.

i) Settle
ii) Litigate
iii) IGNORE

When you recieive a legal document of this kind file it in the wastebasket. Treat any communications from an aggressive source similarly. Do you feel obliged to answer those letters from the Domain Registry of America, or every little piece of 419 scam trash that lands in your inbox? Of course not. If someone really has a case against you they will pursue it and escalate, send follow up letters. File those in the trash too. Eventually, if they are serious enough to really believe they have a proper legal case against you someone will meet you in person with a summons. That costs money to do. Having a real person serve papers costs, and it's a deterrent to specious legal threats. It's only the fact that it costs nothing to send out these baseless legal threats that makes it profitable for troll companies.

The mistake is to take the bait and respond. You always have deniability of recipt UNTIL you respond. You make the aggressor do the work, make them pay for every move.

Re:How exactly was this innovative? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309382)

Fixed that for you:

Congratulations, I think you have just discovered what is known as "a legal document".

Re:How exactly was this innovative? (1)

ozeki (466460) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307232)

Kudos indeed, much better than their fight against free speech. http://www.savage-productions.com/CAIR_Santa_Clara_Answer_Doc_11.pdf [savage-productions.com] I was beginning to lose hope for them.

Re:How exactly was this innovative? (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22310860)

Want to expand on this? It's not easy to figure out what is going on from the response to the lawsuit. It appears that CAIR posted excerpts from a radio program critical of it, is being sued for doing so, and that the EFF is representing CAIR. Isn't the EFF thereby supporting free speech and fair use? (Not that I have much sympathy for CAIR, but they are entitled to present their position and criticize others.)

Re:How exactly was this innovative? (1)

BuckaBooBob (635108) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307646)

Companies should not be allowed to Selectivly Leverage Patents.. If they permit one company to use it without proper licensing it should be the same for every company... Patents should be void if a company allows a "Infringing Technology" to become mainstream before they decide they should Leverage their patent.

i have an idea... (2, Funny)

nycguy (892403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306828)

I think I should patent the business process of establishing patents based on clear prior art and then suing companies for the use of my intellectual "property." Of course, my application would probably get rejected as prior art, but at least I could enjoy the irony.

Re:i have an idea... (1)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306872)

haven't you been paying attention? patents don't get rejected due to prior art anymore =P

net wreck? (-1, Flamebait)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306892)

Who comes up with these company names? Netrek? Wouldn't ANY group of more than one person say, "um, that could sound like 'net wreck'?" I know that VCs and CEOs have blinders to reality, but are all the rest just yes-men? Anyone ready to name a company should take a lesson from the fountain pen company, Pen Island, on how NOT to name your company. (Hint, their domain name has no punctuation before the dot-com.)

Re:net wreck? (2, Informative)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306940)

Did you even go there? If you did, I'd have thought the naming convention and it's reasons would be fairly obviously, even if you didn't stumble upon the reason why the 1extra "T" was omitted.

Re:net wreck? (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307284)

I don't see how the post was seen as flamebait (do you even know what flamebait is? it's not a flame), but whatever.

The point of a name, a trademark, a logo, a signature is to be informative without any other context. A reader shouldn't have to know the company history or the industrial interplays to take an impression from the name. This is *exactly* the same issue as the doublespeak you see in naming legislation these days: USAPATRIOT ACT sounds a hell of a lot more palatable than DESTROYINGDEMOCRACYTOSAVEIT ACT.

Re:net wreck? (1)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307758)

LOL I wasn't the one who modded you Flamebait. ...I would have chosen "Offtopic."

Re:net wreck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22308030)

LOL I wasn't the one who modded you Flamebait. ...I would have chosen "Offtopic."


I would have chosen "Troll", since someone with that low a user ID probably isn't really ignorant enough to seriously make that post.

Re:net wreck? (1)

rk (6314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308936)

I guess there wasn't a "-1, Don't know WTF you're talking about" mod, so flamebait had to do. It's not a good moderation, but it's not a surprising one.

Netrek wasn't some massive game project written by a major software house looking for VC funds or a buyout from Vivendi. It was real-time multiplayer strategy game written by a various people in the 80s and 90s for the fun of it, and evolved from much earlier games, written for research and/or amusement. Marketing wasn't really the point of it... most who played it were already computer + Star Trek geeks and the name made perfect sense to us. You will find many Unix people who were at a university in the early to mid 90s who have fond memories of it. Sorry you weren't a part of it. That's okay, I never heard of Meridian 59 until I looked at your resume, so we're even, I guess. I'm not a big online gamer, but I played the hell out of Netrek when I worked at a school in the 90s.

But why you're bitching about the name of a game that had its heyday 10+ years ago is beyond me, and I guess that's what drew the moderator's ire. The "net wreck" interpretation was not lost on the players, BTW. When the wartier features got bandied about by the developers, that term got tossed out more than once, and ISTR someone who played in the leagues used it as their nom de plume.

Re:net wreck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22309208)

do you even know what flamebait is? it's not a flame

flamebait

Who comes up with these company names? (flame) [...]Wouldn't ANY group of more than one person say, "um, that could sound like 'net wreck'? (flame) [...]I know that VCs and CEOs have blinders to reality (flame) , but are all the rest just yes-men? (flame) [...]Anyone ready to name a company should take a lesson from (flame) [...]

flamebait

Who[...]? (bait) Wouldn't [...]? (bait) but are all [...]? (bait)

Posing 3 questions (4 technically) is more than enough to try and illicit response to your obvious flame, that would warrant a return flame. Thus, this is a prime example of "flamebait". Technically, you do not have to have flame post to have a 'flamebait' post. You just so happen to have both. This education segment has been brought to you by the letter "F" and the number "4".

Re:net wreck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22308926)

"netrek" is not a company name. It's the name of an old, free, noncommercial computer game, which is a Star Trek inspired networked teamwork shoot-em-up game with origins in University campuses of the 1980s. I graduated despite it.

I saw a ridiculous company name on the net recently btw. "halley.cc", can you believe that one?

Card Games (1)

rtwarner (1132907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306910)

The game described in this patent is nothing like Netrek; we're talking about a card game here. Is the US patent / legal system so screwed up that one couldn't defend themselves in court against this?

Re:Card Games (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307964)

Yes.

Re:Card Games (1)

rtwarner (1132907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308234)

Awesome. I'm going to patent cloth diapers as a "washable cloth apparatus to catch infant feces". Then I'll start going after low income single mothers.

Re:Card Games (1)

Bootsy Collins (549938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308268)

The abstract refers to card games as an example of its applicability. The actual text of the patent is more expansive.

Use the (patent) source, Luke (1)

MountainLogic (92466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308858)

This is a very detailed patent with more prior art cited than I've seen in any other patent. The way prior art works is if they cite it and the patent office still approves it them they have a good shield against claiming that their invention is not novel. Be very careful about people spouting off that such and such idea was done twenty years ago as that is a bit like non-programmers saying that COBOL had variables, loops and other stuff and therefore there is no difference between C++, Forth, java script and COBOL.

Patents are not really about broad idea, but about very specific inventions/implementations. It is all really about the specifications (what the patent office calls claims). Next time you hear about a wacko patent, sit down and read the claims. And claims tend to be written almost as dense as BNF grammar. This patent has over 100 claims to wade through. There may be prior art for each one, but you can not even guess if there really is prior art or if the invention was obvious from the title.

1989? (you must be new around here) - try 1977 (4, Informative)

Steve Hosgood (152793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306930)

Essex university's MUD (circa 1977) would show that at least all the concepts of playing multi-player games on computer networks goes back quite a long way further than merely 1989. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-User_Dungeon [wikipedia.org] for starters.

Re:1989? (you must be new around here) - try 1977 (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307246)

The patent's not for something so broad as network gaming, but for the ladders. MUDs aren't prior art, but some other games are.

Re:1989? (you must be new around here) - try 1977 (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307894)

Yup. On login, Netrek servers presented (still do, actually) clients with several lists of top (for varying definitions of "top") players. If those aren't "ladders", as covered in the patent, I don't really know what is.

I don't recall XPilot or Bolo doing that, but didn't XFire do something similar?

Re:1989? (you must be new around here) - try 1977 (1)

awtbfb (586638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309458)

I don't recall XPilot or Bolo doing that, but didn't XFire do something similar?
Bolo players developed side infrastructures for computing rankings and identifying top players. It wasn't in the game itself, but was definitely used and known by many players. One example is the Internet Bolo League [lgm.com] .

Another was the use of character "banners" that players would challenge each other for (like championship belts in boxing). These were attached as suffixes to player names (PlayerName £). These allowed you to see on the tracker which games had good players.

Re:1989? (you must be new around here) - try 1977 (1)

tricorn (199664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307782)

I have a version of Empire from the PLATO system from 1977. I first played an earlier version of Empire in 1974-75. Empire is the game that Netrek is descended from. At the very least, it had on-line rankings (both for the current month and "all-time"). The copy I have, in fact, shows the records as they were in 1977!

By the early '80s we were also running tournaments; I think we usually did it as round-robin, then a championship and an "All Stars" game. The scheduling was not done automatically, but doing so was obvious even then; it was merely more effort to code than it was to do it by hand given the number of teams. Records (including a history of several of the more memorable games) are still available on-line as well.

We're still doing tournaments, btw. There's a big Federation vs. everyone else tournament coming up next Sunday. The Federation will lose.

Re:1989? (you must be new around here) - try 1977 (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307936)

Did you just stop reading after 'method and system of playing games on a network'? What part of Essex's MUD covered "tournament ladders, online rankings [or] advertisements"?

Re:1989? (you must be new around here) - try 1977 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22309816)

Why is this not modded higher or remembered?

Make the patent granter liable. (2, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306934)

Patent granters should pay for damage done by granting frivolous patents.

Further discussion about that, here [url] .

Email Chess (1)

speters (523864) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306950)

The patent reads so broadly that it could probably apply to email chess tournaments and ladders. Fortunately, the larger organizations have all been around since before 1998.

Slashdot in violation (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22306962)

My lawyers will be contacting /. I have a patent that covers the use of the English language. The rest of you here will be getting letters as well.

Re:Slashdot in violation (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309532)

Hast thou ne'er heard of ye olde prior arte?

Thou wouldst be wise to not fighte in battles ye canst not win.

EFF vs Internet Fax Patents (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307050)

I hope the EFF eventually turns to take down the patents locking up Internet faxing. Practically all regular telephone features are available in FOSS software (like Asterisk and better) that let people start up "telcos" to compete with the big ones for very little startup money and basic development time. All except Internet faxing, which J2 (formerly JFax) has locked up with patents [google.com] .

Those fax patents are bogus. But destroying them would cost something like $millions which is more than any of its single licensees has to pay, so individuals just license it because that's cheaper.

If the EFF could organize potential licensees to fund an EFF suit to eliminate the bogus patent, it would free up Internet faxing for everyone. Which would mean that there would no longer be that single exception to "telephone service" that requries cutting in a patent extortionist. Which would mean FOSS Internet faxing SW could get development the way the rest of telephony has. Which would mean complete telcos could be started up without the costs and barriers that still keeps it an exclusive club for AT&T, Verizon and occasional VC funded "little giants" like Vonage.

Re:EFF vs Internet Fax Patents (2, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308194)

Reading some of your links, it sounds like J2 has already been challenged and defeated [protus.com] in court.

Re:EFF vs Internet Fax Patents (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308598)

Well, that's good news, even if it's a single (unspecified) fax patent that the decision just says doesn't require a license from J2. I hope it shows a hole in J2's overall patent suppression of Internet faxing.

What about HylaFax? Re:EFF vs Internet Fax Patents (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309034)

Send a fax over the web for free [tpc.int] , powered by the open-source HylaFax [hylafax.org] faxing program.

TCP.INT has been at it since at least 1994. In '94 it was an email-to-fax gateway.

HylaFax dates back to the '90s at least.

Re:What about HylaFax? Re:EFF vs Internet Fax Pate (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309980)

Evidently J2/JFax was suing Protus [groklaw.net] , which also threatened Hylafax the last couple-few years. But I've just been advised elsewhere in this thread that that specific suit has been dismissed [slashdot.org] . I'm not sure whether Hylafax is in the clear. But if not, it should be cheaper and easier now for the EFF to finally kill that last major obstacle to FOSS voice apps.

Stupid patent (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309206)

Speak of an idiotic patent....

All except Internet faxing, which J2 (formerly JFax) has locked up with patents.


ISDN, "Integrierte Sprach- und Daten- -netz" came in the late 90s. Litteraly it means in German "Integrated Voice and Data Network" and it's basically that. A digital network used to exchange voice communication and exchange data (mostly, faxes back then. But also connect to the internet, etc...)

H323 came 1996. Technically, it's nothing more than "ISDN data packets - but over internet". To the point that transferring data between a digital phone network and an internet H323 network is trivial (it was a design goal). H323 was mainly advertised for it's video-conferencing capabilities. But because of it's ISDN-over-TCP/UDP nature, the other capabilities were available too : Voice, Messaging, and of course Fax.

J2 / JFax only came after. The earliest patent I can manage to find date back to 1998 (J2) and 1997 (Jfax). Given these dates whichever of the this patents is the "digital fax" one (sadly the reuters news that google reports don't mention the patent number), the whole H323 network concept is a giant prior art for a possible "fax over internet" and "internet and classical network fax interconnection".

In the realm of software patent, if you can think of some brilliant idea, suddenly realising that there a nice interesting and original usage of technology that exists for some time, and that you could patent the idea - someone else is bound to already have experimented and developed the idea back then when the technology first appeared. Most of the time, if you come up with a patent idea but don't have a product with you, you're late. Because the cost of developing a software is very low. And if the technology was available for you to see it and think of something now, the technology was available since it began existing for someone developing a product out of it.

Having a product when filing a software patent should be a requirement, in contrast to industry, where you can actually have a genuine a valid situation of someone filing a patent but no yet making products due to the high cost of starting developing it.

Re:Stupid patent (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309836)

Software patents are always stupid. Software is always a description of how something works, not the thing itself working. It's obvious that only copyright, not patent, is at all applicable to software.

Software copyright examinations are so much more automatable than patent searches that the entire US IP registration system would be converted back to a respectable institution again by using them.

An obvious sign of a bogus patent: (4, Insightful)

Loibisch (964797) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307158)

The patent in question has already been asserted against a number of small companies who know that licensing it is cheaper than litigating.
I always find this an obvious sign that a company knows their patent is bunk.
If they were sure their patent was valid they would go after the big players like Epic, id Software or EA, not the small ones that are intimidated easily but really just are statistical background noise when it comes to online games. If someone violates your patent then you go after the guy who does it big style...else you really just care about the quick money and not about holding up your claimed rights themselves.

Re:An obvious sign of a bogus patent: (1)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22310600)

As opposed to FPS tourneys; look at the big on-line gambling companies (offshored, of course) that laugh at the silly patent. 1997 - designed a secure back end for an on-line casino infrastructure. Tons of prior art (much of which isn't patented.) (Should have taken the job and/or got stock... stoopid... stoopid... stoopid...)

forgive my legal ignorance (4, Insightful)

acvh (120205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307182)

but aren't patents supposed to cover a specific implementation of an idea? it seems that these days they get stretched to cover ALL implementations of an idea. perhaps i am being naive, but so often a patent is awarded, and they the holder sues anyone who does anything remotely similar. that ain't right.

hoping for a return to sanity....

Re:forgive my legal ignorance (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307674)

This has been the problems for at least a century and a half. Not only are all implementations of the idea covered, even things you never imagined being important in the patent are protected. Read up on the Rolling-White patent for a gun from the 1850's. The gun was crap, but the patent had a drawing showing a completely drilled through chamber for a cartridge (as compared to the closed chambers of percussion cap revolvers at the time). This part of the patent allowed Smith&Wesson to corner the early market for revolvers for a decade. This despite the fact that patent was shown to be invalid by prior art (the French inventor Lefaucheux had gotten a European patent on this a year earlier) the courts couldn't get themselves to overturn it.

Re:forgive my legal ignorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22307716)

(mod parent up) I'm also really annoyed that they allow broad patents.

In addition, I'd like to say that I've always understood the intent of patents to be "if a room full of trained engineers can't come up with something close to the given solution in an hour long meeting, then MAYBE it qualifies for a patent."

To codify that, I think it would be a great idea if we modified the patent process so that upon submission you would file two documents:

    (1) a description of the problem to be solved (or you could reference an existing problem description), and
    (2) your novel solution (i.e. the patent claims).

Upon receiving document #1, the patent office would hire a consultant group to brainstorm ways to solve the problem. The meeting would be video recorded, and anything "discovered" in the meeting would be automatically patent-free and placed into the public domain. (*The ones filing for patents would technically foot the bill of this meeting through filing fees; I'd even be willing to let people buy these sessions without first filing the claim, so they could "test the waters" -- but give them only one week after the meeting to file for the patent/amendments.)

Afterward, an independent consulting group would compare the ideas generated by the brainstorming session with the idea presented in document #2 (the patent claims). If the idea is found to be significantly different, only then would it be forwarded on for further review (prior art, etc).

The secret is to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22307228)

Hit it weak point for MASSIVE DAMAGE

Re:The secret is to (1)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307294)

Thank you for pointing out how lame current generation games are by comparison to this ancient but awesome game.

Snipes (2, Interesting)

NullProg (70833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307308)

Back in the mid-80's when I was a BOFH we used to play snipes on Netware 2.11.

Snipes (diminutive for Snipers) is a text-mode networked computer game that was created in 1983 by SuperSet software. Snipes is officially credited as being the original inspiration for Novell NetWare. [2]

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

Enjoy,

HUNT! Re:Snipes (1)

Coelacanth (323321) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308028)

Snipes was too advanced for us. We played hunt [wikipedia.org] from VT100 terminals. It's still a good game, actually.

Re:Snipes (1)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22309168)

I see no mention of ladders and online rankings in the Wikipedia article. If Snipes didn't have them it's irrelevant, they don't claim to have patented networked gaming in its entirety.

in7ormative fuckerfucker (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22307484)

Ass of them all, 4erspective, the

Re: (1)

theazreal (1015759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22307536)

You guys don't know the half of the horror--The first thing I read was 'EFF Attacks Online Gaming Parents.

Prior art is everywhere!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22307686)

It continues to shock and amaze me how you can aggregate obvious ideas into obvious combinations and be granted a patent for your efforts.

Advertising and latter systems have been around since the beginning of time.. Anyone remember the Sierra Network?

Adventure? Battleships? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308302)

I played Adventure (Colossal Cave) over DECNet in the 1980's, and I suspect the technology to do this existed ten years earlier, I just had no access to it.

My father described playing "Battleships" over the phone network during WW2. No computers were involved, but WTF.

This patent is so obvious you dont even need to be experienced in the art. You dont even need to be an adult.

Perhaps there needs to be a class action against the USPTO by victims of stupid patents?

Anyone even bothered to read the abstract? (1)

mrwolf007 (1116997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22308630)

Yeah i know, this /. but still:

"The present invention is a game playing method and apparatus for automating games such as blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat and pai gow,..."
Later the claims seem to reduce this to card games (didnt know roulette was a card game), but ianal. Aside from that it supposed to be a marketing tool:

"The invention is useful for test marketing of products, advertisements, and reduces advertising costs."

So, as far as i can tell the patent seems crap, even if different crap than some others here seem to have implied. It only combines "online card games" with "targeted advertisement".

Not the first time Netrek used as prior art (3, Interesting)

Unbeliever (35305) | more than 6 years ago | (#22310072)

Several of us in the Netrek community consulted with a set of patent defense lawyers back in 2000 to use Netrek as prior art to kill Patent number 5,822,523 claims 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6, which also killed 6018766 I think.

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5822523.html [freepatentsonline.com]

I didn't get involved in consulting for the Goldberg patent, but I did in 2000. Had a few long face to face meetings with the defense's lawyers, showed them the game, did a technical presentation, presented a few packet logs, and got a few free meals out of it. From that, they understood the claims well enough that they got the appropriate declarations from the appropriate original developers.

The result of which the defense submitted a motion to declare the claims invalid, and the judge had a draft ruling granting the motion and was about to issue a final ruling, but the plaintiffs either dropped the case, or settled out of court. The parties were Lipstream vs. HearMe. (Lipstream were the defendants, HearMe the plaintiffs)

I have a PDF copy of the ruling somewhere in my archives. It used to be on netrek.org, but got dropped in a recent site-move and redesign.

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