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NCSoft sued by MMO patent holders

NCSoft sued by MMO patent holders

If valid, Worlds.com's patent would precede even Ultima Online and open all MMO publishers to lawsuits.

This is a little late and that admittedly owes a lot to the extended Christmas holiday, but MMO publisher NCSoft is being sued for patent infringement by Worlds.com, a virtual world platform.

The lawsuit is based around a patent that was filed way back in 2000 for a suitably vague "system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space". The wording of the patent means that it could pretty much apply to any MMO or online world in existence.

The lawsuit itself was filed against the NCSoft Texas offices on Christmas Eve and targets all of the publishers previous games, which isn't a small number. The Korean-based NCSoft has been behind pretty much every decent non-Blizzard MMO out there, whether it be Lineage or City of Heroes. The company also published Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa, though that didn't do so well.

Interestingly however the patent owned by Worlds.com, which could also be used to sue Blizzard or Sony Online Entertainment, was filed only after some of the first MMOs, such as Everquest, were published.

Stephen Roth, lead attorney for Worlds.com, disputes this issue however by saying that the patent was first filed back in 1995. If true then that would mean that Worlds.com does indeed own a pretty valid patent on the MMO model - one which predates even Ultima Online.

NCSoft has said that it will vigorously defend itself from these claims, but if the patent is as valid as it looks then it may not make much of a difference.

Is this a valid claim from Worlds.com or is the legal system just being further abused by money-hungry shareholders? Let us know what you think in the forums.

19 Comments

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Arkanrais 6th January 2009, 12:24 Quote
abuse. why don't they sue the whole internets while they're at it. from the abstract, it seems that every site that lets you communicate with others violates the patent (I'm too lazy to go reading the whole patent draft for exactly what it's after)
Darkedge 6th January 2009, 12:24 Quote
Claims, screwed up the Lawsuit application and is basically patent trolling... blatantly the legal/patent system being further abused by money-hungry shareholders.

Main patent applied for in 2000. NCsoft released Lineage in 1998 (in Korea, announced 1997). FAILS.
Secondary patent is 1995, before Lineage release or announcement, before any MMO really not just NCsoft produced HOWEVER - not exploited by company so claim will fail. Not mentioning there is prior art in countless MUDS.

It's badly times and a rubbish attempt - will fail and be forgotten in a couple of months. Even if the facts I've already stated are ignored by a dumb US Judge, all other MMO companies will run in and make sure this fails as they would be affected by the terrible incorrect precedent that it sets.
proxess 6th January 2009, 12:43 Quote
You can all stick your intellect patents up the rear. This is just getting too stupid. Ultima Online beta dates to 1995 so the intellect was there already.
khz 6th January 2009, 12:45 Quote
http://knol.google.com/k/dv8-org/worldscom-a-history/2pp40c68ytz4j/2#

Worlds Chat was the very first three-dimensional avatar world to become widely available on the Internet. It worked so well that it inspired a whole generation of 3 dimensional worlds, starting in April 1995.

1994

Ron Britvich joined KAW. He worked on the AlphaWorld (renamed Active Worlds) project inside KAW, along with the "official" product Worlds Chat. KAW was renamed as Worlds Inc. Lynne Ann and Danny Viescas joined Worlds Inc. as avatar and object makers, David Leahy was the Integrator and Producer for Worlds 1994 -1997. He developed Cyber Oz City (the first 3D commmercial space). David Tolley, the composer and sound effect maker (based in San Francisco, California) worked for Worlds .Inc from 1995 -1997. He was a staff composer for this multi-media firm, writing music for their 3D virtual reality programs "Worlds Chat," "AlphaWorld," and "Nishho-Toppan". He also composed for Starbright (the company's joint venture with Steven Spielberg).

NOVEMBER 1995 Patent No. 747420 filed
US Patent 6219045 - Scalable virtual world chat client-server system
liratheal 6th January 2009, 12:53 Quote
Hahahhahaha

Oh god. Patent trolls.

They make my day.

That said, this seems like it has some grounding, although it is so abstract it hurts.
Silver51 6th January 2009, 13:11 Quote
Are they starting with NCSoft and working their way up to Blizzard, or will the lawsuits only surface when they're running low on cash?

Its patent trolling like this that slows our progression as a whole.
airchie 6th January 2009, 14:15 Quote
What a pile of toss.
I hate this patent-trolling nonsense...
Veles 6th January 2009, 14:53 Quote
Urgh

Hey I just remembered, I patented the FPS
Lilliput King 6th January 2009, 14:54 Quote
I'm a little confused here. Wouldn't the patent mentioned in this article:


"system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space"


cover things like the LAN mode in Doom? And that was 1993.
Veles 6th January 2009, 14:58 Quote
Actually it will cover any game, unless there's more to the patent than that statement which I expect their is.

It doesn't actually say who/what the users are interacting with, so it's basically people interacting with something in a virtual space, yep, they've patented the computer game.
proxess 6th January 2009, 16:08 Quote
They've patented the whole concept of computers! Way to go!
Zurechial 6th January 2009, 17:04 Quote
Funny how they go for NCSoft but they haven't the balls to take on Activision Blizzard.

Worlds.com = Leeroy Jenkins
MMOs = Drakes

I predict a fail.
iPEarl 6th January 2009, 17:06 Quote
Bunch of low life US numskullz !!! Thas equivalent to patenting how we interact anywere in the world.

All they do in the US is sue this sue that !!! How about sueing me for breathing !!!
Then costs go up for everything 3D wise. . . Money hungry turds. They have no life !!!

Time for some hate mail to
Thom@worlds.com
Telre 6th January 2009, 17:52 Quote
Screw this guys, I just patented music. I'm so suing Beethoven for 220 years back damages.
Lilliput King 6th January 2009, 19:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Veles
Actually it will cover any game, unless there's more to the patent than that statement which I expect their is.

It doesn't actually say who/what the users are interacting with, so it's basically people interacting with something in a virtual space, yep, they've patented the computer game.

I wouldn't say that. Interact really implies things acting with eachother, so users "interacting" would be users doing stuff with other users. Point remains they hardly did that first.

But as you say there is probably a great deal more to it as there usually is with legal documents.
LordPyrinc 7th January 2009, 02:39 Quote
The intent of the patent system has been corrupted. A system that was once meant to protect actual inventions and technology has now become a place where trolls can patent ideas with no concern for proving the idea or whether or not the idea has already been implemented by others. The system as it is damn near worthless. These lawsuits are ridiculous and make only the lawyers richer in the long run. At minimum an entity applying for a patent should have proof that they have implemented the technology and have intent to market with 3 years. If they do not market the technology with in 3 years, they should lose the patent. This would slay many a troll.
thehippoz 7th January 2009, 03:51 Quote
lol I loved lineage 2.. I dunno how many people I pk'd and roid raged in those servers.. I doubt they have a patent on people losing 2 days of 'work' grinding online when my phantom ranger confused a boss onto thier character and they'd drop a piece of thier inventory and tons of xp (like this one guy remember dropped his 5 mill adena blue wolf helmet).. I'll take that!

not to mention having to hide in a obscure part of the server and grind while a whole alliance is out looking for you =] ncsoft made the best mmo there imo.. it was hardcore- not like the pssy mmos all the dingles play nowdays.. don't even get me started on runescape.. oh the humanity of making a warrior with full rune and dragon drop it all in the high woods =] real men's (or geeks) games

world.com.. I'm sorry but I haven't heard of them- I remember mmo's around 95 though like virtual worlds.. they were'nt in quite what he had after that.. maybe they have a claim
docodine 7th January 2009, 05:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lilliput King
I'm a little confused here. Wouldn't the patent mentioned in this article:


"system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space"


cover things like the LAN mode in Doom? And that was 1993.

MIDI Maze has Doom by six years.
willyolio 7th January 2009, 06:48 Quote
internet forums and chat rooms are "systems and methods for enabling users to interact in a virtual space"
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