NCSoft sued by MMO patent holders

Written by Joe Martin

January 6, 2009 // 11 a.m.

Tags: #mmo #ncsoft #ncsoft-sued-by-korean-mmo-developer #sue #tabula-rasa #worldscom

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.

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