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Yahoo! comes under Xfire

Gaming outfit countersues in IM patent punch-up

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Online gaming platform and community Xfire has counterattacked in a IM patent punch-up which saw Yahoo! last month file suit against the company.

Yahoo! claims that Xfire - founded by Quake world champion Dennis "Thresh" Fong and former Direct Hit CEO Mike Cassidy - has infringed Patent No. 6,699,125, which describes technologies for a game-specific variant of Yahoo! Messenger, namely GameProwler.

The original complaint - filed in February in the US District Court (Northern District of California) describes Yahoo!'s GameProwler IM application as one that "allows users to use a game server in connection with a messenger server to permit 'buddies' to know when other 'buddies' are playing games online, and easily join such games".

Yahoo! says that Xfire offers a similar application that allows gamers to chat with each other online. The complaint reads: "Like the Yahoo! invention, this capability allows a user to see other users identified as 'friends' or 'buddies' designated on the user's computer in an instant messenger window. Also, like the Yahoo! invention, this product allows a user to see if a 'friend' or 'buddy' is online with her instant messenger program activated and also to see whether that 'friend' or 'buddy' is playing a game online... The defendant has no license or permission from Yahoo! to offer this capability."

Xfire yesterday filed a countersuit in the same US District Court, which strenuously denies any infringement of Yahoo!'s patent. It states that Yahoo!'s lawsuit is an an attempt to "drive Xfire out of business (and therefore avoid direct competition in the marketplace) or to force Xfire to sell or license its proprietary technology to Yahoo for far less than fair market value to settle the expensive litigation".

Xfire further claims that Yahoo! has refused all invitations to: "Review Xfire's code to demonstrate non-infringement of the patent"; "Conduct early mediation in which Xfire would turn over to a neutral third party its code in an effort to resolve this dispute"; or "Submit the case to binding arbitration in which Xfire would present its code to a retired judge or experienced attorney familiar with patents and technology and patent law."

Xfire is demanding "dismissal with prejudice of Yahoo's complaint, an order enjoining Yahoo's unfair business practices, and damages resulting from Yahoo's unfair business practices." ®

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