Feeds

City of Heroes fingered in MMO patent lawsuit

Troll hits for 53 points of damage

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

On Christmas Eve, South Korean game developer NCSoft received a lawsuit in its stocking from a Massachusetts firm that claims to hold an extremely broad patent for developing online virtual worlds.

The legal complaint from Worlds.com alleges NCsoft infringed on its patent for a "system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space." The lawsuit fingers nearly all of NCsoft's catalog of massive multiplayer games sold in the US, including City of Heroes, Guild Wars, Tabula Rasa , Lineage, and Lineage II.

Worlds.com's lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction on NCsoft's supposedly infringing MMO wares, an unspecified amount of damages along with prejudgment and postjudgement interest, or "in no event less than a reasonable royalty."

The Worlds.com patent 6,731,314 is described as:

A client computer program provides instructions for a processor to locate and retrieve rich media and HTML files over a network, such as the internet, an internet or an LAN, for running in a three-dimensional (3D) graphical user interface. The program provides instructions for the processor to generate a 3D graphical user interface on a display. Then, the processor generates a metaphorical user object for navigating and interacting in the three dimensions within the environment via navigational and interactional inputs, respectively, from a user. The processor also integrates an HTML object into the environment, and interacts the user object with the HTML object in response to an interactional input from the user.

Which should sound familiar to anyone who's ever played an MMO game - or nearly any 3-D online application. The patent was filed in August 16, 1999 and granted to Worlds.com on May 4, 2004. (Note that City of Heroes was released April 2004, before the patent was issued. Lineage was released in 1998, before the patent was even filed.

An illustration provided in the World.com patent appears to cover extremely standard MMO design:

For example, the user interface of Everquest – a MMO released March 1999 – shares more than a few design traits in common with World.com's patent.

Earlier this month, Worlds.com hired the IP enforcement firm General Patent Corperation (GPC) to enforce its patents. The company indicated Worlds.com may be planning an industry-wide shakedown on its MMO patents.

"The Worlds patents represent exceptionally valuable intellectual property," said GPC chief Alexander Poltorak as part of the announcement. "We welcome licensing inquiries from the on-line game industry. Non-exclusive licenses are available on favorable and non-discriminatory terms."

In the legal filing, Worlds.com said that given an opportunity to investigate, it is likely to find evidence that NCSoft willfully and deliberately infringed on its patent. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.