As you are probably already well aware, virtual environment business Worlds.com is currently engaging in a legal action against MMOG developer/operator NCsoft for patent infringment, based on a patent that more or less covers almost every client-server based multiplayer game and virtual environment out there.
It doesn't end there, however. Worlds.com CEO Thom Kidrin has told Eric Krangel at Business Insider that if the suit against NCsoft succeeds, industry leaders World of Warcraft and Second Life are next. The company's legal representatives in this action, General Patent Corporation also yesterday announced that Worlds.com has been granted a third patent that extends the reach of their existing two.
The new patent (numbered 7,493,558) basically more specifically covers packet traffic - a server or servers communicating the positions of avatars (digital objects representing users) to the software that the user employs to view the environment. That's the client software loaded on your PC, or running under Flash embedded in a Web-browser, and such.
That seems to pretty much covers everything from the original Doom to Blue Mars, we think. Even some 3D Web-browser technology would seem to fall afoul of this.
"This Patent is a continuation of U.S. Patent No. 7,181,690 issued to Worlds.com in 2007 and bearing the same title," explained Paul Lerner, General Patent Corporation's Sr. Vice President and General Counsel. "This new patent significantly strengthens patent protection for the technology developed by Worlds.com."
Worlds.com has two more patents along these lines in the works.
Obviously, there's plenty of prior art involved, but prior art alone is generally not enough to overturn a patent claim. Coupled with the principle of laches (an active defense were the opposition must prove the patent-holder failed to exercise their rights until it became more profitable to do so), NCsoft may yet carry the day.
General Patent Corporation presently encourages opposition to the latest Congressional activities to reform patent law.
Dr. Alexander Poltorak, chairman and CEO of General Patent Corporation, says he "strongly believes that while some improvement is needed, the 2009 bill simply attempts to regurgitate the Patent Reform Act of 2007, and it will undermine the core of the U.S. patent system and weaken protection for small inventors, American entrepreneurs and university researchers. Pushed by the same corporate interests that lobbied for the 2007 legislation, the new bill appears to repeat the mistakes of the last two years, and− if passed − would legislate apportionment of damages and devalue existing patents en masse."