Worlds.com, suffering in the business world, has filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas claiming that NCSoft, with its myriad virtual platforms, is infringing patent 7,181,690, System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space. The patent relates generally, and I mean generally, to creating a 3D space with Avatars and displaying the relevant information for each player. Importantly, the filing date on this patent is in 2000.
Can Anyone Say Invalidation?
I hate to break it to Worlds, but the patent is written so broadly, that while they may have pulled a fast one on the examiners in the PTO, I highly doubt this patent will survive this litigation. The 2000 filing date leaves plenty of room for prior art in the MMO space to be considered. Ultima Online and Everquest were both up and running at this time. Jeez, even old MUDs kept track of player positions and delivered information based on that position. The claims are also so broad that they do not even narrow to more technologically useful specific cases, such as being used in a 3d world. This case has all of the markings of trollery (though Worlds is not a troll in the conventional sense). It will be interesting to see if NCSoft fights it on principle, or just settles out of convenience.