I have a few things to say on this subject. First, I am a capitalist through and through. I also think the less the government is involved in something, the better it works out for pretty much everyone.
Patents and patenting are not a right. They are not an inherent aspect of any economic system. They are a government granted monopoly. This alone makes them an attack on freedom. Some attacks on freedom are good. The government takes away my freedom to kill you, and your freedom to kill me. That's a good thing (morals should do it as well, but you can't have everything). Most are very very bad.
Not only that, but there are some severe ethical and moral issues where patenting medical advances is concerned. Everyone knows of the hippocratic oath (both old and new versions), but there is also the Declaration of Geneva to consider. Particularly these declarations:
I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity;
The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
Capped off with
I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.
Suffice to say, after reviewing those, the morality of restricting a medical test to a centralized facility without review or opportunity for another medical opinion comes into question loud and clear (at least to me).
As far as the economic side of the equation here, R&D for pharmaceuticals is regulated to the point of strangulation. The U.S. has some of the most ridiculous amounts of bureaucratic bull to get a drug developed, tested, and approved that it significantly increases the cost of development.
Add on top of that the unethical actions of some (not all) pharma companies, e.g. slightly modifying a drug (adding a blood pressure medication and an antacid together) prior to patent expiration to repatent the same drug under a different name to maximize the cashflow. Oh, and they do collude with unethical physicians to push these new non-generics out on the market ahead of the now generic versions that still accomplish the primary purpose.
Now unfortunately the judge isn't going to be ruling on these grounds. If he's doing his job, he's merely ruling on the legality of the patents and if they are appropriately awarded under current patent law. With patent law as messed up as it is right now, I can see this coming to an eventual bad conclusion.
There's a lot of problems right now in the industry, and patents are only a small part, but they are an important part and it needs to be fixed badly. Seriously...they aren't even just patenting the testing equipment they developed. They are patenting the results of basic scientific operation. Imagine if Faraday patented his observations which were just basic science. We wouldn't have microwaves let alone the internet. Einstein (who at one point in time was a patent clerk!) didn't need to patent his observations and thoughts on the functions of the universe and influenced scientific development in ways we still can't even fathom.
Patents do not protect the progress of science, period. It's good to make money from your work and to profit from it, but once the information is out there, you can't stop it. When it comes to medical information, information that can save lives, it's almost criminal, and certainly unethical.
After taking a read through on this, it really simply combines 2 concepts. A graphical virtual world, and the methods and concepts behind the implementation of interaction and chatting. By interaction, I do not mean with anything that is a MOB (mobile object for the uninitiated), but with other clients connected. To be quite honest, I having trouble finding the innovative part. It relies on methods for chat transmission that were in place LONG LONG before they ever filed for this. Look up IRC (internet relay chat) if you want. Most IRC server protocol did all of this. The only true difference, is the method of determining when to render and at what distances on the client side.
Now as far as prior art or obviousness, it's difficult to say. To me, being a programmer (since 1990) a lot of this stuff is pretty damn obvious (and to be frank, most of programming IS). If this patent was a continuation of something filed in 1995, the only thing close to prior art that I can think of off the top of my head is Doom. Doom was a singleplayer/multiplayer 3D first-person shooter. Many of the concepts in that patent are present in Doom. Limitations on server and client ends for the number of clients that could connect and/or be rendered. Make no mistake, even though there was no central server "farm" as such, the computer that hosts the game is technically a server.
I think this is a bad patent yes. It is a horrible patent..but the vast majority of software patents ARE. Anyway, I wanna go finish this 5th, happy new year to everyone.
Ok, from reading the article, it says they are no longer filing lawsuits against people. Thus, this is not an act of discovery (nor was it even remotely connected to that). This is a request for an investigation. Not only that, but you cannot file a lawsuit in bad faith, i.e. purely for discovery purposes. This has been documented time and again on Mr. Beckerman's blog. Now, I'm not legally trained. I might be wrong on something here, but I doubt it (I will admit I'm wrong if someone will show me where/how).
What we really need here is quick legislative action to make disconnecting someone or banning them from the internet for any length of time, been directly connected with actual criminal behavior, which file sharing is not. It is a CIVIL offense, not a CRIMINAL, when it is infringement with no commercial gain. Let ALONE the argument between whether making available a file for download truly constitutes infringement.
Ultimately my point is this. They can't prove you are doing anything wrong without first violating your privacy, and to top that all off, they want to be able to determine who gets cut off from the internet and who doesn't. That is very very f-ing dangerous. You give that the recording industry? Who's next, what other IP industries get to protect themselves by severing an individual or entire family from the greatest communications tool? Are we going to let EA decide? How about Microsoft? Apple?
Are you willing to place your trust in their ability to do something that can't be done and use that as the core of a decision on whether or not you get to keep internet access? I am not. Their IP is NOT more important that our freedom. Freedom comes first, it's been bought in blood and paid for with the lives of our ancestors, friends, and families. Err on the side of freedom people, that's the rule to rule by.