3D Virtual Worlds Patented! Lawsuits Started...

from the oh-come-on... dept

It seems that the ridiculous patent holders are trying to go out with a bang in 2008. Worlds.com, which holds a patent that never should have been issued on virtual worlds has sued NCSoft, makers of a bunch of popular online virtual worlds -- including some that were launched before the patent was even filed for in 2000. The Register link above shows a few examples of such virtual worlds, but you can dig back even further. In 1996 I was using OnLive! Traveler which did all of the things described in the patent described, as can be seen in the video below:
Not surprisingly, the lawsuit is actually being brought by General Patent Corp (GPC), one of a growing number of IP licensing firms who prey on companies (that actually innovate) by trying to enforce incredibly broad and highly questionable patents. Not surprisingly, GPC's execs have been active in protesting any sort of patent reform, claiming it would "mar innovation." I would suggest that patent reform is a hell of a lot less likely to mar innovation than suing innovative companies with overly broad patents that were applied for well after the technology in question was in common use.

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  1. identicon
    Mogura, 30 Dec 2008 @ 3:29pm


    The patent they're using to go after NCSoft is number 7,181,690. This patent specifically restrains the number of avatars visible to a particular user based on communications first restricted by the server, then further restricted by the client. These restrictions are based on Point of View as well as distance parameters.

    The thing is, this is blatantly obvious to any serious developer for MMORPGs or any other scalar 3D environment. What, would a good developer focus primarily on the avatars that are furthest away? Maybe developers would prefer a giant megaserver render every possible viewpoint into raw video format and stream it to every user? No, the solution provided in this patent falls under the "blatantly obvious" category; perhaps not to a layman, but to anybody with any computer science and 3D programming background whatsoever.

    Further, their patent doesn't name any techniques for actually restricting this communication. It lists no algortihms whatsoever. There is no engine depicted. Instead, it lays claim to any and all possible methodologies for restricting this communication (and thereby conserving not only bandwidth, but CPU and GPU loads as well.

    Sorry, this is a bad patent. Mike is patently correct, if you'll please excuse the pun.

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