[MUD-Dev] patents and muds

Joe Andrieu joe at andrieu.net
Fri Oct 15 11:31:58 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


Richard Bartle writes:
--
        I guess this means you haven't heard about the Sitrick patent,
US patent number 4,572,509, awarded 25th February 1986? Here's Sitrick's
abstract:

[snip]

Sitrick (who is himself now a patent lawyer, I understand) asserts this
patent in the case of online games. Many companies pay him licence fees, =
but
at least one has decided that he can't be allowed to get away with it.
It is likely to cost them several million dollars in lawyers' fees to =
break
it.
        US patent lawyers inform me that any "prior art" which might =
affect
the patent's validity must have existed prior to one year before the =
patent
application was received. In the case of the Sitrick patent, this is
something like September 1981. Furthermore, proof of existence is only
valid for existence in the USA; for existence in the rest of the world,
actual publication is required.

[snip]
---

However, there were online games by that time.  By my recollection, the =
first multi-user implementation of Adventure was in 1979, I think.

Of course, that may not clear all the claims based on Sitrick's patent. =
In any case, it can be a serious matter what is already patented.  My =
own research indicates that at least as far as the areas I am interested =
in, there are some that are relatively free of relevant patents (like =
non-linear storytelling--most are multi-linear pick-a-path movies and =
their variations), but there are significant academic works which could =
preclude patenting most work in this area.

If you are concerned your ideas may be patented, check the IBM patent =
database or the USPTO's web site. Both have searchable databases.  And =
hunt down academic papers and document actual products to be clear about =
what is "prior art" and would therefore show that your innovations are =
not precluded by anyone else's patents.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer. But I have looked at patenting some of my =
own ideas.

If you are really concerned, you could also check out Pressman's _Patent =
It Yourself_, which would explain how you can use the system to protect =
your own inventions.


-j





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