[MUD-Dev] patents and muds

Mik Clarke mikclrk at attglobal.net
Sat Oct 16 18:14:30 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


Scott Boding wrote:
> 
> How does this affect people who are publishing under GPL? Does this mean
> that those of us working on our own online game projects need to become
> patent researchers and laywers even if we intend to make no profit from
> them?

Well, there are a few possabilities:  

One is to ask them if they would give you a limited, royalty free
license
as you're non-profit.  The downside of this is that it is seen as
legitimizing their license.

Take the matter to the Free Software Foundation.  Its free software
under
the GPL (a fact which in itself may invalidate the patent) and they
'own'
the GPL concept.  They may be able to help.

Get together with a few other developers and see about establishing
some sort of history or case record for muds that can be used against
the patents.  Research is one of the expensive parts, so if we pool
whatever research we can get together it may help.

Publish details (and code) for whatever you develop in a place where
it can be freely downloaded.  This has two effects - firstly it helps
squash new patenets and secondly it increases common practice and the
published state of the art.  These may help reduce the impact of some
of the patents.

Put you code on a Geocities site.  Apparently this grants Microsoft 
(indirectly via Yahoo) a license to the code (although only for
promoptional purposes).  They might be willing to help...

Go for publicity.  If its a well known coporation, a portrail of it 
as hounding a coder and a bunch of kids just having fun doing something
that is loosely based upon a very broad generalization of an idea
that they had the nerve to patent a few years ago may well hurt their
public image far more than any costs or damages they could hope to
recover from you.

Find a sponsor, someone holding some of the older patenets - maybe in
generalized network computing and mutli-user systems - who is willing
to grant your mud (or better yet muds in general) a royalty free
license to use their patent.  This gives you a solid base to say your
covered by the older patent and that the newer trivilization doesn't
apply.  I guess the people here would be MIT, IBM, HP, and Xerox. Look
for things like Multics, OS/360, OS/390, MVS, VM and the early unix
applications. Consider:

 You login into the system from a remote terminal with a unique userid

 Within the system you exist within a virutal space

 Other users also exist within the system and share the support
   framework for the virtual space

 You are able to explore the virtual space, subject to security 
   limitations
 
 You are provided with commands which make either transient or 
   permanent changes to that virtual space

 You can interact with other users, including having interactive
   conversations with them

Sounds like a Mud or a Mush? It's actually a description of IBMs VM
operating system, but I imagine it would fit many others as well. If
they want automated actions, we can throw in NetView or Prop as well. 
Reclassify as a operating system varient and get a different set of
patents to deal with...  Actually on online transactional system (IMS
or CICS) might be closed, especially if your mud has a regular database
behind it.

Mik



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