[MUD-Dev] [biz] Worlds targets EQ in its patent battle

shren shren at io.com
Fri May 4 21:56:43 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Fri, 4 May 2001, Frank Crowell wrote:

> The Worlds.com patent specifically covers the end user's ability to
> limit the number of graphical images, called "avatars," seen on the
> user's screen. A game like EverQuest uses a more broad visual
> control that covers the user's ability to see the whole world,
> players, monsters, nature, landscape, everything.

Level of detail technology.  Very, very interesting - it was
revolutionary when it appeared in Sacrifice recently.  If he has a six
year old patent on it, he's got something.  Maybe not enough to win,
but I doubt the issue will be dismissed out of hand in court.

> The belief is that if Worlds had gone with a broader patent like
> Compton did with multimedia, the patent would not stand a chance.
> But I thought it was common practice in patent wars to write
> covering patents.  If companies like Microsoft, EA, and Sony wants
> to do something about this, I believe there is room for writing
> covering patents.  I am not sure that I would trust any of them with
> the patents, but the patents could be turned over to a neutral party
> -- maybe MERA or the Contact Consortium.  I am not a patent attorney
> (although I play one on TV), but I can get some cooperation on
> compiliing prior art and even getting people to work on the patents
> if that could mean protecting virtual worlds, in particular
> multiuser 3D spaces.

When we wrote up our software patent, ("It is too late for me, young
skywalker."), we were told by the patent attorney that we should write
our patent from most broad to least broad.  The most broad things are
expected not to be granted, we were told, and I even gathered (though
this was not directly said) that the first claims were likely to be
rejected no matter how reasonable they were, because this was the
common practice.  For example, if I were patenting a method of
throwing darts at a board, I'd be expected to open with "claim 1 :
patent on throwing darts", then "claim 2 : patent on throwing darts at
a board", then "claim 3 : patent on throwing darts at a board
underhanded", then "claim 4 : patent on throwing darts at a board
underhanded with a wrist spin", then "claim 5 : patent on throwing
darts underhanded with a wrist spin while wearing a moo moo, at a
board."  I read our patent application.  If claim 1 were approved I
would have required a change of underwear.

Taking this consideration into account, I can almost see how the
current broad software patent issues could have come into being almost
by accident, with software companies opening, as is expected, with
outrageous claims, and said software company being horrified at how
many of the claims were approved.

"I've acquired quite a taste, for a well-made mistake."
  - Fiona Apple, _A_Mistake_
"That pretty much sums up how I feel about Microsoft Windows."
  - shren at io.com

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