[MUD-Dev] DNA Game Patent [was Randy's Resume]

F. Randall Farmer randy.farmer at pobox.com
Thu Aug 2 23:57:15 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Travis Nixon wrote:
> From: "F. Randall Farmer" <randy.farmer at pobox.com>

>> My non-lawyer, non-patentese interpretation of the limitations of
>> the first claim:

>>   Two or more _different_ networked (multiuser) games (which MUST
>>   include client software) that can use the same objects in
>>   similar, but differing ways.

>>   Bard's Tale isn't covered. 100% text MUDs aren't covered. There
>>   is only a handful of Client-Server games that even existed
>>   then. :-)

First off, I _knew_ that trying to talk about specifics was going to
get me in trouble. It is _hard_ to argue multiple sides of an issue
like this all at once. For the record, all I was trying to say is
that this patent isn't dismissible with a wave of the hand like so
many others are. This is my opinion, not that of anyone's lawyers.
I should have never attempted to "simplify" claim 1. I don't know
WHAT I was thinking. :-)

> I can't speak for prior art, and I haven't seen or tried to
> comprehend the entire patent, but doesn't this seem like a fairly
> obvious progression to you?

> Multiplayer games that interconnect?

The "obvious to a practitioner in the art" standard is a entirely
different domain. I won't get into _that_ argument. It's a rat's
nest. I say it isn't obvious, you say it is. Nothing good down that
road.

I'll state it again. Like it or not, we have software patents.  All
patent applications are either (eventually) granted or
rejected. Once it is accepted, the protection of US law is afforded
the patent, and the burden of "proof" of claims and ownership is a
matter for the judicial system.

Until there is some particular reason for someone to either attempt
to challenge [or uphold] a patent, we here (unless there are some IP
lawyers out there on the list who would like to speak up) are only
trying our best to make sense of things, but nothing anyone here
says has the force of law. An issued patent does. What patent
holders do with that is up to them.

If you've read it, you know that I do not hold this patent, nor am I
an author of it, nor do I think that everything in it is either 100%
novel or 100% a great idea. Nor do I have the desire or authority to
use it as a club against anyone.

It's just a patent, and it has quite a bit to do with my new
job. :-)

I was just trying to give the list the only hint I can since it is
part of the public record, and some folks on this very list worked
on an earlier design based on this patent.

> I understand that ideas don't fall under the "prior art" category

This is correct, as I understand this stuff.

> but really, isn't this sort of the obvious computer-based solution
> to something that already exists in a paper form?

That would be something for attorneys to sort out. I _do_ know that
old ideas patented for new "media" have been upheld in court, so I
believe that case law is against you on this point. "In a new
medium" isn't considered obvious.

> And it sounds like this sort of setup, with F&E battles seeding
> games of SFB, would fit into at least the first claim of your
> patent.

It isn't my patent. I'm not a lawyer. I wouldn't know for sure.  I
didn't draw the same conclusion from what you wrote.

> I understand your exclusion of games that could use characters
> from other games as prior art (not networked and not multiuser),
> but I don't understand your blanket exclusion of 100% text muds,
> since they have a client and they display things.  (note that
> because of your wording, I'm assuming you exclude them BECAUSE
> they're 100% text)

As I read the patent, I _personally_ see that it requires separate
clients _which manage different client-local state_, specifically
requiring a translation "matrix" for these shared items. Though it
might exist, I've never seen a 100% text mud that did this. 100%
text muds are all server side.

To me (and I'm sure just about any reasonable engineering reading
the patent) your proposed project would not be any particular
threat.  But, like I said, who the heck am I? :-)

> So tell me, if I could ever have got the rights to do the F&E/SFB
> thing (not that I tried really hard, mind you), would you have
> sued me based on your patent?  If not, why not?

I couldn't sue anyone about this patent, nor would I ever want to.

Hypothetically, IBM/HP/DEC/ETC/ETC/ETC could sue people for using
their patents for such things as the XOR-CURSOR, LINKED LISTS, DISK
STORAGE, etc. But they don't. It'd be stupid.

I think that World's threat to hold their ranged-chat patent over
UOs/EQs/ACs head is one of the most bone-headed maneuvers I've seen
in this area in a long time, for reasons stated by many here.

If I'd thought for a moment that 3DO was a scum-sucking intellectual
property shakedown racket, I would have taken the _other_ great job
offer I had in a New York Minute. :-) If they ever GET that stupid,
I'll quit just a quick.

On the other hand, if you build something that clearly infringes
several of the THIRTY claims [the most detailed and easiest to
defend claims] (i.e. steal the idea for your own profit) 3DO would
have the right (and obligation, if they care about enforcement of
their IP) to sue your pants off. Well, if there's a venue to do it
in. :-P

Randy

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