Mass.-based online company Worlds.com is suing NCsoft for infringing on a patent that seems to lay claim to fundamental aspects of MMO games.
Worlds.com said in its December 24 court filing that South Korea’s NCsoft has infringed on U.S. patent 7,181,690, a "System and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space." NCsoft also has locations in the U.S.
The plaintiff said NCsoft is willfully and deliberately infringing on the patent. "Worlds has been damaged by the infringement by NCSoft and is suffering, and will continue to suffer, irreparable harm and damage as a result of this infringement, unless such infringement is enjoined by this Court," reads the suit (pdf).
The patent in question describes methods to allow a user to "interact with other users in a virtual space" through a server, with an avatar representing each user.
The patent’s abstract reads in part, "The present invention provides a highly scalable architecture for a three-dimensional graphical, multi-user, interactive virtual world system."
Worlds.com filed the patent in August of 2000, and the government issued the patent in February 2007. The inventors listed on the patent are Dave Leahy, Judith Challinger, B. Thomas Adler and S. J. Ardron.
NCsoft is the publisher of games including Tabula Rasa, Guild Wars, Lineage and City of Heroes.
Worlds.com dropped a not-so-subtle hint that it would be bringing MMO makers to court over its patents when earlier in December, General Patent Corp., a patent licensing and enforcement firm, announced attorneys Lerner David Littenberg Krumholz & Mentlik LLP would be "enforcing" Worlds.com patents.
At the time, the law firm said it would defend the ‘690 patent and another filing, patent 6,219,045, a "Scalable Virtual World Chat Client-Server System."
Worlds.com, which was founded in 1994, is demanding that the court find the patent "valid and enforceable," and is seeking damages as well as a permanent injunction against any infringement of the patent by NCsoft.
Source: Virtual Worlds News