Monday, April 09, 2012

Patent Trolls Sting World of Warcraft Over Virtual Worlds

Worlds Inc. has filed suit against Activision-Blizzard over the use of technology that fits with patents the received last decade entitled "System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space." This is one of six patents the company owns involving the interaction of players in highly immersive 3D spaces.

Worlds Inc. has alleged that multiple titles from the game publisher violates their patents such as World of Warcraft and Call of Duty.

"Technologies created by Worlds have helped the businesses of virtual worlds gaming and the sale of virtual goods to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry," said Worlds Inc. CEO Thom Kidrin. "While we are pleased to see that the gaming industry and its rapidly growing customer base have enthusiastically embraced our patented technologies, we deserve fair compensation for their use."

Worlds Inc. previously sued and NCSoft over their MMO title City of Heroes—the suit was dismissed in 2010 after the MMO publisher settled for an undisclosed amount.

Since 2001, Worlds Inc. has been amassing patents that relate to virtual worlds and promote themselves in press releases not as a technology company, but as an intellectual property holding company. In this fashion they have all the hallmarks of a patent troll—a company who exists only to make money off predatory lawsuits against companies who brush up against the patents that they hold.

The company talks big, promoting only the patents as affirming its hold over virtual worlds. A software developer who innovates, designs, and creates should be able to point to published works that have expanded human technology and enhanced the MMO world. Instead, in their press releases Worlds Inc. harps about the USPTO recognition of patents and none of their own architecture or innovation.

During the lawsuit against City of Heroes in 2008, Worlds Inc. claimed assets in patents from the 1990s; but looking at the patent being used against World of Warcraft the initial had been declared in only 2001—the same year that Warcraft launched.

This may be a “waking the sleeping dragon” event for Worlds Inc. as Activision-Blizzard is not a company to be trifled with. World of Warcraft is still the best populated MMO in the world and while competition has been chipping away at its player base amassed $503 million in profits (a record amount) in 2011. As a result, the patent holding company might be picking a fight with an opponent who finds them crunchy and good with tartar sauce.

Link via GamesIndustry International.

1 comment:

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