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Death Knight [Paltalk lawyer] casts [litigation] for xxx hundred million in damages.  (Source: Tenton Hammer)
Paltalk Holdings Inc. is taking on the MMO industry's biggest players in court

In online games, one crucial aspect of gameplay is to synchronize the scene across a wide array of players' computers.  Events like explosions or special effects must be transferred to and played simultaneously on a broad variety of internet connect machines which is not always an easy task.  In 2002, Paltalk Holdings Inc. of Jericho, N.Y. purchased two patents from a company called HearMe.  The patents cover sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.

Now Paltalk, a reputed patent monger, has taken many of the massively multiplayer online (MMO) gaming industry's biggest players to court in Marshall, Texas, claiming they violate its patents.  Paltalk hand picked the east Texas court for its long history of favoring plaintiffs (patent holders) in lawsuits.  States Christopher Donnelly, a partner at Donnelly Conroy & Gelhaar LLP in Boston, "The eastern district of Texas is considered a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction."

Paltalk is suing Turbine Inc. of Westwood makers of the Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG, a popular $15 per month entry; Japan’s Sony Corp., maker of the online game Everquest; Activision Blizzard Inc., whose World of Warcraft is the world’s most popular subscription-based online game; NCSoft Corp. of South Korea, maker of the game Guild Wars; and the British firm Jagex Ltd., which produces the free online game Runescape. 

Noticeably absent in the suit are CCP Games, makers of EVE Online; Square Enix makers of the popular Final Fantasy X11; Linden Lab, which produces the popular Second Life game; and GRAVITY Co., Ltd., which produces Ragnarock online, a game popular for its free servers.  It is unclear why Paltalk singled out the companies it did, while ignoring others, which likely use similar technologies.

Paltalk has a strong legal track record.  In 2006 it took Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, to court over technology in Halo.  The case went to a trial in Marshall, Texas, in March.  Mid-trial Microsoft gave in, conceding the validity of Paltalk's clients and paying it a reportedly massive undisclosed licensing fee.

The firm, like others, looks to continue to milk the patent system -- and the U.S. software industry -- for all its worth in the friendly Texas courts.  Last month a Texas court ordered Microsoft to stop selling Microsoft Word within 60 days, as well as paying $200M USD in damages to another patent monger firm.  The ban has been temporarily lifted, but the damages remain, unless Microsoft can win an appeal.

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By StevoLincolnite on 9/18/2009 9:27:10 AM , Rating: 5
Most of those companies could handle a several hundred million dollar fine, but this is probably a prime example of the poor state that the USA patent system is in.

Companies and people shouldn't be allowed to horde patents, if they don't use them, they wont need them, and thus other companies should be free to use them.

This is just the way some Companies/People are, money hungry, and they don't care who they hurt in the process as long as they become rich and wealthy.

RE: Bah.
By mcnabney on 9/18/2009 9:36:57 AM , Rating: 5
Technology patents are functioning more as land-mines than as tools to advance the industry. Companies like this have no interest in developing and selling products - the purpose of a patent to even exist. Instead they just lay-in-wait for a large company with deep-pockets to make or sell a product that could in some way be related to the all-to-vague patents that have been granted in the last decade or two.

RE: Bah.
By Shig on 9/18/2009 9:37:56 AM , Rating: 5
Got to love Texas, any patent suit is immediately granted full damages there...

RE: Bah.
By dragonbif on 9/18/2009 12:48:06 PM , Rating: 3
Paltalk did not buy a code or anything that was made but just the idea or discription of the what it would do. It is a vary bad paten but it is like many other patents out there for software that was never made just the idea put down on paper.
Hay I should get a paten for putting ideas down on paper!

RE: Bah.
By GaryJohnson on 9/18/2009 1:50:28 PM , Rating: 4
Hay I should get a paten for putting ideas down on paper!

That wouldn't work, but if you called them "E-Ideas" and talked about putting them on "E-Paper" then you'd have something.

RE: Bah.
By akugami on 9/18/09, Rating: 0
RE: Bah.
By omnicronx on 9/18/2009 10:47:55 AM , Rating: 2
Its not the patents, its the way in which patent holders will sit back, wait for companies to come big using their 'patented' technology before they bring the case to court. Paltalk does make software (apparently online chat room, instant messaging and video chat software.) and the patents in question cover just that.
"The PalTalk complaint summarizes two former HearMe patents: one, filed in 1998, covers a group messaging server that organizes group lists of players. The second patent covers software that aggregates messages from members of a group to more efficiently maintain consistent communication between host computers, according to the complaint."
This is where the system is flawed, I just don't see how there are not provisions in which it is your obligation to pursue companies infringing upon your patents within a certain period of time.(I always thought there were, I am pretty sure this is how it works in many other countries) It would be nearly impossible to prove that this company which is in the field did not know about these online games and the technology behind them.

Forget make it manditory that you actually have to make a product, half these patent mongers do make products, the problem is far too often this is just a front for their real purpose.

RE: Bah.
By kilkennycat on 9/18/2009 11:53:35 AM , Rating: 2
You are totally correct. In US patent law it is mandatory to legally pursue your patent rights immediately you discover that there is a violation. The "immediately when you discover" is the interpretation/question that this particular patent troll is hoping that the Texas courts do not examine too hard. When a patent troll purchases a patent, he/she generally has a very good idea what the patent may be worth and which companies/products to target and WHEN.... In the case of these particular patents being acquired by the troll in 2002 and the length of time the subject "invention" has been in VERY PUBLIC use by the "offending" parties since that time, it should be pretty easy for the "offending parties" to prove deliberate negligence by the patent troll in following up his/her patent rights "in a timely manner". Strict US court enforcement ( and clarification by the Supreme Court if necessary ) of the "timely action" clause in US Patent law, with the onus on the patent trolls to prove that they (or those who sold them the patent) did not deliberately delay "discovery" would put many patent trolls out of business.

RE: Bah.
By George Powell on 9/18/2009 2:06:11 PM , Rating: 2
From my point of view and looking only at WoW here I would have thought that filing suit any later than early 2005 would be outside the 'timely action' timeframe.
Certainly in the case of WoW the basic game structure has not changed significantly since those early days, which were a whole 2 years have Paltalk gained ownership of the patent.
I would find it hard to believe that it took them 5 years to discover that the most popular subscription based MMORPG made use of their patented technology.

I think a 'Stop wasting this courts time - case dismissed' is in order.

As a side note to those lovely people at Dailytech, any chance we might get links to the patents in all these lawsuit articles.

RE: Bah.
By LordanSS on 9/18/2009 8:30:01 PM , Rating: 3
They're suing SOE as well, for Everquest. And Everquest has been around for much longer than WoW or any of the other MMOs. Hell, it was released even before they bought this stupid patent.

And if you really want to take this "synchronization" thing seriously, hell, the grandparents of all current-MMOs sported similar things. You could go all the way back to the Multi User Dungeon (MUDs) days. You didn't "see" the explosion, or the sword swinging, but everyone in your group indeed received the battle messages at the same time.

Just stupid.

RE: Bah.
By Solandri on 9/19/2009 4:45:17 AM , Rating: 4
If the description of the patent is accurate, they don't have a chance. BBN laid the groundwork for synchronizing events and entity motion among multiple clients in a shared simulation for the military way back in the 1980s.

RE: Bah.
By deegee on 9/20/2009 2:48:00 PM , Rating: 2
Paltalk sued MS for Halo on this patent and MS paid up.
Google 'Microsoft Halo Paltalk' for all of the news articles from earlier this year.

So Paltalk is probably going to go after every game company now that has LAN/online game play. Woe to the game industry because of a**hats like this. This should never have happened.

RE: Bah.
By Entropy42 on 9/18/2009 10:52:20 AM , Rating: 5
Companies and people shouldn't be allowed to horde patents, if they don't use them

Are Alliance patents ok though?

RE: Bah.
By FITCamaro on 9/18/2009 11:05:04 AM , Rating: 5
These people can go die in a fire.

RE: Bah.
By The0ne on 9/18/2009 1:24:49 PM , Rating: 4
I would not mind one bit having their bodies lay across a mud road while I rally over and over across them. Sounds fun to me.

RE: Bah.
By rdeegvainl on 9/21/2009 12:07:17 PM , Rating: 2
WOW raid rule #1, stay out of the fire

RE: Bah.
By HostileEffect on 9/23/2009 7:54:17 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong, Raid rule #1 is don't die.

Raiding is a waste of time as Blizzard is giving the loot away.

Patents Suck
By SSDMaster on 9/18/2009 10:11:37 AM , Rating: 3
Patents should not be given to companies that never intend to use them. Period. It defeats the whole purpose of a patent.

RE: Patents Suck
By tedrodai on 9/18/2009 10:21:13 AM , Rating: 3
Nor should a company be able to hold one without using it.

RE: Patents Suck
By jonmcc33 on 9/18/09, Rating: 0
RE: Patents Suck
By SSDMaster on 9/18/2009 10:34:05 AM , Rating: 3
You don't realize the purpose of patents. Patents are supposed to help innovation and the free market. If your not using your inventions then that defeats the purpose.

You sited Microsoft vs Apple. They both use their creations. Your analogy is mute.

RE: Patents Suck
By ZachDontScare on 9/18/2009 3:15:45 PM , Rating: 5
Thats the problem, though.... with patent trolls innovation isnt helped, its hurt because companies will hesitate to try something new for fear of being sued into the ground by a patent squatter.

RE: Patents Suck
By Lifted on 9/19/2009 4:30:02 AM , Rating: 4
"Your analogy is mute."

You should turn your speakers up.

RE: Patents Suck
By Alareth on 9/19/2009 12:35:14 PM , Rating: 2
I was going to let your/you're pass, but you hit my pet peeve button.

It's MOOT, not mute, MOOT!!!!!

RE: Patents Suck
By aharris on 9/19/2009 4:51:55 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget cited vs sited.

...there goes all my votes for this article.

RE: Patents Suck
By omnicronx on 9/18/2009 10:51:51 AM , Rating: 2
Obviously you don't get it, half the time its just an idea, they didnt own or create anything. This can stiffle innovation, as you have a patent owner that is not willing to create an actual product, but at the same time won't let others either. The patent system was not designed to let people sit on their ideas and do nothing with them, waiting for a slim hope that someone will create a similar invention before their patent runs out so they can cash in. So if you can explain to me how this kind of behavior helps protect anything/anyone, my ears are open.

RE: Patents Suck
By Pythias on 9/18/2009 11:03:09 AM , Rating: 2
This is a good point. They should be able to create a working
at the time of the filing. If there exists already a working model somewhere in the patent! Problem solved.

RE: Patents Suck
By redbone75 on 9/19/2009 11:10:18 AM , Rating: 2
Patents should be like domain registering: you have to renew it after one or two years and show actual proof of concept. Proof of concept when you first file for the patent in order for it to even be granted. Then, for each subsequent request for renewal there must be demonstrable improvement on the development of an actual product/s that incorporate said patent. Otherwise, you are given a one-year probationary period, after which said patent is revoked. When you do have a working, marketable product you are granted renewal periods of five years.

RE: Patents Suck
By Starcub on 9/19/2009 12:09:45 PM , Rating: 2
Patents should not be given to companies that never intend to use them.

You're assuming that they never intended to prosecute the patent to begin with. The company that originally applied for and recieved the patent probably analyzed the sitaution and figured the risk to prosecute was too big given their position. The holdings company that bought their patent specializes in prosecuting patents, so they maight have the legal and financial resources to make the patent profitable.

Is this a bad thing? In this case it might be (from the consumers perspective at least). However, it might serve as a deterent to companies that want to steal others' IP on the premise that they will be able to string their case out in a court more favorable to their arguements. This is a classic case of "it takes money to make money", brought about by the nature of the legal system.

I know why they chose Texas
By DuctTapeAvenger on 9/18/2009 10:23:19 AM , Rating: 5
By screwing with WoW, LOTRO, Everquest, etc, they are incurring the wrath of gamers worldwide. By holding this in Texas, they have the greatest natural defenses against an attack: sunlight, fresh air, and large open outdoor areas. Only the strongest MMO geek can survive such conditions (unless they can get their Mom to drop them off at the door).

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By Ristogod on 9/18/2009 10:42:53 AM , Rating: 2

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By PitViper007 on 9/18/2009 10:49:37 AM , Rating: 3
OK...Just had to laugh at that one.

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By Pythias on 9/18/2009 10:50:32 AM , Rating: 2
Only the strongest MMO geek can survive such conditions (unless they can get their Mom to drop them off at the door).

Nice. Did you know that coffee can disolve the anti-glare coating on an lcd?

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By acase on 9/18/2009 11:37:52 AM , Rating: 5
You should patent that.

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By gmw1082 on 9/18/2009 11:50:03 AM , Rating: 2
I patent a method for protecting gamers from the environment when in an outdoor setting.

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By Pythias on 9/18/2009 11:54:33 AM , Rating: 2
I've already patented it. My mother's car...when she's not busy farming welfare purps.

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By gmw1082 on 9/18/2009 12:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
Damn...always a day late and a dollar short.

RE: I know why they chose Texas
By geekman1024 on 9/18/2009 10:46:16 PM , Rating: 2
Calling for a Massive Epic Raid Party in Greed's Lair in Texas.

The world is full of dirtbags like this company
By masamasa on 9/18/2009 10:57:54 AM , Rating: 5
The patents cover sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.
You've got to be kidding. I understand that the importance of protecting IP rights, but this is downright ridiculous. These patent mongers are dirtbags who are too lazy to develop anything worthwhile themselves, so instead they piggyback the success of others. If a meteor landed on that company and wiped it out completely it would be doing the world a favor. Tired of reading about these pathetic lawsuits.

RE: The world is full of dirtbags like this company
By Pythias on 9/18/2009 10:58:11 AM , Rating: 5
The patents cover sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.

Wouldn't that cover...the internet?

By Bateluer on 9/18/2009 11:01:47 AM , Rating: 2
Don't give them ideas. Patent troll scum.

RE: The world is full of dirtbags like this company
By Pythias on 9/18/2009 11:48:32 AM , Rating: 2
I may be scum, but I'll never stoop to patent squatting.

By someguy123 on 9/18/2009 1:27:56 PM , Rating: 2
he's talking about the company, not you man.

By Pythias on 9/18/2009 1:52:16 PM , Rating: 4
I was trying to be funny and failed miserably.

By tmouse on 9/21/2009 7:42:16 AM , Rating: 2
I believe Troll scum is in the public domain, now patenting the deposition of said scum may be available. ; )

By akugami on 9/18/2009 4:19:13 PM , Rating: 2
I saw the Boston Globe article yesterday. There are no links to the actual patents and the language contained within the patents. At least not yesterday when I searched. The description in the article that you yourself quoted is so vague it's ridiculous.

I posted on the AT forums about this subject but I have to ask how the description differs from MUDs. The only thing I can think of is that one contains visual and audio cues and one contains textual cues. They both provide a system for sharing data among many connected computers that allows all users to "see" the same digital environment and interact with said environment.

patenting the wheel
By jimmi on 9/18/2009 9:36:50 AM , Rating: 2
The patents cover sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.

People see the "same digital environment" since the dawn of multiplayer games. This is just nonsense.

RE: patenting the wheel
By Jalek on 9/18/09, Rating: 0
RE: patenting the wheel
By Pythias on 9/18/2009 10:40:58 AM , Rating: 4
If it weren't Texas, it would have no chance. Since it is though, facts or common sense aren't really involved.

Because things like this only happen in texas.


RE: patenting the wheel
By invidious on 9/18/2009 10:08:28 AM , Rating: 2
I don't see what this has to do with MMO games. How does any multiplayer game not fall under that criteria? Hell if thats what it really means I would make the argument that the whole internet falls under that patent.

I wish I could get a patent on the process of stealing other's money through the use of outrageous patents. I would make a fortune suing these patent farms, and I would actually be using the patent!

RE: patenting the wheel
By HrilL on 9/18/2009 12:27:01 PM , Rating: 4
Write it and file it. Knowing our current system it will probably be passed.

RE: patenting the wheel
By tallcool1 on 9/18/2009 12:51:49 PM , Rating: 2
The patents cover sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.
Not only would this include other online games such as First Person Shooters, but would include a mass amount of online interaction outside of gaming as well. This is a ridiculous patent.

Might as well patent human sight, since we all see the same enviroment...

Not just MMOs
By AntiM on 9/18/2009 10:01:03 AM , Rating: 3
I would think that these patents could apply to any online multiplayer game. Maybe even something line MS Live Meeting, where a person can share their screen with other users. The patent litigation mess is getting ridiculous, especially software patents. Patent holding companies should be banned. They only exist to stifle innovation and drain successful companines.

I'm thinking a software program should be treated like a literary work. It should be copyrighted, not patented. I mean, you *write* software, right? That would prevent someone else from copying and using your work, but wouldn't prevent them from accomplishing the same task with a different set of instructions. The idea of allowing someone to patent a "process" is flawed, unless the process is very specific. Most of the patents I've read are purposely vague and should have never been granted.

RE: Not just MMOs
By MadMan007 on 9/18/2009 10:25:58 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. The patenting of ideas or methods in software is terrible, only the specific code should be patentable. This would actually create innovation and enhance software because it would drive software companies to come up with the most efficient way of doing something.

RE: Not just MMOs
By achintya on 9/18/2009 10:59:57 AM , Rating: 2
Unrelated to the American Patent system.

In India, software programs ARE treated as that. Algorithms and programs are not granted patents, but copyrights. A software can only be patented here if on/accompanied by a piece of proprietary hardware. Alas, India still does not produce enough softwares of be able to create a noticeable dent in the software industry.

RE: Not just MMOs
By Pythias on 9/18/2009 11:58:09 AM , Rating: 2
That seems to be a pretty decent way of handling the problem.

RE: Not just MMOs
By Starcub on 9/19/2009 11:58:39 AM , Rating: 2
Then practically no PC software would be patentable. Do you think that would help or hurt inovation in the software industry?

MS Word case
By oldscotch on 9/18/2009 10:19:17 AM , Rating: 5
The MS Word patent case was not against a patent monger, i4i sells xml products:

It's a legit company with a legit interest in its xml authoring; labelling them a patent monger is shoddy at best.

RE: MS Word case
By omnicronx on 9/18/2009 10:55:23 AM , Rating: 4
Shoddy and just plain untrue, they brought similar technology to previous versions of Word.( a full two versions before MS did in 2003). They have been attempting to get MS to license their tech for years, in which they refused so its not like they were sitting back and waiting 10 years before filling. MS probably won't win the appeal on this one, and rightly so..

RE: MS Word case
By 3minence on 9/18/09, Rating: 0
RE: MS Word case
By deegee on 9/18/2009 7:34:43 PM , Rating: 2
i4i never should have been granted their patent though.
It isn't a new invention or technology, it is essentially just xml with the code and data individualized, not exactly the same but somewhat akin to what css does wrt html. That shouldn't be patent-able.
Maybe I should patent a method of storing web pages where the images are maintained in separate .jpg/.gif/.png files from the html, and sue anyone who does the same... oh wait, that's what most every browser cache does... :-/
That's how stupid these types of patents are.

Patents in General
By choadenstein on 9/18/2009 11:35:20 AM , Rating: 5
BTW. I am a patent attorney, so I wanted to let you guys in on some misconceptions regarding patents that seem to abound in here:

1) Patents give an inventor the right to exclude others from practicing their invention. Nothing requires that the inventor actually practice what they have invented.

Article I, Section 8 of the constitution

The Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries ;

Even in the constitution it is stated that what we are going to do is give the inventor a limited time where he/she is the exclusive right holder. No limitations on him/her producing or practicing the invention.

2) There is a defense companies can use against trolls that lie-in-wait until someone is practicing their invention, and sues only when it becomes valuable. It's called Laches.

(basically)After 6 years, there is a rebuttable presumption that the assignee of a patent has given his/her permission to the infringer, if the assignee knew of the infringement.

3) The Eastern District of Texas (and the Eastern District of Virginia) are not selected only for being plaintiff friendly (may jurisdictions are plaintiff friendly, especially when it comes to patent infringement). Plaintiffs primarily choose these districts because they are known as "Rocket Dockets". They hear a lot of patent cases and are known for processing them quickly. Quick trials are a good thing for cost sensitive plaintiffs and for scaring defendants into quicker settlements.

RE: Patents in General
By ZachDontScare on 9/18/2009 3:23:22 PM , Rating: 2
Even in the constitution it is stated that what we are going to do is give the inventor a limited time where he/she is the exclusive right holder. No limitations on him/her producing or practicing the invention.

Last I checked, this paltalk outfit isnt the inventor of this patented technology.

You can try to defend the status quo, but the purpose of patents is to protect ideas to facilitate innovation. Right now its doing exactly the opposite. Especially in software patents where it seems a large majority are 'common sense' applications of software.

RE: Patents in General
By choadenstein on 9/18/2009 5:30:36 PM , Rating: 2
where it seems a large majority are 'common sense' applications of software.

That, in my opinion, is a bit of a misconception. While there are a ton of bad software patent applications out there, the 'common sense' argument is mostly made by people who do not understand how the patent process works.

It's happened on here a million times. A patent will issue today for something... Lets say Touchscreen Thingamajig. And then everyone goes, WTF... WTF.. I have one of those in my iPhone, how can they give a patent on that.

People need to realize is that what is important is the filing date, not the issue date of a patent. Patent applications are examined by what was available as of their filing date. This is especially true in software patent applications which can take 4-7+ years to issue. Sure, something that issues today might be 'common sense', but 7 years ago, it was completely novel.

For instance, at least one of the patents in question in the lawsuit between Paltalk and Sony et al. was filed in 1996. I have read the claims and I for one cannot say that what they claimed was obvious or not novel in 1996. That's for the litigators to find out.

Finally, believe it or not, the trolls that buy up random patents may actually be helping facilitate innovation. There are some great articles on the subject.

Basically, it costs around $20k to get a patent application through the system on average... Give or take several thousand depending on the technology, number of rejections by the Examiner, etc... Then there are the maintenance fees that are required to keep a patent alive.

On average, patents loose inventors money. However, when patent trolls come and buy up patents, they inject money back into the research and development community. It's a secondary market for the owners may believe are useless patents.

For instance, the patents purchased by Paltalk were purchased for ~$200,000. That's a profit of ~$180,000. Not a bad ROI for a company/inventor who would otherwise be out the patent prosecution fees. Moreover, the company/inventor gets ~$180,000 without the risk or costs associated with litigation. Not Bad.

After all, these companies (Sony, Blizzard, etc.) will be bringing the big guns to defend against the litigation. If it's not a good patent(s), lord knows these guys would knock it out of the water. But since Microsoft already anted up and paid to license them rather than continue with litigation... It's safe to reason that these patents are pretty solid.

RE: Patents in General
By ZenGeekDad on 9/19/2009 11:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
Thank-you for sharing expert perspective in this forum. I sympathize deeply with the unanimous venting expressed here, but frankly, your comments weigh about as heavily as the rest combined. But their inexpert collective opinions still count about equally, because they help shape public opinion, and the public decides who gets to make and change the laws in play here.

I'm no stranger the patent system myself these last 22 years. Every hardcore player I know in the patent game knows it's a game -- that is, the rules do not always follow logic, but if you don't try to win within the bounds set (logical or not), you often wind up losing, and losing big.

So, at a minimum, most technology-based corporations play this game at least defensively. That's one major emergent phenomenon from the way our system is built: we patent things to prevent our competitors from blocking our practice of the invention. We do this even when the patented technology routinely seems to be "obvious to anyone trained in the discipline" ... because if we don't then a competitor will. And then we have the cost and uncertainty of trying to overturn their patent.

It is also routine for a technology-based company to have their patent lawyers make invalidity determinations on competitors' patents once the patents are made public. When those lawyers decide the issued patent is invalid, the corporation often decides to knowingly infringe, on the knowledge that the odds are good they can prove it invalid in patent court. For bigger stakes, the invalidity opinion is usually backed by (financially) disinterested third-party law firms. It will be interesting to see if this work was done by named plaintiffs. If so, this could be as short a case as many here hope.

But I do want to point out one logical fallacy you've employed. You say that by creating a secondary market for these inventions, the patent mongers stimulate invention. I see problems with that claim:

(1) The solo inventor is a very small minority of the patent holders in the last couple-few decades. So to argue that significant invention is driven by that source, we would have to claim that those individual patents are disproportionately influential. Proponents of such a claim would cite its numerous "poster children" inventions that have attained mythic stature in our culture. Yet it would be close-minded to discount them as mere popular mythological distortions. But let's move on ...

(2) There is already a healthy market for the solo or small company inventor to sell to larger firms that actually intend to use the technology. I suspect the overnight loss of all patent trolls would cause no measurable contraction of that economy.

(3) Even if (1) & (2) were incorrect, we would still have to ask if stimulating the publishing of small inventor patents -- only to be roll up by patent mongers -- actually drives economic or social benefit. I would say it does not. Consider the extreme: if the patent mongers stimulated ALL new ideas to be patented solely by brilliant individuals and small companies (forget the reasons we both know against that being possible), and the patent mongers then bought all their patents at a nice profit to the inventor, but never practiced the patents, then no increases in GDP would result, and no new utility would be added to the social fabric.

No, I do not accept the argument that patent mongers stimulate innovation.

The point of patents (as you know very well, of course) is to encourage the inventor to (A) invent, and practice that invention in the open economy to our collective benefit, and (B) to trade temporary exclusivity to practice (or license) in exchange for public disclosure. That latter trade made great sense in the 19th century, when the pace of innovation allowed almost all ~20-year-old technology to still have at least some economic life. But there are clearly segments of the modern technology economy where this is hardly true.

This is just one of many areas where the patent system is in desperate need of modernization and improvement based on the lessons learned so far. Like so much of modern life, though, the political complexities of accomplishing patent reform seem to guarantee against it happening. Vested interests with deep pockets abound. And not as some lurking venal cabal, but as a deadlock of differing opinions, of the type certain to logjam progress in Congress. And way too few people have any grasp of the way it should/could work, and how it does work -- too often dysfunctionally -- today.

Patent reform is way overdue. But I seriously doubt we'll see anything meaningful happen in my lifetime. Like so many large and complex socioeconomic systems, I fear we must instead take comfort in the fact that we somehow muddle through (for the most part) despite all the failures and workarounds to the workaround as infinitum.

Ultima Online....
By SilthDraeth on 9/18/2009 10:43:07 AM , Rating: 2
Oh wait, They bought a patent in 2002, Everquest was already out and about, as well as many other MMO's at that time, including Ultima Online. Wouldn't all of this fall under "Prior Art".

RE: Ultima Online....
By omnicronx on 9/18/2009 10:59:32 AM , Rating: 2
The patent was originally from 1998.. bought in 2002..
They may have a case with the chat portion of the patent, the far more generic 'software that aggregates messages from members of a group to more efficiently maintain consistent communication between host computers' most likely won't. Quake which obviously predates 1998 had this kind of 'netcode' for online gameplay long before 1998.

RE: Ultima Online....
By PlasmaBomb on 9/18/2009 12:35:16 PM , Rating: 2
Ultima Online was released on September 25, 1997.

RE: Ultima Online....
By juuvan on 9/21/2009 8:17:45 AM , Rating: 2
why not go to the source directly?

The IRC is probably one of the most used single piece of software IP there exist. Yet the inventor haven't pursued financial benefit from his creation. Glad that some people actually _contribute_ something to the society instead of trying to rip off everything the can.

The legal remedy
By omgwtf8888 on 9/18/2009 10:44:10 AM , Rating: 3
I believe the Patent protection should be enforced. The question here is what are damages for a company who purchased the patent with the express purpose of filing suits against alleged violators. I believe that when they purchased the patents they knew they were already being violated therefore, their damages should be limited to their purchase price. The discovery would be easy enough to establish that they researched this matter well before the purchase.

Hmmm actually, with this knowlege of a crime/patent violation being conducted they did not notify any authorities. Prior owner of patent should sue to get patent back... lol screw these jerks.

RE: The legal remedy
By ZachDontScare on 9/18/2009 3:25:46 PM , Rating: 2
I believe that when they purchased the patents they knew they were already being violated therefore, their damages should be limited to their purchase price.

Thats a very good point.

I am surprised....
By fzkl on 9/18/2009 9:51:54 AM , Rating: 2
that no one has bought in Rambus into the comments yet

RE: I am surprised....
By MadMan007 on 9/18/2009 10:23:28 AM , Rating: 2
You just did!

Prior art will be easy to find...
By Iaiken on 9/18/2009 11:18:47 AM , Rating: 2
"The PalTalk complaint summarizes two former HearMe patents: one, filed in 1998, covers a group messaging server that organizes group lists of players. The second patent covers software that aggregates messages from members of a group to more efficiently maintain consistent communication between host computers, according to the complaint."

I call BS... I was working with Diku and other code to developing MUDs since 1995 and at that time it was a relatively old code base. Proof of prior art is both abundant and easy to find and I hope Paltalk gets stomped on in court.

Hell, I used to play Sojourn (now TorilMUD) with the designer of EverQuest (Brad McQuaid, AKA Aradune), it was his inspiration for creating a "graphical MUD". Even EQ itself predates this patent by several years as I (and other members of Sojourn) had been play-testing it as early as 1996.

This case is just ridiculous...

By Pythias on 9/18/2009 12:07:04 PM , Rating: 2
There are many many MANY games that would fall under the canopy of this patent. Games that predate it.

P.S. Nothing curbs withdrawal on patch day like a good round of Godwars.

Not Sure
By jrollins006 on 9/18/2009 6:02:32 PM , Rating: 2
This is the only thing i could find that relates to this issue.

this is a load of crap, the patent should only apply to what they use it for. People like this should have to take a test or something to be able to get a patent

RE: Not Sure
By rdawise on 9/18/2009 8:27:07 PM , Rating: 2
The filing date is 2003...

Paltalk or Palatak?
By SQLGuru on 9/18/2009 9:48:44 AM , Rating: 2
I think you wanted to refer to Palatak and not Paltalk . I don't think a company that makes a chat program is suing all these companies. You reference Palatak once at the begining of the article and then Paltalk 7 times in the article and once in the caption for the picture.

RE: Paltalk or Palatak?
By amanojaku on 9/18/2009 9:57:39 AM , Rating: 1
Maybe you should learn to read. You can start with the source article.

And you can finish with this. It IS Paltalk, dumbass.

By nvalhalla on 9/18/2009 9:29:43 AM , Rating: 2
This is what happens when you pay ransoms. Blackmail and kidnapping work the same way. If they can bully one person into paying to shut them up and make them go away, it only gives them more money to do it to others.

By Lavacon on 9/18/2009 9:38:39 AM , Rating: 2
I will buy or submit a patent for the word "the".

Patenting lines of code is right up there with patenting sentence's and phrases. It is ridiculous.

I know it is hard to believe that people using the same tools came up with the same result at one point.

Seems that all the US legal system is good for now is putting kids who are caught with a small amount of marijuana in Jail and frivolous patent lawsuits. The founding fathers would be proud.

It makes me sick

Idea vs. technology
By haukionkannel on 9/18/2009 9:38:45 AM , Rating: 2
Is it possible to patent idea in USA? Otherwice all the firms sued should have a same way of technology of making real time effects in their games. And I don't think that their code is identical in that sense... And if it's possible to patent allso the idea in USA... We are in deep trouple... Soon their is not any reason to produce anything because someone say that it brakes their patent...

If I remember the idea of patent correctly, it was meant to courage the fast delivery of new ideas around the world... So that when someone invented something, it can be taken in use elsewhere much faster, than it was possible before the patent system.

Hey I have a worderfull idea. How about patenting the idea of storaging information. It is very usefull to storage information, so maybe I should paten that idea and sue everyone who storage information at any format possible... Is this really possible???

John Carmack, anyone?
By nafhan on 9/18/2009 10:03:40 AM , Rating: 2
Didn't Doom (maybe Quake, either way, over 10 years ago) have code to specifically do this? It's multiplayer code featured the ability to synchronize across multiple computers by having the clients speculate what was going to happen over the next several frames. Maybe something specific to client/server architecture, but this patent can't be a whole lot different...

It'd be nice if articles like this had a link to the actual patent.

Patent Troll
By thekdub on 9/18/2009 10:04:40 AM , Rating: 2
Kinda stupid that Paltalk can even sue the game companies for infringing on a patent that was bought. Unless they also bought HeartMe along with the patents, the ideas in the patents theoretically belong to nobody working for Paltalk and any money should go to HeartMe instead. But since HeartMe voided their rights to the patent, the money should go to nobody, meaning the whole lawsuit is a waste of time and legal effort.

Unfortunately, our legal system is corrupt and things don't actually work in a logical sense. Makes me wish it were possible to patent the idea of patent trolling, just to see these hacks lose money every time they got greedy like this.

old ideas
By mattclary on 9/18/2009 11:07:53 AM , Rating: 2
The patents cover sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment.

So, Neuromancer and every other piece of science fiction that discussed virtual reality doesn't pretty much cover this idea? This shit should never have been able to be patented.

Throw case out
By CascadingDarkness on 9/18/2009 11:09:13 AM , Rating: 2
In 2002, Paltalk... purchased two patents.

Everquest was released 16 March 1999

Article doesn't state when original patent was filed, but looks like BS to me.

WOW, What a novel concept !!!
By wempa on 9/18/2009 12:28:22 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, this is truly innovating on their part ! Who would have thought of this ? Showing the same events on multiple networked computers simultaneously ! This is brilliant ! </sarcasm>

Seriously, this patent nonsense is getting me sick. It seriously has to be fixed.

By Griswold on 9/18/2009 1:27:38 PM , Rating: 2
Its rare that a wall and a firing squad was such a tempting idea when thinking of the people at paltalk. They either picked those companies at random or just went for those that might have the deepest pockets. Then again, they included free to play games as well, but excluded other not so small firms. Its ridiculous.

And that bunch of texas-asshat-judges would fit well into said picture with the wall and the firing squad as well...

I'm gonna patent fun
By troysavary on 9/18/2009 1:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
I hearby patent to idea of using an electronic device to have fun. Looks like I have tons of people to sue. Apparently, since prior art seems to not matter anymore, I am not sure if I should start with the television, or should I only include interactive devices? Maybe starting with pinpall would suffice. In fact, giving the number of guys who use PalTalk to let people watch them wank, I could probably include PalTalk in that suit.

EverQuest came out in 1999
By biceps on 9/18/2009 3:03:45 PM , Rating: 2

And the patent in question has been held by it's current 'owner' since 2002. If the patent wasn't filed before 1999, then the lawsuit could be thrown out, I would think. Of course, Texas courts have shown themselves to be the pawns of patent fraud thus far (in my opinion), so why would they stop now?

Non-Enforceable Patent
By rdawise on 9/18/2009 8:24:48 PM , Rating: 2
So they patented the idea of transmission of data across multiple computers so that players see the same environment. How does that not cover ALL of the internet? How does that not cover ICQs and messengers? Heck, does that not cover LAN parties? Whomever granted this patent didn't think this through. Thats one of the reasons why we need gamers or at least people familiar with games in government positions (hint, hint). I am willing to bet when this patent was granted, they saw the internet as a "novel toy" or something along those lines. You;'d have to be an idea (nowadays) to grant such a vague an unspecific patent.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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