Merry Christmas, you’ve been sued. It’s not uncommon for plaintiffs to file lawsuits around the holidays in order to “turn the screws” on defendants, and that appears to be the case here. Worlds.com sued NCSoft (maker of City of Heroes, City of Villains, Tabula Rasa) on December 24, 2008, in the Eastern District of Texas over alleged infringement of U.S. Pat. No. 7,181,690, titled “System and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space.” Representative claim 1 reads as follows:
- A method for enabling a first user to interact with other users in a virtual space, wherein the first user and the other users each have an avatar and a client process associated therewith, and wherein each client process is in communication with a server process, wherein the method comprises: (a) receiving a position of less than all of the other users’ avatars from the server process; and (b) determining, from the received positions, a set of the other users’ avatars that are to be displayed to the first user, wherein steps (a) and (b) are performed by the client process associated with the first user.
While this claim may seem rather broad, it would appear that it has priority back to Nov. 12, 1996, so to invalidate the patent you would need to demonstrate that you did this before Nov. 12, 1996. This also means, however, that the patent will expire on November 16, 2016 (plus any patent term extension), so Worlds.com is likely trying to maximize their enforceable duration for this patent.
The case is Worlds.com Inc. v. NCSoft Corp., case number 08-508, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. We have added it to our watch list and will keep you updated of any significant progress in the case.