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EFF Attacks Online Gaming Patent 126

Posted by Zonk
from the foundation-smash dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "The EFF is attacking more bogus patents. This time they're going after the 'method and system of playing games on a network' which covers tournament ladders, online rankings and advertisements. The patent in question has already been asserted against a number of small companies who know that licensing it is cheaper than litigating. Ars Technica's coverage mentions that Netrek looks like a good source of prior art. 'Netrek, an online multiplayer game with origins in the mid 1980s, makes use of much of the same technology described in Goldberg's patent. Much of the code for Netrek is open source, and its development is archived online; the source code was first posted to Usenet in late 1989. The EFF has also documented other instances of prior art with the assistance of students at the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.'"
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EFF Attacks Online Gaming Patent

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  • Prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:12AM (#22306714)
    There was top-down, space themed, multiplayer game on Athena (MIT) in the late 1980's that had Asteroid-like graphics. Anyone remember it?

    Also does anyone remember a tile game (around the same time) with a train and tracks called "Software Engineer".

    Prior art is sometimes everywhere.
    • Re:Prior art? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mrxak (727974) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:14AM (#22306742)
      Isn't the patent office supposed to investigate these things and reject obvious patent claims? Sheesh guys, hire better experts. Maybe we need some from our numbers to go down to the patent office and apply for a job.
      • by snl2587 (1177409)
        Of course now all developers have to do is ignore the patent and the cease-and-desist letters. If he tries to sue, countersue for defamation/damages/a tidy sum for you and your lawyer friend. All it will take is one lawsuit and this idiot is done for.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Idiomatik (1228742)
          The way it works in reality is that both side lose about 400~800 grand and then they'll withdraw. You might recoup some of the loss but it still wont be profitable. Cept for the IP lawyers....
          • by snl2587 (1177409)

            If I'm not mistaken, that's if you actually try and make a case. So the assumption is that the patent-holder spends a large amount of money and the defendant merely holds up the prior art.

            I have a feeling this patent is nothing more than an idle threat. The owner will likely take the money he has made so far and duck out instead of betting it all on a lawsuit.

            • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Idiomatik (1228742) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:59AM (#22307358)
              99% of the time the goal is to make the legal process take forever. So you have to pay legal fees, often can't work because they are mailing you 600page books of things you have to research and you still have living expenses. Your company will be stalled. Then they just wait for you to crack or run out of money. Even if all you do is hold up prior art the law isn't so simple. They'd have a long investigation on whether or not it truely is prior art, whether we can tell or not if it came first as humans can know nothing. That this supposed knowledge is just a flawed combination of our senses. My point is it doesnt matter if there is a case or not their only goal is to stall. Most people arent willing to give up their lives for often over 8months to show up some asshat. You end up in the hole near a million dollars, your company is certainly disbanded at this point and the company you stood up to has already hit 20victims since.

              The only option in these cases is class-action. Or bend over and take it, film the experience and send it to the EFF who will hopefully have some luck finding you some cream.
              • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @02:15PM (#22310456) Homepage Journal

                Or bend over and take it, film the experience and send it to the EFF who will hopefully have some luck finding you some cream.
                I'm not a rich guy, but every year, usually in December, my wife and I scrape together one or two thousand bucks that we have saved up just for this purpose, and we donate it to organizations or charities that either directly push an agenda that is to our benefit or that do work in which we believe.

                The EFF has been on that short list every year since 1998. As far as we're concerned, that $500-1000 that we send them is always money well spent.

                If you care about these issues and you want to do something besides just cluck your tongue when you read about IP misuse, unlawful surveillance, etc., I suggest that you do a little reading at eff.org and if you are so moved, and if living in a free society and using a free Internet has been any benefit to you, pony up a few bucks to those worthy warriors who fight on our behalf.
      • I vote for you doing that, I prefer getting paid decent wages.

        Plus, these guys presumably get so many patent applications that they can't investigate every one.. and in December 1996 this probably sounded rather novel to the guy in the patent office who spent all his free time organising his vintage stamp collection.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Loski (1233620)
        Mrxak The patent office is overburdened with prior art searches that must be conducted in a relatively short window of time. The current turnaround time on a patent application is 44 months, I believe the patent office will be rolling out a wiki-style patent community in which you would be able to contribute to the patent office's search for prior art and ultimately see a turnaround time of 7 months. Obviously, you would only be inclined to do so if you were deeply passionate/vested in a particular field of
        • by mrxak (727974)
          You're describing it like a manpower problem. So hire more people. All I'm saying is, it if strikes us as obvious or we can easily show prior art, then they need to hire some of us. Some kind of wiki isn't a bad idea either. But look, if they're getting too many patent applications than they can deal with, it's their own fault. They keep awarding patents for really dumb things, so everybody and their brother is now filing even more meaningless patents. Make the process stricter, and the number of patents co
          • by Loski (1233620)
            You got it. That's exactly what will begin to happen and to a large extent, at this point, it is a manpower problem. The PTO cannot simply hire more people. Although IP is a tremendous resource to the U.S. it is still an area that is underfunded. But I think this new initiative will have the effects that you speak of, mainly lowering the number of arbitary/malicious patent submissions. If there are more eyes to pry over the details, individuals and corps will be less inclined to submit bogus patents.
          • by cyborch (524661)
            Some other slashdotter aired the idea some time ago, that the price of a patent should double with each patent your company has. The price of the first patent could be relatively low to let the smaller companies get at least one patent, but keep bigger companies from hoarding thousands of patents...
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mapsjanhere (1130359)
        A patent examiner has typically 8 h of time to examine an application. So the applicant is supposed to help with the process by listing all applicable prior art and related patents - what is the basis of trying get patents overturned for having missed something relevant. But the patent examiner has to take a lot of what is presented to him as factual, or he'd never get anywhere. And so you get patents issued that should have never been granted in an ideal process, where the examiner is an expert in the f
        • by tinkerghost (944862) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:57PM (#22309220) Homepage
          These guys are supposed to review 4 new patents & 5 backlogged patent applications every week. Half the time it takes me 4 hours to figure out what the hell these lawyers are obscuring, let alone start looking for prior art. As for the guy above who said they need better experts, these are usually guys out of college - often lawyers waiting to pass the bar. For the most part they have no experience in the field that the patent is in. Hence what is novel to them is quite frequently common sense to people in the field. To present an example, the moron who managed to get a triple linked list patented. How traversing a list in 3 modes using object references is novel when traversing in 1 & 2 modes using object references is standard 1st year programming I don't know.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Ciggy (692030)
            If the patent examiner can't work out what the patent's supposed to be protecting in a reasonable time, then the patent should be rejected; in reward for getting a monopoly, the patentee has to disclose how to "build" their invention.

            If the patent application is complicated, and it's not clear what the invention is, nor how to "build" it, then the patentee has not fulfilled their part of the patent contract, and so should not get a monopoly on it. Simple really?
      • Agreed. The patent office does such a crappy job that we would be better off without it. We could just change the law so that any patent is granted by paying the fees, but which can be revoked in court due to prior art AND loser pays the court costs of the winner. The courts end up deciding most of the important patents anyway so what value is the patent office adding to the equation? Basically they are a glorified agency for collecting patent filing fees so we can either scale them way back or absorb their
    • by unbug (1188963)
      Wouldn't something like postal chess be prior art to some extent? After all, snail mail is a communication network.
      • by jedidiah (1196)
        This was being done by commercial PC game companies before the filing date of this patent.

        This sounds like another one of those "lets take an old idea" and add "internet" to the abstract and get a patent on it.
    • Even the little DOS game Sopwith Camel by David Clark, was network capable (1986):
      http://www.dosgamesarchive.com/download/game/127 [dosgamesarchive.com]

      This little game still works!
    • I believe the game you are looking for is called Conquest. It has of course been ported to Linux [radscan.com], and still is quite fun for multiplayer.
    • by C R Johnson (141)
      The game you are referring to may be xpilot [xpilot.org]

      Originally released in 1991 xpilot is still developed [sourceforge.net] and we still play.

      -Cluster

    • In theory the USPTO should examine all patent applications, find all prior art, and interpret it correctly vis-a-vis all patent applications. In practice, it is just not possible to a thorough job for the money raised from the application and renewal fees.

      That is way many patent offices, notable, the European Patent Office, have a system of oppositions, where others within the field can challenge a granted patent using their own specialist knowledge. The procedure is strictly controlled by the EPO, so a

  • Netrek!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by haeger (85819) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:15AM (#22306752)
    Oh, damn, that give back fond memories.
    I nearly didn't finish my education because of that game.

    I had to quit after breaking my 4:th mouse and it was beginning be embarrasing to go to the computer-support and ask for a new one.

    Ah, the joys of ogging a base near their home planet or smacking a DD carrying 5 troops.

    I'm getting withdrawal, I wonder if there's anyone still playing.

    "BenDover", captain.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, Netrek was great.. Last time I tried to play I couldn't find any servers with more than 1 or 2 people playing.

      I wish there was a Nintendo DS client for it (and people actually playing it).
    • by nospam007 (722110)
      Oh, damn, that give back fond memories.
      I nearly didn't finish my education because of that game.

      For me it was Gemstone II on Compuserve, I read somewhere lately that it is still running.
      At that time most of us wrote their own frontends to have a chance against the inhuman typists, especially for healers.

    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Oh the sweet part is the newbies (10 years gaming = newbie) playing other games are so easy to get by ogging.

      I do it all the time in urban Terror. bad guys in the room? grab a grenade and click and hold fire as you run in, if they kill you the grenade will go off, if you make it to them the grenade goes off. it's a modern day ogging!

      I need to see if a recent Netrek is available for OSX. I need to become less productive this week.

    • Yeah, this reminded me of how much fun I had playing Netrek once upon a time.


      So, just to see if anyone's still playing Netrek today, I immediately followed the link in the FA, went to netrek.org, and downloaded what their webpage had as the latest Linux client. Attempting to run it, I got "sorry, but this client has expired; you need to download a current one from ftp.netrek.org." I guess that's a clue as to the vitality of the community . . . .

    • by Fishbulb (32296)
      Hey! I was that DD!

      Commander Hoek.
    • by philwx (789834)
      Thank you for introducing me to this game. It looks like it will be a staple along with OpenArena.
  • EFF (Score:5, Funny)

    by somersault (912633) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:15AM (#22306758) Homepage Journal
    The joke's on them! They're using my method of debunking bogus patents by research into prior art! If only that guy hadn't patented blackmailing someone who is debunking bogus patents by brandishing your own patent for debunking bogus patents, I'd be rich! :(
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      The joke's on them! They're using my method of debunking bogus patents by research into prior art! If only that guy hadn't patented blackmailing someone who is debunking bogus patents by brandishing your own patent for debunking bogus patents, I'd be rich! :(

      My client is the guy who patented blackmailing someone who is debunking bogus patents by brandishing your own patent for debunking bogus patents or, as we call it, BSWIDBPBBYOPFDBP.

      I have to inform you that our product name in both it's long and short versions is a trademark. We require to immediately Cease and desist from using our product's long name without reference to the short name and the patent holder (ThatGuyYouHate inc.).

      Thank you.

      P.S.: We also hold rights over the song "BSWIDBPBBYOPFDBP" interpr

      • After a little research I have discovered that the "British Society With Insecure Dogs Bought Postnatally (But Before Year Old Puppy Form) Dinner/Brunch Party" have already registered that trademark? Quit with your FUD Mr Thanshin or I shall be forced to unleash my pack of rabid pygmy ass-biting lawyers on your ass.
    • by shentino (1139071)
      You know, that's just the problem.

      The american legal system favors lawyers period. It's inherently an adversarial system where either side can start the fight and the winner is whoever bankrolls their attorneys the longest. Since you almost always automatically lose any lawsuit you fail to maintain or defend, it's nothing more than a war of attrition, a modern version of "chicken". With most lawsuits these days, someone has to give up before the case is over. Only a scant few actually make it to a verdi
  • Most of this stuff just seems to be flat out obvious. Granted, I've only read the abstract (which was just plain incoherent, if you ask me) and skimmed the actual patent. I fail to see anything of merit. It sets out a broad, nebulous set of rules that could be interpreted to be any number of things. I imagine that when this was filed the patent office had dummy mode set irrevocably on, a al BOFH.

    This is a particularly bad patent, and kudos to the EFF. As we all know, small strokes fell mighty oaks.
    • by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:21AM (#22306832) Homepage

      It sets out a broad, nebulous set of rules that could be interpreted to be any number of things.


      Congratulations, I think you have just discovered what is known as "a legal document" of the sub-species "patent". Part of the reason that the grammar is so bad (to normal eyes) and wordy is so that they can make it mean everything (to scare people off) and something very specific (when they're litigating against someone and want to pick a specific point by picking a specific interpretation).

      If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.
      • by esocid (946821)

        If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.

        At least they are attempting to address the issue and bring to light these broadcast patents that are 100% bullsh*t in the least. These patents don't just scare off businesses from using any sort of thing that falls into their ambiguous description, they are stifling creativity and innovation. I doubt that their patent will hold up the EFF's challenge, but imagine if it did. How many online games do you know that use this sort of method f

      • equivalence (Score:5, Insightful)

        by oliphaunt (124016) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:08AM (#22307488) Homepage
        You say:

        If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.


        which is essentially the same as saying, "If only there was no incentive for companies to obtain patents in the first place." I understand that from the perspective of good/evil or innovation/abuse, the problem is most apparent with submarine patents like the one in the article. But even in a perfect world where all actors obtain only valid and meaningful patents, those patents will be used by the rightsholder as a cudgel against other individuals and companies, to protect the patent-holder's monopoly on whatever the covered claims might be.

        The problem is with government-sanctioned monopolies in general. And that problem can only be solved if enough people get pissed off that we force government to do something about it. Companies have been pushing to expand patent protections for a long time; the public pushback is just getting started. We should all be happy that the SCOTUS has shown some willingness to recognize the public interest in limited patents, especially considering the corporate pressure to do the exact opposite.

        I think it's great that the EFF is fighting, and winning, battles exactly like this one. Their battles raise the visibility of the issue, and might eventually lead to a world where little guys who are threatened with junk patents like this one are willing to stand up and fight rather than give the bullies their lunch money.

        • by mollymoo (202721) *

          If only the EFF didn't have to waste its money on this kind of thing.

          which is essentially the same as saying, "If only there was no incentive for companies to obtain patents in the first place."

          I read it as something like "I wish the patent examiners only granted valid patents.", but I suppose that wouldn't support your argument. We see what we want to see.

          • by IBBoard (1128019)
            That was actually my meaning - if only they didn't have to waste money on trying to get stupid patents overturned then the money could be spent on better things.

            I don't have a problem with patents in theory, it is just the practice that goes wrong. Some degree of protection for a truly innovative invention would help the creator, but patenting obvious things and patenting thoughts/mathematics (software) is a failing of the patent office.

            Not that I have much of a clue how bad the UK patents are, other than t
          • by oliphaunt (124016)

            I read it as something like "I wish the patent examiners only granted valid patents."

            I think your read is fair, and not necessarily inconsistent with mine, although maybe it doesn't go as far. But even "valid" patents can be used to harm consumers in ways that would shock the authors of the Constitution.

            My point is that, as long as there is any system for awarding government-protected monoploy power, some bad actors will attempt to take advantage of that system.

            Once a patent is granted, the system we have

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        ...and wordy is so that they can make it mean everything (to scare people off)

        The legal document is only a tool, but you are absolutely correct about its usage.

        Consider carefully and rationally what is the purpose of a legal document in this case. Is it to inform? No, it's weapon of intimidation. What annoys me is that there's an entrenched assumption amplified here amongst the Slashdot group that there are two courses of action

        i) Settle
        ii) Litigate

        There is a third perfectly valid strategy to intimidation
      • by BitZtream (692029)
        Fixed that for you:

        Congratulations, I think you have just discovered what is known as "a legal document".
    • by ozeki (466460)
      Kudos indeed, much better than their fight against free speech. http://www.savage-productions.com/CAIR_Santa_Clara_Answer_Doc_11.pdf [savage-productions.com] I was beginning to lose hope for them.
      • by belmolis (702863)

        Want to expand on this? It's not easy to figure out what is going on from the response to the lawsuit. It appears that CAIR posted excerpts from a radio program critical of it, is being sued for doing so, and that the EFF is representing CAIR. Isn't the EFF thereby supporting free speech and fair use? (Not that I have much sympathy for CAIR, but they are entitled to present their position and criticize others.)

    • Companies should not be allowed to Selectivly Leverage Patents.. If they permit one company to use it without proper licensing it should be the same for every company... Patents should be void if a company allows a "Infringing Technology" to become mainstream before they decide they should Leverage their patent.
  • I think I should patent the business process of establishing patents based on clear prior art and then suing companies for the use of my intellectual "property." Of course, my application would probably get rejected as prior art, but at least I could enjoy the irony.
    • by PJ1216 (1063738) *
      haven't you been paying attention? patents don't get rejected due to prior art anymore =P
  • The game described in this patent is nothing like Netrek; we're talking about a card game here. Is the US patent / legal system so screwed up that one couldn't defend themselves in court against this?
    • by B3ryllium (571199)
      Yes.
      • by rtwarner (1132907)
        Awesome. I'm going to patent cloth diapers as a "washable cloth apparatus to catch infant feces". Then I'll start going after low income single mothers.
        • by B3ryllium (571199)
          If you make it a tad more nebulous, you could even take down NASA on account of their Astronaut Diapers.
    • The abstract refers to card games as an example of its applicability. The actual text of the patent is more expansive.
      • This is a very detailed patent with more prior art cited than I've seen in any other patent. The way prior art works is if they cite it and the patent office still approves it them they have a good shield against claiming that their invention is not novel. Be very careful about people spouting off that such and such idea was done twenty years ago as that is a bit like non-programmers saying that COBOL had variables, loops and other stuff and therefore there is no difference between C++, Forth, java script
        • Patents are not really about broad idea, but about very specific inventions/implementations.

          Almost right. Patents are supposed to be about very specific inventions/implementations. However they, especially software patents, have become broad claims to wide swaths of general concepts. The original requirement was that a working model or plans had to be submitted along with the patent to prove it worked - eliminating the 'concept' patent. Business method and software patents tend to encompass solution conce

  • by Steve Hosgood (152793) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:28AM (#22306930) Homepage
    Essex university's MUD (circa 1977) would show that at least all the concepts of playing multi-player games on computer networks goes back quite a long way further than merely 1989. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-User_Dungeon [wikipedia.org] for starters.
    • by operagost (62405)
      The patent's not for something so broad as network gaming, but for the ladders. MUDs aren't prior art, but some other games are.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        Yup. On login, Netrek servers presented (still do, actually) clients with several lists of top (for varying definitions of "top") players. If those aren't "ladders", as covered in the patent, I don't really know what is.

        I don't recall XPilot or Bolo doing that, but didn't XFire do something similar?

        • by awtbfb (586638)

          I don't recall XPilot or Bolo doing that, but didn't XFire do something similar?

          Bolo players developed side infrastructures for computing rankings and identifying top players. It wasn't in the game itself, but was definitely used and known by many players. One example is the Internet Bolo League [lgm.com].

          Another was the use of character "banners" that players would challenge each other for (like championship belts in boxing). These were attached as suffixes to player names (PlayerName £). These allowed you

    • by tricorn (199664)

      I have a version of Empire from the PLATO system from 1977. I first played an earlier version of Empire in 1974-75. Empire is the game that Netrek is descended from. At the very least, it had on-line rankings (both for the current month and "all-time"). The copy I have, in fact, shows the records as they were in 1977!

      By the early '80s we were also running tournaments; I think we usually did it as round-robin, then a championship and an "All Stars" game. The scheduling was not done automatically, but d

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Did you just stop reading after 'method and system of playing games on a network'? What part of Essex's MUD covered "tournament ladders, online rankings [or] advertisements"?
    • by tattood (855883)
      IANAPL, but I believe that just because you release a game, that doesn't really affect patents unless YOU actually patent it. Here's what I got from my company's patent lawyer. Once you announce a product to the public, you have 1 year to patent it. I'm pretty sure that in the US, it's first to invent, not first to patent. So say you invent something, and make it public, open source or otherwise. 10 months later, someone else releases something that does the exact same thing and submits a patent. As l
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:28AM (#22306934)
    Patent granters should pay for damage done by granting frivolous patents.

    Further discussion about that, here [url].
    • by Thanshin (1188877)
      ...Or even at http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=434088&cid=22220790 [slashdot.org], if you're really, really interested in actually reading the discussion.
    • by greenbird (859670) *

      Patent granters should pay for damage done by granting frivolous patents.

      No. The person being granted the monopoly should be responsible for it's validity. Why the hell should I have to pay for determining if someone elses patent is valid? The one who stands to benefit should be held responsible for any and all damages of any kind caused by an invalid patent plus punitive fines the amount of which is determined by how egregious the patent idiocy is. This would stop patent trolls and idiotically obvious patents overnight without causing any harm to existing or future valid pate

  • The patent reads so broadly that it could probably apply to email chess tournaments and ladders. Fortunately, the larger organizations have all been around since before 1998.
  • My lawyers will be contacting /. I have a patent that covers the use of the English language. The rest of you here will be getting letters as well.
    • by shentino (1139071)
      Hast thou ne'er heard of ye olde prior arte?

      Thou wouldst be wise to not fighte in battles ye canst not win.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:39AM (#22307050) Homepage Journal
    I hope the EFF eventually turns to take down the patents locking up Internet faxing. Practically all regular telephone features are available in FOSS software (like Asterisk and better) that let people start up "telcos" to compete with the big ones for very little startup money and basic development time. All except Internet faxing, which J2 (formerly JFax) has locked up with patents [google.com].

    Those fax patents are bogus. But destroying them would cost something like $millions which is more than any of its single licensees has to pay, so individuals just license it because that's cheaper.

    If the EFF could organize potential licensees to fund an EFF suit to eliminate the bogus patent, it would free up Internet faxing for everyone. Which would mean that there would no longer be that single exception to "telephone service" that requries cutting in a patent extortionist. Which would mean FOSS Internet faxing SW could get development the way the rest of telephony has. Which would mean complete telcos could be started up without the costs and barriers that still keeps it an exclusive club for AT&T, Verizon and occasional VC funded "little giants" like Vonage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Solandri (704621)
      Reading some of your links, it sounds like J2 has already been challenged and defeated [protus.com] in court.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Well, that's good news, even if it's a single (unspecified) fax patent that the decision just says doesn't require a license from J2. I hope it shows a hole in J2's overall patent suppression of Internet faxing.
    • Send a fax over the web for free [tpc.int], powered by the open-source HylaFax [hylafax.org] faxing program.

      TCP.INT has been at it since at least 1994. In '94 it was an email-to-fax gateway.

      HylaFax dates back to the '90s at least.
    • Speak of an idiotic patent....

      All except Internet faxing, which J2 (formerly JFax) has locked up with patents.

      ISDN, "Integrierte Sprach- und Daten- -netz" came in the late 90s. Litteraly it means in German "Integrated Voice and Data Network" and it's basically that. A digital network used to exchange voice communication and exchange data (mostly, faxes back then. But also connect to the internet, etc...)

      H323 came 1996. Technically, it's nothing more than "ISDN data packets - but over internet". To the point

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Software patents are always stupid. Software is always a description of how something works, not the thing itself working. It's obvious that only copyright, not patent, is at all applicable to software.

        Software copyright examinations are so much more automatable than patent searches that the entire US IP registration system would be converted back to a respectable institution again by using them.
    • Are you kidding me? Someone actually has a patent on sending pictures of pieces of paper through the internet? wtf?

      strike
  • by Loibisch (964797) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:47AM (#22307158)

    The patent in question has already been asserted against a number of small companies who know that licensing it is cheaper than litigating.
    I always find this an obvious sign that a company knows their patent is bunk.
    If they were sure their patent was valid they would go after the big players like Epic, id Software or EA, not the small ones that are intimidated easily but really just are statistical background noise when it comes to online games. If someone violates your patent then you go after the guy who does it big style...else you really just care about the quick money and not about holding up your claimed rights themselves.
    • As opposed to FPS tourneys; look at the big on-line gambling companies (offshored, of course) that laugh at the silly patent. 1997 - designed a secure back end for an on-line casino infrastructure. Tons of prior art (much of which isn't patented.) (Should have taken the job and/or got stock... stoopid... stoopid... stoopid...)

    • Why isn't the law in this area similar to trademark law?

      I Ain't A Lawyer (see how that avoids "ANAL"?), but it's my understanding that if you knowingly allow people to infringe on your trademark then you basically lose the rights to it.

      If patent holders were REQUIRED to go after anyone infringing on their patent then they'd have to go after the big firms that CAN afford to debunk it.
  • by acvh (120205) <geek.mscigars@com> on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:48AM (#22307182) Homepage
    but aren't patents supposed to cover a specific implementation of an idea? it seems that these days they get stretched to cover ALL implementations of an idea. perhaps i am being naive, but so often a patent is awarded, and they the holder sues anyone who does anything remotely similar. that ain't right.

    hoping for a return to sanity....
    • This has been the problems for at least a century and a half. Not only are all implementations of the idea covered, even things you never imagined being important in the patent are protected. Read up on the Rolling-White patent for a gun from the 1850's. The gun was crap, but the patent had a drawing showing a completely drilled through chamber for a cartridge (as compared to the closed chambers of percussion cap revolvers at the time). This part of the patent allowed Smith&Wesson to corner the early
    • Let me try to shed some light...

      The scope of a patent is quite precisely defined by its independent claims. Most the words in a patent outside of the claims are not concerned with what it covers. This is especially so of the long, detailed description, which serves primarily as a source of technical information for others.

      If the alleged infringing thing/method has all of the features of an independent claim, then it infringes. If features in the claim are not present, the alleged infringement does no

  • Snipes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NullProg (70833) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:55AM (#22307308) Homepage Journal
    Back in the mid-80's when I was a BOFH we used to play snipes on Netware 2.11.

    Snipes (diminutive for Snipers) is a text-mode networked computer game that was created in 1983 by SuperSet software. Snipes is officially credited as being the original inspiration for Novell NetWare. [2]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipes [wikipedia.org]

    Enjoy,
    • Snipes was too advanced for us. We played hunt [wikipedia.org] from VT100 terminals. It's still a good game, actually.
    • by mollymoo (202721) *
      I see no mention of ladders and online rankings in the Wikipedia article. If Snipes didn't have them it's irrelevant, they don't claim to have patented networked gaming in its entirety.
  • I spent many an hour back in the 80's beating up on lamers at Michigan and Stanford.....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolo_(computer_game) [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.lgm.com/bolo/intro/ [lgm.com]
  • You guys don't know the half of the horror--The first thing I read was 'EFF Attacks Online Gaming Parents.
  • I played Adventure (Colossal Cave) over DECNet in the 1980's, and I suspect the technology to do this existed ten years earlier, I just had no access to it.

    My father described playing "Battleships" over the phone network during WW2. No computers were involved, but WTF.

    This patent is so obvious you dont even need to be experienced in the art. You dont even need to be an adult.

    Perhaps there needs to be a class action against the USPTO by victims of stupid patents?

  • Yeah i know, this /. but still:

    "The present invention is a game playing method and apparatus for automating games such as blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat and pai gow,..."

    Later the claims seem to reduce this to card games (didnt know roulette was a card game), but ianal. Aside from that it supposed to be a marketing tool:

    "The invention is useful for test marketing of products, advertisements, and reduces advertising costs."

    So, as far as i can tell the patent seems crap, even if different crap than some others here seem to have implied. It only combines "online card games" with "targeted advertisement".

  • by Unbeliever (35305) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @01:52PM (#22310072)
    Several of us in the Netrek community consulted with a set of patent defense lawyers back in 2000 to use Netrek as prior art to kill Patent number 5,822,523 claims 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6, which also killed 6018766 I think.

    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5822523.html [freepatentsonline.com]

    I didn't get involved in consulting for the Goldberg patent, but I did in 2000. Had a few long face to face meetings with the defense's lawyers, showed them the game, did a technical presentation, presented a few packet logs, and got a few free meals out of it. From that, they understood the claims well enough that they got the appropriate declarations from the appropriate original developers.

    The result of which the defense submitted a motion to declare the claims invalid, and the judge had a draft ruling granting the motion and was about to issue a final ruling, but the plaintiffs either dropped the case, or settled out of court. The parties were Lipstream vs. HearMe. (Lipstream were the defendants, HearMe the plaintiffs)

    I have a PDF copy of the ruling somewhere in my archives. It used to be on netrek.org, but got dropped in a recent site-move and redesign.

  • I'm pretty sure Kali came out before WarcraftII (1994'ish). If that isn't prior art I don't know what is. Jay Cotton could confirm it.

    http://www.kali.net/ [kali.net]
  • The PLATO System in various universities and research institutions had a "net" play over dedicated lines of many games in the late 70s. They had this orange yellow plasma display terminal. The never ending star trek universe game that (not to be confused with the other star trek games) was net play with stats etc across the planet. Somebody was always playing. You staged revolutions on captive planets and stuff to emerge as a power. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLATO [wikipedia.org]Wikipedia on Plato.

    first widely

    • Empire on PLATO was a real-time 2d 30-player Star Trek game. 4 teams, up to 15 on a team, 30 total players. Had an all-time Hall of Fame, Tournaments, and a set of Monthly records. Also kept track of team victories (conquering all the planets).

      Silas Warner is credited as one of the co-creators of Empire. He's dead according to platopeople.com. I think some of the others involved included John Daleske and Chuck Miller.

      I played (OK, was seriously addicted to) Empire from 1975 to 1981.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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