back to article City of Heroes fingered in MMO patent lawsuit

On Christmas Eve, South Korean game developer NCSoft received a lawsuit in its stocking from a Massachusetts firm that claims to hold an extremely broad patent for developing online virtual worlds. The legal complaint from alleges NCsoft infringed on its patent for a "system and method for enabling users to interact …


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  1. Oninoshiko
    Paris Hilton

    thats rich

    rule number one when being a patant troll. dont sue people who's product predates your patant. Said products are, by definition, prior art.

    even paris hilton could figure that one out...

  2. jon

    prior art

    Should be the shortest court claim in a long time.

    "Judge, one word; VRML. circa. 1994" - does everything that patent claims :)

  3. Paul Gray
    Thumb Down

    Anyone else sick of the patent bandwagon?

    I am getting tired of people registering these 'broad brush' patents, waiting for someone to be doing well and then trying to cash in. The system is broken. The people issuing these patents need to do some investigation before issuing them. I suggest that they write this patent on a very small piece of paper and shove it where the sun doesn't shine. Thus preventing anyone else from ever being so stupid again.

  4. jai

    ought to be a law against it

    there ought to be a flipside to the patent laws that says that if it is discovered that you were just blatantly a patent troll who managed to get a patent for something that vaugely represents someone elses idea, then you are wide open to paying damages to them

  5. Ben Gibson
    Thumb Down

    Patent lawsuits

    I hate these things, it just an example of the worst in people. Someone, under the guise of a company, tries to stop the rest of world doing stuff or at least making people and companies with no connections to theirs pay them money. Its trying to use a legal system for absolute robbery, nothing more.

  6. Daniel Garcia
    Thumb Down

    why the Korean with a free to play games?

    and not the MMO powerhouse named Blizzard?

    F**king cowards

  7. David Wilkinson

    why they pick on the little guy

    If they go after an easier target and win or even if they settle out of court with a licensing agreement ... they will be in a better position both legally and financially to argue the validity of the patent against someone who can afford to mount a real challenge.

  8. Kanhef

    Patent doesn't apply

    "The processor also integrates an HTML object into the environment, and interacts the user object with the HTML object in response to an interactional input from the user."

    Unless City of Heroes uses HTML to convey/represent data, it's not covered by this patent.

  9. Ian Stephenson

    patently stupid

    The B&W i,age looks suspiciously like the Blaxxun VRML chat interface...

    As far as I remember that dates to about 1995.

    patent troll is troll

  10. Peter H. Coffin


    @Daniel Garcia: Just waiting for a precedent on their patent, I'm sure. That's the money target.

  11. Corrine

    Wait what?

    They have a way to generate 3d images with HTML?

    I'm impressed. I don't think City of Heroes works that way though.

  12. Steve Sherlock


    It's obvious they're just testing the waters with NCSoft and if they pull it off they'll head off against Blizzards overpaid and rather sizeable force of lawyers. critically sues you for $500,000,000.

    Yeah, right... in their dreams ;)

  13. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Paris Hilton

    There should be a law

    Thou shalt not bear false witness...

    in a land that demanded n eye for an eye would have saved the lives of not a few people in Britain at one time or another.

    And kept the police a lot cleaner than the slime balls they are these days.

    Let them have it.

    But know accuse an ex husband of paedophilia and they won't do you for perjury even if he can prove he is innocent (not that I can imagine how) puts a man at risk of ten years inside and a life of a marked man for eternity and what is the punishment for perjury? Community service for a month?

    There are greater crimes to bother with than patent trolls in east Texas.

  14. Dave

    The purpose of patents

    Surely the original intention of patents was to encourage innovation. It appears nowadays that patents are used to stifle innovation. Time to replace them with something else.

    This troll appears to have a bullet wound in his foot if he's claiming infringement in games that existed before the patent was filed. Let's hope the defendants get to recover full costs plus some idiot tax.

  15. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

    @Daniel Garcia

    I also was surprised they wouldn't go for the Blizzard fleshpots.

    Then again, maybe they learned the SCO vs IBM lesson: never patent troll a company with more and better lawyers than yours.

    Bliz and its backers could very likely run them through a wringer. So, they carefully chose a company they thought they might be able to bully into a lucrative settlement.

  16. Kevin
    Gates Halo


    that patent picture looks exactly like the Lobby from Microsoft's V-chat that was released back in December 1995.

  17. Steve Brooks

    time travel really possible then?

    "it is likely to find evidence that NCSoft willfully and deliberately infringed on its patent. ®"

    Now here's an interesting one, how can you willfully and deliberately infringe on a patent that doesn't exist? Are they claiming that NCsoft used a time machine to travel forward in time, saw that there was such a patent issued, then travelled back in time to create an infringing game?

    Or alternatively that NCsoft saw the patent released, then travelled back in time ot create previously non-existing prior art to claim expemption? If they did they have changed the future, apparantly succesfully despite all previous evidence that such a thing is impossible, changing the past always creates a calamity in the future when the traveler returns. Or is that actually how the war on terror started? In that case couldn't we take NCsoft to court for creating the terrorism threat, the Iraq war and anything else nasty that's happened in the last few years?

  18. Angus
    Thumb Down

    Well they are not going to take on Blizzard are they..

    bit too much money there for them to get anything but a royal butt kicking. But seriously the US patent system is beyond a joke.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    This patently just a troll

    I mean, c'mon, who cares either way?

  20. J. Cook Silver badge

    Re: Paul Gray...

    Paul: part of the reason that the Patent Office issues these is likely that they are overworked and/or understaffed.

    Yeah, there's a buttload of prior art for this one- it's a lame attempt at getting 'free' money from someone.

  21. Stuart Van Onselen

    F**king cowards?

    If there's one thing that the patent trolls must have noticed it's IBM et al stomping on, grinding into the dirt, and then setting fire to the remains of SCO. While not actually a patent dispute, it illustrates a universal point: If you're going to be a bully, don't pick on kids bigger than you, for crying out loud! You'll get what you deserve, in spades.

  22. Major N

    @Daniel Garcia

    I should imagine this is a warm up. Its aim is surely to take on a smaller player who can't afford the expensive lawyers Blizzard can first, get them to buckle, then use that as evidence against people like Blizzard and Sony Online Entertainment (Look, NCSoft folded, their systems are similar to yours, therefore using deductive reasoning you owe us big bucks).

    Fire, 'cause its where people like this belong.

  23. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    You show me no respect!

    You pay us some money on a regular basis and well make sure your store doesn't, oh I dunno, get damaged in some way, capeesh?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I was expecting them to mention Blizzard and World of Warcraft in the lawsuit as well.

  25. David Evans

    What a job...

    ...working in the US Patent Office. Much as I loathe the patent trolls, the big question is how on earth did this one get granted? Even as broad as it is, there was plenty of prior art in 1999 when it was filed, never mind in 2004 when it was granted. Its about time someone like NCSoft counter-sued the US Patent Office for negligence and wasting everybody's time.

  26. Eddy Ito
    Black Helicopters

    Open and shut

    This will be quick. Given the intelligence of judges, I expect (troll) to be victorious and awarded about $700 billion in damages with and interesting twist, a stipulation that the money is to be distributed by Hank Paulson.

    "after the decision Judge Jim Pansey was overheard on his cell phone saying, 'Hankey, I just scored a load from Korea. Spend it well and don't forget my account in Grand Cayman buddy.'"

  27. ben edwards


    Guild Wars would fit the html aspect of the patent more than CoH, but even still...what a wank of a lawsuit.

    Wonder if they were put up to it by a competitor, or one of the aggressors was a CoH addict and feels screwed by recent pvp changes with issue 13.

  28. Mike Crawshaw
    Thumb Down

    "an LAN"??

    They deserve to lose just for their poor grammar.

  29. Jonathan Dade

    Who needs World of Warcraft ......

    There's way too many trolls to deal with here let alone the joys of virtual worlds. Time to sort the patents. Sack the trolls and save the girl!

    Mines the one with the club of troll bashing +50Bn

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    us patent office

    is obviously stocked by twitching window licking ear biting retards (bless their cottons.) Some should take them off to a loving care home where they obviously belong.

  31. Eddie

    I'm off to the USofA

    to register a patent on a round object that rotates on a central spindle.

    There should be a few pennies in that one.

  32. Adam T

    Prior Art: Meridian 59, 1996

    Nuff said.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Another great example

    of America's love affair with its own legal system. I would say that the American legal system may be the eventual downfall of America as a civilisation in much the same way way that Rome got too greedy etc..

  34. Shell
    Thumb Down

    Imba slacker trolls strike again

    WoW's "message of the day" stuff is in an HTML box sat along side your 3d avatar (occasional game crashes can expose malformed HTML tags in that box, and other popup messages). So I guess it's covered.

    Not that I've ever played WoW, honest.

    I know it's probably naive, but is there no mechanism for fighting the patent system itself? Surely nobody takes it seriously any more. Why aren't people turning their lawyers against the system instead?

  35. Lukin Brewer

    Cartoon Time

    The UK Patent Office is rather more thorough when digging out prior art. I recall that one patent for raising sunken ships using inflatable airbags was denied because Donald Duck had raised a sunken ship with ping pong balls in a Disney cartoon.

    And speaking of overly broad patents, check this out:

    Skip forward a week or so to see Gav wheel out his armoured lawmech.

  36. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Paris Hilton


    I know it's probably naive, but is there no mechanism for fighting the patent system itself? Surely nobody takes it seriously any more. Why aren't people turning their lawyers against the system instead?

    You man they aught to find lawyers willing to bite the hand that feeds IT?

    Are you serious?

  37. Charles

    @I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Because the United States Patent and Trademark Office is part of the US Department of Commerce, in turn one of the Cabinet offices of the US government's Executive branch (the branch led by the President). Lawyers cannot turn on the system because it's the system that empowers them. Under the US Constitution, the US government itself cannot be sued (and the USPTO, being part of the Department of Commerce, is part of the government) except under extraordinary circumstances in a specific federal court. Changes to the USPTO would likely need to be made by the head of that office or someone directly above him (these include the Secretary of Commerce and the President).

  38. Anonymous Coward

    My patent application

    You'll all be sorry when this one gets granted.

    "A method of enabling organic masses to fuel themselves by utilising airborne molecules in internal energy transformations".

    You wanna breathe? That's a quid!

  39. Shell

    @By I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Pants :( You're right. Back to Azeroth for me, RL is way too frightening.

  40. Stuart Elliott

    Worlds Chat

    Scarily enough, I was a member of Worlds Chat a long time ago in a galaxy far far away..

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mmm.. pizza

    Snowcrash with it's metaverse and sword wielding avatars also comfortably pre-dated this patent filing. I wonder how many Black Sun clubs there are in Sadville?

  42. James O'Brien

    @Kanhef Posted Monday 29th December 2008 23:43 GMT

    Yes they do use HTML for alot (if not all) of the in game chat channels and pretty much anything with words in it.

    Though my biggest concern is this:

    If they are sueing NCSoft over use of HTML to display and generate messages among other things doesnt that mean they have patented HTML and will shortly sue everyone on the net? Cause we are all guilty then of patent infringement.

    Hmm time to go over and check out the place then make some flame-broiled comments for shits and giggles.

    /mines the one with the fire on the its actually on fire

  43. Ash

    @My patent application

    I submit Pneumodesmus Newmani as prior art.


  44. decoherence

    blizzard should get in on it now

    "Hey NCsoft, wanna borrow some lawyers?"

  45. Joc

    Good luck to NCSoft

    I'm sure the facts that NCSoft have recently had to lay off a large number of staff worldwide and that their US branch is based in Texas (world capital of backwards affordable luddite judges and juries) had nothing to do with picking on them first. I can see it now . . . Korean you say, ain't they commies. Must be guilty.

    Here's hoping the rest of the MMO world get behind NCSoft on this one tho as surely it would be in all their interests to support them, and maybe contribute to the war fund on this one, and teach these nobody patent trolls the SCO lesson.

  46. chris

    Cite your source... broke this story

    Actually broke the story of Is it too difficult to cite your source?! Our article along with a copy of the court complaint can be found here:

  47. Whitter
    Thumb Down

    Protectionism is thy name

    An injunction followed by a pay-off (licence agreement) is the best they can hope for. And ala, they might just get it: the US courts are somewhat parocial in regards to US company's IP being enforced on non-US companies. Had they gone for another US company, this wouldn't get off the ground.

  48. Gordon Grant
    Thumb Down

    Can I use this here....

    Epic FAIL!

    I mean I do remember VRML, oh god what a controted thing that was or maybe it was just the editor I was using. Now unless any of these actually RUN in the browser, which I doubt or they specifically use HTML encoded packets (only way to find out is to sniff), then can well go stick that patent where the sun don't shine..

    That patent is so broad it's like me saying patenting "white paint" and then sueing anyone manufacturing white or "nearly" white paint..

    Now where did I put my mage spell book I think I need to go fire a few frost bolts at something.

  49. Anonymous Coward


    Judge needs to award NCSoft twice whatever was after (from World) plus reimburse all expenses incurred by NCSoft because of this.

    Attorneys representing World need to be ordered to pay NCSoft similar amounts (and be suspended from private legal practice for, say, five years -- maybe they can go work for district attorneys in the meantime).

    Anyone associated with granting this patent needs to be fired and banned from all future government employment.

  50. Alasdair Fox

    Google earth?

    City of Heroes does indeed have HTML in it somewhere, but I don't think it can be reasonably argued that it is 'integrated into the environment'. Many MMO's use an HTML window for in game browsing and help/bug reporting, but none of these in my experience are 'integrated into the environment' in the way the patent covers.

    I would think Google Earth would have more to fear from this one, but MMO's should be safe! Too much prior art around for this one!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blizzard are..

    .. based in france i believe, lots more legal work required to complain that software developed outside of america infringes there patents, europeon software patents are not yet valid.

    THis is of course only possible thanks to the americans ignoring the patent rules and regulations, which spefically prohibits software patents, also patents have to patent a process, all they patented here is the process of transmitting stuff via http and displaying it in a specific way, easily destoryed, due to lots of prior art!

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