You might remember reading about a seemingly obscure company called Worlds.com filing a patent infringement lawsuit against MMO developer NCSoft (Aion, City of Heroes, Guild Wars) last spring. It was widely covered in the video games press, and widely criticized by most community members. The suit revolves around a set of patents filed by Worlds.com back in the late-90s for its Starbright World project; a "social network" for sick and terminally-ill children.
Around the same time, Worlds.com CEO Thom Kidrin announced he planned to go after other major MMO publishers like Activision-Blizzard (World of Warcraft) and Linden Labs (Second Life), essentially claiming that every MMO on the market today owes Worlds.com patent infringement damages. In addition, MMO developers and publishers would have to pay Worlds.com a licensing fee to use its"interactive virtual world system" technology (more on that later).
Meanwhile, another patent troll stepped up to the plate last week, hoping to make a quick buck at the MMO industry's expense, à la Worlds.com. As we reported a few days ago, Paltalk Holdings Inc. filed suit against a handful of developers, including Turbine Inc., Activision-Blizzard and NCSoft, among others. The suit claims the MMO companies are violating its patents for its HearMe technology (an inconsequential, business-oriented "online meeting service"), which Paltalk bought the rights to in 2002. Will the MMO industry collectively stave off these lawsuits, or is this just the beginning of a multi-million dollar litigious gang bang?