Worlds Inc. promises to go after patent infringers

Press Release: Worlds Inc. Receives Sixth “Virtual Worlds” Patent

BOSTON, MA —  Worlds Inc.  announced that it has been issued patent no. 8,145,998 from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office  for patent application no. 12/406,970 titled “System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space.” This is the sixth patent in Worlds’ intellectual property portfolio. The patent relates to computer architecture for three-dimensional graphical multi-user interactive virtual world systems.

The USPTO issued this allowance after examining a large number of references cited in a prior litigation involving predecessor patents with the same description as the newly issued patent, creating a strong presumption of validity of the claims contained in this new patent.

Worlds Inc. screenshot. (Image courtesy Worlds Inc.)

“Worlds’ investment in innovative virtual worlds technologies for nearly two decades is recognized by the USPTO and has resulted in six patents, with several more patent continuations in process,” said Thom Kidrin, Worlds’ CEO. “Our increasingly strong IP portfolio is a tremendous asset for Worlds Inc. and its shareholders. In addition to licensing our IP to our Worlds Online, which we recently spun off, and their clients, we will be licensing it to other entities that utilize virtual worlds technologies for gaming, training and other purposes. We also believe that there are parties infringing on our patents and we are working closely with legal experts and patent law firms to take steps to protect our patents from infringement.”

This patent is a continuation of US patents 6,219,045, 7,181,690, 7,493,558, 7,945,856 and 8,082,501 issued to Worlds.com (Worlds’ prior name) in 2001, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 respectively, and bearing the same title.

This new patent, additional continuance claims in process, and all Worlds’ IP will remain within Worlds Inc. The Company’s online operations, software assets and technology platform have been spun off into Worlds Online Inc., which the Company expects will be a separately trading stock on the OTCBB shortly. Details of the spin-off and dividend are detailed in their 5/18/11 8-K SEC Filing.

About Worlds Inc.

Worlds Inc. (a.k.a.Worlds.com Inc.) was founded in 1994 and specializes in developing and licensing patented technologies for use in interactive communications and 3D multi-user virtual worlds. For more information visit www.worlds.com.

 

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Press Release

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  • http://twitter.com/SargeMisfit Sarge Misfit

    “System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space. … The patent relates to computer architecture for three-dimensional graphical multi-user interactive virtual world systems.”

    Isn’t that what our viewers do??

  • http://twitter.com/iliveisl Ener Hax

    i like that they used David Bowie in the video – i bet that’s not licensed . . . .

  • http://twitter.com/Gaga_Gracious Gaga

    Don’t worry. They will probably go after Linden Labs first.

    • http://twitter.com/SargeMisfit Sarge Misfit

       And they won’t stop there. We’ll be next. *makes sure the Winchester’s loaded and starts circling the wagons*

      However, if I remember correctly, something that is independently developed is safe from infringement lawsuits.

      • http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/ Maria Korolov

        No, it is absolutely NOT safe. That’s the whole point of patents. If you and I independently invent the same hammer, but you patent it, i’ll need to pay you royalties if I want to use it. 

        Unless I figure out a way to re-engineer my hammer so that it doesn’t infringe on your hammer patent.

        • http://twitter.com/SargeMisfit Sarge Misfit

           Thanks for the clarification Maria. In fact, I think this happened with the telephone or something, dind’t it? Someone in Europe invented it first but Bell patented it first. I guess we can only hope that our viewers, etc fall under separate engineering. This could get very messy. *starts rolling bandages*

          • http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/ Maria Korolov

            “Separate engineering” is not a defense — see my comment above. The ONLY defense is legislative action.

          • http://twitter.com/SargeMisfit Sarge Misfit

             That’s what the bandages are for. All those papercuts from court documents are going to result in a helluva mess

  • Pinkfloyd72

    The question will be whether the technology covered by the Worlds patents is being used (or has been used) by companies over the past several years without a license.  Obviously, just from looking at Worlds Inc., they have not had the capital to defend their IP since the dot.com bust.  But if they are indeed engaged with lawyers who are in the IP world, the key for them will be whether their patents are solid (not easily overturned by reexams at the USPTO), and if the lawyers are retained on contingency, meaning they only get something if they win a case.  This means both the company and the lawyer have skin in the game.

    I am quite familiar with the IP litigation arena now having followed several companies that are trying to defend their patents from companies who are using the technology.  The comment one of the posters made about whether 2 people invented the hammer and only one patents it, you have to pay the other royalties.  This is inaccurate.  The USPTO reviews prior art before they grant any patent, and if there was evidence say that showed clear proof that the hammer was already invented even if it didn’t have a patent but was shown in a technical manual that was widely disseminated, then your invention is not unique and you would not be able to to obtain the patent.  Or if you did get a patent, but then someone later challenged it and had evidence such as I describe, then the patent could be invalidated / overturned.

    Unfortunately, there is a perception out there that anyone who invents something and does not make a physical item (NPE), and they sue others, they are simply patent trolls.  It’s easy to call someone a patent troll unless you are the one who invented something and went through the effort to get a patent which is not easy.  So it depends what side of the fence you are on.

    I would suspect that Worlds Inc., if their patents are related to computer architecture for three-dimensional graphical multi-user interactive virtual world systems, then the targeted companies will likely be the gaming industry.  That’s where the 3D virtual world architecture and avatars are being used, which is really at the core of these patents from what I can tell.  I have been looking into the company of late as a friend noticed they have been securing patents from the USPTO wherein they are cleaning up any holes via the prior art hurdles.  My take is that the company is likely close to formally teaming up with a legal partner and will go after some higher profile targets in the gaming industry.

    And from what I can tell, the technology was first developed back in the 90′s.  So it is entirely possible that their patents are fundamental to the gaming industry and if they find a legal partner that believes their IP has value, then the company could be very interesting going forward.

    I have been posting some of my research here on the Yahoo message board if anyone else is interested.  I like collaborating and sharing research fwiw:

    http://messages.finance.yahoo.com/mb/wddd.ob

    • http://twitter.com/SargeMisfit Sarge Misfit

       Thank you very much :-)

      Btw, aren’t patent trolls companies whose business model is to buy patents/copyrights for the sole purpose of using litigation to make their profits? That’s what Righthaven was doing.

      What would be your take on how the Worlds’ patent might affect us with our open source viewers?

      • Pinkfloyd72

        You’re welcome.

        That’s a pretty good way to describe patent trolls.  Typically they just buy patents and sue everyone and hope a few settle because they just don’t want to go through the hassle of litigating.  But there is a fairly wide spectrum in the IP world.  Worlds Inc has owned these patents since inception – they developed them and did not buy them from anyone.  The interesting thing is that their core patent was granted back in 2001, and the application for it goes back to late ’90′s.  Their new patents are simply continuations of the original, and by addressing the prior art that could pose a problem in these latest patents, that patents are now inherently stronger (less holes).

        So, an IP law firm, if the patents are worth valuable because the tech is being used, will team up with Worlds on contingency and likely go after the larger companies out there that have been profiting the most on this technology without paying for it.  Their strategy will be first to ask them to take a license (on friendly terms).  If the company tells them to get lost, then it would ramp up to a full-blown litigation battle.  This is where it will be critical for the patents to be air-tight (i.e. no prior art problems that could invalidate the patents if challenged by a company).

        Anyway, as to your question about how the patents and their strategy might affect you with your open source viewers:  I don’t think you will be a target, or if so it would be an extremely low rate they ask for in a license because of the open source approach you have.  In my opinion, not to be discrespectful to your company, but if they get a solid law firm that is reputable, I see them going after the big gaming companies that have the best selling 3D virtual world games out there.  There are many games that have designed their games and made a lot of money buy designing their games built upon “3D computer architecture for multi-user interactive virtual world systems” that had to have come from somewhere, right?

        So if Worlds has patents that underlie what these companies used, then it is only fair that they be compensated for the invention.  That’s how royalties work.  If a company profits from something you invent, you should be entitled to collect a portion…

        Just my two cents.  Hope that helps.

        • http://twitter.com/SargeMisfit Sarge Misfit

           Thanks. And I think I’ll be less of a target than you think. You see, when I asked about how this might affect us, I didn’t mean us at a company, but us, the whole of the OpenSim metaverse :-D

          Frankly, I’m more worried about such a legal battle scaring people away for fear of being sued themselves, which could have a huge effect on the growth and acceptance of OpenSim.

        • http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/ Maria Korolov

          I agree that companies should profit from their inventions… but software patents are a weird beast of their own. 

          They’re not patenting the actual code — that falls under copyright protection. If you steal code, you get sued for infringement. 

          Software patents protect the IDEA behind the code. Like Amazon’s “one-click” patent. If you have to click twice to buy something, you’re in the clear — but a single click is an infringement. 

          So if you have an obvious problem, like, “How can I make it easier for folks to give me money?” and you come up with an obvious answer: “Get their money with fewer clicks — let’s see how low we can go…” then you’re infringing, even if you never heard of Amazon’s patent, or seen their site, or used their technology, or have anything even remotely to do with them.

          So there are companies out there patenting every ridiculously trivial thing under the sun. And if you’re a software vendor, just trying to figure out if you’re stepping on anyone’s patents is a living nightmare. 

          Here’s a little infographic about how the process works:

          https://www.eff.org/issues/how-patents-hinder-innovation 

          Here’s a great example of how this works — there’s a company suing iPhone and Android app developers if the have in-app purchases or upgrades:

          https://www.eff.org/issues/faqs-lodsys-targets 

          Again, nobody is saying that code was stolen. They’re suing anyone who had the IDEA for in-app purchases, no matter how they actually implemented it. 

          Total cost of patent trolling? Half a trillion dollars since 1990. And the rate is going up — it’s now at $83 billion a year. Billion. Every year. That’s a huge drag on the one sector of the economy that we need the most — the innovators, the job creators, the folks inventing stuff.

          Open source software projects like OpenSim aren’t automatically immune because they’re open source. 

          Here is what they’re doing to help protect themselves: 

          http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2011/10/opensim-considering-patent-protection/ 

          Fundamentally, the laws have to change. Software patents either need to be eliminated altogether or significantly reduced in scope or length.

          Find out more about this here:

          http://endsoftpatents.org/

          • Pinkfloyd72

            Maria,

            I agree with you that there are issues that need to be addressed.  I just don’t agree that it’s black and white.  You mention that the software patents are not patenting the actual code.  But those who do write source code often refer to work flows or claims found in patents.  So the engineers writing the code don’t always come up with the concept.  If a product is made and profits off of the invention that was developed by someone else, even if the code was written by the company’s engineer – I can see the argument for the patent holder who came up with the IDEA that was used by someone else to create something to be compensated.

            Your argument that says software patents should be eliminated altogether is extreme.  If there is no benefit to inventors for putting time and effort to develop a patent, then you will be jeopardizing a whole lot more than you think.  Source code writers don’t develop all their ideas from scratch.

            Also, patents are more than just ideas.  They have to be unique inventions that no one had come up with before.

            I guarantee you if you came up with a new invention and patented it, and watched big companies steamroll you without paying a dime, you would have a different perspective and take issue with someone calling you a patent troll for trying to monetize the patent you put your life into.  Two sides to every coin.  I just happened to think this issue is not black and white.  There are definitely patent trolls out there are that are shameless.  But there are also legitimate inventions that people spent great personal cost and effort to develop.  It’s only right that they not get abused.

          • http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/ Maria Korolov

            Patents play an important role in manufacturing, and a very important role in the pharmaceutical industry, where the costs of developments are very high. 

            I don’t think anyone would argue that coders would stop coding, and software companies would stop producing software, if they couldn’t patent their work. 

            And they do profit from their work — they get paid, they sell their products. In fact, given how it takes to get a patent, the patent is pretty much totally irrelevant to how the software industry works – by the time it’s approved, we’ve all moved on.

            Except for the fact that if the patent was fundamental and obvious enough, then its ideas are now in all the software out there.

            So EVERYONE becomes an infringer. 

            If you develop code of any complexity, you will step on someone’s patent. The question is — will they bother to sue you or not? And you never know. It always hangs over you.

            This is what Bill Gates said about it: ” If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. I feel certain that some large company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique. … The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can.”

            In other words, an arms race, with large software companies defensively buying up as many patents as they can before the trolls get to them — and then using those patents to fight each other in courts instead of competing out in the marketplace. 

            Our current patent system is broken and counter-productive and needs to be reformed at the legislative level. But, as I mentioned originally reform could be to eliminate software patents — already the case in some countries — or to limit the scope of software patents. To five years, say — enough time to profit from your invention, while making less of an impact on the future development of the industry. And I’d like to see the rules for applying for the patents to be tightened up more, and the turnaround time for approvals to be faster. You invent something, you get your patent, you profit from it for a while while your competitors grovel, then you move on. 

  • Timothy Rogers

    I am sorry if I seem stupid with this, but are we not protect against this. I mean read the actual patent (http://goo.gl/ZWeyt) So does this mean all virtual words are in trouble?