Patent law is rarely exciting, but there are a few occasions where business steps into entertainment-business, waving their acquired patents in hopes of acquiring a settlement.
Enter Paltek Holdings, a company that used two acquired patents to get Microsoft to settle over Halo. Now, they’re using those very patents to attack practically every MMO on the market. I kid you not. Blizzard, Sony, Jagex, Turbine and NCsoft are all being filed at.
I would leave the investigation up to you about the details of the patent, but essentially Paltek is using two extremely general patents to extract money out of a genre that has enough competition as is. Hey, they got Microsoft to settle. These other companies will buckle, right? (I might dredge up the patents and analyze them later, but I’m a bit sleepy right now)
Hopefully not. On one end, yes, these companies are businesses and should go for the cheapest way out, which would probably be a settlement. However, as an entertainment function, there needs to be a clear distinction that games should be unfettered by patents and focus more on intellectual property, much like how the entertainment industry functions. I hope that these cases will be used throughout the history of law to ensure that the sanctity of our pass-time doesn’t have to jump through any more hoops. The ability to transmit and replicate an environment is a common action, after all, yet it has a patent. Should we have to go back to the patent holder to get permission to use one of the basic methodologies in game design? Of course not.
However, the law is slow and thoughtful. We’re going to hear about this case again in a couple of years perhaps, and by then, we might’ve forgotten. It’ll give me time to cool off and ponder, but hopefully Paltek Holdings loses harshly and disintegrates underneath the pressure of their opposition.