Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account


Patent trolls attacking small indie developers


Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.

  • You cannot reply to this topic
22 replies to this topic

#1 mattheaton   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
10Likes
Like

Posted 09 July 2013 - 05:29 PM

Well this past week I've encountered a completely new challenge or annoyance to game development, besides designing, building, promoting and marketing a game. The attack of the patent trolls...

 

Last Friday I discovered a legal packet from one Treehouse Avatar Technologies saying I was in violation of their patents and threatening litigation if I didn't submit to licensing terms. The patent itself is one of those patents that should never have been issued, but well, we've got a fucked up patent system. More or less is patents the storing of game character information in a database and displaying it in a user interface over a network. 

http://www.google.com/patents/US8180858

Treehouse also made waves by filing a lawsuit against Turbine the makers of the Lord of the Rings Online over this patent back in the fall and I can only assume is doing the same with any developer/publisher in the MMO industry. 

http://www.joystiq.com/2012/10/12/tr...atent-granted/

What is a head scratcher is how I'm even on their radar given my size. My only guess they are trying to shakedown some small game developers and intimidate them into licensing or settlement to rack up a few easy wins to fund going after the big guys.

 

In the past two days I've heard from at least three other small game developers that have received the same threat of litigation from Treehouse.  Pretty disgusted by the whole thing.  

 

I went public with the whole thing in hopes that other small game developers who might be intimidated by the letter and just roll over to their bullshit demands will come forward.

 

http://gamepolitics.com/2013/07/08/treehouse-targets-indie-studio-threat-patent-infringement-lawsuit

 

http://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/comments/1hvlnb/patent_troll_threatens_small_game_developers/

 

James Fudge, the editor of GamePolitics and part of the ECA is trying to identify other developers that have received these threats.  If you have you can contact him at james(at)theeca(dot)com



Sponsor:

#2 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1141

Like
4Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 01:39 AM

That patent could just as easily cover the user profile and avatar here on gamedev.ohmy.png

 

This was filed in 2005 probably 10 -15 years after this kind of technology was already being used by hundreds of other companies.



#3 mattheaton   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
4Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 01:51 PM

Yes, the patent would very clearly be ruled invalid, there's many problems with it in addition to decades of prior art.  The problem is the trolls know the cost/time it takes for someone to get it to court where it can be ruled invalid is huge.  So that's their leverage, it will cost you more to fight it than to simply give in and settle.  Even though they know full well the patent would get blown up at trial.

That's why they are trying to pick on smaller game developers.  They have even less resources at their disposal to fight, so make easy victims.



#4 TheChubu   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3050

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 04:45 PM

Avatar Technologies... Just that name gives it off.

 

Imma call my company "Achievement Unlocking Technologies" and sue everyone for using my patented method to display unlocked achievements on screen. dry.png


"I AM ZE EMPRAH OPENGL 3.3 THE CORE, I DEMAND FROM THEE ZE SHADERZ AND MATRIXEZ"

 

My journal: Making a Terrain Generator


#5 laztrezort   Members   -  Reputation: 950

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 04:45 PM

The problem is the trolls know the cost/time it takes for someone to get it to court where it can be ruled invalid is huge.  So that's their leverage, it will cost you more to fight it than to simply give in and settle.  Even though they know full well the patent would get blown up at trial.
That's why they are trying to pick on smaller game developers.  They have even less resources at their disposal to fight, so make easy victims.

 
The tactic of going after smaller businesses seems to have become mainstream lately.  Reading many articles about his, such as here, it is even rampant outside of the software industry.  Too me it appears to be nothing more than extortion that is somehow legal.  It's amazing to read about the various tricks (shell companies to hide their interests, playing the courts, etc.) these companies get away with.

 

It appears you did the right thing in not just immediately rolling over, and even better alerting others about the issue, but it seems like only patent law reform is going to help keep this type of thing from happening. There has at least been a lot of talk about reform - not sure about action.



#6 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2545

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:49 PM

In a completely off the cuff thought before I run out the door. I wonder the feasibility of using Kickstarter (or similar) to form a legal fund to aid the smaller indies in their fights against patent trolls. Whilst on the surface this might seem a throwaway idea I cannot help but feel some of the majors won't mind backing such an idea as well. Of course at the end of the day the only winners are lawyers...but if done right, this might be an interesting way to play this game and possibly help raise more attention to an area in dire need of overhaul and resolution.



#7 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 14920

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:32 PM

Free Software Foundation might be a good company to contact. They are most open-source supporters, but they are pro little-guy and against software patents in general and might be willing lend you a lawyer or give you some legal advice. There was also a small game-development law firm in the internet news a half-dozen months ago that was providing free or cheap legal assistance for studios - I don't remember the details though; anyone know who I'm talking about?.


It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.

[Fly with me on Twitter] [Google+] [My broken website]

All glory be to the Man at the right hand... On David's throne the King will reign, and the Government will rest upon His shoulders. All the earth will see the salvation of God.                                                                                                                                                       [Need free cloud storage? I personally like DropBox]

Of Stranger Flames - [indie turn-based rpg set in a para-historical French colony] | Indie RPG development journal


#8 Cornstalks   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6882

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:48 PM

I just came out of a 3 hour meeting with a patent lawyer on Monday where we were applying for some new patents. After that meeting, I have no freaking clue what goes on in the minds of people who either patent the obvious or patent something that has been done for decades. In our meeting we constantly brought up possible prior art and were careful to ensure we were doing things that aren't currently being done. I just don't understand the arrogant, douchey attitude that one would have to have to completely disregard all of that and then screw over everyone they can.

 

Out of curiosity, do any of the new patent rules affect already granted patents, or do they only affect new patents?


[ I was ninja'd 71 times before I stopped counting a long time ago ] [ f.k.a. MikeTacular ] [ My Blog ] [ SWFer: Gaplessly looped MP3s in your Flash games ]

#9 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5466

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 July 2013 - 09:24 PM

I just came out of a 3 hour meeting with a patent lawyer on Monday where we were applying for some new patents. After that meeting, I have no freaking clue what goes on in the minds of people who either patent the obvious or patent something that has been done for decades. In our meeting we constantly brought up possible prior art and were careful to ensure we were doing things that aren't currently being done. I just don't understand the arrogant, douchey attitude that one would have to have to completely disregard all of that and then screw over everyone they can.

 

Out of curiosity, do any of the new patent rules affect already granted patents, or do they only affect new patents?

 

The problem is that since trivial patents get granted frequently it is in any companys best interest to file for patents on every single little thing their products do or might do in the future, if you don't get those patents a competitor or patent troll might get them and use them against you, many of the companies that do this have no intention of ever using those patents to harm competitors but their patents sometimes find their way into the hands of patent trolls through bankrupcies and mergers anyway (and thats when those patents become really dangerous)


I don't suffer from insanity, I'm enjoying every minute of it.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

#10 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2216

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 11 July 2013 - 12:35 AM

We small guys are so easy targets...  

We can't afford the lawyers, and don't have time with it anyhow, so its very easy for these guys to intimidate us into paying their "licence fee".

 

In my mind, these guys are nothing short of "legal gangsters", their whole business idea is pressuring people for money, using various intimidation techniques.

 

Very sad.

 

It's also strange this couldn't be stopped. Most of these guys just buy up patents they know they can use to pressure people, they don't produce squat themselves.

You shouldn't be allowed to sit on patents. You should be mandated to use them, and they should expire...

 

That should dampen these shady guys a bit.



#11 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4068

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 11 July 2013 - 02:29 AM

Use their own weapons against them.

 

Avatar is a registered trademark in the USA, owned for various classes by various companies.

 

Among others, IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Computer software for the generation of web based computer programs and instruction manuals / IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Business technology software consultation services are owned by iRise CORPORATION CALIFORNIA.

 

It may be worth pointing iRise corp to the derogatory and damaging use of their trade mark by a "computer programs" and "software consultation services" type of company. It doesn't cost you more than a letter.



#12 _greyfox()   Members   -  Reputation: 1119

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 11 July 2013 - 09:08 AM

I would recommend you to watch this TED talk. Maybe you could use some of advises that this guy gives.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_lb3D7Ay-M


“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like.”― Nigel Marsh

#13 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 14920

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 11 July 2013 - 09:37 AM

And if you want to get annoyed, or learn more about it, you can listen to When Patents Attack. Doesn't give much advice though.

 

The US Patent office didn't want software to be patentable... but were supposedly leaned on by congress, and so now they just allow almost anything software-wise to be patented, without even checking if it had been previously patented or overly obvious. This explains why there are so many companies that have almost identical patents.


It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.

[Fly with me on Twitter] [Google+] [My broken website]

All glory be to the Man at the right hand... On David's throne the King will reign, and the Government will rest upon His shoulders. All the earth will see the salvation of God.                                                                                                                                                       [Need free cloud storage? I personally like DropBox]

Of Stranger Flames - [indie turn-based rpg set in a para-historical French colony] | Indie RPG development journal


#14 mattheaton   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 11 July 2013 - 01:41 PM


Free Software Foundation might be a good company to contact. They are most open-source supporters, but they are pro little-guy and against software patents in general and might be willing lend you a lawyer or give you some legal advice. There was also a small game-development law firm in the internet news a half-dozen months ago that was providing free or cheap legal assistance for studios - I don't remember the details though; anyone know who I'm talking about?.

 

Pubpat (Public Patent Foundation) is providing support against some other trolls going after app developers.  I've contacted them about this now troll, threatening game developers.  So far I know of 6 other small game developers who received threats of litigation from Treehouse over this patent.  I can only assume the real number is at least 10x that.


Edited by mattheaton, 11 July 2013 - 01:59 PM.


#15 mattheaton   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
4Likes
Like

Posted 11 July 2013 - 01:45 PM


Out of curiosity, do any of the new patent rules affect already granted patents, or do they only affect new patents?

 

The SHIELD ACT currently in debate in congress does not affect the patents themselves but rather the litigation over them.  The loser of the litigation would be required to pay attorney fees, which is currently not the case.  And since the trolls loose about 95% of the time it goes to trial they would have more at risk.  Companies feel much better about pressing the issue to trial if they their fees would get reimbursed.  It also requires the patent hold if they meet the troll criteria defined in the bill to put up a $50k bond prior to filing the lawsuit.  This to effectively shut them out of litigating against small targets in mass.  

 

Alas this bill will still be a few months from passing and won't affect suits already filed so their appears to be a mad rush by the trolls to get any suits filed before hand.



#16 mattheaton   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 11 July 2013 - 01:48 PM

Use their own weapons against them.

 

Avatar is a registered trademark in the USA, owned for various classes by various companies.

 

Among others, IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Computer software for the generation of web based computer programs and instruction manuals / IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Business technology software consultation services are owned by iRise CORPORATION CALIFORNIA.

 

It may be worth pointing iRise corp to the derogatory and damaging use of their trade mark by a "computer programs" and "software consultation services" type of company. It doesn't cost you more than a letter.

 

Love it! smile.png  


Edited by mattheaton, 11 July 2013 - 02:23 PM.


#17 lonewolff   Members   -  Reputation: 426

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 14 July 2013 - 05:11 AM

Man, this sucks. There is too much patent Yakuza crap and litigation going on these days. It seems that it is the new form of Cyber-bullying.

 

It is the worst feeling opening up one of those letters, though. I got my first one in the mail in March - LOL.



#18 Titan.   Members   -  Reputation: 159

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 July 2013 - 06:09 AM

Your country sound wonderful guys, but there is a thing I don't understand, if these patent can't stand in front of a tribunal, why do you care anyway, why not just ignore the letter, and if they start a procedure, they will have to pay for it and you'll just have to defend yourself. Why would you need to start a procedure (and pay) to break the patent before any legal action from the troll ?



#19 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 24022

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 18 July 2013 - 06:42 AM


and if they start a procedure, they will have to pay for it and you'll just have to defend yourself.
Because you have to pay to defend yourself. Even if you win, you probably won't be refunded for that.

And the system is broken, so they'll probably win too :/



#20 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2216

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 18 July 2013 - 06:50 AM

 


and if they start a procedure, they will have to pay for it and you'll just have to defend yourself.
Because you have to pay to defend yourself. Even if you win, you probably won't be refunded for that.

And the system is broken, so they'll probably win too :/

 

 

 

Not to mention all the time you have to spend not developing your game, instead spending it talking to lawyers, sitting on planes to travel to whatever place they decide to sue you, the mental stress, etc, etc.

 

It doesn't matter what country you live in, if you sell your product in the US (and who doesn't with digital content in english?), they can sue you in an american court.


Edited by Olof Hedman, 18 July 2013 - 06:52 AM.





Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.



PARTNERS