New Character Class Coming to your Favorite Games: The Patent Troll

A Massachusetts company known as, which to my knowledge has never produced a product of the sort known as a “Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game,” nevertheless claims a patent in the concept.  These games, the best known of which are probably World of Warcraft or Everquest, have been around for well over ten years, and are quite the moneymaking ventures for their producers.

Now is suing NCSoft, a Korean company that produces the games Lineage and City of Heroes, based on a patent filed in 1999 and issued in 2004 for a “system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space,” though some of the NCSoft games alleged to breach the patent were produced before even filed its application.  As has never produced such a game, and appears to be little more than a vehicle for holding the patent, one expects that NCSoft will counterclaim seeking to invalidate the patent.  Nevertheless, announces that it would “welcome licensing inquiries from the on-line game industry,” meaning Sony and Blizzard, to allow those companies to continue making money from their own games.

The best story I could find on this came from The Register, which has the application and notes that the patent is an “extremely broad” one which could reach beyond games.  Other informative coverage can be found at gaming sites, including Broken Toys, Kotaku, and Virtual World News.


  • Text based multiplayer online games in which players explore fantasy or science fictional worlds have existed for far longer than 10 years.

  • They have in the dikumud form, but the patent here is on the graphical interface. I do believe that Meridian 59 is prior art, and there may well be others.

    Lum the Mad (the fellow at the Broken Toys link) is an authoritative source on these games, as he’s worked in the industry for years and before that ran a well-regarded fan site.

  • Meridian 59, and also Ultima Online. I expect these guys to be bounced out of court in short order.