Last week, we discussed the July 8 GamePolitics.com story about Ontario-based web services company Treehouse Avatar Technologies accusing companies of patent violations. Just two days later, Game Politics reported that it had learned that at least three other independent development studios received letters from the law firm representing Treehouse, all of them appearing to be “almost identical” to the letter Bothel, Washington-based Bad Pug Games received on July 1. Minions of Mirthmaker Prairie Games, A Tale in the Desert developer eGenesis and Aces Highdeveloper HiTech Creations all received “ambiguously worded” letters from Westfield, New Jersey-based law firm Lerner, David, Littenberg, Krumholz, & Menlik, LLP. According to GamePolitics, the letters warned the companies that they could be infringing on the “858 patent” (US Patent No. 8,180,858) “Methods for Presenting Data Over a Network Based Network User Choices and Collecting Real-time Data Related to Said Choices.”
As we mentioned in our previous post, Treehouse only obtained this patent in May 2012. Randel Reiss, Director of Product Development for Prairie Games, told GamePolitics that might make it difficult for Treehouse to argue that Minions of Mirth violates its patent. “[W]e released all the source code to our 3D MMORPG into the public back in 2007,” Reiss said. “Prior to that, as far back as 2005, we published that like a lot of RPG developers, we were basing our game character building design on Wizards of the Coasts’ System Reference Document (SRD) – WotC’s decade-old royalty free d20 System License.”
On July 12, GamePolitics reported that it had received a letter from Stephen Roth, an attorney at the firm representing Treehouse. “As you know, developers of online games commonly seek to prevent the unauthorized use of their creations by registering copyrights and trademarks,” Roth wrote. “In like manner, the developers of the subject game technology sought to protect their rights in their invention by securing a patent. We are now seeking, on behalf of our client, to enforce those patent rights and to thereby secure just compensation for the unauthorized use of this patented technology.”
Roth added, “While your readers may have preconceived beliefs as to the enforcement of patent rights, it is important to remember that the entire video game industry is based on the technological revolution of the last few decades, which would have not occurred without the hard work and creativity of inventors like those we represent.”
GamePolitics noted that Treehouse does not appear to make any products or software, instead simply owning several patents. “Whatever business the company conducts beyond enforcing those patents is unknown at this time,” GamePolitics wrote.
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