Home Forums General Discussion Multi-Publisher Legal War Looms Over 3-D Patent

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    • #3565


      Exclusive: Multi-Publisher Legal War Looms Over 3-D Patent

      A patent infringement case for the patent, “Method and Apparatus for Spherical Planning,” is now pending. The case could have enormous implications and could affect nearly every 3-D video game ever made. Put on your 3-D glasses and read all about it…

      GameDAILY BIZ received word recently that Texas-based law firm McKool Smith has sued 12 major game publishers and is threatening legal action against several smaller companies as well. Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Activision, Atari, THQ, Vivendi Universal Games, Sega, Square Enix, Tecmo, LucasArts, and Namco Hometek are all named as defendants in the case.

      Seeing $$$ in 3-D
      McKool Smith contends that these 12 companies infringed on their patent, “Method and Apparatus for Spherical Planning,” or patent 4,734,690. The patent was originally filed in March 1988 for a specific method of displaying 3-D images on a monitor.

      What typically happens in patent infringement cases is the patent holder seeks a percentage of all sales of any products that infringed on their patent. The percentage taken can be very low or very high, and therein lies much of the battling. In this particular case the stakes are potentially astronomically high, as every 3-D title any of these 12 publishers has published could potentially be found to be in violation, with damages due to the patent holder. Interestingly, the complaint filed against the companies does not list any specific damages they are seeking, and instead opted to leave it open at this time.

      An abuse of the legal system?
      “It’s a very old and very general patent showing a method that uses a moving plane to show 3-D images. The patent is ridiculously broad. It’s purely McKool Smith trying to make money. It’s an abuse of the legal system,” an employee of a major publisher speaking on a condition of anonymity told GameDAILY BIZ.

      “McKool Smith is financing their major litigation against the 12 publishers by threatening smaller companies and then getting them to settle,” the employee continued.

      It’s too early to say what level of success McKool Smith will have (if any), but one thing is for sure: they’re taking the case very seriously. Eight of the twelve are being defended by the same law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, and it appears that the case is going to make it to court.

      “Publishers should be very worried. They might have a leg to stand on from a legal standpoint. It’s not impossible that McKool Smith will win. A lot of very smart people are taking this very seriously. Common sense says it’s ridiculous, and from a moral standpoint it’s outrageous,” the employee said.

      Lawyers lips sealed
      Neither side seems particularly eager to discuss the details of the case at this time. “Our preference at this time would be not to comment on pending litigation,” Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP told GameDAILY BIZ. McKool Smith did not return our phone calls either.t[/quote:b4d25b0c7c]

    • #15463

      I can’t see him winning this lawsuit, as said above, the patent is very very broad. This guy just wants dollars….and lots of them. But you never know, stranger things have happened in the surreal twisted world of the American legal system. ;)

      Plus, how can anyone thrust someone called “McKool”……seriously……its one of those made up Irish names….
      Whats your name?
      Uh…my name is Patrick McDancynally….my great grandparents came from Cownee Carey

    • #15464

      “Donkey Kool”

    • #15465

      Going up against EA, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Vivendi and others all in one go.
      The cost to actually bring it to court is going to be huge. Sure the pay-off if he wins would be obscene, but there was 3d software before the patent existed, so the dude is up against it.

    • #15525

      Bit o’ research further and now calm down, lads: it’s not the mickey mouse LLP outfit which is suing, it’s Tektronix, Inc (the patent assignee), who must be after a new line of revenue – good for them, bad for the VG industry, which has been growing $-fat on nothing more than copyright – but then why should the VG industry be any different from other computing technology-based industries?

      Next, whether the patent is too broad or not and whether the suit is moral or otherwise is beside the point: if the patent is found valid and infringed, it’s cash-till time (for all of 10 seconds, until the co-defendants appeal & try to outspend this unscrupulous lot over years of US litigation).

      Ordinarily, I enjoy those short-lived moments when I find out business dynamics vindicate a development which I’ve seen a while beforehand. Then I cry, because that’s the name of the game, and the reason why I’ve been clamouring for the last 2 years in the UK, US and now IE, that VG devcos and publishers should be building their own portfolios for defensive purposes (in cases where the opponent is a tech company, as it is here)…

      Now, the big guys named in the suit have their own patent portfolios, and if they can’t invalidate this one, they’ll surely find one of their own which Tektronix infringes itself… and then a deal is reached.

      The problem is for the little guy with now ammo in the breech (read: no registered IP which Tektronix may or may not infringe): he’s well and truly rogered!

      It’s only a precursor… but you bear in mind much money a small US tech company made from Nintendo, Sega and others on the back of their US patent for a processing system with interchangeable cartridges (the name and Patent ref both escape me, but I’ll unearth them and update), back in the NES/SNES days. It’s an interesting precedent of sorts to this case.

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