90's virtual world developers Worlds.com has fired the first shot in what could be a game company-spanning battle as they file suit against NCsoft for infringing on their patent for multiplayer virtual environments.
The patent at question is 7,181,690, "System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space", which was file in August of 2000 and finally issued in February of last year. Reading over the patent, it basically covers the client/server-based system every single MMO on the market uses to allow multiple players to view and interact with each other in a virtual world. The suit, filed on Christmas Eve, claims that NCsoft has infringed on this patent across all of its MMO titles, from City of Heroes to Guild Wars to Dungeon Runners. After reading over the patent, it looks like they've actually got a pretty solid case on their hands.
Worlds seeks damages from NCsoft, as well as assurances that the MMO publisher will not infringe on their second patent, 6,219,045 - "Scalable Virtual World Chat Client-Server System".
Mark my words here - NCsoft is just the beginning. Their patent pretty much covers every instance where users with avatars interact in a virtual space. From Second Life to World of Warcraft, PlayStation Home to Anarchy Online; everything massively online and multiplayer falls under this patent. This should be interesting, folks.
Worlds.com Files Suit Against NCsoft for Patent Infringement [Virtual Worlds News - Thanks Chris!]