Virtually all 3D games are in patent violation!

Read it and weep. On the one hand, if someone holds the patent, he holds the patent and should be payed. On the other hand, why did it take him 16 years to file? I believe that in patent law there’s a principle that says if you’re aware of infringement but neglect to protect your rights, you’re giving implicit permission to the infringers to infringe and essentially waiving your right to sue. There’s no way this bonehead could have been unaware for over a decade that people were making 3D games using his “process.”

Anyway, whether I’m right on the law or not, it will be interesting to see what happens.

I believe you are mixing up patent law with trademark law. A trademark may lapse through lack of enforcement on infringements. This is isn’t the same for patents.

The patent covers spherical panning. I’m not a graphics guru, so I don’t know what teh gobbledygook in the patent means. Coudl somebody more familiar with this stuff have a gander?

I said I think there is a legal principle involved. That principle would, I suspect, extend to patent, trademark, and copyright law. Maybe I’m wrong, but my father, who was a victim of patent infringement himself years ago (though not a lawyer), thinks I’m right and that it applies to patent law.

Anyway, the thought plickens:

Turns out it’s the law firm McKool Smith itself that’s suing. I hadn’t understood that from the first article. They apparently bought the rights to these patents that are supposedly being infringed–one must suspect just for the purpose of enriching themselves. Slime.

EDIT: wrong url

I am by no means an expert, but that seems to be common business practice in many different fields.

  1. File patent
  2. Wait till someone is making money with a product that is covered by patent
  3. Lawsuit -> profit!

It sucks, but that’s how the world works. I hope these jerks crash and burn.

DISCLAIMER: I am a 3D programmer, not a patent lawyer.

My reading of the patent is that the claimed invention is the use of an input device (such as a scroll wheel or mouse) to move a virtual camera along a path on a spherical shell surrounding the object to be viewed. Zooming in and out is achieved by varying the radius of the spherical shell to move the camere viewpoint closer to or farther from the object (instead of by varying the camera field of view as you would with a real camera zoom lens or a sniper’s telescope gunsight).

In gaming terms, this sounds to me like the camera controls in the Homeworld series, or the orbit cam in Falcon. I’m sure other simulation and RTS games as well as 3D modeling and CAD applications such as 3DS MAX include similar techniques for controlling the camera. Most first- and third-person shooters and sports games do not seem to use this technique. Instead, they use an automated algorithm for computing camera placement and orientation (e.g. an over-the-shoulder view).

No idea if it will hold up in court.

It’s utterly ridiculous that something like this is pattentable. But I wouldn’t worry too much. These things are always thrown out.

With a name like “McKool Smith” it makes me wonder the legitimacy…

I thought that this had already been attempted… I don’t recall where but it seems like I read about this quiet a while ago

The comb-over is pattented

Heh. According to US Patent 5,956,514, my boss and I invented the technique of remote debugging multiple processors by passing messages through shared memory buffers. I’ll bet Microsoft Visual Studio is infringing on that patent when they let you debug shader code in your 3D card.

Somehow I doubt that Boeing is going to sue them over it, even if they notice the infringement.

Time to start making money on my patent for “A system to move nutrients through a canal. As the nutrient passes through the canal some of it is absorbed through a membrane the rest is excreted through an orifice.”

Pay Up Now

"I made my demand, you can either follow up and comply or you can pay. How you pay is up to you. "

Seriously, a moron tried to do this recently with computer solitaire. Another guy tried it with the 3-d MMOG client server architecture. We need a serious overhaul of our patent system (especially with regards to software) and a lot less lawyers.

How about we just implement a prison sentence (or, for software patents, enforced playing of Daikatana, with mandatory follow-up reports written on Microsoft Word 2.0 running on Windows 3.0) for anyone challenging on patents which 10 certified experts in the field can claim “blatantly obvious”? :D

For some reason the standard of obviousness in computer science is set through the floor, to the point where a company will try to patent a technology that was already being demonstrated in labs and published research all over the place. Really really aggravating.

Jail time is probably too much, but at minimum a plaintiff who loses the suit should be required to pay two or three times the legal expenses of the defendant in patent cases. Or something else that’s a little less exploitable.

Actually, they’re not infringing. Because you can’t debug shader code that’s running on a 3D card!!! (You have to actually run in software emulation in order to see what’s going on with a debugger).

For pixel shaders, debugging usually consists of “write various quantities to various color channels until you can tell what is going on”. Which actually, a lot of the time, is a way more powerful interface than customary debuggers give you.

Ah. Now I don’t feel so bad about using an old copy of VC 6. :-)

If you have a patent and know that others are violating it and intentionally do not enforce your patent, you do risk losing the ability to enforce it in the future. It’s a gray area, but I’ve been involved as a technical witness in a couple of such cases.

So are fake nipples.

My reading of the patent is pretty much like milo’s. However, neither Autodesk nor any other CAD maker is listed among the targets, as I would have expected. It’s only gamemakers. We must be not understanding something correctly.

(Disclaimer: this is not intended to be legal advice)

Patents are not enforceable until they are issued. Once issued, the patent holder can sue retroactively. However, my (limited) understanding is that the patent office frowns upon this sort of lawsuit since it resembles entrapment. Because of this, the punitive damages are typically small.

  • Alan

Yeah, that makes me real suspicious. I suspect there are a lot of other, potentially juicier targets out there than game companies.

Hopefully justice (and common sense) will prevail and we can all get back to the business of making games and not fighting stupid lawsuits.