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Article One Partners is a company that offers rewards to people for finding prior art that can be used to try to invalidate patents, and Article One is willing to pay serious money to those who find that prior art. Most recently, Article One Partners paid out $50,000 to an anonymous individual for identifying prior art that, Article One Partners believes, invalidates at least one of the two Worlds.com patents. The Article One Partners press release indicates that they believe the prior art they found invalidates Worlds.com's earlier '690 patent. They do NOT indicate that they believe it also invalidates the latter '558 patent, but instead indicate that the prior art may also be "relevant" to the latter patent. Indeed, it may be "relevant", but only one claim needs to remain valid and infringed for NCSoft to be on the hook for damages and an injunction. Nonetheless, Article One clearly believes they have some good prior art, and is willing to license its findings to interested parties.

While this certainly appears to be good news for the virtual world community in general, NCSoft is not out of the woods yet. If anything, this might help distill the issues in the case and reduce the number of claims being litigated between the parties, but it doesn't appear that the case is going to go away any time soon. Stay tuned...
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