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Well folks, looks like Worlds.com v. NCSoft has settled. The court on April 23, 2010, ordered dismissal with prejudice based on a binding settlement agreement between Worlds.com and NCSoft. Terms of the settlement appear to be confidential. Now we wait and see whether Worlds.com pursues any other MMOG operators...
On Monday, April 12, 2010, Blizzard filed a lawsuit in federal court in California against Justin Marshall and five unnamed defendants for copyright infringement, circumvention of copyright protection systems in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), breach of contract, and tortious interference with contract.

In its complaint, Blizzard alleges that Marshall is the leader of a sophisticated group of hackers (known as “StarCrack”) who are working together to develop “rogue” servers that can emulate Blizzard’s own Battle.net, thereby enabling people with pirated copies of the StarCraft 2 game client (which is still in a closed beta test) to enter the game’s online multiplayer environment.

According to the complaint, the real Battle.net servers validate the authenticity of a user’s StarCraft 2 game client and the user’s Battle.net account at login. If authentication fails, the Battle.net server prevents the StarCraft 2 game client from “unlocking” the copyrighted game content associated with the game’s online multiplayer environment. When a pirated StarCraft 2 game client connects to the StarCrack server, however, the StarCrack server allegedly bypasses the authentication process and unlocks the online multiplayer mode in the pirated StarCraft 2 game client. According to Blizzard, the defendants’ actions constitute copyright infringement, circumvention in violation of the DMCA, breach of contract (i.e., breach of the license agreements for StarCraft 2 and Battle.net), and tortious interference with contract (i.e., causing others to breach these license agreements).

We will continue to follow this case, which is Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. v. Marshall (Case No. 10-cv-00450-DOC-RNB), filed April 12, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
On Tuesday, April 13, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of Nintendo in Anascape, Ltd. v. Nintendo of America Inc. (Docket No. 2008-1500), a patent infringement case appealed to the Federal Circuit from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Case No. 9:06-CV-158).

In 2008, the District Court ruled that certain Nintendo video game controllers infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,906,700 (“the ‘700 patent”), which was owned by Anascape. Nintendo subsequently appealed the District Court’s ruling to the Federal Circuit, resulting in this decision.

Writing for a three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit, Judge Newman explained that the controlling issue on appeal was whether the ‘700 patent could claim priority to an earlier Anascape patent, namely, U.S. Patent No. 6,222,525 (“the ‘525 patent”).

In particular, the ‘525 patent had a filing date of July 5, 1996, while the ‘700 patent had a filing date of November 16, 2000. Both patents deal with video game controllers that receive user input in six degrees of freedom (“DOF”), but the ‘525 patent describes a controller with a “single input member” (e.g., a single trackball), while the ‘700 patent concerns itself with a control with multiple input members (e.g., two trackballs).

The question of priority was at the core of the Federal Circuit’s decision in this case, however, because after the filing date of Anascape’s ‘525 patent but before the filing date of Anascape’s ‘700 patent, Sony released its DualShock (and DualShock 2) controller in the U.S. And as Anascape conceded, if the ‘700 patent could not claim priority to the ‘525 patent, then Sony’s DualShock controllers would be prior art to the ‘700 patent and render the ‘700 patent invalid.

Relying on established Federal Circuit precedent and a recent ruling concerning the “written description” requirement that U.S. patents must meet, Judge Newman explained that “[t]o obtain the benefit of the filing date of a parent application, the claims of the later-filed application must be supported by the written description in the parent ‘in sufficient detail that one skilled in the art can clearly conclude that the inventor invented the claimed invention as of the filing date sought.” Slip Op. at 3.

In deciding whether this requirement was met here, the court reviewed the claims, specification, and drawings of the ‘525 patent. In conducting this review, the court observed not only that the claims, specification, and drawings of the ‘525 patent focused solely on “single input member” controllers, but also that the specification of the ‘525 patent asserted that multiple input member controllers had “significant disadvantages.”

After discussing the differences between the ‘700 patent and the ‘525 patent in greater detail, the court ultimately decided that the Anascape’s ‘700 patent could not claim priority to its ‘525 patent. Based on this conclusion, the court ruled that Anascape’s ‘700 patent was invalid (as a result of Sony’s DualShock controllers counting as prior art) and accordingly reversed the lower court’s ruling that Nintendo infringed.

We will keep you posted of any further updates in this case.
Kotaku's full census results are in, and there are some interesting points...

Re Consoles:

- 65% of you own multiple consoles, while a quarter of participating Kotaku readers are in possession of all three current generation machines.

- Only 5% of participating readers own a PSPgo console. Sorry, Sony.

- 66% of participating readers have reported that at least one Xbox 360 console has failed on them, while 32% report multiple failures.

Re Pirates:

- 51% of participating readers have pirated a console game

- 40% of participating readers have pirated a handheld game

- 79% of participating readers have pirated a PC game. 79%!

Re the PC:

- 42% of you don't play any kind of MMO whatsoever.

- 78% of participating readers have bought games digitally.

- Steam dominates the digital download market amongst participating Kotaku readers

- Only 19% of you can play Crysis as nature intended.

- Only 6% of participating readers are PC snobs, 94% of you playing games on at least one other system.

- A lot more of you would take Valve over Blizzard.

Re Favorite Games:

- You prefer Mass Effect to Halo.

- Asking for "favourite franchise" on PC was a stupid idea.

- You prefer Zelda to Mario

- Smash Bros. is more popular a fighting game than Street Fighter amongst participating Kotaku readers.

- Modern Warfare 2 may have the sales records, but its predecessor is your favourite Call of Duty game.

Re the People:

- You play an astonishing variety of games.

- Nearly 60% of participating readers don't play any kind of sports game. That's surprising.

- 46% of you spend most of your time alone, with singleplayer games.

- Nearly half of participating readers have packed their music game instruments away, no longer playing games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero.

Full results can be found here.
If you're planning to attend the 2010 Triangle Games Conference in Raleigh, NC, please stop by and say 'hello'!

Steve, Ross, and Shawn are presenting a panel on recent developments in video game lawsuits, and lessons game developers can learn from them. Our panel's at 9:30am on Thursday.

And while you're here, check out the many other presentations and events on the business and development of video games. The speaker agenda is here:

http://www.trianglegameconference.com/content/schedule_program

See you there!
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