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Worlds Claims MMOs Infringe 'Virtual Space' Patent, Sues NCsoft

Self-described pioneer in "3D virtual communities and rich immersive environments" Worlds has sued MMO publisher and developer NCsoft for infringing on a Worlds-held patent titled "System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space."

The lawsuit claims that by developing and selling massively multiplayer online games--including City of Heroes, Dungeon Runners, Tablua Rasa, Lineage, Lineage II, and Guild Wars--NCsoft "directly and/or contributorily infringed" on Worlds' patent.

Filed in 2000 and granted in 2007, the broadly-worded patent "provides a highly scalable architecture for a three-dimensional graphical, multi-user, interactive virtual world system" that uses a "central server" to compute the positional data that allows avatars to interact with each other as well as the environment.

Curiously, one of the titles listed in the lawsuit--Lineage--was initially released in 1998, almost two years before Worlds filed for the patent that the game supposedly violates.

Furthermore, the patent could be theoretically applied to just about any online game ever, prompting speculation that NCsoft is only the first up against the wall. Blizzard is a likely target, given the success and 11.5 million subscribers of World of Warcraft.

A specific sum was not named in the suit, which was obtained and distributed by Virtual Worlds News. Instead, Worlds is simply demanding that its patent be found "valid and enforceable" so that it can get a "permanent injunction" against NCsoft and receive unspecified compensation for the damages it has suffered.