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Atari, Others, Settle Game Patent Suit 45

Atari and other game publishers have come to a settlement with American Video Graphics, a company which claims a patent on (essentially) an in-game camera POV. Atari agreed to pay the company $300,000 for 'irrevocable' rights to the company's patents. From the article: "In a recent IGDA column on the subject, lawyer Jim Charne commented on the danger of this exceptionally wide-ranging patent, noting that: 'Several of these defendants have joined together to mount a common (and very costly) defense', and further commenting: 'The '690 patent litigation is an attack on the industry as a whole. It is indeed something for developers to worry about.'" The other companies mentioned, apparently, came to similar settlements. It's frustrating to me that these companies chose to buy off a pointless suit like this, rather than see the patent nullified.
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Atari, Others, Settle Game Patent Suit

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  • Sometimes it is better to buy out the problem than it is to do the right thing. It is certainly much less expensive. The whole RIM/NTP thing would have been a non issue a license had been purchased early on.
    • Sometimes it is better to buy out the problem than it is to do the right thing.

      For "better" read "easier."
      • Or more to the point, cheaper. Which is not that bad I suppose, when the alternative is giving money to lawyers ... *shivers*.
        • The problem, though, is that they're setting a precedent in patent cases. This is an absurdly wide-ranging patent, and should never have been upheld, especially as the patent is being enforced on games nearly 20 years after it was granted. I'm no lawyer, but I would have thought the failure of the patent holder to offer due dilligence on any other game in that span (say...Quake? System Shock? Descent?) would have given the companies a much easier time in fending it off.

          I'm just scared of where softwar

          • especially as the patent is being enforced on games nearly 20 years after it was granted.

            Yeah, but make it 21 years, and expiry will be a defense. Unlike copyrights, which are periodically renewed through amendments to the Copyright Act and foreign counterparts, patents actually expire.

  • and it costs 300k to buy a bogus license, and several million to (possibly) invalidate a patent I think is bogus - buying the license is usually the better option. Folks like IBM have an axe to grind with SCO, but usually people settle.

    Hell, I've seen employees that were busted for theft - after stealing a fair bit of stuff, got recorded on video, got a confession, etc. - have the balls to sue for wrongful dismissal and watch HR settle with them for a few thousand. All about risk management, not about rig
  • ...for them to buy it off now than continue to fight it. Maybe they believe the cost of correcting the broad patent problem outweighs the benefit they would get from just rolling over and shelling out a few hundred grand each. Also remember, it is not the responsibility of these companies to correct patent infringement laws for their competitors. The defendants would be giving their competitors a very nice gift by fighting and winning.
    • Re:it is better... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bentcd ( 690786 )
      For the big players in any industry, all show-stopper patents that you can buy a license for are good for you - even if it's you paying the license. Why? Because each such patent presents a barrier to entry into the market that prevents new upstart companies from competing with the established ones.
      If someone had a patent on "programs that run on a computer" and charged Â$30 billion for a license, Microsoft and IBM couldn't be any happÃier. For a one-off large sum, they would effectively lock down
  • FTFA: ... lawyer Jim Charne commented on the danger of this exceptionally wide-ranging patent,...

    Here's the patent [uspto.gov]. Go down to the middle of the document and you'll see some specific mathematical algorithms. What I'm getting at is that it doesn't seem so broad. Then again, I'm not a Patent Lawyer or one of the defendents.

    • The thing about this patent is that it's fairly obvious now that there are a lot of games with a camera following the character. In 1985 when it was filed this sort of thing was a lot less common. The idea of a spherical pan may well have been original and innovative back then.
      • Reading the patent document, it clearly states it was filed in 1987, not 1985. Which means that's 2 more years (beyond what you thought) to wait before it expires...
    • Well, the patent was also granted in 1988, so it may have been a more reasonable claim at the time, though I doubt it. Work on 3D graphic manipulations was going on back in the 1960s. In any event, this patent is at or near expiration which explains why the settlement was so low.
    • The mathematics behind the 3D imaging aren't particularly innovative for a couple of reasons. First is that it's not the patenter's own mathematics, as he even mentions in the patent, he got the equations from mathematical textbooks. Secondly, there is really only one way of doing the 3D zooming and rotation- since it's mathematics, all other ways of doing it correctly can be shown to be identical to the first. It's like computing the area of a rectangle- no matter how you do it, you're still basically t
    • Yes, this technology goes back to the late 60's and early 70's. I remember "walk-through" simulations that gave a primitive view of walking through architecture, and a maze game called "Rat" that worked on CDC systems in the mid 70's at the University of Minnesota.

      Someday, I hope to see a patent argument that results in a criminal charge of extortion for the patent squatter.

      Mike Burke
  • If the patent was granted in 1988, doesn't that mean it expired last year?

    Did they change the duration of patents?
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @01:16PM (#14794255) Homepage Journal
    It was innovative at the time of filing: 1987-04-06

    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4734690.html [freepatentsonline.com]

    And people are only now violating it, nearly 19 years later. Give it one more year and it will have expired!
    • It was innovative at the time of filing: 1987-04-06

      How so? There were games that effectively had this even back then - the vector-display Star Wars arcade machine comes to mind, and it was released in 1983.
      • Vector 3d displays do their math differently than triangle based displays. This patent is specific to the math involved in triangle based rendering.

        • Then they've never played I, Robot which was released in 1983. Floating view camera that you could reposition using the player 1 / player 2 buttons. Solid-fill polygons.
        • This patent has absolutely NOTHING to do with rendering methods. It is strictly referring to doing 3-D transforms, whether it is rendered as vector-drawn line graphics or raster-based textured polygons.

          The only thing I can see possibly being unique about this, comparing it to flight simulators and other 3-D programs from the '70s (one of the first programs I wrote was a 4-D transform (of which 3-D is a special case) - displayed a 4-D hypercube) is the phrase "the viewing space being movable at a selected

    • It reads like a pretty simple statement of how anybody approaching the problem of an in game camera for a game would solve it. Perhaps it was innovative only because computers generally didn't have the firepower to execute it fast enough to be useful, so no one else bothered to work on it. Perhaps I should get my patent right now on how to do the math behind implementing in-game stereo vision, and wait for someone much smarter than me to figure out how to make stereo vision conveniently workable on a moder
    • It wasn't really innovative even back then. But at least Tektronix (the company that owned the patent) did invest in research and contributed a lot to computer graphics.
  • I can't read the article at work due to firewall issues, so could someone please explain one thing to me? If they granted this license to Atari and the other companies, doesn't that mean these companies can go and sue OTHER video game companies over the exact same thing?
    • No. Atari's license to the patent essentially allows Atari, and Atari alone, to violate the patent at will with impunity. Atari can't use that license to do anything to other companies, suits against other companies will be brought by the patent holder, not the patent licenser.
  • It's frustrating to me that these companies chose to buy off a pointless suit like this, rather than see the patent nullified.

    Why would they nullify it when it could work against their competitors? I can't imagine that it would cost less to engage in the legal fight to nullify the patent, anyway.
  • It is vague patents like this that will ultimately squash the game industry.

    Keeping a 'lock' on a particular camera movement forces developers to design away from certain gameplay elements/patterns which will limit the player in various degrees. One of the biggest complaints with platformers and 3rd person perspective games in general is poor use of the camera and/or lack of control. So thanks to money grubbing mother...'s this problem continue to be an issue for some games. Great for American Video Grap
  • If I were a game company and I was aware of what was going on there, I'd be pretty leery of taking the suit to trial if I could settle for a mere $300k. The way to fix the patent system is not to individually invalidate bad patents - it is to change the law so that bad patents like this have a harder time getting issued, or maybe so they can't be issued at all. The lawyer route is just too expensive, and the multiplication factor looks like it's in the range of six orders of magnitude - NTP pays $1k for
  • .. ill say it again, everytime big companies give in to these patent trolls it only gives them more money to sue MORE companies! and also gives a clear message that this sort of patent trolling works!! which inturn gives you more trolls.. which in turn means more lawsuits, settling with these thieves hurts the entire software industry.

    patenting in game camera pov? thats the most absurd thing ive ever heard of..

  • Small, previously unheardof company in Nebraska claims rights to the process of "breathing in oxygen in order to sustain metabolism." Many people all over the world are potentially guilty of infringing upon this wide-ranging patent. The people of earth have not yet made a statement regarding the matter.
  • So that when the have to pay me for the right to pay money, they'll have to pay me so that they can pay me for the right to pay money. But wait! They still have to pay me so that they can then pay me for...
  • This patent basically says they own the rights to creating a particular type of camera view? How the hell is this NOT public domain? For f's sake, that's like saying someone could patent the right to throw a ball through the air.

    They should have taken this to court. They didn't need a high expense lawyer, just a judge that couldn't be bought, to show a clip of supposedly copyrighted material, and let the judge throw these criminal patent jumping asses in the slammer for fraud.

    The spherical panning of a c
  • If you buy a patent or copyright license, and it turns out the license is later worthless becuase
    1) unknown to the paying party or to both parties, someone else had rights that precluded your use of the licensed rights
    2) unknown to the paying party or to both parties, it turns out another person could have given you the same rights, or you had them all along

    it should be grounds to sue for the difference in value of what you thought you bought and what you actually bought.

    You license a patent set t
    • I'd like additional clauses for not taking infringements upon the patent to court (or granting a license) that end the patent immediately if no action is taking at most a year after an infringement has become known, for not using or licensing a patent to someone who uses it for a timespan immediately ending the patent (so you can't use it to block further development, it has to be used in some way or it is ended, maybe even declared useless and as such invalid) and a clause that dishes out heavy fines to an
      • "I'd like additional clauses for not taking infringements upon the patent to court (or granting a license) that end the patent immediately if no action is taking at most a year after an infringement has become known"

        This leads to the law of unintended consequences.

        If I'm a big company and I want to annoy you, I can quietly fund 10,000 startups to each deliberately infringe on your patent "just a little bit" and quietly notify you of the fact, and hope you don't get back to one of those 10,000 with a cease-a

The trouble with computers is that they do what you tell them, not what you want. -- D. Cohen