“RuneScape devs refuse to cave in to patent trolls”

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2010

A UK game developer spent “tens of millions” successfully resisting a broad patent claim over online multiplayer gaming. [BoingBoing, GamaSutra]

“It is exceedingly unfortunate that the U.S. legal system can force a company with a sole presence in Cambridge, UK to incur a seven-digit expense and waste over a year of management time on a case with absolutely no merit,” [said company CEO Mark Gerhard] in a statement. “This anomaly, which could easily break smaller studios, doesn’t happen in the UK since you can pursue frivolous litigants for the costs of such claims,” he added.

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1 asdfasdf 12.18.10 at 1:04 pm

Several problems with this description:

(1) The headline says “tens of millions” of dollars were spent on the case, but the quote says “seven figures” were spent. Which is it?

(2) It’s a bit wishful to call the outcome “successful” for the defendant, given that they spent more money on it than they would have on a settlement.

(3) It’s likewise somewhat unrealistic to argue, as was claimed in the article, that such a result dissuades patent trolls. To the contrary, it emboldens patent trolls: they now know that they can clearly signal to potential defendants that to win a case will cost the defendant eight figures (plus management time).

2 Doug 12.19.10 at 12:33 am

1. GamaSutra said that the plaintiff claimed a loss of “tens of millions” of dollars. The defendant spend “seven digits” defending itself.

2. It was successful in that the patent troll got no money to fill its litigious coffers. In fact, it spent a great deal of money for nothing.

3. In fact, it may dissuade patent trolls if someone will put up a fight, it will cost more money then they are willing to put up. Also, once word is out that they can be beat, it will become harder to win.

4. Microsoft was the weanie in caving without a fight. They funded the troll.

3 J.T. Wenting 12.19.10 at 6:40 am

“(1) The headline says “tens of millions” of dollars were spent on the case, but the quote says “seven figures” were spent. Which is it?”

tens of millions of dollars could well be a seven figure amount in Pound Sterling.

4 staff 12.19.10 at 10:45 am

‘absolutely no merit’

Apparently there was merit, or the case would have not gone forward and the plaintiff and their attorneys would have been hit with fines.

Call it what you will…patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay”.

For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org.

5 Vic Kley 12.19.10 at 2:18 pm

It is the purpose of civil litigation to resolve claims and determine the merits of claims.

If an inventor finds that an issued patent is infringed or a copyright is copied then the courts may be the only method whereby the inventor can be compensated. There is no other mechanism.

If the invention was truly infringed based on clear evidence and the patent valid, is there any intelligent observer who feels the inventor or patent owner was wrong and should be called names?

The name calling is another way to make unjust pain and punishment for those who invent or properly try to protect their invention. A way to create a new kind of discrimination.

By its very nature calling a person or entity a “troll” is to dehumanize and set up for abuse others just as the name “juden” was used by the Nazis to permit the murder of the rights, property and persons of other human beings.

6 Walter Olson 12.19.10 at 3:36 pm

Congrats to Vic K. for squarely exemplifying Godwin’s Law in his very first-ever comment at this site:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

7 Bumper 12.19.10 at 11:00 pm

staff, if you were a regular here you would already know that many judges don’t want to be accused of actually judging something and thus will allow almost ANY claim to proceed to trial.

vic, in this context the term troll is usually reserved for people or groups who go around buying up unused patents and then using a lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit to extract money for circumstances where the relationship to the patent and the product is tenuous at best, and nonexistent at worst.

BTW, I ran your remarks by several of my Jewish friends and the name they used to describe you was much harsher than “troll”.

8 Bob Lipton 12.19.10 at 11:05 pm

Actually, Walter, that leads to the Godwin disambiguation page. Godwin’s law is way down near near bottom. The link to the page is here (assuming the last characters also don’t fail….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_Law

Bob

9 Vic Kley 12.20.10 at 12:00 am

Bumper,

As an inventor who has sold inventions that for various good reasons could not be properly brought to market I do not believe those who bought those inventions should be made into an excluded class.

I’m glad you have friends and I’m happy to exchange views Semite to Semite so to speak. The only people I meant to offend were Nazis and those whose behavior dehumanizes others. I gather given your stated friendship you aren’t a Nazis or a man who calls others names and classifies actions in actual ignorance of the instance and history.

Please don’t misunderstand I am quite confident that you can find abusers of the system who take unfair advantage. Certainly we have the example of Microsoft and Apple for two. Simply owning a patent you did not invent or are not prepared to take to market does not qualify- if it did most of the national Labs, and major Universities would fit the bill.

10 Vic Kley 12.20.10 at 12:02 am

Walter,

Glad I could be of service and bring a smile to your lips. It is a smile, right?

11 Vic Kley 12.20.10 at 12:43 am

I did not realize having never been to this site before that it appears be GENERALLY about the legal system.

I wonder if there have been any blogs or discussions about perjury in civil litigation including perjurous statements by attorneys in opening and closing remarks?
Also self-perjured witnesses (witnesses whose statements in the trial record are fully perjurous that is they constitute a lie in and of themselves) e.g., Question What color is the object before you? Answer White; Question Would you like to change your earlier statement that it was Black? Answer No.

These perjuries are tolerated in California Courts.

Without enforcing truthful testimony and behavior of lawyers how can we have a legal system under law, not to mention a just legal system?

Sad experience makes this subject one of which I’m very mindful.

12 bhr 12.20.10 at 2:34 am

Vic. In this case Troll is used both as an insult and an analogy to the trolls in myth who would camp out under bridges and demand payment.

13 Vic Kley 12.20.10 at 2:56 am

bhr

The myth is Norwegian and the meaning is of a prejudged non-human entity.

All invention is a deeply human activity, typically one or two people opening in many cases new doors for human endeavor. The road to innovation (reduction of an invention to a product delivered to a market) is long and complex and no simplistic prejudice has any place in the process.

Putting your all on the line to pursue an idea is a harrowing activity and yet it is the mainstay of our economy.

Nasty names, and attitudes that suggest there is no need for patents or revenues to inventors may well leave the US producing opposing versions of Uber Facebooks – all package no technology.

14 Patrick 12.20.10 at 10:43 am

Nasty names, and attitudes that suggest there is no need for patents or revenues to inventors may well leave the US producing opposing versions of Uber Facebooks – all package no technology.

In the early portion of the last century, Thomas Edison (the inventor of the direct current electrical power transmission system) sent a road show to various cities and towns in which pigeons would be shocked to death using a machine based on the alternating current system of George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla.

Edison explained to horrifed onlookers that he had “Westinghoused” the pigeons.

This nasty name, and attitude, did not stop George Westinghouse from innovating and improving the alternating current system. Westinghouse was probably motivated, even in the face of being called names, by the fact that AC power made him a millionaire many times over.

15 E-Bell 12.20.10 at 11:09 am

Seems like there’s a whole ‘nother kind of trolling going on in these comments.

16 Don 12.20.10 at 1:16 pm

Vic

Many of the software patents that are owned by Companies that are labeled Patent Trolls have little to no imagination or usability to them. They weren’t innovative and they didn’t benefit people.

I am a patent holder myself, and believe that my patent moved technology forward. But my patent was for a a specific machine that we spent a lot of time designing and building and made sure it worked before we ever got a patent on it.

I have also worked as a software programmer

Some of these patent trolls observed how computers were used on a network, then wrote patents that said “do that same function over the internet”. With software, there can be 100 ways to do a function. Software patents rarely if ever provide a code sample of how the company implemented the technology.

IMO the courts failed long ago when they didn’t require sofware patents to include the implementing code. That way if someone else does a similar function, but implemented a completely different way, they can’t patent their implementation. Think about automobile transmissions. People didn’t patent the idea of an automatic transmission, they implemented their design. Other companies patented their design. Each design and patent moved technology forward.

17 Vic Kley 12.20.10 at 6:27 pm

Don,

I agree and indeed our software patents almost always have associated code as examples. In fact the Internet Patents we sold did not include the registered copyrights we still possess (along with an unlimited license to our own stuff). The buyer is I believe using the patents like RPX to protect from broad ranging Patent holders asserting infringement.

The problem is this some of the new ideas we do not have the resources to build but nonetheless we did invent them and have every right if we obtain a patent to benefit from them.

We inventors and the scientists who feed us new discoveries are the core of technology. Those who throw around the “T” word do not appear to spend much time finding out for instance that the entity Acacia has a special contingent payout to enforce a patent that the holder is rightfully asserting, one in which the holder or inventor truly broke new ground.

Part of the problem is that most people don’t know what an invention is, nor do they care. Further many people once an invention is common or if it is simple to implement believe it to be obvious and undeserving of “special” rights.

A few years ago I invented a solution that a crew of 10’s of Phds had been unable to imagine but had wanted for 28 years. Once described most of them could understand the solution and some began describing it as obvious. Others in the group actually took it overseas to develop and tried to patent it! Fortunately I had applied for a patent before demonstrating the idea but I am still trying to get the legal system to make it right.
Now it’s certainly true that my patent interferes with their right to innovate, and I’m not a manufacturer but this needs to be clear THEY WOULD STILL NOT HAVE THE SOLUTION AT ANY PRICE WITHOUT THE INVENTOR. So shall I be labeled with the “T” word?

18 Vic Kley 12.20.10 at 11:17 pm

Now that I think I have an inkling of what the Cato Institute is about it becomes very difficult for me to understand why there isn’t broad support for the individual inventor or small inventing team.

Some people have a knack for inventing solutions to very difficult problems, and new solutions to old problems in disruptive ways.

In previous decades and back into the dawn of perceived and remarked time invention needed to be associated with manufacturing and delivery of some sort. Until the 1700’s people tried to hide the secrets of their creation. Patents came about not to support innovation but rather to support rapid improvement through disclosure for other inventors to penetrate the “secrets”.

In order to profit from an invention the inventor had to build a company in recent times and manufacture the creation and either sell or take the company public. Very recently before 2008 it became possible for inventors to sell their creations with only modest development. This is exactly what matches the temperament of many inventors (certainly my temperament). In this new world an inventor could pursue new things without being tied to a company or equally important a trial and a pack of lawyers.

There are some ways to imagine how the latter great inventing environment could be sustained without promulgating overly aggressive enforcement. If some would like to blog about this idea and the general idea of support for inventors and other very small business entities within the Institute please speak up!

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