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You’ve Been Served – Patent Troll (2013)

 :: Posted by prairiegames on 06-11-2013

Well we weren’t served, just put on notice, for patent infringement.  Patent 8,180,858 Method and system for presenting data over a network based on network user choices and collecting real-time data related to said choices:Download

And it’s not us, but our sister company Prairie Games and their 3D MMORPG product, Minions of Mirth.

Before I give you the contents of the notification letter, let me give you some takeaways:

  • Don’t ignore infringement notifications, no matter how absurd the infringement appears.
  • Do seek written legal counsel, no matter how absurd the infringement appears.
  • An offer to negotiate a license tends to mean there is no pending, immediate, suit complaint.

This last bullet item is based on a legal concept of the “Declaratory Judgement Act.”  What the act allows is a pre-emptive suite, in the case the potential infringed party were to threaten suit instead of offer to license negotiate.  The pre-emptive suit would in essence be “permitting a person or entity being threatened with lawsuit(s) from another party to force the issue to be decided, rather than having to operate under a cloud of uncertainty and intimidation.”

Below you will find a letter from some fresh attorneys representing the plaintiff from Treehouse Avatar Technologies v. Turbine (2012).  That case never generated any public documents outside the initial complaint: Download

T: 908.654.5000 * F: 908.654.7866 * WWW.LDLKM.COM
GUANGZHOU, GUANGDONG 510620 * CHINA * T: +86 20 3810-3788 * F: +86 20 3810-3789
Stephen F. Roth

July 5, 2013

Prairie Games, Inc.

151 Old Country Road

Suite B

San Carlos, CA 94070

Re:     TREEH 4.1-001

Treehouse Avatar Technologies, Inc.

Notice Regarding U.S. Patent No. 8,180,858

Dear Sir:

We are intellectual property counsel to Treehouse Avatar Technologies, Inc. (“Treehouse”).  Treehouse is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 8,180,858 (“the ’858 Patent”) entitled “Method and Systems for Presenting Data Over a Network Based on Network User Choices and Collecting Real-time Data Related to Said Choices.”  We have enclosed a copy of the ’858 Patent and a claim chart illustrating the general applicability of the ’858 Patent.

Generally, claims 1, 9, and 15 of the ’858 Patent relate to presenting data over an information network based on choices made by the users of the network and collecting data related to the choices made by the user.  The systems and methods encompassed by the ’858 Patent may be used and performed by operators and developers of video/pc games played using an internet connection, including MMORPGs.  Typically, such games allow users to create characters (avatars) using character attributes (hair color, eye color, skin color, attire, weapons, etc.)  The game operator keeps track of the popularity of each attribute by tallying how many times it is selected.  The same such systems and methods may also apply to games that permit users to create custom sceneries.

We write to bring the ’858 Patent to your attention because it is our understanding that you develop, operate or sell game(s) that may use, or may have an interest in using, the technology covered by one or more claims of the ’858 Patent, including Minions of Mirth.  In order to faciliate your understanding of the technology covered by the ’858 Patent, without limiting our client’s rights, we direct your attention to the enclosed claim chart that shows the applicability of the ’858 Patent to games such as ones your company offers.

As you may know, a United States patent grants its owner the right to exclude others from using products that fall within the scope of the claimed invention and collect damages not less than a reasonable royalty.  However, we are willing to hold amicable discussions and work with you to negotiate a license on favorable terms.  In the matter with your company, we are trying to avoid any unnecessary litigation by providing you with sufficient information to facilitate licensing discussions.

If you have any questions about the ’858 Patent, the technology covered by the ’858 Patent, and terms for resolution, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Very truly yours,







 :: Posted by Randel Reiss on 06-02-2013


The Magnavox case law is some of the oldest, and some say first, case law of the video game industry.  As such they address a very core game mechanic which today we simplify by calling “hit-detection.”


  • Document everything you do.
  • Prior patent-licensing can strengthen patent holder legal standing.
  • Modernization of means-plus-function does not invalidate patent.

Document Everything

Some quick background from the ever wonderful Smithsonian.ORG site:

By mid-1967, ping pong videogames were played inside Sanders, patent disclosures were applied for, and hardware was designed. Baer and his associates called the devices they were developing “boxes” and numbered the various versions one through seven. In 1971, Magnavox became Sanders Associates’ first videogame licensee. Between 1972 and 1975, Magnavox produced and sold over 700,000 units of Odyssey, a set of games played on its television receivers. Atari became a licensee in 1976 after the first of many lawsuits won by Sanders in pursuit of patent infringements.

Ralph Baer was an extensive documenting engineer – a lesson for all of us.  The complete text of Ralph Baer’s paper, “TV Game Chronology,” can found here: Download

Prior Licensing

During dispute resolution of Magnavox v. Chicago, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell made a separate out-of-court settlement resulting in a license to use the patent.  This clearly added to the momentum of strengthening the patent against attempts by Activision, Nintendo, and others.

Modernizing Means-plus-function

Ralph Baer’s original work was analog based, although he claimed it was digital.  Notice the analog signal marks below for Baer’s Vertical-stripe generator signified by the saw-tooth lines below:

Vertical-stripe generator

Vertical-stripe generator

The “wow” moment of Baer’s work was when the sync signal from the above vertical-strip signal was combined with some logical AND circuitry against the rectangular dot generator circuitry below, a hit detection of the virtual ball to the virtual wall occurred.

Rectangular dot generator

Rectangular dot generator

Later attempts by Activision to claim the means had no applicability in a microprocessor-driven game failed in the courts.