[Beowulf] How do I work around this patent?

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Tue Sep 22 16:55:11 EDT 2009


From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of Jeremy Baker
Sent: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 12:02 PM
To: beowulf at beowulf.org
Subject: [Beowulf] How do I work around this patent?

I joined this community many years ago to learn about GRID computing when I was studying biology and the Linux file system, with future goals to write interesting open source programs. It's the future and I just hit a wall in the design process of writing code for my study.  This problem is related to the boring world of business and IP patents. I like patents, but lately I wonder... 

RE: "...Worlds.com filed a lawsuit Dec. 24 against NCSoft in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, for violating patent 7181690. The patent is described as a method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space through avatars."

Online read on patents:
http://www.google.com/patents?id=wv5-AAAAEBAJ&dq=7,181,690

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=BYoGAAAAEBAJ&dq=6,219,045

Can someone help me to better understand how these patents interact with the open source bazaar method of programing, Linux, the law, GIS systems with meta data that is essentially 3-D access for a user's avatar, etc? I am having flow chart issues that are not flowing... and I am now back to the world of research (patents) when I would rather be writing and compiling software.



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First off, you should know that only the claims determine what the patent covers.  The rest of the patent is just useful information.  You need to decide if your application "reads on" the claims.  Hiring a patent attorney used to doing this kind of analysis is useful.. a few hundred bucks  well spent.  Note there's a hierarchy of claims here.. Claim 1 is a big claim, and then, 2,3,4,and 5 hang on Claim 1. 

Glancing through the claims, it looks like they are patenting a scheme very much like described in Michael Crichton's "Disclosure", especially with avatars for other users.  Or any of a number of other multi user schemes.

Maybe your implementation doesn't read on the claims. I note that most of the claims specifically reference "less than all the other users'" etc.  If your implementation has your local client receiving ALL the other user info, then this patent doesn't apply. (Claims 1,6, 9, 10, 11, 15, and 18 all have the "less than all" wording, the rest are subordinate claims)


In any case, if what you are doing happens to match the claims, you can always try to break the patent (i.e. find a prior disclosure of what's being patented.. a description in a novel might actually be good enough.. consult your patent attorney).  Or, you can patent something yourself, and then offer to cross license with the holder here.  Maybe worlds.com would be willing?

Whether you are doing open source or not doesn't really have any influence on whether something is infringing. If you're doing something described by the claims, you're infringing.

Note that this patent was originally applied for in the mid 90s.. going to be dicey on the prior art.



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