- It all starts with Patent #4,734,690, which basically states that if your software moves a virtual camera to shift the user's perspective, the owner of this patent can take you to court demanding money. Which means game developers, really. And developers of 3D animation software.
This was filed in April of 1987, and granted to a company called Tektronix shortly thereafter. Tektronix, no doubt understanding they'd lose this patent if they ever tried to enforce it, instead sold the rights to corporate law firm McKool Smith a few months before it was set to expire.
Wasting no time, McKool Smith launched suit against Electronic Arts, Activision, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Atari, THQ, Vivendi Universal, Sega, Square Enix, Tecmo, Lucasarts and Namco.
Shortly thereafter, McKool Smith decided the major PC manufacturers are also competing unfairly with their exclusive right to display 3D graphics on a 2D screen, because those companies provide video cards with 3D accelleration. They're encouraging the crime to take place, you see. HP, Dell, IBM, Toshiba, SCEA, Acer, MPC, Systemax, Fujitsu, Micro Electronics, Matsushita, Averatec, Polywell, Sharp, Twinhead, Uniwill, and JVC are all under suit for this grievous violation.
It amuses me that Apple's not listed there - their new machines come standard with GeForce FX 5200 Ultra cards, do they not? That's more powerful 3D than I've got in my system...
(To the best of my knowledge, they've not named any of the actual video card manufacturers -- those would be a seperate target, and apparently a less lucrative one. I guess they're working their way backwards, so they'd next want to go after any motherboard manufacturers that might have supported Intel or AMD's CPUs back when MMX/3DNow was a big selling point. And once that's settled, they can sue the hardware consortium responsible for standardizing AGP slots, and later PCI Express -- those guys are obviously in on the conspiracy.)
For that case, they're also citing patents #4,730,185, 4,730,185, 5,132,670, 5,109,520, 4,742,474, 4,694,286, and 4,761,642.
Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft were added a day later, for their respective game consoles volating patent #5,109,520 and that first one I mentioned, 4,734,690.
You can read through all of those if you like, but it doesn't really matter. Are they valid innovations? Maybe. But they're not valid complaints -- the most recent of those was granted in 1992, and no word of warning was sent out between then and now. And more importantly, they're not held by the actual inventors. They're not the beneficiaries, and we're not protecting them from unfair competition. We're providing some other company with a very lucrative toll booth. That ain't right.
At best, it's a loophole. At worst, pure evil.
They are, of course, pushing for defendants to pay all their legal fees in each of these cases, which given that the law firm is suing on it's own behalf, kind of amounts to their own salary.
These people know they're in the wrong. But with so much money on the line, I don't think that bothers 'em.
Any of you know more than this? Do share.