Calling all massive multiplayer online lawyers

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Calling all massive multiplayer online lawyers

Thu Sep 17, 2009 @ 01:07PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

World_of_warcraft Massive multiplayer online role playing games like World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest, and City of Heroes have been phenomenally popular in recent years.

But a new patent infringement lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Marshall, Texas, threatens billions of dollars in revenue for this burgeoning entertainment sector.

PalTalk, a provider of software for real-time interactive social networking, has filed a whopper of a lawsuit against the leading providers of MMORPGs, including Blizzard, Turbine, Sony Online Entertainment, NCSoft, and Jagex. The complaint alleges that games run by these companies violate patents concerning "sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment."

Specifically, two patents are in question — #5,822,523 and #6,226,686 on server-group messaging systems for interactive applications. PalTalk purchased these patents from a California-based company called HearMe.

What might scare the defendants beyond having to defend a patent infringement lawsuit in a judicial district that's notoriously kind to plaintiffs is the fact that PalTalk managed to extract a settlement earlier this year from none other than Microsoft after Paltalk sued on similar grounds in 2006.

According to research from Screen Digest, the subscription-based MMORPG market grew by 22 percent last year with more than $1.4 billion in revenues in North America and Europe.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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