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NCsoft dragged into patent dispute

Korean publisher faces legal action by US-based Worlds.com over use of 3D technology

NCsoft has seen a lawsuit filed against it by Worlds.com, which issued a patent violation claim against the Korean publisher last week in a Texas court, over the use of online 3D technology.

US-based Worlds.com, is basing its lawsuit around claims that it invented a "system and method for enabling users to interact in virtual space" in 1995 and was granted a patent for the concept in 2007.

Critics have been quick to point out that the patent is based on a loose concept of "highly scalable architecture for a three-dimensional graphical, multi-user, interactive virtual world system", and could theoretically be applied to any online 3D application.

"We haven't received the court papers yet and we haven't analyzed the patent," an NCsoft spokesman told the Korean Times, and declined to comment further.

"Worlds.com is likely to be more interested in getting paid in a huge settlement than shutting down NCsoft's games,'' said a Seoul-based patent lawyer, adding that Worlds.com is apparently a "patent troll".

"This is certainly an annoying situation for NCsoft, because if Worlds.com's patent claims are true, most of the Korean company's massively multiplayer online game products would fall under the category. The whole process would cost NCsoft time, money and effort, and the company is certainly an easier opponent than bigger players such as Blizzard Entertainment.''

NCsoft is also said to be concerned with the reputation that East Texas courts have for favouring plaintiffs in patent disputes, as seen last year when Anascape was awarded USD 21 million after it would found that Nintendo had violated its patents for controllers for the Wii and GameCube.

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James Lee