A growing number of independent game developers have received demand letters from Treehouse Avatar Technologies for allegedly violating patent 8,180,858, a "Method and system for presenting data over a network based on network user choices and collecting real-time data related to said choices." Essentially, this patent covers creating a character online, and having the game log how many times a particular character trait was chosen.
In other words, an unbelievably basic data analytics method was somehow approved to become a patent.
The patent troll, Treehouse, has surfaced before. Back in October 2012, the company sued Turbine, developer of Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online.
This is a textbook patent troll case. Treehouse owns a very broad software patent but doesn't, it seems, make or manufacture anything itself. They simply send demands around or, in some cases, sue alleged infringers. And developers—most recently, independent game developers—lose out by being subject to lawyer fees, licensing fees, litigation costs, or the fear of implementing what seems to be a very basic, obvious feature to their product.
When trolls attack, innovation is stifled. For more on everything EFF is doing to change this reality, visit our patent issue page.