San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging a bogus online gaming patent threatening small businesses and innovators of multi-player Internet games.
Sheldon F. Goldberg was awarded the illegitimate patent for the "method and system of playing games on a network," and claims to own rights in all online gaming systems that use tournament-style play, advertising, and have real-time updates of ladder-rankings in multi-player games. Goldberg has used this bogus patent to coerce licensing fees from numerous small businesses, demanding payments that are excessive yet less than potential litigation.
In a reexamination request filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today, EFF and Paul Grewal and Brad Waugh of Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder show that the technology covered by the bogus patent was used extensively by other online gaming companies before Goldberg made his claim.
"The Internet has allowed small businesses and individuals seeking to develop new technologies to operate on a level playing field with larger corporations," said EFF Intellectual Property Fellow Emily Berger. "This equality is threatened by those who seek to procure patents from our government that they were never entitled to hold in the first place."
One of the key sources of information in EFF's reexamination request came from Netrek, one of the first online multi-player games. Netrek primarily consists of open-source software, and its code development has been archived online.
"Real innovation by others suffers in light of meritless claims like those in Mr. Goldberg's patent," said Paul Grewal. "We are confident that the Patent Office will carefully review the arguments we have presented in our petition."
Students from the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School also carried out extensive research for the reexamination request, helping locate much of the critical evidence of prior use of technologies covered by Goldberg's patent.
This reexamination request is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects bad patents have on public and consumer interests. So far, the project has killed one patent covering a system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances. Three more reexaminations are underway by the USPTO due to the Patent Busting Project's efforts.
For the full reexamination request: http://w2.eff.org/patent/wanted/sheldon/reexam/goldberg_reexam_request.pdf
For more on the Goldberg Patent:
For more on the Patent Busting Project:
Intellectual Property Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder