*Activision Blizzard* and Linden Lab will eventually be paying out hefty licensing fees for World of Warcraft and Second Life, respectively, if virtual technology firm Worlds.com has its way. Worlds.com CEO Thom Kidrin told SAI that both companies were infringing on its patent for a "scalable virtual world with thousands of users"and that Worlds.com will sue if Activision (NSDQ: ATVI) and Linden Lab aren't willing to negotiate a licensing deal.
The company is already suing Korean developer NCSoft here in the U.S. for the same reason (via Virtual Judgement); Kidrin told SAI that Worlds.com would follow up with suits against Activision, Linden Lab and other challengers if the pending suit is successful. At the heart of the suit is a collection of patents that were filed in the mid-90's by the Steven Spielberg-backed Starbright World, a social hub for ailing children; Worlds.com ultimately gained ownership of the patents, which cover the architecture and strategy behind allowing thousands of users to collaborate simultaneously in a virtual space.
Kidrin said the goal wasn't to put competitors out of business, but to be paid what Worlds.com is rightfully owed for the use of its intellectual property. Given that there are hundreds of active virtual worlds, including branded platforms from MTV and Coke, as well as massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs) like The Sims Online and EverQuest, a favorable verdict in Worlds.com's first suit could shape the development of the entire gaming industry moving forward, placing the company right at the top of the food chain in terms of intellectual property (though not on the consumer end).
By Tameka Kee