The previous case was Lipstream vs HearMe.  This IP law suit was settled
due to prior art in Netrek.  Unfortunately the patent itself was not
overturned.  A number of key netrek contributors were involved in this
law suit including myself.  I have a copy of the motion for summary
judgment at which is
available to the netrek community as a result of our help.  I do not
know if the settlement itself was sealed.  If you search
vanilla-list, there should be some archived messages about this issue.


On Thu, Jan 06, 2005 at 02:51:56PM +0100, E. Hietbrink wrote:
> FYI, I received a request to bust some patent with prior art: Netrek.I 
> remember
> things like this popping up before in the past. Who handled it back then and
> what was it about?
> Anyway, find below a quick draft of my answer to Nick Schuneman. Can you 
> guys
> go over it and correct/extend where appropriate? I do not know all the 
> answers.
> Let's try to give him a prompt response.
> I do not want to ask the guy this now, but I'd like to know how we can 
> *prove*
> that the features we discuss were present in Netrek/Xtrek in the 80's? 
> Anyone
> still has CVS logfiles? Or what methods could we use for that?
> Further: is it normal to not disclose further details of the conflicting 
> patent?
> Regards,
> Erik
> >Date: Wed,  5 Jan 2005 15:57:36 -0500
> >From: nschunem at
> >To: Shadow.Hunter at
> >Subject: Need Help Busting Netrek-threatening Patent
> >
> >Hello,
> >
> >My name is Nick Schuneman.  I am a second year law student at Harvard, and 
> >am
> >working this winter on a project to "bust" (i.e. invalidate)
> >technology-constricting patents.
> A noble cause indeed!
> >One of the patents we are trying to
> >invalidate seemingly covers games like Netrek, and if upheld as valid by 
> >the
> >Patent Office, could be used to enjoin Netrek players from enjoying their
> >favorite pastime and even sue Netrek users and developers for monetary 
> >damages.
> > In fact, the patent owner has already shown a propensity for threatening
> >small-time and non-profit operations that he feels infringe his patent.
> It it possible for you to disclose more information about the patent in 
> question?
> Out of curiosity (obviously I am not a lawyer), but Netrek has always been 
> open
> source and never required any fees to play, and never pushed other competing
> games out of the market, so how could anyone sue for monetary damages in 
> that
> case?
> >However, there is some good news.  Netrek was developed prior to the 
> >critical
> >date of the patent (which dates back to 1996), and therefore may help to 
> >bust
> >the patent and protect the innovative activities of those in the on-line 
> >gaming
> >community.  I have read the Netrek FAQ and Newbie guide, and have compiled 
> >a
> >good deal of information that will be helpful in busting the patent at 
> >issue. But I still have a few blanks that I hope you could help fill in 
> >(or at least
> >point me in the right direction).  Any information you an provide would be 
> >of
> >great help in our effort to prevent bullying of community-minded software
> >developers.
> Netrek in its current form was born in 1988, so that should adequately 
> predate
> this patent. But many of the game features that you inquire are even present
> in Netrek's direct predecessors, Xtrek, Conquest and Empire, dating back to 
> the
> early 80's.
> >Please bear in mind that I'm not a gamer, so I apologize if I use any
> >inappropriate or absurd vocabulary to describe certain features of the 
> >game.
> >
> >(1) How often are the ratings / rankings updated?
> Question to you all: is this per server tick? =10 times per second?
> >(2) Are the rankings of other players transmitted (and displayed) to each 
> >player
> >during the game play?
> Yes, both transmitted and displayed during game play. Outside the game the
> statistics overview can be generated at arbitrary intervals.
> >(3) Can players log on / log off of a game while other players continue to
> >play?
> Yes. There is no requirement for all players to be present before a game can
> start. They can come and go as they please. A minimum of 4 players on 2 
> teams
> is required however to start "Tournament mode" which is the game phase where
> statistics and rankings are updated.
> >(4) I read in the FAQ that rankings are only compiled in the "tournament 
> >mode." Is it possible for players to log on and off during the tournament 
> >mode game
> >while other players continue to play? 
> See my answer to (3). At all times it is possible for players to join and 
> leave
> the game. The latter can also happen unintentionally when a network 
> connection
> between the server and the player is broken. The game server detects this 
> and
> cleans up the "slot" for a new player. At most the game server allows 16
> concurrent players. When there are more interested players, they will be put
> into a waiting queue from which they can join the game as soon as a slot 
> opens.
> >Thank you so much for your help!  If you are interested in any further
> >information regarding the patent-busting project, there is a nice 
> >explanation
> >on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website:
> >
> >
> >
> >Thank you,
> >
> >Nick Schuneman
> >
> >Clinical Student
> >Berkman Center for Internet & Society
> >Harvard Law School
> >nschunem at
> _______________________________________________
> vanilla-devel mailing list
> vanilla-devel at

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