More examples of prior art are very helpful, so that would help us out a lot. Do you have any examples of any of these MUDs that had virtual currency?
The '838 patent was filed in 2000 (which is the effective date, 2007 is just the processing date). Did Achaea have virtual currency before then? If so, that would help us a lot.
When I've helped defend other companies (two of which are among the largest/most prominent in the games industry), I've just provided expert witness testimony as to the existence of prior art. I've never had to testify about it in court, so I'm fairly sure that each time the trolls dropped it before going to court.
As to how much it costs - no idea. They had pricey lawyers though, so there's certainly some cost involved. I suppose it depends on how big the balls on the troll are, or perhaps how easily they think the defendant will be intimidated into just settling.
At least invalidating the patent.
Another strategy is to try and invalidate the patent via the USPTO before it goes to trial. This often does work with bogus patents, but it’s still not cheap. I have heard the ballpark figure is $100k.
Amazing who you can see on HN...
It doesn't matter that they started it or that we are in the right. If you ruin someone's life, it looks bad even if you had a good reason to do it.
They're the ones ruining our lives right now. I think a court will also see it this way. I think that helps us get them to walk away.
Who is this expert hired by GTX? He appears to be a startup guy himself so it's surprising he would get involved in this. It might be worth reaching out to him to confirm 1) that his signed statement is legitimate and 2) try to reason with him.
They've existed since 92 and had in game currency bought with cash since around that time.
Its a browser based 16 bit mmo, and used the free to play, micro transactions model way before it was popular.
Lemme go through my rolodex of lawyers and see who owes me a favor. In the meantime, look into legal insurance. You mind find an affordable solution to drive these cunt fucks into the earth for cheap.
Though, could a patent troll could get around that by spacing out the trolling? So by the time any company finds another company that's been trolled, they've already paid it up and don't have as much incentive to fight the patent troll after the fact.
They could even offer a "discount" conditional upon mandatory non-disclosure of the legal threat.
Of course, the tricky part is not preventing legitimate patent litigation, but if you word it carefully enough, it could make it risky enough for patent trolls to not be worth it. The tradeoffs change when it's not LLC money at risk but the participant's personal freedom, so even if only 10% of patent trolls could be actually convicted, it might be enough to discourage the rest.
Or, of course, just dump software patents alltogether...
The site does look like it's being maintained. The most recent case I found was from June 2017:
Also noticed in the "About" section that Trolling Effects is a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Which is another great reason to support the EFF.
That's still a minor win, since it mitigates the amount of damage the trolls can do per unit time.
It's just taking the money you'd be forced to pay some exploitative patent troll, and giving it (well, probably/hopefully less of it, but still) to an exploitative insurance firm instead.
Locksmiths and firefighters aren't exploitative.
This is why people in high risk categories pay more for insurance (eg young people and people with high performance cars have higher car insurance premiums because statistically they crash more often and/or have higher rates of total loss)
What'd be most disheartening is if the insurance was just to pay off the patent trolls
All this time I thought they invested the float.
First, you won't be able to get insurance for this case, because it predates your policy. A bit like getting fire insurance when your house is already on fire.
Second, an insurance company won't just write you a blank cheque for legal fees, they will take over the case and look for the cheapest way out, which will probably be settlement.
Hence, specific insurance against patent trolls could work by effectively taking away the easy targets for patent trolls.
It's a bit like home-insurance companies that offer discounts on good locks to keep out thieves. Everyone except for the criminals are better off afterwards.
I don't know if the second point is a big deal. Even if they choose to settle, you've still mitigated your risk without going to court. And I suspect a patent litigation insurance agency is going to be motivated to negotiate very small settlements and/or actually fight it out in court, lest they gain a reputation as the company that hands out license fees.
I'm curious if someone familiar with the matter happens to be reading - is there any provision in the system for Playsaurus to now have the case taken the court regardless of the fact GTX did not infact file a lawsuit, i.e. attempt to have it invalidated even if GTX drop the threat of the lawsuit? Or would they need to piggy back / support one of the other companies listed in this blog?
THE deBRUIN FIRM, LLC
David W. deBruin (#4846)
1201 N. Orange Street, Suite 500
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
Telephone: (302) 660-2744
Facsimile: (302) 650-1574
RUBIN AND RUDMAN LLP
Leslie L. Jacobs, Jr. (pro hac vice forthcoming)
800 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Telephone: (240) 356-1549
Facsimile: (202) 223-1849
Attorney for Plaintiff GTX Corp.
/s/ David W. deBruin
Btw, I'm pretty sure that the redaction was done by accusing lawyers and not by Playsaurus because the document author is "Leslie L. Jacobs", who is one of the accuser's lawyers.
Though it's still not clear to me why the accuser has two sets of lawyers (THE deBRUIN FIRM and RUBIN AND RUDMAN). Anyone know what might be up with that?
Note: IANAL, and any actual lawyer would be less flippant. But seriously... don't let attorneys bully you.
Not really. The patent was filed in 2000. Approved in 2007. It hasn't changed hands. The company makes software.
Believe it or not, this is the US system working as intended.
An obvious troll is a patent holding company, with no products, who purchases old patents, then goes on a suing spree for any company that uses printers.
Everyone here can disagree all they want, but they're still wrong as far as most lay persons are concerned.
I don't. And it's not.
Which is the lesser of these evils?
Have you seen the patent picture? They literally have a cell phone, connected to a cloud, and other computers. How the fuck is this approved by the patent office? That is literally how every transaction via cell phones occur.
Someone with a clue please go work at the USPTO and improve the situation. They're hiring:
The morality doesn't seem that disparate either - they are both exploitative.
I do stand corrected on this company after being linked to their post on reversing their model.
> The morality doesn't seem that disparate either - they are both exploitative.
> I do stand corrected on this company after being linked to their post on reversing their model.
To clarify, I do not disagree that F2P can be exploitative. It certainly can be. There are cases when kids are playing games and end up spending thousands of dollars.
F2P can however, be done right. I've been playing Dota 2 since the beta which is F2P and only provides cosmetics; believe same is true for League of Legends. Hence, I was saying that one is pure evil and the other is lesser (and in some cases not evil at all)
F2P where it's pay2win, or worse pay to progress, and endless loot boxes is gambling for kids, and I start to find the ethics questionable at best. Doubly so when the whole game is built around the shopping and ruins a decent franchise in the process. EA's reboot of Dungeon Keeper springs easily to mind here.
In the same way, an inventor may not care to advertise his technology, negotiate licensing deals, or file lawsuits to enforce his rights, so he sells it to a company specialized in those activities.
Further, the existence of a secondary market gives inventors strictly more options than they'd have without one. Maybe no one will care to license a particular patent. Maybe it will be a long time before anyone cares. Maybe the business intending to use the patent didn't pan out, and the inventor doesn't really care about licensing it. The market can price in these concerns and still holder an immediate, nonzero payoff when he wants it. The fact that IP can have value even in bankruptcy probably makes investments and loans flow more freely to small businesses and startups.
The real problem is that anyone has an exclusive right to obvious and natural arrangements of software constructs, i.e. that the patent exists at all. The fact that it's a patent troll vs. the original inventor asserting those rights is merely an example of economic specialization.
The meta-problem is that patents are based on the idea that R&D is expensive and commercialization-minus-R&D is cheaper. But in our industry, ideas are cheap and execution at scale is hard.
At the same time, from a certain perspective, F2P games aren't much different than complicated video poker games. They're designed to encourage in game purchases, and to hook people so they keep playing.
No, there's no such thing as "objective morality". There just isn't, and that's by definition. Frankly I'm a bit sad that jlarocco actually got downvotes for that.
You meant to say something different, and what would have been more useful if you had been a little clearer on what you actually meant to say, instead of your claim that patent trolls are objectively immoral--which is factually untrue.
I'm going to guess (and I might be wrong because you weren't that clear) what you tried to say is that you consider the wrongness of patent trolls to weigh significantly more than the wrongness of facilitating addictiveness of f2p gaming and/or premium currencies. Except you didn't give any reason why, except stating that it is objectively so. So how was that for usefulness?
And neither oldcynic nor jlarocco stated that patent trolling is ethical (which is actually a loaded question).
There's actually all sorts of arguments you can bring to discuss about oldcynic's point. Such as by analogy of a heroin dealer complaining about the sad state of healthcare in the USA (and however you'd feel about that). Or, you know, how HN is a forum of entrepeneurs so topics like patent trolling goes closer to the hearts of some here, while the OP probably wouldn't dare to bring their sob-story to a support-forum for gaming addicts.
And that is called having a discussion. Not calling one side of the point "like, just your opinion man" (subjective) and the other not (objective).
I'd love to read such a discussion actually, because I'm a little torn on the topic as well. I'm not at all sure whether I should care about a gaming company making profits with in-game currency, while it's an open secret in this business that you can't really make it without actively exploiting the weakness and addictions in the human psyche (similarly to network security, not everyone is equally vulnerable, just because you won't fall for it doesn't mean the sweet rich old lady across the street knows how to install a firewall and not click on the whatsits).
On the other hand, we (on this forum) all (seem to) agree that patent trolling is a bad thing. Still doesn't mean it's objectively so.
That's an amazing "satisfaction guarantee", if you trust them to honor refunds.
"By pre-ordering, you're putting your trust in us to develop a good game without being completely sure about what you'll get. We feel the only way to return the favor is to put our trust in you."
I have no interest in their game, but I want to buy it anyway.
But frankly, the real loss for me is that the games industry has transformed from a battle of the name brands, to a battle of the addiction engineering. The games aren't even fun anymore, and I don't know whether that is mostly due to the effects on my brain over time, or the games really getting worse.
Patent trolls, on the other hand, affect far fewer people, and are less likely to cause lasting psychological harm.
Also, though: The game industry is experiencing a lengthy renaissance. Stay away from F2P games and dive into the huge catalogue of amazing indie games that deserve your attention and are made by people actually trying to move the art form forward. Way more satisfying, aesthetically and financially.
The problem with the indie games is that there are simply too many to choose from, and the ones I like tend to be just as addicting as the F2P games.
The otherwise is not true.
In my mind these games are no better than poker/slot machines. Adults should be responsible for themselves but kids can't be held to the same standard. So just one more thing I have to police.
This system is a rotten, rotten idea.
Making an analogy doesn't imply that the things being compared are of similar magnitude. That's not even the point of analogies.
I haven't read the entire patent, but I fail to see the difference between the 2000 filing, and the 2007 filing. So how does that work?
Yep, it's called protection racket.
Appears to be this company. Or they're using this company's name, but that would be wildly stupid of them to attempt if they want any chance at all of winning (which they already don't seem to have -- way too much prior art).
The inventor of the patent is listed on the register as Marvin T Ling.  The gtx.com website has a press release stating the owner and founder of the company is Marvin T. Ling. 
So cam girl sites are under threat?
That would be a real tragedy...
Seriously though, some of those girls make some serious money for working a few hours a day.
> "As far as I can tell, the guys shaking us down are NOT these guys in particular: http://www.gtxcorp.com/"
IANAL, just was curious about the identity and did some amateur sleuthing. Results below...
The GTX Corp in Wikipedia seems like a real trading company but there is a couple of odd things about it. It's a public company made of 7 (seven) people; they have tracking products and 80 patents. Theoretically, it could be that they supplement the legit business with patent trolling. But yes, it's not very likely.
So I went to look up the patent info instead. If you google "US patent 7,177,838", you see that it's somewhat of a holy grail for the patent trolls. It was used to sue Amazon, Apple, Visa, News Corp, Starbucks, and the whole alphabet of multinationals. Many of these settled, as the lawyer of Playsaurus mentioned. The name of the suing entity was Actus, LLC (https://www.socialgameslaw.com/2010/06/actus-sues-for-virtua..., https://www.law360.com/articles/124471/apple-amazon-out-of-a..., https://www.law360.com/articles/165880/visa-m-t-bank-resolve...). They don't seem to have any presence online, although there is a website for Actus (http://www.actus.company) but even though it looks like a front for foreign intelligence operations, it does not seem to have anything in common with that Actus.
The patent public record is here: https://patents.google.com/patent/US7177838B1/en?oq=7%2c177%.... It contains a history of assignments, giving a clue to what GTX actually is.
The first re-assignee was GTX Corporation (Arizona). The current one is GTX Corporation (California). Between that, it was PayByClick and Actus, which is when the mega-suits were filed. It seems improbable that the two GTX companies are completely different.
The search in the California register turned nothing meaningful (https://businesssearch.sos.ca.gov/CBS/SearchResults?SearchTy...). It's either the entities are named somewhat differently or dissolved.
The search in Arizona, on the other hand, produced interesting results. This is the right GTX: http://ecorp.azcc.gov/Details/Corp?corpId=F00380025. Founded in 1987, business type: technology. Details below.
The patent was filed by Marvin Ling on Jan 26, 2000. Already in May it was reassigned to GTX. A family or an acquaintance? Let's see: the current CEO is Andrew Ling. From the foundation until 2008, however, the president was Marvin Ling, including the year 2000 when the patent was filed and reassigned. Andrew Ling appears to be a lawyer in Arizona; his LinkedIn profile confirms that he is the right person: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewlingattorney. And the website actually exists where it's supposed to be, just not liked by Google: http://www.gtx.com/about/press/aml_president_pr.asp.
The patent itself was reassigned to Pay By Click (sounds like an entity materially interested in the patent) in 2002, after which the annual report filing became irregular. In 2005, GTX received a notice with a threat of the license revocation; same happened in 2013 and 2014. It became better after that which coincided with the reassignment of the patent.
Summary. It looks like it's not a proxy set up by lawyers to sue. It appears to be an old family business which was dormant for a while and now wants to capitalise on an old patent that either someone else or a different structure used to shake down a few giants.
While the GTX is registered in Arizona where its owners live, it seems to be a Delaware corporation. I don't understand why they hired a law firm in Boston to threaten a company in California. The guy is a lawyer; does it mean he is not serious about the lawsuit? Does he expect you to haggle and offer, Russell Peters style, $34,500 as the last price?
GTX Corp. may be a corporation whose securities are traded publicly.
However, they ARE NOT legitimate.
They are pure scum on another level beyond what they are doing to you.
They have had their stock promoted. Pump & Dump.
Have a look over these articles on Seeking Alpha for more.
I'm not sure how I would go about handling these guys if they came after me for something. I don't think I would be so polite.
I wonder how many of these can be invalidated with trivial filings? These patents all have PayByClick Corporation as the assignee:
7,676,432: Methods and apparatus for transacting electronic commerce using account hierarchy and locking of accounts
7,376,621: Method and apparatus for conducting electronic commerce transactions using electronic tokens
7,328,189: Method and apparatus for conducting electronic commerce transactions using electronic tokens
7,249,099: Method and apparatus for conducting electronic commerce transactions using electronic tokens
7,249,060: Systems and methods for distributing on-line content
7,177,838: Method and apparatus for conducting electronic commerce transactions using electronic tokens
6,876,979: Electronic commerce bridge system
If, say, a German company infringed on a US Patent by selling to a customer in France, that would be completely legal, unless the US Patentholder also had a French patent, which is often not the case. They'd have to prosecute in French court as well, which, given the size of France's market vs. the US, would be Pyrrhic (with a capital P) at best.
The calculus for being a patent troll requires a bizarre confluence of factors (size of market, expense of litigation, certainty of litigation, cost of patents, venue procedures) that are likely to limit the phenomenon to the US.
If they have an office in the US, though, you can sue the US division in US court.
If they have no office but some sales in the US, I'm a little less clear on...
There is no such thing as an international patent.