Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Future-Proofing: Intellectual Property (Part 3 of 3)

I began this series with an introduction to patent law and last time I discussed the nuisance of patent trolls, companies which exist solely to get patents and sue anyone else who makes a work which violates their monopolistic idea that they are just squatting on.

MtgoSoS did a post about Wildcat’s suit against WotC and makes the claim that nothing major is going to come from it.  Let’s analyze that claim.

Wildcat has a patent for online electronic card games.  So this would mean that WotC could easily have MTG in paper form, but could not have it in online form.

But doesn’t having a patent imply you actually have to do something with it?  Wildcat has had this patent for over a decade now and has no products or services to show for it.  Shouldn’t a court take that into consideration and toss out this lawsuit over revoke the applicable patent?

Sadly though, Wildcat will simply make the claim that they are “still in development” of their Ultimate Electronic Card Game.  They’ll say, look at Diablo 3.  That took over eight years to make that.  How long was Starcraft 2 in development?  This is not just limited to Blizzard either.  Duke Nuk’em Forever was in development for fifteen years. 

Now, to many of us, we can see the flaws in that logic.  But to a judge who is not well versed in technology or the subtleties and nuances of game development, those arguments will not hold much weight.

So what normally does happen in these cases?  It depends on the target.  Smaller companies or those with inexperienced legal representation tend to be forced to pay, which usually means bankruptcy.  Since it typically costs at least $1,500,000 to defend such a suit, some companies will negotiate a settlement.  Larger companies with some backbone in management will fight these suits.  They figure that you can always negotiate a settlement based on how the trial goes.  Plus, larger companies can hire better legal representation which helps their cause in court.

So what is the long term prognosis?  WotC may win in a trial.  Wildcat may win in a trial.  Other card game makers may join this suit as this patent is the only reason why they have not made such a game.  (Did you ever wonder why there are no other card games online?)  But typically a settlement is reached.  Terms of such agreements are confidential.  If WotC has to pay a substantial amount to Wildcat, players may have to pay extra for their booster packs. 

But the bottom line, it is unlikely that MTGO is going to be shut down because of this lawsuit; and that is good news for us bot owners.  Knowing that MTGO is going to be around and alive and kicking makes it easier to do what we do.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I follow your blog and i was wondering could the legal action against WOTC be connected to the ebay ban on MTGO card sales?