Yahoo is suing small company Xfire for alleged patent infringement. Xfire provides a chat application that allows online gamers to chat with each other. However, Yahoo claims that it owns a software patent that protects precisely that, U.S. patent 6,699,125. This patent, applied for in 2001, claims to protect a novel system of having a games servers with games clients that will connect to a chat server and chat clients allowing intercomunication within the servers and the clients. Here is what the patent says:
A game and messenger client-server system is provided including a plurality of game clients, a game server, a plurality of messenger clients, and a messenger server. The game server includes logic to operate a multiplayer game using inputs from and outputs to an active game set of game clients, wherein game clients other than those in the active game set can join an active game by supplying the game server with a reference to the active game.
Wait a second, this sounds familiar! Microsoft’s Gaming Zone predates 2001, and I am sure that I chatted with people there while playing Checkers or Chess. What about the many other game client sites? GameSpy Arcade anyone? I remember playing in the World Opponent Network back in 1999. I also played in KaliNet, which had chat capabilities, and I know that I am forgetting a lot more. By 2001, almost all game developers had their own online gaming server with chat capabilities. How can Yahoo claim that there was no relevant non-patent prior art?