patent litigation could ripple through virtual worlds

Every virtual world in existence could find itself facing litigation over a patent held by that appears to cover any and all uses of avatars.

Remember The 3D pioneer is still around and they're ready to sue. In fact on Christmas Eve, the company sued NCSoft, for violating patent '690, a system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space.

NCSoft's games, such as Dungeon Runners, Guild Wars and Lineage, are all said to violate the patent. And NCSoft is just the start.'s IP lawyers feel that they have a "very robust patent," reports Virtual Worlds News.

"It's likely that other companies will be receiving contacts. A number of people have inquired about it, whether or not they've been contacted," explained James Gatto, IP Section Leader, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. "It's helpful to know ahead of time when there are patents like this. If there's a change you can make to your system to avoid infringing, many times it's better to make the change. If you've been using the system for several years and then change it, there are potentially still several years of past damages."

So who's next? Anyone from WoW to SecondLife, potentially. General Patent Corp. CEO Alexander Poltorak emphasized that any system with avatars in a virtual world could be affected.

"It's a system of managing avatars in virtual worlds," explained Poltorak. "For whoever is working and developing virtual worlds, it's very relevant."