We are once again being a guiding light for the latest lawful to hit the virtual world of Second Life. The phrase courtroom troll gets thrown around a lot when a company uses a generic patent to sue a larger corporation, especially when it happens over a decade after the fact. The little known company Worlds Incorporated made headlines in 2012 when they filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over their use of certain technologies. Then again in 2014 when the case was dismissed. But was this a case of copyright trolling?
Who are Worlds, Inc?
To find out whether or not they are trolling, it may be helpful to know where they are coming from. After all, to define a courtroom troll, they must not be using their patent in an actual product. They are protecting a patent without a product attached to it. This could be anything fron a concept to patent drawings, they probably don’t have evidence to show they have true ownship.
According to their website, Worlds, Inc is “a leading intellectual property developer and licensee of patents related to 3D online virtual worlds”, currently holding 10 US patents to technologies relating to “multi-server technologies for 3D applications”.
While a websearch yields little less than a slew of articles about their various recent lawsuits, a deeper dig gave me this corporate trailer from 2011
So while their entire online presence seems aimed at boasting about their 10 patents over intellectual property licences, or broadcasting news about their different legal pursuits, they actually do have a product. And they have sold this product, successfully, for the past 25 years. Much more successfully than most of the companies they have been suing, if that video is to be believed.
So why haven’t we heard of it?
That begs the question: Why have we never heard of it?
A NASDAQ-listed company that has raked in over 40 BILLION dollars from investors alone in 12 years, with clients such as AOL, David Bowie and Stephen Spielberg, who offered Second life a full 11 years before Second Life was even a thing? Something does not smell right here.
I looked at the statistics on the YouTube video, and that does not match a company of that kind of profile. A mere 2 000 views in 8 years, with only 30 subscribers on the entire channel. And a business profile video listed under Entertainment?
And here you have their YouTube gallery in its entirety:
3 videos, one unrelated to virtual worlds and looks like it belongs on someone’s private channel. One first part of a series that never got a conclusion. And the last one, the company profile, which never got renamed.
This channel looks more like a random person’s private channel than the social media outlet of a 40 billion dollar, NASDAQ-listed, PEPSI-backed mega-corporation.
So what about those patents?
So the proof is in the pudding, right? Let’s look at those patents. 4 of them were mentioned several times in several articles, due to being put on public record when being used in so many lawsuits. All 4 of them are about how to connect clients to servers, in very generic terms.
Worlds Inc claims these are specific patents, but the patents themselves never go into detail about how, architecturally, these connections are being made. They have drawings with penguins on them, and go into great details about what the penguins represent, which is appreciated, but that’s about it.
They explain the process in great detail, but when boiled down, it is still a generic process they are describing: A number of clients report the user input to the server and the server reports the avatar and object information back to the client. It doesn’t matter if you have made 5 tables in your patent summary to describe the 5 different types of an integer available at the time, that still doesn’t change the fact that the description of the architecture is generic enough to apply to any multi-client environment. Which is why it can now be applied to technologies that weren’t even available when the patents were written in 1995.
Another interesting thing I found was that all patents have the same 4 names listed as the inventors, but neither of these 4 names are mentioned anywhere in relation to Worlds, Inc. On the patent, the company assigned is Worlds Inc and Worlds Com Inc, but the current company, as it stands today, Worlds, Inc or Worlds Incorporated does not have any of these four names attached to it.
2 of the inventors only worked on 3 of these patents. 1 of them only worked on the “penguin patent”. The last one worked on the “penguin patent” and then seemed to have gone off to work with what would later become gesture controls for laptops and touch screens. But none of them ever worked with Worlds, Inc again, at least not in relation to patents, and none of them are mentioned in any news or on any of Worlds, Inc’s websites.
But truth is, I cannot tell what any of these 4 are working on today, or what has happened in the 24 years since these patents were filed. I also cannot find the remaining 6 patents that Worlds, Inc claims they have.
So what is the verdict?
I do currently not have enough evidence gathered one way or another. This could just be a serious case of mismanagement. It could be an old tech company that just couldn’t get with the times. I have worked the business long enough to know that if you can sweet talk the top men enough, they won’t know what’s gonna be the bomb and what’s gonna just plain bomb. And once you get that one big break, you have enough clout to keep going through the big names and rake in the big bucks.
To keep that well from drying out, you’re going to need to protect your assets. And that is exactly what the patent system is for. And that is a legitimate use for it.
On the flip side, this could also be a case of 3 guys getting together and buying off an old generic patent for next to nothing and then putting together the bare minimum in the way of an online presence to make it look like they are legitimate. Put some random song in there as well, mention David Bowie and Aerosmith, they are popular in 2011, right? That will make some of those Ray William Johnson subscribers watch our YouTube video. And then we can go after that big break, that one company that settles out of court. That will be the seed money to keep going for decades, to buy up more patents, or to keep using the patents we have.
If that is the case, then they are trolls.
I simply don’t know which is the case, because their online presence is not big enough, beyond the mentions of their lawsuits. All I can tell is that before the lawsuits, I had no idea Worlds Incorporated even existed. And I’m someone who actively look for this kind of thing.