Friday, February 11, 2005

GOLIATH VS. DAVID: (from GameShout) In a twist on the classic David-and-Goliath formula, Web giant Yahoo! is suing Menlo Park, CA, start-up Xfire for patent infringement. The basis of the complaint, filed last week in US District Court (Northern District of California) and served to Xfire representatives just two days ago, alleges that Xfire is willfully infringing on a patent controlled by Yahoo! Inc.

US Patent No. 6,699,125 was granted to two then-Yahoo! employees Brian Gottlieb and Chris Kirmse on March 2, 2004. As is typical, ownership of inventions by employees remains with the corporation the employees work for. Such ownership rights are usually sealed in hiring contracts signed by the employee when he or she is first brought on.

In the case of the '125 patent, Gottlieb and Kirmse were employed by Yahoo! when they developed certain technologies for a game-specific variation on Yahoo!'s popular Yahoo! Messenger. Yahoo! has been the sole assignee--or owner--of the '125 patent since it was granted.

The complaint describes the Yahoo! Messenger instant message service--in this case, the GameProwler instant messenger application--as one that "allows users to use a game server in connection with a messenger server to permit 'buddies' to know when other 'buddies' are playing games online, and easily join such games."

Xfire offers a client application that allows gamers to chat with other gamers online. It also serves to help quickly facilitate gameplay on remote servers.

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