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UK-Based  RuneScape  Dev Jagex Wins Patent Infringement Lawsuit

UK-Based RuneScape Dev Jagex Wins Patent Infringement Lawsuit

November 17, 2010 | By Kris Graft

November 17, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a patent infringement lawsuit brought against RuneScape developer Jagex, but not before the UK studio spent a purported seven figures defending itself.

Judge David Folsom last week dismissed online chat company Paltalk's claims that Jagex infringed on Paltalk patents relating to online network communications, according to court documents obtained by Gamasutra.

"After reviewing source code for the RuneScape video game made available by Jagex, Paltalk and Jagex agree that the RuneScape video game does not infringe the patents-in-suit," wrote the judge. "Accordingly, judgment of non-infringement is entered in this case."

RuneScape is a free-to-play MMORPG that launched in 2001, and at the time of the suit's filing had around 10 million active players per month. Andrew and Paul Gower, founders of the Cambridge, UK-based studio, earlier this year were listed among the country's wealthiest game entrepreneurs.

Along with Jagex, Paltalk also sued game companies Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Online Entertainment, Sony Corp., Activision Blizzard, Blizzard Entertainment, NCsoft and Turbine, accusing them all of infringing on the same patents, 5,822,523 and 6,226,686 titled "Server-group messaging system for interactive applications."

The judge's ruling only resolved Jagex's case. Microsoft settled with Paltalk for an undisclosed sum in 2009 after the online communication technology company sued over the patents in a $90 million claim. That settlement opened the door to Paltalk claims against other game companies. Paltalk alleged in the Jagex-related suit that it had suffered "tens of millions of dollars" in damages.

The judge said that the order of non-infringement is final, with both Jagex and Paltalk waiving the right to appeal the ruling. Both parties are to cover their own legal fees.

The ruling favors Jagex, but for company CEO Mark Gerhard, the damage is already done. "It is exceedingly unfortunate that the U.S. legal system can force a company with a sole presence in Cambridge, UK to incur a seven-digit expense and waste over a year of management time on a case with absolutely no merit," he said in a statement.

"This anomaly, which could easily break smaller studios, doesn't happen in the UK since you can pursue frivolous litigants for the costs of such claims," he added. "We are particularly disappointed that Paltalk did not, at any stage prior to filing the lawsuit, seek to contact us to clarify that Jagex's game platform did not infringe Paltalk's patents."

While a settlement may have have been less costly than drawn-out litigation, Gerhard said that Jagex "will not hesitate to vigorously defend our position against any patent trolls who bring lawsuits against us in the future." Reps for Paltalk did not immediately return request for comment.

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