Following on from #191, I looked at http://www.google.com/patents/US8082501. - "System and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space"
This was granted in Nov 2009 and claims:
1. A method for enabling a first user to interact with other users in a virtual space, each user of the first user and the other users being associated with a three dimensional avatar representing said each user in the virtual space, the method comprising the steps of:
- customizing, using a processor of a client device, an avatar in response to input by the first user;
- receiving, by the client device, position information associated with fewer than all of the other user avatars in an interaction room of the virtual space, from a server process, wherein the client device does not receive position information of at least some avatars that fail to satisfy a participant condition imposed on avatars displayable on a client device display of the client device;
- determining, by the client device, a displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display; and displaying, on the client device display, the displayable set of the other user avatars associated with the client device display.
Which seems a pretty good description of Second Life if nothing else. Second Life was released in 2003, 6 years earlier than this application.
So, what are the challenges to this being invalidated?
- It is linked to other patents, which may well be older
- Second Life is an implementation of the method not a description of it
- (this is the bit I am most interested in) the prior art that is Second Life is either subtly different, or does not cover the whole of the claim.
If 3. is true, what is it about a claim that is patentable and different - what makes it sufficiently, well, unique?