GamePolitics has learned that another independent game developer received a letter on July 1 from the law firm (David, Littenberg, Krumholz, & Mentlik) representing Treehouse Avatar Technologies' 858 patent (U.S Patent 8,180,858) "Methods for Presenting Data Over a Network Based Network User Choices and Collecting Real-time Data Related to Said Choices." MUD and MMORPG maker Iron Realms Entertainment received a letter at the beginning of this month similar to the letters we have already reported on concerning this particular 858 patent.
The one thing Iron Realms Entertainment has going for it is a prior art claim because it has been developing and operating MUDs since the mid-90's. The company was co-founded by Matt Mihaly in 1997 and released its very first MUD, Achaea, shortly thereafter. The company would go on to launch several more games including Aetolia: the Midnight Age in 2001, Imperian in 2003, Lusternia in 2004, Tears of Polaris in 2008, and Midkemia Online.
Matt Mihaly tells us that "anything they claim we were doing we were also doing years prior to the filing of patent 6,952,716 (in 2000) on which the ‘858 patent is based. We launched our first game – Achaea – in 1997."
According to a wikipedia page dedicated to Mihaly, his company was the first to sell virtual goods in a game. Called " Virtual Asset Sales," his company sold weapons and armor in Achaea way back in 1997. Mihaly speaks regularly at conferences related to role-playing and game development; his past speaking engagements include Dragoncon, the Game Developers Conference, and the Social Gaming Summit. He also served as a technical editor on Richard Bartle's book, Designing Virtual Worlds.
Iron Realms Entertainment joins seven other small developers who we know of that have received a letter from Treehouse including Unistellar Industries, GameSamba, Bad Pug Games, Mad Otter Games, Prairie Games, eGenesis, and HiTech Creations.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops. If you are a developer who has received a letter from Treehouse Avatar Technologies or any other firm claiming to hold a patent related to developing games, let us know by sending an email to james(at)theeca(dot)com.
Image of Dwarf from Achaea via Irom Realms Entertainment.