Game and computer makers sued over 3D graphics patent.

The folks at Tektronix, a company probably best known for their line of color printers, own a patent granted to them in 1988 that covers a method of displaying 3D images on a 2D display which is commonly used by just about every 3D game in existence today. Apparently they forgot they had this patent as they just announced on Wednesday that they’re filing a lawsuit against just about every major video game publisher out there including Electronic Arts, Activision, Take Two, Ubisoft, Atari, THQ, Vivendi Universal, Sega, Square Enix, Tecmo, Lucasarts and Namco and then Thursday they expanded the lawsuit to include HP, Dell, IBM, Toshiba, Sony, Acer, MPC, Systemax, Fujitsu, Matsushita, Averatec, Polywell, Sharp, Twinhead, Uniwill and JVC and, just to keep things interesting (read: provide incentive to settle), they’ve increased the number of patents they claim are being violated:

While the games publishers are alleged to have infringed a single patent, 4,734,690, the hardware companies are accused of transgressing six further patents. Like the first patent, the others were granted to Tektronix.

The six patents are 4,730,185 (filed: 1984, granted: 1988), 5,132,670 (1989, 1992), 5,109,520 (1987, 1992), 4,742,474 (1985, 1988), 4,694,286 (1983, 1987), and 4,761,642 (1985, 1988).

One PC manufacturer source told the site: “The patents are a mixture of an extremely general, vague variety and of an incredibly dense and complex variety. Manufacturers would need to pay a patent lawyer a lot of money to decipher whether they’re even in violation of the more complex ones or not.

“The bringer of this suit is very conscious of that,” he accused.

The Register article notes that game publishers can put forth a pretty good Prior Art argument against the patent Tektronix is accusing them of violating as there are a number of 3D games such as The Colony, Spectre, and Elite were released in the early 80’s prior to Tektronix’s patent application as well as several early CAD programs. Whether the hardware makers will be able to do the same remains to be seen. If the patents are upheld then Tektronix is about to reap some serious benefits from the PC and video game industries.

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