February 7, 2005 2:23 PM PST

Yahoo sues Xfire for patent infringement

In a twist on the classic David and Goliath formula, Web giant Yahoo is suing Menlo Park, Calif., start-up Xfire for patent infringement.

The basis of the complaint, filed last week in a U.S. District Court in Northern California and served on Xfire representatives two days ago, alleges that Xfire is willfully infringing on a patent controlled by Yahoo.

The patent, referred to as the '125 patent for the last three numbers of U.S. 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 employees when they're hired.

In the case of the '125 patent, Gottlieb and Kirmse were employed by Yahoo when they developed technologies for a game-specific variation on Yahoo's popular Yahoo Messenger. Yahoo has been the sole 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.

The Xfire client was first made available in beta form last year. Xfire recently promoted the fact that it had reached 1 million registered users.

Yahoo's GameProwler appears to be the application it feels was compromised by the Xfire client. Industry sources told GameSpot that Xfire currently has a patent pending for its service.

Key to the complaint is Kirmse, now Xfire's vice president of engineering. Yahoo claims that "after Kirmse joined defendant (Xfire), defendant began to develop, test and offer instant messenger 'client' software and a messenger server that, when operated with game servers, offers the capabilities of the invention."

Kirmse joined Xfire in August 2003. He left Yahoo some years earlier, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Neither Yahoo employees connected with the complaint nor attorneys representing Yahoo in the matter would comment on the case. Xfire officials released a statement saying, "Xfire does not infringe the Yahoo patent. We are very disappointed in the way this has been handled to date. We are hoping that this will be resolved shortly."

Xfire was founded in 2002 by Mike Cassidy, Dennis "Thresh" Fong and Max Woon.

Lawyers familiar with patent law say a case like this could cost up to $2 million to defend and take up to two years to fully adjudicate.

Yahoo recently reported it had earned $372.5 million on revenue of $1.08 billion for the most recently concluded quarter. Prospects of a drawn-out legal imbroglio, therefore, wouldn't seem to threaten Yahoo's well-being.

Curt Feldman reported for GameSpot.

21 comments

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We all love xfire
Xfire was an essential part of by UT2004 (Unreal Tournament 2004) clan's sucess. We use it to communicate while we are playing, and while we aren't playing. Without it, we would have no form of communication.

It's very pathetic that Yahoo is picking on a small company like Xfire. Xfire is an awesome service that shouldn't be taken away from us. Xfire is almost like the google of instant messaging. It's new, it's hot, and it's gunna succeed, no matter what Yahoo does :D
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
agreed
Quote: "Xfire is almost like the google of instant messaging. It's new, it's hot, and it's gunna succeed, no matter what Yahoo does"

we know that its the google of IM, remember yahoo were crushed by google in the search engine stakes they don't want that to happen again.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Link Flag
GamePrower does not equal Xfire
Sorry, but I had more to say.

For one, GameProwler is used to track down people playing Yahoo's games, not retail games like Counter Strike and Unreal Tournament.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/games/play/play-23.html" target="_newWindow">http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/games/play/play-23.html</a>

There is a difference between playing Dominoes on Yahoo and fragging your buddies in Unreal Tournament. GameProwler isn't designed for hardcore gamers, xfire is. GamePrower has a different audience then xfire does, so I believe that Xfire is totally in the green in this case.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What is GameSpy?
Hello?
What is Gamespy for 200 Alex?
GameSpy has existed sense the mid-90s does exactly what Yahoo and Xfire claim they "Invented".

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.gamespy.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.gamespy.com</a>

Here here for longer than yahoo messenger or Xfire.
Posted by zeroplane (286 comments )
Link Flag
Leave Xfire be.
That's pretty gay of Yahoo to use it's financial clout to bury poor little xfire. Especially on a gray area patent infringement like this one. Make no mistake, Yahoo knows xfire probably can't afford this lawsuit and their looking to steamroll em. BAD YAHOO! NO TREAT!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Leave xfire alone
I like xfire very much. The guys at xfire did a good job. the program is small, nicely working and stable. It's a nice program to chat in-game with other ppl in your friends list.
Nice solution for a cross platform chat and even usable in-game.

I think yahoo is just jealous that they didn't manage to produce a fine proggy like xfire did... which is big BS tbh.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Logic flaw in the article
The article is unclear. Two key points in it disagree with each other. "Kirmse joined Xfire in August 2003. He had left the employ of Yahoo! some years earlier, according to sources." By that statement, it would mean that Kirmse was no longer working for Yahoo! "some years" before 2003. Yet in the beginning of the article, it states "The patent, ..., was granted to two then-Yahoo! employees Brian Gottlieb and Chris Kirmse on March 2, 2004," which implies that Kirmse was employed with Yahoo! in 2004, which is impossible if he supposedly left Yahoo! years before 2003. So which is true; when did he actually leave Yahoo?
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
oooookkkk.....
I don't think anyone truely cares about whether the writer of this article made an unclear comment. Get over it, and stop trying to sound smart by using a subject line which talks about logic. Go back to school and learn the meaning of logic. May I recommend a class? Possibly Philosophy of Writing....

Good luck...
Posted by (4 comments )
Link Flag
RE: Logic flaw
Well, one possible explanation is that it takes a long time to file a patent and get it approved. If one of the originators left *during* that process, they might have been gone for a long time by the time the patent was granted.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Yahoo Gameprowler? It's ASE, All Seeing Eye
The article lists Gameprowler as the infringed application. That may be a material fact, but the case is designed to promote Yahoo's newly acquired All Seeing Eye. ASE suffers from an inferior buddy finding system. ASE message boards have several threads to be more like Xfire. Did ASE and Yahoo make a deal to try to eliminate ASE's competition ("Either we sue both of you or we buy your company and sue them together")? Or is this really a case of fortuitous luck ("We missed this patent infringement prior to purchasing your company, but we think it could be useful . . .")? The patent is pretty flimsy. If Xfire had the money they could prevail. Maybe Google or Microsoft will acquire Xfire and deep pocket them.

You can follow ASE/Yahoo forum thread here <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.udpsoft.com/forum/topic.cgi?forum=2&#38;topic=2631&#38;start=90" target="_newWindow">http://www.udpsoft.com/forum/topic.cgi?forum=2&#38;topic=2631&#38;start=90</a>
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Novel, my ass.
This patent is not valid. It is not novel. It is not innovative. There's even plenty of prior art. Hell, I even have prior art on it. All that won't matter though. XFire will die because they won't be able to defend against it.

The article makes it sound like it's usually the little guys terrorizing the poor undeserving big corporations with their patents. Right. It's more like that old drug commercial.. "I learned it from watching you!"
Posted by billyzelsnack (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your hasty comment
You probably don t know anything about patent laws and patents so please, refrain from hasty and unproductive comments like this one.
Moreover, you cannot make any valid comment by just looking at Yahoo's patent and without having looked at the Xfire one.
The patent infringement lawsuit is just an excuse from Yahoo.
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
Your hasty comment
You probably don t know anything about patent laws and patents so please, refrain from hasty and unproductive comments like this one.
Moreover, you cannot make any valid comment by just looking at Yahoo's patent and without having looked at the Xfire one.
The patent infringement lawsuit is just an excuse from Yahoo.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's the freak'n internet!!
The internet is all about hasty and unproductive comments. Geez.

I was not aware that XFire themselves have their own software patents. I was only commenting on what I read in the article. If they do have their own BS patents then they deserve what's coming to them.

BTW. All comments are "valid" because they are "opinions", shame on you.
Posted by billyzelsnack (2 comments )
Link Flag
Xfire Will Live!
No Matter what happens to Xfire, everyone that uses it will love it even more. I'm sure if Yahoo! wins, Xfire users will despise Yahoo! Why can't Yahoo! play fair? It's all about the best, your supposed compete with you users and such, not with how much money you got and sue them out of their business. Xfire is better than Yahoo! Always was, always will be. If Yahoo! is crying over some tpye of technology that xfire has, thats better, they may aswell cry about every site that has news and a search engine too. This is ridiculous, and everyone who supports Yahoo! I could care less about your opinion.

Deathlord Out!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
greed
i'd boycott yahoos crap if i actually used it
just goes to show you, never can be too rich or too powerful
every opportunity that comes up MAKE SURE YOU GRASP IT because it may be your next virgin island property
proud to be an american
now if you'll excuse me, a guy on tv has the same haircut as me, i have to go sue him
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
YAHOO SUCKS
another reason why i "DO NOT YAHOO" they cannot make there own way on the internet they start looking 4 other supposible patents being Infringed. Such Bull Im against all who bashes XFIRE, Im willing to support Xfire allthe way. YAHOO ur dead get offline u POS crapp serach engine in fact everything bout yahoo sucks. I hate it and its BANNED from ANY comp-uter I build. Yeah thats right BANNED, and i build a good 100pcs a year custom, Not 1 will have that POS installed or even allowed to be installed I do and say what I can to END THIS YAHOOO company at all costs. why u might ask I was a origional member of yahoo wayyy back in the day. I had a name i loved, they sold yahoo or whatever happened to it when it began to get span and pops and then my account was killed for inactivety and they gave it away. just like they gave me away to some stranger NOT COOL and then lets get into the pops unreal GO BACK TO SCHOOL Brian Gottlieb and Chris Kirmse and LEARN how to be a REAL assett to the internet not just some POSER like u R. YEAH U KNOW who this is Brian Gottlieb and Chris Kirmse. **** you NOOB and take ur HALO beating. LOL he really is a noob too
Posted by the7thelite (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Monopoly
Well at least we know Yahoo is placing a patent on the "Brain Drain." Lorrie Crawford's comments are retarded, just like this suit; novel what a condescending bit@h. If Yahoo doesnt drop this lawsuit I'm going to disengage all Yahoo participation. We live in a capitalistic country where competition keeps business from becoming stagnant. Everyone e-mail Yahoo and your local state representative, and tell them you support Xfire. Xfire is a free and effective program that should not become victim to corporate monopolization. Believe it or not, but many of the big AOLs have plans to start charging users by the minute for their search engines. As if we didnt pay enough for the web as it is; while the AOLs profit from the mass influx of data, and advertisement profits. I believe an artist has rights to their work, if the designers used a similar program to one they produced while working for Yahoo, who cares. It would be a different story if the designers stole it. What the hell is the matter with corporate America!
Posted by Core (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Monopoly
Well at least we know Yahoo is placing a patent on the "Brain Drain." Lorrie Crawford's comments are retarded, just like this suit; novel what a condescending bit@h. If Yahoo doesnt drop this lawsuit I'm going to disengage all Yahoo participation. We live in a capitalistic country where competition keeps business from becoming stagnant. Everyone e-mail Yahoo and your local state representative, and tell them you support Xfire. Xfire is a free and effective program that should not become victim to corporate monopolization. Believe it or not, but many of the big AOLs have plans to start charging users by the minute for their search engines. As if we didnt pay enough for the web as it is; while the AOLs profit from the mass influx of data, and advertisement profits. I believe an artist has rights to their work, if the designers used a similar program to one they produced while working for Yahoo, who cares. It would be a different story if the designers stole it. What the hell is the matter with corporate America!
Posted by Core (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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