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Microsoft sued by patent troll over graphics technology

Patent trolls are common in the technology industry and it seems like "Terminal Reality and Infernal Technologies" is targeting Microsoft this time. You might remember the name from a complaint involving EA from 2015. While that case was settled around October 2017, it seems like the company has a new target. Developer Terminal Reality closed in 2013, and since then it seems like its affiliate Infernal Technologies has been suing game developers.

According to post by IGN, Terminal Reality and Infernal Technologies has accused Microsoft of "egregious and wilful" patent infringement of Patent 6,362,822 and Patent 7,061,488 relating to game lighting and shadows. The plaintiff claims that it developed the "Infernal Engine" which it then licensed to other studios. The company also says that games like Halo 5: Guardians, numerous Forza titles, Sea of Thieves, Dead Rising 4, and even PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds infringe upon its patents. A lot of these games aren't even developed by Microsoft, and use lighting or shadow technology from Capcom and Epic Games.

Over a decade ago, Microsoft tried to patent similar technology found in Patent 6,362,822 and Patent 7,061,488. Microsoft's patent was rejected in 2007 but now Terminal Reality and Infernal Technologies claims that the corporation is using its technology nonetheless. What's strange is that the lawsuit was filed in eastern Texas, which was once the heart of patent litigation. Since Microsoft is based in Washington, the case might not even progress further.

It's unclear how this case will be decided, but usually such actions end up being dismissed in court. However, there's also a chance of an out-of-court settlement. We'll keep you posted as soon as we have more information. From what we've read about Terminal Reality and Infernal Technologies' history, it seems like it's just another case of a patent troll trying to scare a larger company for a quick payout. However, a legitimate claim can't be ruled out until it's decided in court.

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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

  • I would so much release a Texas version in these cases with abysmal performance due to some alternative ray-tracing implementation. And there you go Texas... :)
  • If you invented technology that someone else used, wouldn't you want to be compensated for that use even if your company closed down? If someone bought the patent from you - you have been compensated, but the person who purchased now should be able to reap the rewards for purchasing the patent. Its like getting paid out for a judgment from someone like lending tree. You get paid up front a smaller amount, they then receive the full benefit of the judgment for "purchasing" your payout. These patents were not for never used technology. They were used in games by the people who created the technology. Just because a company went out of business does not mean that they should not be compensated for their invention. Not every patent suit against a major company is filed by a troll and even some of those are a result of individuals not having the money to fund a lawsuit against tech giants - so they sell the patent to someone who can.
  • That company didn't invent the technology. They basically are using the patents to sue other game developers after they scooped up the shuttered Terminal Reality. Terminal Reality worked on Star Wars Kinect so they collaborated with Microsoft to a great degree. Infernal Technologies is basically blaming everyone from third-party developers like Playground Games, Bluehole, and others when they aren't even owned or operated by Microsoft. This whole lawsuit and the games mentioned are a little ridiculous because they're basically accusing every engine and developer out there. For example, Sea of Thieves is Unreal Engine 4. So Epic Games is also to blame? Again, their claims make no sense because the games listed aren't titles developed using some house-built Microsoft game engine.
  • Did you read the document? MS published, distributed and sold these games.
  • The technology used in all of the games is vastly different and doesn't even belong to Microsoft. I don't think this is going to go anywhere. Plus, the patent violation just pertains to lighting and shadows. There's no way everyone in the gaming industry is using their technology when they have vastly different engines.
  • That is true. But to shed a bit more light on the situation. This is why the rest of the world is always having a good laugh on the US in this regard. From outside the US this looks like a fun little game they invented for themselves. In other parts of the world you cannot have patents like this. So now I say Texas, but what I really mean, sure have a US version in general.
  • According to post by IGN, this was the very right thing given by the IGN. Thanks for this content.
  • Not to mention they're also suing Microsoft for stealing the technology for Rise of the Tomb Raider and Dead Rising 4, which were timed exclusives at most.
  • Sea of Thieves uses Unreal Engine 4. I think this will be dismissed, a lot of these games use engines by Epic Games and others. Yet they aren't even part of the suit or mentioned. Had the suit just been about Halo, which is a house-built Microsoft engine, I would understand, but they're basically accusing the whole industry because they don't know who makes these games. Just because Microsoft paid to make it exclusive doesn't mean they built it. Capcom has its own engine, others have their own.
  • Why are they called patent trolls? They used the tech in previous games.
    Asher Madan left out some stuff in his article. This is not some random company, they worked with MS to make a kinect game...
  • No, Terminal Reality was shut down in 2013. This is a different company that bought the patents in 2014 and is now sueing pretty much everyone that uses deferred rendering (they already successfully sued Electronic Arts, Microsoft is now, Sony will be next). All the more reason for MS to push forward with Raytracing.
  • That developer shut down. A patent troll is a company that buys another for patents and goes on a “suing spree”. So by definition, they are. Plus, did PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Sea of Thieves, and other games use Epic Games' engine, not Microsoft. Infernal Technologies is basically suing the whole industry through Microsoft which makes no sense because a lot of the games aren't even using any Microsoft engine.
  • Even if a company closes down another company can't just infringe on a patent and use that company's Engine without the proper authorization. I mean if a company uses my engine or my tech without proper authorization I'll sue them. Also according to them, MS has tried for years to try and tweak their patents on their game engine, and been denied. So when they couldn’t get the permission they wanted, they just struck out and changed the engine to suit their needs, which is a direct infringement of their contract with the company. Not really a troll company... Anyway looks like to you already decided who is guilty here. And coming from you, I'm not really surprise that it's not MS. Me? I actually have no idea, so I'll wait to see what happens... @SaschaDr
    Do you have a link about who actually bought them?
    If there was an infringement then MS and/or Sony should pay...
  • You clearly didn't understand anything but that's expected from someone as reactionary as you. They're saying Microsoft is using some engine that basically copied their lighting and shadow method but the games on the list, except for two, use Unreal Engine 4, and other third-party technology from Capcom and other companies. The lawsuit is frivolous because they're casting a wide net. And I clearly mention this has to be decided in court. Do you understand how ridiculous you sound trying to defend a patent troll which doesn't even know how game development works and how all of these games use different engines? Epic Games, Capcom and Square Enix should be the target here if they have concrete proof. These people don't even know who made the games!
  • Well, you're surely quick to define them as a patent troll. Can you actually prove it?
    How is it a patent troll if MS actually used tech or the engine of that company?
    You are very quick in trying to discredit their credentials. Can you actually name the people at Terminal Reality right now? What you failed to mention is that they claim MS has tried for years to try and tweak their patents on their game engine, and been denied. So when they couldn’t get the permission they wanted, they just struck out and changed the engine to suit their needs, which is a direct infringement of their contract with the company.
    It's not as clear cut as you want us to believe.
    I mean if MS actually used the tech or engine how is it a patent troll?? You already said stuff like "This whole lawsuit and the games mentioned are a little ridiculous" and "their claims make no sense". How about this? Let's just wait it out. See what happens? Personally I'll just wait and see...
  • Not to mention PUBG. Half of the games on the list make no sense. Crackdown 3 is being made by a third-party developer! Even Sea of Thieves uses Epic Games tech.
  • "Since Microsoft is based in Washington, the case might not even progress further" - not how venue works. Even with the new rules all that is required is "a place of business" in the district you are being sued. Microsoft has a headquarters in Los Colinas (near Dallas), Houston, and more importantly, has a store in the Eastern District of Texas (Stonebriar Mall) - therefore, suing them in the Eastern District is fair game. Also, this is a valid patent that was used in actual game releases. The reason MS couldn't get a patent on the tech is because it was previously covered in prior art. Does that mean MS violated the patent? No - but that is why a jury will decide the case if it gets through summary judgment.
  • Real patent trolls are a disease, but based off of this article, it sounds like it might be a legitimate lawsuit....not the same thing.
  • This company bought the closed developer and has been suing people since. Well, the patents. They're also claiming Microsoft somehow caused Capcom (developer of Dead Rising 4), Square Enix (company of Rise of Tomb Raider) to use their "stolen" technology. That makes no sense. The plaintiff has no idea who makes these games and which tech is used. Sea of Thieves is Unreal Engine 4.
  • pfff..
    Here read this:
  • Pfff.. Here read this: "Microsoft has developed, published, distributed, used, offered for sale and sold the Accused Games in the United States, including within this District." They didn't develop the majority of them. Let's just take PUBG as an example, it came to PC before Microsoft even became a partner for the Xbox One version. Erroneous filings like this are offend dismissed because there are numerous errors in that document regarding timelines.