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Lucca, Piazza Duomo, San Martino by Hans von Weissenfluh.

First to be sued in the infamous '400 patent is Ice Portal

Some of you are familiar with the infamous '400 patent already. Some not. If you weren't already aware there has been a dramatic escalation that can't be ignored. We need your help to help all of us.

Background

Get a more detailed explanation at IVRPA's VR-Patent page http://ivrpa.org/patent . But briefly:

In 2004 the US Patent Office issued a patent for a thinly rewritten version of Apple's QuickTime VR patent, specifically the one for producing spherical panoramas. The patent made no mention of prior art such as QuickTime VR or iPix. The Patent examiners never noted prior art, obvious as it should have been. So the patent was granted with no limitations. It never should have happened but it did.

Eventually these guys -- Tour Technology Systems (TTS) -- connected with a lawyer who decides to go after virtual tour users such as hotels, realtors, builders, car dealerships, even Showtime claiming that by using virtual tours they infringed on the '400 patent. So pay big bucks or they would sue. Recently they decided to go after virtual tour producers themselves. Unlike a hotels which can simply remove the tour and continue in business, a tour production and/or hosting company can't. They would be out of business.

First to be sued, just this week, is Ice Portal a virtual tour production and hosting company out of Florida. Thing is, even if the patent were valid, Ice Portal clearly isn't violating it. The patent is for spherical panoramas delivered as six cube faces. Ice Portal uses cylindrical panoramas delivered as a single long strip. When this is pointed out to TTS they stand their ground. The choice is for Ice Portal to pay $30 - 50,000 to (hopefully) convince a judge or jury that they aren't infringing or pay TTS $15 - 20,000 to settle right now.

Tough luck for Ice Portal, you might say. True. But TTS has made very clear -- actually told us -- that they are just getting started and they clearly intend to go after a LOT more tour producers -- unless we stop them. Their history and especially this recent suit shows that they will go after anyone who produces virtual tour whether they actually infringe on the patent or not. In other words, nobody is safe.

While this law suit is new, we have been working on this issue for over a year. During that time many have felt that if we all ignore TTS they will just go away. It has only gotten worse. And now, a lot worse. The effort to fight the patent is being coordinated by IVRPA, but participants come from all over the industry, all over the world, and most aren't even IVRPA members.

After long and careful weighing of options with several patent attorneys it is clear that the best course of action is to attack the patent itself. Obviously that takes money, a lot more than any one of us would be willing to spend but not much more than it would cost for any of us to settle with TTS, and that is where we need your help. We have already raised half the money needed and work has started. With your help, your contribution to help yourself, we can complete this quickly.

The choice is pretty clear. Join the effort to kill the '400 patent now, or risk a law suit in the future that will cost thousands if not tens of thousands some time in the future.

To learn more and to help with your contributions, please visit IVRPA's vr-patent page http://ivrpa.org/patent.

For anyone wanting to see the complaint filed against Ice Portal you can do so here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/62477867/Tour-Technology-Systems-v-Ice-Portal.

The site is loaded with ads but they thoughtfully include a link to download the entire PDF by itself just to the right at the top of the first page of the complaint.

Scott Witte
IVRPA Board Member
Coordinator, patent committee.
On Behalf of the IVRPA Board of Directors