SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- A patent lawsuit was filed today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against Palo Alto, Calif.-based Avatar Factory, and its founder Will Harvey, a noted gaming software developer. (Forterra Systems, Inc. v. Avatar Factory, et al., Case # 05-CV-4472). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Forterra Systems by Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP, a 170-attorney law firm specializing in intellectual property and complex litigation. The suit charges Avatar and Will Harvey with infringing a patent pertaining to instant messaging in a 3D virtual environment. Harvey was the founder of a company called There, which pioneered software offering virtual reality chat rooms over the Internet. San Mateo- based There changed its name to Forterra Systems, which owns the patent asserted in the lawsuit -- a patent that bears the name of Will Harvey. Will Harvey left There and formed Avatar Factory. The suit alleges that a new virtual reality business holding itself out as IMVU (instant messaging virtual universe) infringes the patent for messaging in a 3D virtual environment developed and patented while Harvey was at There. "This case presents a recurring challenge in Silicon Valley regarding the ability of entrepreneurs to start a company and contribute intellectual property such as the patented technology in this case to attract investments, and later leave to start another venture that may infringe the intellectual property rights created during the earlier venture," said Byron Cooper, a partner with Townsend who represents Forterra. "The world of virtual reality is growing at a rapid pace as computers and the Internet gain speed, which allows users to meet in cyberspace to interact in virtual worlds. Some of this interaction takes place in virtual reality between 'avatars,' human like animated forms that can show expressions and take on unique identities," says Cooper. One of the largest IP specialty firms in the western United States, Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP teams with businesses, inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists and investors to protect their innovative products and ideas. With offices in San Diego, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, Denver and Seattle, Townsend has more than 160 attorneys, many with advanced technical degrees and extensive scientific and business experience. For more information, visit the firm's Web site located at www.townsend.com.
SOURCE Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP