According to a report by consumer site GameSpot, Yahoo! Games is suing Xfire, a start-up company founded in 2002 by Dennis "Thresh" Fong, former Quake champion and entrepreneur behind GX Media, which offers a gaming-focused instant messaging client. The dispute apparently arises over Yahoo!'s claim that the Xfire service infringes on their patent for a messaging service that allows users to see what games their friends are playing, and join those games from within the messaging client.
Yahoo! obtained the patent when it was granted to ex-employees Brian Gottlieb and Chris Kirmse in March of 2004; per a standard clause in their contracts, their patent was solely owned by Yahoo!. The problem arises largely due to the fact that Kirmse had already been gone from Yahoo! for years by the time the patent was granted, as well as his recent involvement in Xfire's own similar service.
In August 2003 -- at which time the patent was still pending -- he joined Xfire as their Vice President of Engineering, and Yahoo! alleges that his work with the startup involved replicating the technology he had already developed for their messaging client.
The Xfire messaging client has recently hit the 1 million registered user mark, and Xfire's website
now carries the message that "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. We'd like to thank all 1 million Xfire users for their continued wonderful support."