We've been asked about the injunction and lawsuit filed in California against Ozimals Inc. by Amaretto Ranch Breedables LLC. To clarify the most basic misconception about this issue in our first paragraph – we are *not* claiming and have never claimed to own the idea of a breedable virtual animal. That is not the issue at hand despite the response from Amaretto’s attorney. Ideas are not protected by copyright, but the particular expression of an idea most definitely is.
The Ozimals team would like to take a moment to address your questions and explain the reasons behind the steps we have taken. In order to do this it is necessary to go back several months, to June of this year. At the beginning of June, one of the owners of Ozimals was approached by a key member of the Amaretto Horses development team inquiring about our copyrights and asking that we take a look at their product before it was released into beta. The entire conversation is posted here: http://www.ozimals.com/Amaretto_Dev_Team_Member_060910.txt We are attempting to get clarification on if we can post the name of the avatar that initiated the conversation with us. If we can do so, we will.
They presented the notecard that was intended for the beta testers that described the Amaretto product and asked the Ozimals owner to review it. Upon reading the notecard, which only covered very basic information, it was immediately obvious that the current state of the Amaretto horse product was a near complete clone of the Ozimals concept of a breedable. Since the Ozimals works are protected by copyright, the Ozimals owner notified the Amaretto development team member that the product in its current state was nearly identical to the Ozimals work and would be infringing on the copyrights that Ozimals held if Amaretto released it. It was a very civil conversation and it lead Ozimals to believe that Amaretto would respect the copyright protections that we had notified them of and develop their own concept for release.
Needless to say, Ozimals was both shocked and disappointed when Amaretto released a product in September that was even more similar than what had been presented to the owner of Ozimals. We communicated our concerns and rights in June and attempted to very politely inform Amaretto that they must develop their own concept so that any problems could be avoided. We were deeply saddened that they chose to ignore the notice we gave and release a product that infringed on the intellectual property of Ozimals.
Once we were made aware of the released product, we contacted our intellectual property attorney who began an investigation, gathering information on the scope of the infringement. Normally in a situation of copyright infringement in Second Life, the copyright holder files a DMCA against the infringing material which would have it completely removed from the grid.
However, Ozimals did not want the unlawful decisions made by Amaretto to affect the breedable community in such a negative way. After much research and discussion, we decided to send an initial letter to Amaretto outlining the infringement and the rights that Ozimals has in an attempt to come up with a solution that ends the infringement with the least impact on the community possible. Please note that only personal identification has been removed from the letter. http://www.ozimals.com/Amaretto-Letter-110210.pdf
We are deeply disappointed in the response we have received from Amaretto including this latest lawsuit and injunction attempt under the radar while we were in good faith negotiations with their attorney to settle this without the DMCA. It was our greatest hope to resolve this in an amicable and civilized fashion. We will continue to attempt every method to lessen the impact this may have on our breedable community, and will keep you updated as much as possible via the blog.
Since Ozimals began development, there have been many other breedable pets introduced. Ozimals welcomes fair competition, because it helps to improve products for everyone and inspires us to continually come up with new innovations to take the breedable animal to new levels in Second Life. However, what Amaretto did is not fair competition and if Ozimals did not stand up for copyright protections, we would be doing a disservice not just to our company but every company in Second Life that develops a unique concept and brings it into our virtual world.
Any resident who has been part of Second Life for a period of time has likely come into contact with a copyright infringement situation in-world. Unfortunately, it happens with too much regularity and often to creators who don't always have the means to protect what is rightfully theirs. We are fortunate to be able to invest into protecting our intellectual property and part of what we hope to do with this action is to help establish a safer environment for great ideas to flourish in Second Life.
Your Ozimals Team