Mojang’s Markus “Notch” Persson isn’t a stranger to patent attacks. Last year, the indie company went up against Bethesda over the use of the name “Scrolls” for Mojang’s new online collectible card game, under the pretense that it would cause confusion with Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls franchise. A settlement was reached in March that allowed Mojang to keep the name of his game, but he is now facing a lawsuit from Luxembourg software company Uniloc. In 2003, the same company sued Microsoft for a similar violation, a lawsuit that was settled out of court, and has also brought charges against EA and Square Enix.
As he is wont to do, Notch stoked the fires of the Internet via his Twitter feed over the weekend, expressing his disdain over the situation with Tweets like: “Unfortunately for them, they’re suing us over a software patent. If needed, I will throw piles of money at making sure they don’t get a cent.” And, “Software patents are plain evil. Innovation within software is basically free, and it’s growing incredibly rapid. Patents only slow it down.” He was also gracious enough to post the PDF that Uniloc sent Mojang, outlining the complaint “against Mojang AB for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,857,067 (‘the ’067 patent’).” Skipping over the legal terms, hit the break to get the key points of the lawsuit.
- Uniloc is the owner and exclusive licensee of the ‘067 patent, which is a “system and method for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data.” This means that you have to ask nicely to use it and flash some cash.
- Mojang infringed on the patent by requiring its Android app (Minecraft- Pocket Edition) to “perform a license check to prevent the unauthorized use” of its apps, “including, but not limited to, Mindcraft [sic].” So, Mojang used the software without asking
- Mojang’s use of the software in order to perform the license check has thus “damaged” Uniloc, making Mojang liable to Uniloc in, “an amount that adequately compensates it for Defendant’s infringements, which, by law, cannot be less than a reasonable royalty, together with interest and costs as fixed by this Court…” In the “Prayers for Relief” section, Uniloc further demands that Mojang pay a “reasonable, on-going, post judgment royalty”, that Mojang pay pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on the damages they caused, and that Uniloc be granted any other further relief that the Court may deem “just and proper”.
- Uniloc wants a trial by jury.
Of course, at the end of the document, Notch made sure to not redact the contact information of Uniloc’s lawyers. But they aren’t the ones that received the wrath of Notch’s minions. Those pitchforks were saved for Uniloc’s founder, Ric Richardson, despite the fact that he himself has little to do with the lawsuit. His name isn’t listed anywhere on the court document, but still:
“I feel compelled to say something regarding all of the strong language and accusations being thrown around on Twitter, in the press and some rather disgusting emails sent to me personally because I had the audacity to put my email address on my site. [Which I am now sadly forced to remove].”
He was, however, the inventor of the 216 Uniloc patent for which his company was based, and he filed his patent in 1992. According to Eurogamer, Richardson’s full statement is as follows:
“Well I’m sorry if you don’t think it’s right to protect yourself. I think it’s irresponsible to involve others in an enterprise when you don’t do everything you reasonably can to protect their interests as well as your own.
“Just think about the logic here. The people complaining about the law suits here are complaining that a company is trying to protect its own right to make a living from a technology that the patent office has verified as unique and novel. If you disagree then track the patent office and voice your problems with the patents as they are published.
“And yet, the technology in question is a system that stops people from pirating their software and helps them make money. Well if you think it’s so unfair, don’t use the tech. Do something else. No one is forcing you to use the technology.
“It amazes me that people complain about paying a royalty for a technology that stops up to a third of a software companies [sic] sales from being lost to piracy. What are you saying? ‘It’s all right to steal from Uniloc as long as it helps stop pirates stealing from me?’
“Finally, to the personal attacks at me. I am not a patent troll. I am the inventor of the 216 patent. I worked nearly two decades to make the technology a success. I am not a money hungry megalomaniac.
“In fact it has been well documented that my wife and I like to keep our life pretty simple and have dedicated all our non-essential resources to a cause we support.
“Further, I think it’s a sad thing to see people making inflammatory remarks from the cheap seats. The Internet can be a real disappointing place when people can mouth off without taking responsibility for their actions. Just sad.”
In my opinion, I think gamers should put down their torches and just chill out. I’m certain that 99% of those who sent Richardson nasty emails and flooded him with death threats and, no doubt, /d/-level pornography have never picked up a law book or even have the slightest inkling as to how patenting works. They see a “friend” get hit with what (let’s be honest here) is a minor lawsuit from a company nobody has heard of before, and everyone scrambles to grab their specially labeled “patent troll” rocks from the garage so they can hurl it at this guy whose information they got from a Google search. If Notch wants to vent about how aggravated he is about stuff on Twitter, let him do that without feeling like you need to Hulk smash whatever he’s upset about. “Notch Tweeted that the pressure in his office water fountain is too high and it sprayed his face, let’s go wreck that shit!” Seriously, gamers. Go ahead and roll your eyes and laugh at how they fucked up the spelling of “Minecraft” in their document and how stupid the situation is, but don’t go looking for lives to ruin. You might disagree with the company and its stupid decisions, but that doesn’t mean we need to call a lynch mob on the founder.