July 23, 2012

Indie Game Developer Mojang Being Sued For Minecraft Patent Infringement

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Over the weekend Minecraft game developer Markus Persson, who is also known by the moniker "notch" had an interesting wake-up call. He tweeted the event. "Step 1: Wake up. Step 2: Check email. Step 3: See we're being sued for patent infringement. Step 4: Smile." DRM tech firm Uniloc is suing Minecraft's parent company Mojang, as reported by the blog Boing Boing.

Mojang is actually among a group of 10 game developers, which also includes Electronic Arts, Polarbit, Distinctive Developments, Laminar Research, Gameloft, Halfbrick Studios, Madfinger Games, Square Enix and Full Fat Productions, Computerworld reports.

Lawsuits were filed on Friday before a court in Tyler, Texas by Uniloc Luxembourg. The suit claims that U.S. Patent No. 6,857,067 ('067 patent), which Uniloc holds, is being infringed upon. The patent Uniloc filed in 2001 and was awarded in 2005 is described as system for "preventing unauthorized access to electronic data “¦ " The technology involves communication between a portable device and a license registration. Essentially, the patent is over software and protocols that check that a person loading a game has the right to play the game. If the player is not a registered, licensed user he will be locked out of the game.

Boing Boing reports that the Luxembourg-based company may have chosen Tyler, Texas courts to enforce its patent infringement suit against Sweden-based Mojang, and other defendants, because the court it chose to file at has a reputation for favoring plaintiffs in patent infringement cases. The trend to rule in favor of plaintiffs in patent lawsuits was documented in a New York Times article from 2006.

Uniloc is a company that "discovers and develops big ideas that are technology driven. Uniloc focuses on R&D, development and licensing of its technology by a large portfolio of intellectual property (IP) and software," the company says in a Q&A on its website. While the company describes itself as a developer and incubator of sorts, it makes a business of tracking down infringements on its many patents.

Previous patent suits filed by Uniloc have named Adobe, CA Technologies, Microsoft and Symantec in a previous suit filed in September 2010. Electronic Arts was also named in an earlier suit filed in December 2010. In November 2010, the company filed a patent infringement lawsuit against eEye, Inc. and Wildpackets.

Minecraft creator Markus Persson's reaction: after his initial tweet he followed up by saying, "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." Persson then tweeted a link to the filing of the patent lawsuit.

While he appeared casual in his response to the patent infringement lawsuit, Persson spent some time on Saturday voicing his opinions on the suit. "Software patents are plane evil. Innovation within software is basically free, and it's growing incredibly rapid. Patents only slow it down," he said in a tweet.