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Mojang: "Software patents are just plain evil"

Notch attacks litigation halting the spread of ideas after Uniloc files patent lawsuit against Mojang

Uniloc, a company specialising in computer security and copy protection, is suing Mojang for patent infringement, prompting Notch to brand the whole practice of patenting software, "just plain evil."

According to a legal document submitted to the courts of the Eastern Division of Texas, the patent in question is called, "System And Method For Preventing Unauthorised Access To Electronic Data."

Uniloc claims that Mojang has infringed on "one or more claims" of the patent, but the central point of the case relates to a system that checks the licenses of Android-based applications with a server to "prevent unauthorised use."

"If needed, I will throw piles of money at making sure they don't get a cent"

The allegation includes, but isn't limited to, Minecraft - misspelled in the document as, "Mindcraft." Uniloc is seeking damages for the infringement, including a "reasonable royalty", pre and post-judgement interest and costs.

The matter was made public by Mojang founder Markus "Notch" Persson, who tweeted about receiving the document with his usual good humour.

"Step 1: Wake up. Step 2: Check email. Step 3: See we're being sued for patent infringement. Step 4: Smile," he said.

"If needed, I will throw piles of money at making sure they don't get a cent," he continued. "Software patents are just plain evil. Innovation within software is basically free, and it's growing incredibly rapid. Patents only slow it down."

The following day, Notch published an article on his blog that questions laws that halt the spread of ideas.

"I am fine with the concept of 'owning stuff', so I'm against theft... I am mostly fine with the concept of 'selling stuff you made', so I'm also against copyright infringement... But there is no way in hell you can convince me that it's beneficial for society to not share ideas. Ideas are free. They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve."

"If you own a software patent, you should feel bad"

While Notch accepts that patents are valuable in areas where research is costly and the benefits are great - areas of science and medicine, for example - he calls software patents "trivial" and "counterproductive."

"A common argument for patents is that inventors won't invent unless they can protect their ideas. The problem with this argument is that patents apply even if the infringer came up with the idea independently. If the idea is that easy to think of, why do we need to reward the person who happened to be first?"

"If you own a software patent, you should feel bad."

This isn't the first time Uniloc has filed a patent infringement suit against companies from the games industry: in August 2010, it accused Activision and Sony, among others, of creating rival DRM technology based on its patents.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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