Minecraft studio target of patent infringement lawsuit

Mojang sued by tech firm Uniloc for allegedly infringing on mobile antipiracy system used in Android version of game.


Minecraft developer Mojang is the target of another lawsuit, this time not for a name but for something almost as fundamental. The Swedish independent studio is being sued by technology firm Uniloc for allegedly infringing on Uniloc's patent for a mobile licensing system with Minecraft: Pocket Edition for Android. The suit, which Mojang founder Markus "Notch" Persson published online, centers on the alleged patent-infringing system Minecraft uses to "require communication with a server to perform a license check to prevent the unauthorized use of said application, including, but not limited to, Mindcraft [sic]."

The mine is in your mind.

The patent in question, "System and method for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data" (No. 6,857,067), was also the center of a suit Uniloc filed against Electronic Arts, which the parties eventually settled out of court. The patent describes a system in which a portable device must access a remote license storing system in order to validate its legal ownership and be activated for use. "Uniloc believes in strong patent protection for its ideas and in the aggressive defense of our intellectual property," the company's website states.

Persson gave a caustic response to the claims on his personal blog. He said the trouble with software patents is they are grounds for lawsuits even if the infringer came up with the idea independently. "Trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive," he said. "If you own a software patent, you should feel bad." He previously stated on his Twitter account that "if needed, I will throw piles of money at making sure they don't get a cent."

Former Uniloc CEO Ric Richardson took to his own blog to respond to outcry he said he received from many of Persson's supporters. Richardson said he is now only a non-majority shareholder in the company, and the disputed patent is not his.

Richardson went on to defend the company's position, saying, "Having a great technology without a patent is like having a Lamborghini and leaving the keys in it." He advised Mojang to take any issues it has with the phrasing of the individual patent up with the Patent Office. "The people complaining about the lawsuits 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," he said.

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