Tech company Uniloc has filed lawsuits against Mojang, Halfbrick and other studios, claiming that their games infringe on a patent for online authentication.
However, Notch plans to defend "Mindcraft" (yes, Uniloc misspelled their own litigation target) to the hilt - calling out the practice as "evil."
According to the paperwork, Uniloc allege that Minecraft (and other games, including Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja and numerous EA titles) infringe on Patent #6,857,067: "Computer code executable on an electronic device to prevent unauthorized access to electronic data stored on the electronic device." In effect, Uniloc purports to own the concept of online authentification, something that most mobile games have to do. They're seeking pre and post-judgment interest in addition to damages, though only the Android version of Minecraft will be affected.
Notch, as you might expect, is not happy about this. Labelling Uniloc as a 'Patent Troll' (this list makes for interesting reading), Markus Persson promised to "throw piles of money at making sure they don't get a cent."
"Trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive (they slown down technical advancement), evil (they sacrifice baby goats to baal), and costly (companies get tied up in pointless lawsuits)," Persson elaborated on his blog. "If you own a software patent, you should feel bad."
I am fine with the concept of “owning stuff”, so I’m against theft. Society breaks down if people can’t “own stuff”.
I am mostly fine with the concept of “selling stuff you made”, so I’m also against copyright infringement. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as theft, and I’m not sure it’s good for society that some professions can get paid over and over long after they did the work (say, in the case of a game developer), whereas others need to perform the job over and over to get paid (say, in the case of a hairdresser or a lawyer). But yeah, “selling stuff you made” is good.
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.
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?
Uniloc state that they're prepared to 'aggressively' protect their patents when necessary, and suggest that they'll be looking for a settlement in their online FAQ. All we know is that some lawyers are going to get even richer - and since Uniloc won a similar case against Microsoft, the outcome is far from certain.