Patent troll Uniloc sues Minecraft maker Mojang over vague patent

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It’s just another day in the business of patent trolling, but at least one party at the receiving end of a recently-filed infringement lawsuit is finding the circumstances amusing. Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft, received an email notifying him that Mojang would be sued for patent infringement by a so-called “patent troll,” Uniloc. The patent in question, however, implicates nearly every social network and gaming platform that exists today.

Yesterday morning, Persson announced the lawsuit by tweeting, “Step 1: Wake up. Step 2: Check email. Step 3: See we’re being sued for patent infringement. Step 4: Smile.” Noticeably irritated by the suit, Persson followed up the announcement with the following tweet: “Software patents are plain evil. Innovation within software is basically free, and it’s growing incredibly rapid. Patents only slow it down.”

The lawsuit in question was filed by Uniloc USA, Inc., based in Texas, and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. with Eastern District of Texas. Uniloc describes itself as a research and incubation lab that seeks to license products developed in its labs using its, “shrewd lawyers who determine if the ideas can be patented and protected.” According to the filing, Uniloc “researches, develops, manufactures and licenses information security technology solutions, platforms and frameworks, including solutions for securing software applications and digital content.”

The patent in question, U.S. Patent No. 6,857,067, issued in 2005, is for an online authentication system that enables users to verify and accesses their data on a portable “licensing medium.” As such, it implicates just about every gaming company that has ever required its users to enter in a password to play games on their account. Not surprisingly, it was reported that the lawsuit has also been filed against other gaming companies including Halfbrick, Gameloft, Square Enix, Laminar Research, and Electronic Arts.

Uniloc is, according to the filing, seeking damages in the form of pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, a post-judgment royalty, and all legal costs and other damages that have been determined by the court.

The claim against Mojang in particular attacks the sale of its Android-based applications that use Uniloc’s patent on tablets and cellphones. “Mojang is directly infringing without the consent or authorization of Uniloc, by or through making, using, offering for sale, selling and/or importing Android-based applications for use on cellular phones and/or tablet devices that require communication with a server to perform a license check,” the filing states.

Amusingly enough, Uniloc has named “Mindcraft” as the perpetrator of the patent. As you may already know, Mojang didn’t create a game called “Mindcraft.” (Hint: it’s actual name is “Minecraft.”)

Typically, to avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle, companies will settle early out of court, which is how most battles are won by patent trolls. But as Persson’s tweet indicates, he’s willing to put up a fight against Uniloc: “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.”

You can read more about Persson’s sentiments on the patent suit in his latest blog post.

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