Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 2, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 2, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

DRM firm Uniloc files infringement suit against Mojang's 'Mindcraft'
DRM firm Uniloc files infringement suit against Mojang's 'Mindcraft'
July 23, 2012 | By Mike Rose

July 23, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing

DRM tech firm Uniloc, which has previously clashed with such high-profile publishers as Activision Blizzard and Sony, has now set its sights on Minecraft developer Mojang, amongst a string of other publishers and developers.

The firm previously filed a patent infringement suit against Activision Blizzard and Mac game specialist Aspyr back in 2010, also naming Sony, Borland Software, McAfee and Quark in the same suit, alleging that the defendants infringed on a patented anti-piracy product activation method for software.

Now Uniloc has filed a patent infringement suit against Swedish studio Mojang, claiming that the company is infringing on its patent "System and Method for Preventing Unauthorized Access to Electronic Data." It has also filed similar suits against numerous other companies, including Electronic Arts, Square Enix, Madfinger Games, Gameloft and Halfbrick Studios.

Uniloc alleges [PDF] that Mojang has infringed on its patent by making the Android version of Minecraft -- or "Mindcraft" as the complaint calls it -- available for purchase in such a way that communication with a server to perform a license check is required.

Similar claims are being made by Uniloc against other companies -- EA, for example, is allegedly infringing the same patent with the Android release of Bejeweled 2.

The DRM firm claims that it has been damaged as a result of the infringing conduct, and that Mojang is therefore liable. It is looking for damages and costs incurred through this alleged infringement, and is pursuing ongoing royalties for the use of the patent by Mojang.

Mojang founder Markus Persson tweeted of the news, "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 also went on to post about software patents on his blog, noting, "Trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive (they slow down technical advancement), evil (they sacrifice baby goats to baal), and costly (companies get tied up in pointless lawsuits). If you own a software patent, you should feel bad."

Related Jobs

Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States

Character Artist-Vicarious Visions
Sucker Punch Productions
Sucker Punch Productions — Bellevue, Washington, United States

Concept Artist
Red 5 Studios
Red 5 Studios — Laguna Hills, California, United States

Web Developer/Web Architect
Halo — Kirkland, Washington, United States

Senior AI Engineer


Jakub Janovsky
profile image
Patent trolls deserve to be shot.

Andrew Grapsas
profile image
This is not a fringe issue. Software patents are a HUGE problem. And, you know, we develop software. Games are still software.

Andrew Grapsas
profile image
Not only do I think you're over reacting, I think you're hijacking a thread. If you have an issue, go write articles.

Tom Baird
profile image
It's useless to base it off the first responses only, as it's arbitrary who in particular reads the article and responds first.

What is important is that Leigh's previous article had 199 comments, I'm skeptical this one will reach over 50. Just because a single commenter happens to be first and uses some extreme hyperbole, has no relevance to the quality of the rest of the discussion.

Edit: In shorter form, your arguement's examples basically reads to me: "Jakub Janovsky really doesn't like patent trolls, but Vincent Hyne and James Coote think nothing specific should be done about sexism in game development; this means our industry as a whole has an issue with social responsibility" which is ridiculous.

Ole Berg Leren
profile image
To quote Joe Wreschnig himself in an article on sexism:


Luke Quinn
profile image
Notch says your software patents are bad and you should feel bad. :D Awesome.

Sean Kiley
profile image
Wish there was a law that made you pay the defendant's legal costs if you loose your case. That should put a damper on this trend.

Tom Baird
profile image
If the case is deemed frivolous (little to no chance of being won, aka legal trolling), then there are plenty of repercussions in the US.

This is a better idea than requiring to pay legal fees if you lose, since it would unjustly penalize prosecutors of legitimate cases, particularly where the decision came down to the judges interpretation of the law.

Paul Shirley
profile image
Unfortunately patents are assumed valid until proven otherwise, go to court with an assumed valid patent and it's damn near impossible to be successfully accused of frivolous prosecution. Its a strong enough principle trolls feel happy to use patents they know are obviously invalid, there's little downside to losing.

The whole system is horribly asymmetric in favour of patent holders. Excessive rights, excessive lack of effort at the PTO and excessive numbers of lawyers making a good living to ever allow reform.

Sean Kiley
profile image
If I was hit by a bus and I could prove it, the defense wouldn't have much of a case no matter the amount of money they spend. Frivolous law suits have no merit and stand an almost certain chance of failure, so there's a big difference.

A "pay for the defense" law punishes/deters people who, in the eyes of the law, have no legal case for damages.

Seems according to wikipedia there's a limit of $25k and in the example given only $2000, not the biggest deterrent for some of these trolls.

(BTW love the example for a frivolous litigation here: guy sues the IRS on the constitutionality of taking his property (money) and gets slapped with the fine, not because taxing income is constitutional, but because it has been "long established")

Greg Findlay
profile image
Ted talk on how Fark beat a patent troll.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
I remember that story. Really great and I wish more people and companies would treat patent trolls in a similar way. Notch seems poised to follow suit.

Steven Christian
profile image
Surely, if they copy/paste the code from Uniloc, then that's an infringement, but if they write the code themselves that acts in a similar way, that's ok?
Common sense would suggest that the above would be true, although Google had to stop using the 'Slide to Unlock' for Android..

Brett Williams
profile image
You'd think so. Patents are supposed to be on non-obvious things, but people get patents all the time for things that are obvious. A lot of the failure of the system is giving people patents they should never have been able to get. Which allows them to troll others.

Jeremy Reaban
profile image
Unfortunately, common sense and the law have nothing to do with each other.

There's so much money to be made in litigation.

Paul Donald
profile image
Here is the actual claim of the patent they are suing based on:

107. Computer code executable on an electronic device to prevent unauthorized access to electronic data stored on the electronic device, the computer code comprising:
code for storing license data on a portable licensing medium configured to communicate with the electronic device;
code for determining whether to allow access to the electronic data based on the license data;
code for verifying the license data stored on the licensing medium by communicating with a registration authority having verification data; and
code for providing updated license data received from the registration authority to the licensing medium.

Anyone that thought about it for a couple minutes to figure out how to protect their software would come up with this idea. This patent is listed as 2005, it is not like this was patented back in the 70's, 80's or even the 90's when it might have been a new idea.

I'd donate to Notch's legal fees. He should kickstart it!

Wyatt Epp
profile image
The thing I think really needs fixed is the examination process itself. More specifically, even, the search for prior art (in software at the very least) MUST extend beyond the bounds of the extant patent database or obvious crap like this is just going to keep getting through. Considering the number of patents filed, I don't think we can reasonably expect each examiner to be an expert programmer in addition to being able to parse the dense jargon of every patent. But I believe we _can_ break them away from a job-induced myopia.

Edward Smith
profile image
A license check? Seriously that was such an incredible idea no one could come up with that?!

How is such a patent handed out?

Properly every company with a trial version is in violation of this patent!