"Software patent troll" sues Mojang over Android version of Minecraft

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

A company with a reputation for being a software patent troll is suing Minecraft maker Mojang over the Android version of the game.

Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson tweeted the news. "Step 1: Wake up. Step 2: Check email. Step 3: See we're being sued for patent infringement. Step 4: Smile," he said, before vowing to "throw piles of money at making sure they don't get a cent".

The company in question is Luxembourg-based Uniloc, which has a history of suing small companies over the use of patents. It specialises in copy protection technology, including solutions for securing software applications and digital content.

The patent, '067, relates to a "system and method for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data". Uniloc claims it is the exclusive licensee of the patent with ownership of all its rights. It reckons Mojang is infringing on its patent "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 to prevent the unauthorized use of said application, including, but not limited to, Mindcraft".

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The Uniloc logo.

Yes, Uniloc called Minecraft Mindcraft in its suit, which Notch published online. Uniloc wants a trial by jury.

"Software patents are plain evil. Innovation within software is basically free, and it's growing incredibly rapid," Notch later tweeted. "Patents only slow it down."

Notch then took to his blog, The Word of Notch, to explain his position further.

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

The suit is the same as one filed by Uniloc against EA over the Android version of Bejewelled2. Uniloc has also filed suit against Microsoft and Square Enix.

In a Q&A on its website, Uniloc defended its practice, saying "it's the right thing to do".

"Uniloc plans to defend our patents aggressively whenever they are infringed," it said. "This protects our business and our shareholder value. In our view, it's the right thing to do."

It also suggested it will be after a settlement from Notch. "Litigation is complex, time-consuming and costly for all parties involved," Uniloc said. "Whenever possible Uniloc tries to find equitable solutions outside of litigation and negotiates licenses or settlements."

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