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Patent Troll Claims Minecraft Infringement 304

Posted by timothy
from the two-varieties-of-blockhead dept.
First time accepted submitter ubrgeek writes "Popular game Minecraft has hit the big time: It's being sued for infringement by patent troll Uniloc who claims the game infringes a patent it holds on copy protection software. Developer Markus 'Notch' Persson sounds like he's up for the challenge: '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.'"
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Patent Troll Claims Minecraft Infringement

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  • I hope.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:46PM (#40727265)

    He pounds the troll into the ground then sues them for damages, defamation and costs.

    • Re:I hope.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cryacin (657549) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:53PM (#40727297)
      Good to see that someone truly understands the prisoner's dillemma. On the whole in society, it's best to always choose what's best for everyone and not best for you, but if you come across a group like this, it makes perfect sense to single them out and punish them. I really wish more corporates, companies and people did this. It would really help to diminish the amount of successful selfish people in the world.
      • Re:I hope.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Afecks (899057) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:32PM (#40727485)

        Good to see that someone truly understands the prisoner's dillemma.

        Life is not prisoner's dilemma. It's iterated prisoner's dilemma because people can actually build up reputations. It's been shown that the best stable strategy is tit-for-tat plus forgiveness.

        • More specifically (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @12:37AM (#40727743)

          in the initial round it is best to be the nice guy, after that just mirror what the other side has done to you. Of course this assumes a closed system with an unlimited number of interactions.

          So in this case one party is being negative to another and has a reputation for always doing so. The appropriate thing for Notch to do is to be as ruthless as possible within legal restrictions. It is unlikely the patent troll will have a second round with you, and will never not take the negative option. Therefore it is best to take them for all they are worth, if you can.

          Amazing how common sense and game theory comes to the same conclusions given the same input.

          • by citizenr (871508)

            as ruthless as possible within legal restrictions.

            Why?
            I am pretty sure hiring an assassin to infiltrate that shell corp, find out who is in charge and murder them would be a LOT cheaper and more effective than lawyers.

            • HK-47: Affirmative, master... The human informed me that a competitor corporation was preparing to market a product that would ruin him personally. He was most agitated. He activated my assassination protocol and instructed me to kill all those responsible for the competing product. I proceeded to carry out my order. HK-47: My former master was unaware of this, but the competitor was in fact an arm of Systech Corporation, my master's own employer. It did not take long for my master to realize his mistake.
          • by Shavano (2541114)

            in the initial round it is best to be the nice guy, after that just mirror what the other side has done to you. Of course this assumes a closed system with an unlimited number of interactions.

            So in this case one party is being negative to another and has a reputation for always doing so. The appropriate thing for Notch to do is to be as ruthless as possible within legal restrictions. It is unlikely the patent troll will have a second round with you, and will never not take the negative option. Therefore it is best to take them for all they are worth, if you can.

            Amazing how common sense and game theory comes to the same conclusions given the same input.

            No, that's not common sense. Common sense directs people to do what seems best for them right now without consideration of what game they are playing. Common sense says settle. Game theory says settling is a suboptimal strategy in the game the patent troll is playing.

          • by ultranova (717540) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @01:58PM (#40730727)

            Amazing how common sense and game theory comes to the same conclusions given the same input.

            It's indeed eerie. You'd almost think they were trying to model the same world.

        • Re:I hope.. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @03:07AM (#40728269) Journal

          Life is not prisoner's dilemma. It's iterated prisoner's dilemma because people can actually build up reputations. It's been shown that the best stable strategy is tit-for-tat plus forgiveness.

          Do you have a reference? I would be super-thankful.

      • Re:I hope.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday July 22, 2012 @01:28AM (#40727901) Journal

        The problem with that suggestion is this: Depending on the company even if you win...you'll lose.

        I had a friend that was running a little ISP that was basically railroaded by one of the bigger carriers. It was obviously an antitrust slam dunk, not to mention they had ignored the contracts they had signed as well as making sure nobody else would deal with his little company. So why isn't my friend sitting on a beach enjoying his victory? Because his lawyer said "Oh there isn't a doubt in my mind you'll win, none at all, but it'll cost you a good million and a half and 10 years of your life to get to the end" so needless to say since my friend didn't have a million and a half nor 10 years of his life he wished to through away in court he walked away.

        Look at how long it took to finally end the SCO mess, and that case was so damned obvious Ray Charles could have seen that SCO was full of shit. The reason that many settle is that unless you have nothing better to do with years of your life, not to mention great piles of money to piss away, its simply smarter to make it go away.

        Think about it, this guy is just a little developer....how many more games is he NOT gonna put out and NOT gonna get the money from, because he's too tied up in court bullshit to be working on games? Now do i think that is right? Fuck no, I think the system stinks. But what the system IS and what it OUGHT to be are sadly two different things and as it is this guy will in all likelihood lose a ton of money he'll never see again even if he wins. Lets face it friend, if they lose they'll just fold and start up a new firm doing the same shit tomorrow while this guy won't see a cent.

        • Re:I hope.. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Talence (4962) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:52AM (#40728927) Homepage

          You have a very valid argument, but there's one aspect that's missing: just like with old-fashioned racketeering, it's not a one-time expense: fold to one patent troll and you'll have to fold to all.

          The SCO case was different: it was basically a Microsoft vs. Linux fight by proxy that SCO could not have funded on its own.

          This patent troll is more likely to go for the low-hanging fruit, so it seems smarter for him to not make himself an attractive target.

          • Re:I hope.. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Admiral Burrito (11807) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @09:36AM (#40729381)

            You have a very valid argument, but there's one aspect that's missing: just like with old-fashioned racketeering, it's not a one-time expense: fold to one patent troll and you'll have to fold to all.

            It's much worse than that. Defeating a patent troll doesn't create any sort of immunity against others. Even doing what you are ostensibly supposed to do - license every patent you need to - is no guarantee that someone else won't come along with another patent and shut you down.

            Software patents are thousands of swords of Damocles hanging over the heads of every software developer. The idea that this somehow encourages innovation is complete and utter bullshit, shovelled by those who own the swords.

        • by f3rret (1776822)

          The problem with that suggestion is this: Depending on the company even if you win...you'll lose.

          I had a friend that was running a little ISP that was basically railroaded by one of the bigger carriers. It was obviously an antitrust slam dunk, not to mention they had ignored the contracts they had signed as well as making sure nobody else would deal with his little company. So why isn't my friend sitting on a beach enjoying his victory? Because his lawyer said "Oh there isn't a doubt in my mind you'll win, none at all, but it'll cost you a good million and a half and 10 years of your life to get to the end" so needless to say since my friend didn't have a million and a half nor 10 years of his life he wished to through away in court he walked away.

          Look at how long it took to finally end the SCO mess, and that case was so damned obvious Ray Charles could have seen that SCO was full of shit. The reason that many settle is that unless you have nothing better to do with years of your life, not to mention great piles of money to piss away, its simply smarter to make it go away.

          Think about it, this guy is just a little developer....how many more games is he NOT gonna put out and NOT gonna get the money from, because he's too tied up in court bullshit to be working on games? Now do i think that is right? Fuck no, I think the system stinks. But what the system IS and what it OUGHT to be are sadly two different things and as it is this guy will in all likelihood lose a ton of money he'll never see again even if he wins. Lets face it friend, if they lose they'll just fold and start up a new firm doing the same shit tomorrow while this guy won't see a cent.

          Notch is NOT a little developer, Minecraft made a stupid amount of money and he is now hideously rich.

        • I got the impression that this is exactly what Notch is threatening to do to them - raise as much money as possible (and I have a feeling he could raise a fair bit, plus some sympathetic pro bono in exchange for some very good publicity), and then play them at their own game. Threatening one person with bankruptcy when that person has the talent and reputation to rebuild quickly and has the resources to do the same to you if he wins puts a slightly different slant on things, when your whole company is thre
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Megane (129182)
      And if that doesn't work, he can build a house and stay in it until sunrise.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      He pounds the troll into the ground then sues them for damages, defamation and costs.

      That will require an iron pickaxe and plenty of pork chops for energy, unless he wants to spend all year swinging his fists and barely making a dent.

    • Re:I hope.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Swampash (1131503) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:55AM (#40728227)

      Uniloc is basically one guy, Ric Richardson, who is the epitome of the borderline-Aspergers nerd type idolised on Slashdot. He works out of a van because an office is too distracting.

      http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/business-it/aussie-inventor-settles-with-microsoft-in-patent-dispute-20120315-1v5zc.html [smh.com.au]

      http://www.smh.com.au/technology/biz-tech/one-man-v-microsoft-a-day-in-the-dickmobile-another-day-in-court-for-aussie-inventor-20110106-19h25.html [smh.com.au]

      He sued Microsoft for infringing this patent, and Microsoft lost to the tune of $388 million in damages.

    • Re:I hope.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Schmorgluck (1293264) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:32PM (#40731563)
      Now if only the USA had a Loser Pays [reason.com] system like just about every other country in the world. Aside from the patent system, the American rule [wikipedia.org] is what enables patent trolls.
  • by Spacejock (727523) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:47PM (#40727269) Homepage
    ... dig their way out of this one.

    Sorry, but it had to be said.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Grayhand (2610049)

      ... dig their way out of this one. Sorry, but it had to be said.

      With any luck the judge will award them with virtual coal. Lots of that in Minecraft.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:48PM (#40727275)

    Enough of this crap. Patent and copyright trolling needs to end now!

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:50PM (#40727279)

    ...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...

    Sometimes Battle.net 2.0 is all about logging on to a server to play a singleplayer or LAN game.

    Software patents are so dumb. Just because some idiot patents something obvious doesn't mean the rest of us should not be able to do the obvious thing. What if someone patented walking in a straight line? The rest of society would be relegated to drinking heavily, or inventing silly walks.
    • by JThundley (631154)

      Since when can you play a LAN game on Battle.net 2.0?

      • by ch0knuti (994541)
        Starcraft? Dosen't say lan game I think it means any mobile application that needs to log in. While Blizzard's games are not celluar phone or tablet based they do have an auction house app which would be infringing this. What suprises me most is how something like this was ever awarded. Isn't their an 'obvious' clause that invalidates patents? IMNAL
    • by arth1 (260657)

      What if someone patented walking in a straight line? The rest of society would be relegated to drinking heavily, or inventing silly walks.

      Whatever gave you the idea that patent trolls were against people using their patent? They really want as many as possible to use it, and feel safe in using it. Then they can sue all the big pockets out of the blue. "Damages" (which they haven't had) is far more lucrative than negotiated royalties.

  • Not just Minecraft (Score:5, Informative)

    by ildon (413912) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @10:53PM (#40727299)

    They're also suing Square Enix, EA, and Gameloft (basically everyone).

    http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/365540/20120721/minecraft-notch-mojang-lawsuit-patent-troll-software.htm [ibtimes.com]

    • by Ouchie (1386333) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:19PM (#40727427)
      Is it possible to use Class Action for defense?

      It seems that some of their defendants could pound them into powder single handed but some of the smaller ones like Minecraft might benefit by pooling resources.

      • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:28PM (#40727473) Homepage

        Honestly it would be cheaper to just put a hit on the guy doing all the lawsuits.

        • by Lisias (447563)

          I'm currently unemployed.

          Where I apply for the job? =P

        • by Ronin441 (89631) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @12:34AM (#40727737) Homepage

          But in the case where they're suing many different people, it might not be cheaper for any one party to pay for the hit.

          What we need is a way to crowdfund assassination of patent trolls.

          Hitstarter.

          • by Tom (822) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @03:58AM (#40728415) Homepage Journal

            Start a project on github, I'm in.

            It really would be a worthwhile thing to have, even as a satire, to point out just how serious the problem is. And it could easily be expanded to cover politicians for whom we seem to get "agreement ratings" all the time, but never "hate metrics", which as any student of election theory knows are just as important.

        • by Genda (560240)

          I'm think its time for game players everywhere to create inflammatory content of the officers of these patent trolling companies performing unnatural acts with the religious leaders of radical Muslim states. Provide addresses, place of employment, and a lot of derogatory uses of the prophet's name and likeness. Stir up a real hornets nest and then toss them into their respective yards. Play a game called "Spin the Fatwa". Let's invite these pigs to a luau as the guests of honor.

          • by Gordonjcp (186804)

            Most of the patent trolls are in the US, too far for the really capable Islamist fundies to travel for one job.

            Why not just create inflammatory content saying that the patent trolls support same-sex marriage, abortion, evolution and the rights of women to do basically anything other than stay in the house with their heads covered extruding babies like a gumball machine, and let the Christians do the work?

      • by julesh (229690) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:32AM (#40728529)

        Is it possible to use Class Action for defense?

        Yes, or at least you can achieve something similar. It may or may not be possible in this case, but it is always worth putting an application to the judge of your case to see whether he thinks it would be beneficial. The relevant rule is this one:

        20. (2) Defendants. Persons—as well as a vessel, cargo, or other property subject to admiralty process in rem—may be joined in one action as defendants if:

        (A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and

        (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.

        (B) is clearly true. (A) may or may not be, depending how one interprets "series of transactions or occurrences".

  • by Anrego (830717) *

    It's shitty that it happened, but it's awesome that they finally went after someone who has the metric ass-tonne of money and principles to not just pay them their extortion money.

    I hope Notch gives it to them good.

    I kinda wish there was a way to donate directly to this cause (beyond buying the game / recommending it to others .. which I've already done)..

    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ouchie (1386333) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:20PM (#40727437)
      I bought two more copies of Minecraft just to fund their defense.
    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Riceballsan (816702) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @01:56AM (#40727979)
      It isn't just that notch has a metric ass-tonne of money, compared to most of the targets he has sued, notch is probably one of the poorest. The real reason notch can fight, is that he isn't a public company. Most publicly traded companies would rather settle and get rid of the guy, than gamble in court, pay legal fees that outweigh the costs of the settlement and still have a risk of a stupid judge thinking it is a legitimate patent.
  • I wonder if this troll has gone after Novell, Sun, IBM and DEC, or if they focus on small companies without armies of lawyers.

    • Miraculously, the patent was only filed in 2005. DEC was long gone by then. But apparently they're suing some other game companies too.
      • Three of those companies have gone but their patents must date back to the 1980s at the very latest and somebody owns them for sure. I would love to see Uniloc take on IBM over the Rational license server.

        • I concur. It must rain blood.
        • by julesh (229690)

          I would love to see Uniloc take on IBM over the Rational license server.

          Ah, but did you use it on a mobile device? Over the Internet? No? So clearly it can't be the same idea recycled, then, can it?

  • Are you sure it's not Unisys? I figured it was only a matter of time before they sued over the Minecraft Calculator [youtube.com].

  • Minetest FTW! (Score:3, Informative)

    by VanessaE (970834) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:25PM (#40727451) Homepage

    And this, folks is why I support open source solutions whenever possible, in this case, Minetest. It is similar to Minecraft (generally based on the same idea), but 100% open source. Coded by Perttu "celeron55" Ahola et.al. For more details, visit the main website: http://minetest.net/ [minetest.net]

    (Disclaimer: I am a mod programmer and texture pack developer for the game)

    • Heck, in some ways it makes it WORSE, because let's say that Notch wasn't such a nice guy and he decided that minetest somehow violated some of his copyright, trademark, or patent. YOU could find yourself named in the suit. In the case of commercial software, the seller of said software generally assumes the risk of such things. Meanwhile, in the case of open source software, companies have been known to sue users. Not particularly successfully, but even retaining a lawyer for such things is expensive,

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by VanessaE (970834)

        I'm not a coder for the game at all - I just wrote a few mods and did some textures as an add-on. So obviously, I rather like the game. Not to mention, the game is free, so there's no DRM to sue over, and the primary author doesn't live anywhere near the US, let alone Texas.

        Oh, and I am not a resident of Texas either, nor do I sell anything there or I do any kind of business there, deliberately or not, under any label or name having anything whatsoever to do with any block-type sandbox game.

        Good luck sui

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jones_supa (887896)

      A trend which I see these days in Slashdot is aggressive downmodding like here is happening with VanessaE.

      I don't know if "Minetest" is any good, but I thought it would be interesting to talk about how introducing an open source implementation would affect the patent situation.

  • Why are none of the patents owned by Flexera software cited as prior art?
  • by D'Sphitz (699604) on Saturday July 21, 2012 @11:55PM (#40727581) Journal
    Someone should patent something ridiculous like "A method for indicating support of a proposal by using an input device to record a 'yea' or 'nay' vote." and then file suit against individual members of congress (in Tyler, TX of course). Maybe that would get their attention.
  • I'm waiting for some TV series or movie that use patent trolls as the vector for an evil alien race, who regenerate and can only be killed with fire, seeking to stall human progress.

    Has someone already done so yet? Please?

  • by echusarcana (832151) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @12:44AM (#40727757)
    Markus Persson once again demonstrates why he's the coolest guy in the software industry.
  • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @07:50AM (#40729049)

    A European company sues another European company in a Texican court over an American software patent? That's a new level of trolling.

  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @12:49PM (#40730305)

    Family gathering the other day and my mother in law reports with pride that my son's cousin is going into law. She then asks my son if he has ever considered going into law . Without even missing a beat he replies:

    "No, my parents raised me better that that."

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