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Minecraft maker sued for patent infringement

Written by Aasim Durrani on 25 July 2012

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The maker of Minecraft, a popular building and survival game, is being sued by a Texas company over the way in which the mobile version of the game authenticates players. Uniloc, which claims to own a patent for a "system and method for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data", has named a number of prolific games publishers in its claim, including Electronic Arts, GameLoft and Square Enix.

The founder of Mojang, the company behind Minecraft, has taken to his blog to criticise the existence of software patents as he resolves to "throw piles of money" into his defence of the claim. Markus Persson's blog post entitled "On Patents" makes for some interesting reading for lawyers and non-lawyers-alike. Persson describes software patents as "counterproductive", claiming that they inhibit progress and embroil companies in costly and pointless litigation.

Persson also touches on an issue which goes to the heart of the patent system:

"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?"

It is impossible to take a view on the merits of Uniloc's claim without examining the patent in depth and in light of US patent law. However, obviousness is a ground for refusing patent registration and is often cited by defendants in patent litigation when they seek to have patents declared invalid (arguably the most common way of defending proceedings).

Texas has become something of a hotbed for patent litigation in the US and it remains to be seen whether this claim will come to trial.

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