Minecraft Patent Lawsuit: It’s this kind of attitude that gives patent reform a bad name

Markus Persson’s company Mojang, makers of the enormously popular Minecraft game, has been sued for patent infringement by Uniloc USA.

Persson says that software should be free, and that patents are “plain evil.”  He also says that he will “throw piles of money at making sure they don’t get a cent.”

Contrary to Persson’s opinion, software is not free.  Perhaps he should check with Microsoft, IBM, EMC, Oracle, or the hundreds of other companies that create, sell, and support quality software.  None of them thinks software should be free. They all own patents and spend time and effort delivering value to their shareholders based in part on the IP they own.  Good for them!

In the United States, our patent laws arise from our constitution.  Article one, section eight says, “The Congress shall have power… To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  I am both a US citizen and a software author.  I have a right to protect my work just like any other author.  When my work involves invention, I have a right to protect my invention just like any other inventor.  Uniloc has these same rights.  Throwing money around doesn’t get you rights in the US, the law does.

It should be noted that Persson’s company, Mojang, also sells software.  The Minecraft game, for example, is listed at $26.95 in their store.  He’s good with taking your money for his software, but he is not good with paying for patented software that he incorporates into his games.  Anyone else have a problem with that?

Persson’s company of course, is not based in the US; it is based in Stockholm, Sweden.  Nevertheless, when he sells products in the US he needs to play by our rules. Those rules mean that he too has to pay for software and that he is, in fact, bound by US law.  I don’t know how strong of a case Uniloc USA has or what the appropriate damages might be if Mojanj is found to have infringed. In the case of deliberate infringement of patented technology, however, it’s possible that they may have to pay treble damages.  That might change Persson’s smile.

Sure, there have been issues with software patents, and other kinds of patents as well.  Many talented folks, including under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property David Kappos, have been working hard to resolve those issues and give us all a fair and reliable patent system.  Significant progress has already been made, and as the America Invents Act gets fully implemented over the next couple of years, it will get even better.

Scoffing the law never helps.

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