Mojang, creators of the indie hit Minecraft have been sued by a patent troll over a software patent that has been held for 7 years.
Once again, the software patent litigation beast rears its ugly head and serves another developer with a lawsuit. This time, it’s Mojang who is under the gun. Mojang, for those who don’t know, is the indie development studio started by Markuss Persson that developed the breakout hit Minecraft, one of the catalysts for the recent indie games boom and one of the first, if not the first, game to reach $1 million in sales while still in alpha development. Minecraft was offered for sale while still in development, relying on word-of-mouth marketing and the beauty of its sandbox gameplay to drive sales. The final version released on November 18, 2011 and it has gone on to spawn merchandise and ports for Android, iOS and Xbox Live Arcade.
It is the Android port of the game that has sparked this lawsuit. Uniloc, a company based in the US and Luxembourg, has sued Mojang for infringing US patent No. 6,857,067; this is a patent for a “system and method for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data” which Uniloc has held since February 15, 2005. Specifically, Uniloc accuses Mojang of infringing on claim 107 of the patent, which reads:
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.
Specifically, Uniloc claims that because Mojang’s Android port of Minecraft has to communicate with a server to check a license in order to validate that the person playing the game actually purchased the game, it infringes on their patent. Uniloc is seeking damages and a recurring licensing fee from Mojang. Markus “notch” Persson said in response that “[i]f needed, I will throw piles of money at making sure they don’t get a cent.” We will continue to monitor this and keep you posted with the latest developments.