Notch tweeted over the weekend with news that Mojang are being sued for patent infringement . The suit is being brought by IP-gatherer, Uniloc. In their words , they "look at many ideas. Pick an outstanding one. Patent it. Commercialize it. Reap the rewards."
The suit claims that Mojang have infringed on a patent owned by Uniloc by creating applications "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," a description that quite neatly sums up one of the most frequently used forms of copy protection in the industry.
Notch seems unconcerned. "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," he tweeted later. Mojang are continuing to work on their collectible card fighting game, Scrolls and work towards publishing their first third-party game, Codbalt over the course of the coming year.
The lawsuit prompted Notch to post his views on software patenting. He's very much against the idea. "There is no way in hell you can convince me that it's beneficial for society to not share ideas. Ideas are free. They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve," he writes.
He later adds that "trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive (they slown down technical advancement), evil (they sacrifice baby goats to baal), and costly (companies get tied up in pointless lawsuits)."
"If you own a software patent, you should feel bad."
Those comments have triggered some lively debate over the value of software patents. The issue is further complicated by flaky enforcement in the courts and a lack of regulation that has allowed companies to patent ideas that have been around for decades. This American Life's When Patents Attack! report uncovers companies that exist solely to hoard idea patents and make money successfully suing, and in some cases effectively ruining small start-ups with inferior legal representation.
What do you think, do you agree with Notch? Or are patents are worth the court costs?