23rd July 2012  Uniloc sues Mojang, EA and Just About Everyone Else.

Court proceedings filed by Uniloc against Mojang, Square Enix (9684), EA (EA) and others are fuelling an online debate on software patents.

Luxembourg based Uniloc has a reputation for going to court to sue over its patent portfolio. In 2003 it sued Microsoft (MSFT) and after succeeding against them filed suits against Sony (SNE), Activision-Blizzard (ATVI) and a number of others companies over a patent concerning software registration.

Now the company is seeking damages from a number of companies in the games industry, citing patent 6,857,067, described as a "System and method for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data". Lawsuits in the tech industry are a dime a dozen; companies like Apple (AAPL) and Samsung have been at each other's necks for years. However this series of suits has gained attention on the web because of the involvement of everyone's favourite Swede since Gustav III and his vocal opposition to software patents.

Notch, who is, according to the complaint filed against his company Mojang (PDF), the creator of "Mindcraft", took to Twitter to announce the suit against him and said "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". In a blog post Sunday he set out his main problems with software patents and how they stop the spread of ideas.

The backlash against Uniloc, who have been described widely by media sources as "Patent Trolls", has been so great that inventor Ric Richardson, who invented the patent Uniloc sued Microsoft under, was forced to take to his blog in defence of patents. Richardson seems to be the victim of a Wikipedia article that describes him as a principle in Uniloc; a disclaimer at the start of his first post denies this and clarifies that he is not the inventor of the patent involving Mojang and Gameloft (GFT). Richardson states that he woke up to a "large number of emails and tweets decrying Uniloc's actions" which he has no involvement in but goes on to say "the technology in question is a system that stops people from pirating their (companies) software and helps them make money..It amazes me that people complain about paying a royalty for a technology that stops up to a third of a software companies sales from being lost to piracy. What are you saying? "Its all right to steal from Uniloc as long as it helps stop pirates stealing from me?""

What doesn't help Richardson's defence is that the patent is effectively a patent on an idea; any piece of software written that acts as a "System and method for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data" can fall under the terms of their patent and bring the owner into the depths of a court case. Uniloc feels its patent applies to many applications on Android which make licence checks.

While it'll be very hard for Uniloc to muster any sympathy from the public at large it may not be so hard for them to win at least a handful of cases against the above companies, most of whom are being sued for mobile versions of their games such as EA's Bejewelled. This is a proven, tested and profitable ground for Uniloc who have filed the cases in Eastern Texas which has a reputation for favouring plaintiffs in patent infringement cases. Uniloc is seeking related damages and cost, pre- and post-judgement interests and an on-going post judgement royalty.