Uniloc Creator Denies Mojang Lawsuit Involvement

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Uniloc Creator Denies Mojang Lawsuit Involvement

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Ric Richardson says the lawsuit against Mojang has nothing to do with him, and he wishes you'd all stop bugging him about it.

By now you've almost certainly heard about the lawsuit filed by computer security company Uniloc against Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Mojang, and it's also reasonably likely that you've taken the opportunity to get really mad about it too. And not necessarily without cause - patent trolling is an infuriating, and infuriatingly common, practice - but it looks like all the spleen-venting going on across the internet might be pointed at the wrong guy.

Much of the anger has been directed at Ric Richardson, the Aussie inventor of the 216 Uniloc product activation technology that was granted a patent in the U.S. in 1996. According to Wikipedia, he's also a principal at Uniloc Corporation, the company that grew up around his invention. But according to Richardson himself, that's not true: He's only a minority shareholder in the company, he has no influence over its actions and the patent at the center of the Mojang dispute isn't even his.

Still, the powerful and often personal reaction of the internet toward his perceived villainy has compelled him to speak out. "From the first day the importance of patents was explained to me I have tried to act responsibly with the trust given to me by the many people who gave their time, effort and investment to help insure the technologies [sic] ultimate success," he wrote on his blog.

"Well back in 1992 when I invented the 216 Uniloc technology it truly was unique. No one had done this before," he continued. "In the early 90's we did 'try and buy' cover disk campaigns on magazines that traveled the world. In fact if most software designers are honest they will agree that the idea of locking serial numbers to specific machines came from products they saw that somehow link back to those early days."

Despite the widespread disdain for software patents, Richardson said he thinks it's "irresponsible" to enter into business relationships without doing all you can to protect yourself and your creations. He also seems to find it ironic that so many software companies appear to have no problem "stealing" DRM technology in order to prevent other people from stealing their own. "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," he wrote. "What are you saying? 'It's all right to steal from Uniloc as long as it helps stop pirates stealing from me'?"

Finally, in response to the personal attacks against him, Richardson wrote, "I am not a patent troll. I am the inventor of the 216 patent, I worked nearly two decades to make the technology a success. I am not a money hungry megalomaniac."

"Further, I think it's a sad thing to see people making inflammatory remarks from the cheap seats," he concluded. "The Internet can be a real disappointing place when people can mouth off without taking responsibility for their actions. Just sad."

Richardson stepped down as chairman of Uniloc in 2007 to become a "full-time independent inventor," although he remains a member of the company's advisory board. The Uniloc website says the company "plans to defend our patents aggressively whenever they are infringed. This protects our business and our shareholder value. In our view, it's the right thing to do."

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So he stepped down as CEO because running a trolling company was limiting his ability to troll. To that I say, if you invented it, why haven't I SEEN it?

Sorry about the mix-up Ric

A person SHOULD hold a patent, corporations* shouldn't.

*Go ahead and say it, you know you want to

Bull
Fucking
Shit

This guys just trying to get free money by being as vague as possible. If he wants the insults to stop, then drop the suits.

If he's trolling the DRM Patent, then I'm more than hoping for him to win, if a company has to licence this guy to put DRM in a game they're going to be less likely to do it.

IRBaboon:
If he's trolling the DRM Patent, then I'm more than hoping for him to win, if a company has to licence this guy to put DRM in a game they're going to be less likely to do it.

Funny I thought the same thing... gamers defending DRM? REALLY????

Gamers will defend anything if the guy sparking the uproar is an asshole. This shindig is case in point.

BloodRed Pixel:

IRBaboon:
If he's trolling the DRM Patent, then I'm more than hoping for him to win, if a company has to licence this guy to put DRM in a game they're going to be less likely to do it.

Funny I thought the same thing... gamers defending DRM? REALLY????

If it was true, then he'd be going after ubisoft as well.

DVS BSTrD:
Sorry about the mix-up Ric

A person SHOULD hold a patent, corporations* shouldn't.

*Go ahead and say it, you know you want to

Ok if that were to ever come true then we would really never advance as a society ever again.

I love how he's indirectly forced everyone to choose between defending DRM or defending a Patent Troll

Headphones off to ya!

A link to Frederic Richardson's patent

It's not quite as vague as it is portrayed in the article. Now, if someone has a general disagreement with the length of patent protection, I can agree to that... but this patent document is pretty lengthy and specific, and he actually made the item in question (it's not theoretical).

Dastardly:
A link to Frederic Richardson's patent

It's not quite as vague as it is portrayed in the article. Now, if someone has a general disagreement with the length of patent protection, I can agree to that... but this patent document is pretty lengthy and specific, and he actually made the item in question (it's not theoretical).

I do believe you are one of the very few people who frequent The Escapist that actually has a grasp of this issue. I think my time with The Escapist is winding down due to frequently irresponsible journalism that is short of facts and tall with sensationalism and the crowd of spectators that read and believe without thinking critically. I might go back to IGN. IGN is bought by publishers, that is true, but at least the journalism is of exceptional quality when it is genuine.

90sgamer:
snip

While I do appreciate the 'upvote,' patent law can be pretty tricky -- especially since most of what gaming folks deal with is usually copyright law, and maybe some trademark stuff. Of the three of them, I really think patents get the worst wrap... but simultaneously, when it is used wrongly, it's some of the worst offenders.

For its part, The Escapist is far from the only site that implies this guy is a patent troll. In fact, most of the sites covering this seem to be doing so. I really think it's a simple case of "The Boy Who Cried Sheep" -- there have been too many wolves, so we're more likely to presume guilt than innocence.

In this case, I'd have to know the specifics behind it all to have a firm opinion. I'm not on Uniloc's side, but I don't think it's open-and-shut the way some folks think. Maybe the defendants have technology that accomplishes the same effect as Uniloc's, but they use a different process, so it's not covered by the patent. Or maybe some programmers accidentally re-invented this particular wheel, without being aware of its prior existence. Or maybe it was copied outright.

Time (and details) will tell.

I think if Mojang were left out of the suit we'd be applauding the guy for fighting back against the big corporations.

I'm a little confused now, because the last article made it sound like he just comes up with vague patents just so he can demand royalties, but in this article it sounds like he actually made, and tried to sell, software based on the patent.

90sgamer:
-snip-

I quite like the way the Escapist has become, its more in line with sites like The Register; its tongue and cheek coverage of a wide range of areas which (as far as I can recall) always credits the source.

When it comes to topics like this, I tend to follow the source to get the full facts if it interests me. Otherwise Im happy sticking to the light-hearted approach the Escapist adopts. I dont think its fair to say this is wrong of the Escapist, or makes it any less of a credible site, its just different to the likes of IGN. I certainly wouldn't say they're irresponsible or could be accused of sub-quality journalism just because its not the same kind of journalism you may be hoping for.

90sgamer:

Dastardly:
A link to Frederic Richardson's patent

It's not quite as vague as it is portrayed in the article. Now, if someone has a general disagreement with the length of patent protection, I can agree to that... but this patent document is pretty lengthy and specific, and he actually made the item in question (it's not theoretical).

I do believe you are one of the very few people who frequent The Escapist that actually has a grasp of this issue. I think my time with The Escapist is winding down due to frequently irresponsible journalism that is short of facts and tall with sensationalism and the crowd of spectators that read and believe without thinking critically. I might go back to IGN. IGN is bought by publishers, that is true, but at least the journalism is of exceptional quality when it is genuine.

After perusing the patent, I have to disagree with you guys. It's a BS patent. All it does is outline how you could do something (albeit at great length), there is no specific implementation that is being stolen and used. Maybe, maybe they could argue the algorithm outlined near the end is "specific" but I highly doubt Mojang is using a copy of that. Theoretically whoever holds the original Relational DB Model patent could probably sue them for associating data with unique IDs. See the absurdity of non-specific software patents yet?

The debate is not over the patent existing or what it covers, the debate is should it be enforceable? Among most knowledgeable people the answer is no. You want copyright over specific code you wrote so people can't just take your specific effort? Fine. But you spout an idea with no actual implementation and claim ownership of anyone else's actual effort to create it? To hell with you. Form and Function should be required which due to the nature of software is inherently a copyrightable product, and thus software patents are pointless.

Richardson is just skipping around the issue. His blog repeatedly talked about the defence of patents in general, but not once did he defend THIS case. Not once did he stick his neck out and say he supports HIS company for THEIR suing of Notch of THAT specific vague patent.

Instead, he just denied that he has any say in the company, that he doesn't have anything to do with the patent involved, and most importantly he said nothing about if he would GET PAID a share of the profits should his company managed to swindle money out of all these companies.

If Richardson want to defend his company, then DEFEND it. All I see is him trying to pretend act innocent.

If it was your intellectual property that was stolen and is being used without your permission I doubt that anyone here would object to a lawsuit to recover your losses. Just because Notch and his company Mojang created one good video game that holds a place in your heart does not put them above the law or prevent them from violating the law. If Mojang, or any of the listed companies, used this technology with out permission then they deserve being slapped with a law suit.

Wait...I'm confused, what did he patent..and how are these games companies infringing on it exactly?!

Zenn3k:
Wait...I'm confused, what did he patent..and how are these games companies infringing on it exactly?!

DRM, apparently. Though I'm not sure how Mojang's involved.

TConti:
If it was your intellectual property that was stolen and is being used without your permission I doubt that anyone here would object to a lawsuit to recover your losses. Just because Notch and his company Mojang created one good video game that holds a place in your heart does not put them above the law or prevent them from violating the law. If Mojang, or any of the listed companies, used this technology with out permission then they deserve being slapped with a law suit.

Zenn3k:
Wait...I'm confused, what did he patent..and how are these games companies infringing on it exactly?!

Some clarification:

This is a patent complaint, not a copyright complaint, therefore there is no "stolen" information. The use of "technology" is a misnomer, they aren't using anything that someone else made, Mojang made something that happens to logically be like this patented idea. Even if the patent holding company still made such a product the specifics are most likely not the least bit similar outside of end function.

The reason people are complaining is because it's a verbose outline without any significant specifics. Due to the nebulous and non-physical nature of software this generally means you can patent any idea without actually doing anything or producing a specific product. We consider this patent trolling and exploiting the legal system simply because not enough people understand software. That is why a lot of us are against this sort of thing.

The way these software patents are often written are the equivilant of patenting a flying car simply by saying:

Our Flying Car has jet engines, tires, seat belts, airbags and seats. It can fly in the air or drive on the ground. It has pedals and a stick or wheel for steering.

Notice how inane that is? That's what a lot of these patents read like to software people. Taking a bunch of generic ideas and concepts and arranging them into rough outline of an idea.

The Richardson blog said that HE personally isn't a patent toll.
I am still waiting for him to say HIS COMPANY isn't a patent troll.

So why is Uniloc suing Mojang again? Because Minecraft is similar to Mindcraft?

But... Minecraft doesn't even have DRM. :/

Duffy13:
The reason people are complaining is because it's a verbose outline without any significant specifics. Due to the nebulous and non-physical nature of software this generally means you can patent any idea without actually doing anything or producing a specific product. We consider this patent trolling and exploiting the legal system simply because not enough people understand software. That is why a lot of us are against this sort of thing.

This is exactly it.

Edison patented the incandescent light bulb, not any kind of light emitting thing. Diesel patent an engine, not the principle of burning fossile fuels to produce energy.

Software patents have a tendency to protect an idea, not an implementation, which is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what patents should do.

Software is math, programming languages are abstractions of math. Math can't be patented. It can't even be copyrighted.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to write any kind of advanced software today without impeding on a patent. Whether that's valid or not doesn't even matter, because the patent offices have the modus operandi: when in doubt, grant the patent, let the courts figure it out later.
Which is insane.

In some countries, the losing side of a lawsuit has to pay the winner's attorney bills. Which makes it very dangerous when someone comes along with a foggy patent description and the words "East Texas".

In other countries, like the US, no side pays for the other's attorney fees, which makes it impossible for the little man to win - even if he wins. Patent trolls have the money, I don't.

This whole patent system reeks of extortion or protection money schemes. And currently you only get by hoping you won't be noticed, if you're small enough. Which doesn't sound like the Rule of Law, it sounds like Might is Right.

evilneko:
But... Minecraft doesn't even have DRM. :/

Actually yes it does.

From what I understand of this patent, its a system that assigns serial codes to specific products. Basically a form of CD key system.

So Minecraft has DRM.

Scow2:

Zenn3k:
Wait...I'm confused, what did he patent..and how are these games companies infringing on it exactly?!

DRM, apparently. Though I'm not sure how Mojang's involved.

Wouldn't Ubisoft be involved then?

Duffy13:

90sgamer:

Dastardly:
A link to Frederic Richardson's patent

It's not quite as vague as it is portrayed in the article. Now, if someone has a general disagreement with the length of patent protection, I can agree to that... but this patent document is pretty lengthy and specific, and he actually made the item in question (it's not theoretical).

I do believe you are one of the very few people who frequent The Escapist that actually has a grasp of this issue. I think my time with The Escapist is winding down due to frequently irresponsible journalism that is short of facts and tall with sensationalism and the crowd of spectators that read and believe without thinking critically. I might go back to IGN. IGN is bought by publishers, that is true, but at least the journalism is of exceptional quality when it is genuine.

After perusing the patent, I have to disagree with you guys. It's a BS patent. All it does is outline how you could do something (albeit at great length), there is no specific implementation that is being stolen and used. Maybe, maybe they could argue the algorithm outlined near the end is "specific" but I highly doubt Mojang is using a copy of that. Theoretically whoever holds the original Relational DB Model patent could probably sue them for associating data with unique IDs. See the absurdity of non-specific software patents yet?

The debate is not over the patent existing or what it covers, the debate is should it be enforceable? Among most knowledgeable people the answer is no. You want copyright over specific code you wrote so people can't just take your specific effort? Fine. But you spout an idea with no actual implementation and claim ownership of anyone else's actual effort to create it? To hell with you. Form and Function should be required which due to the nature of software is inherently a copyrightable product, and thus software patents are pointless.

This is what always bothers me with software patents. They are essentially patenting thinking. Software should be subject to copyright, not patent. And no patent should ever be granted simply on a vague idea or concept. Some degree of detailed implementation to make the thing yours should be required. The patent being argued here looks about as valid as someone seeking to patent the color blue.

If Mojang or whoever are using Unilocs code, or specific mathmatical formulas developed and published by Uniloc, then fine there is a patent case. If they are simply using amechanism of DRM with no real direct implementation of any technical nature that can be tied back to Uniloc then yeah they are complete and utter trolls. The fact that they filed this in our favorite place in Texas tells us all we need to know.

Stealing a DRM software is pretty damned hypocritical.
On the other hand, I also don't care about Uniloc getting more money.

faefrost:

Duffy13:

90sgamer:

I do believe you are one of the very few people who frequent The Escapist that actually has a grasp of this issue. I think my time with The Escapist is winding down due to frequently irresponsible journalism that is short of facts and tall with sensationalism and the crowd of spectators that read and believe without thinking critically. I might go back to IGN. IGN is bought by publishers, that is true, but at least the journalism is of exceptional quality when it is genuine.

After perusing the patent, I have to disagree with you guys. It's a BS patent. All it does is outline how you could do something (albeit at great length), there is no specific implementation that is being stolen and used. Maybe, maybe they could argue the algorithm outlined near the end is "specific" but I highly doubt Mojang is using a copy of that. Theoretically whoever holds the original Relational DB Model patent could probably sue them for associating data with unique IDs. See the absurdity of non-specific software patents yet?

The debate is not over the patent existing or what it covers, the debate is should it be enforceable? Among most knowledgeable people the answer is no. You want copyright over specific code you wrote so people can't just take your specific effort? Fine. But you spout an idea with no actual implementation and claim ownership of anyone else's actual effort to create it? To hell with you. Form and Function should be required which due to the nature of software is inherently a copyrightable product, and thus software patents are pointless.

This is what always bothers me with software patents. They are essentially patenting thinking. Software should be subject to copyright, not patent. And no patent should ever be granted simply on a vague idea or concept. Some degree of detailed implementation to make the thing yours should be required. The patent being argued here looks about as valid as someone seeking to patent the color blue.

If Mojang or whoever are using Unilocs code, or specific mathmatical formulas developed and published by Uniloc, then fine there is a patent case. If they are simply using amechanism of DRM with no real direct implementation of any technical nature that can be tied back to Uniloc then yeah they are complete and utter trolls. The fact that they filed this in our favorite place in Texas tells us all we need to know.

Well specifically why code is not really copyrightable is because code usually can only be written one way. A Hello World program is pretty much going to look the same no matter who codes it. Since chunks of code can look the same for two totally different programs that do different things, it would be more of a mess than with software patents. (Copyright protects any adaptations, whether or whole or partial with the exceptions of the Fair Use clauses.)

faefrost:

This is what always bothers me with software patents. They are essentially patenting thinking. Software should be subject to copyright, not patent. And no patent should ever be granted simply on a vague idea or concept. Some degree of detailed implementation to make the thing yours should be required. The patent being argued here looks about as valid as someone seeking to patent the color blue.

Code is copyrighted, not patented. It's data, like text or audio.

Methods (e.g. algorithms) are patented. It's no more absurd than someone patenting a method to produce a certain chemical, or a machine to do a certain thing. Yes, that's "thinking" - it's the principle that if someone has a good idea and then invests the time, money etc. to develop it into something usable, they should not have that idea stolen from them.

The guy has a point.
If he made the DRM then companies do not have the right to steal it to stop their own work being stolen.

ms_sunlight:

faefrost:

This is what always bothers me with software patents. They are essentially patenting thinking. Software should be subject to copyright, not patent. And no patent should ever be granted simply on a vague idea or concept. Some degree of detailed implementation to make the thing yours should be required. The patent being argued here looks about as valid as someone seeking to patent the color blue.

Code is copyrighted, not patented. It's data, like text or audio.

Methods (e.g. algorithms) are patented. It's no more absurd than someone patenting a method to produce a certain chemical, or a machine to do a certain thing. Yes, that's "thinking" - it's the principle that if someone has a good idea and then invests the time, money etc. to develop it into something usable, they should not have that idea stolen from them.

Expand on this. If it is acceptable, then what would you do to resolve the situation?

Zenn3k:
Wait...I'm confused, what did he patent..and how are these games companies infringing on it exactly?!

Effectively he patented a remote system checking with a central server to check if it is authorised to access that server or take an action. This can cover DRM, this can cover Minecraft checking whether you paid for it before letting you play. It covers every single website in the world that only allows you to post if you are a registered member, like the Escapist. It also covers E-Commerce sites like Ebay and Amazon.

It also covers logging into a password-protected server from a remote terminal, like people have being doing since the Sixties.

It is ridiculously broad and should have been struck down on review.

Ric Richardson is extremely disingenuous. the US division of his company is based in Plano, Texas, the Patent Troll Capital of the World and he was quite happy to give interviews taking credit when it as whupping Microsoft's ass.

Is that Ric with a silent "P" like Ric from "The Young Ones", I wonder?

ms_sunlight:

faefrost:

This is what always bothers me with software patents. They are essentially patenting thinking. Software should be subject to copyright, not patent. And no patent should ever be granted simply on a vague idea or concept. Some degree of detailed implementation to make the thing yours should be required. The patent being argued here looks about as valid as someone seeking to patent the color blue.

Code is copyrighted, not patented. It's data, like text or audio.

Methods (e.g. algorithms) are patented. It's no more absurd than someone patenting a method to produce a certain chemical, or a machine to do a certain thing. Yes, that's "thinking" - it's the principle that if someone has a good idea and then invests the time, money etc. to develop it into something usable, they should not have that idea stolen from them.

The problems is that when it comes to software, methods are usually broadly and vaguely defined, in a way that would not be acceptable for a Chemical Engineering patent, for example. See the patent in dispute for how broadly defined these patents can get. As a result they end up covering a whole range of related activities, instead of just one method of doing one activity.

Also, in the ongoing Oracle-Google lawsuit over Android, Oracle was arguing that non-algorithmic code is covered by patent and copyright law (IIRC, that header files were covered by copyright law). Fortunately that part of their lawsuit was thrown out.

I think this case proposes a rather interesting moral dilemma.
Basically it boils down to the question: When is an idea/invention that widespreat that it becomes shared culture and seizes to be an individual's property? (Does it ever?)

I mean that man certainly has a point, he invented that thing. On the other hand, if he hadn't, someone else probably would have. And by now this technology is so widely used and developed by other people that it becomes questionable if he should still be allowed to claim the same amount of ownership.

Granted, he put in two decades for that idea, but hey, he got a company out of it and doesn't seem like a poor guy whose invention got stolen, leaving him starving. All the other people who pirated his idea and developed their own software, based on his idea, they probably put in more than two decades if you combinde their efforts.

So does being the first constitute a permanent ownership? (In the case of america's screwed up copyright-system even long after the inventor's death)

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