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.”