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Mojang, makers of Minecraft, sued by patent troll (notch.net)
148 points by fcatalan on July 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 131 comments



The patent is here:

http://www.google.com/patents/US6857067?printsec=abstract#v=...

I'd encourage you all to read it.

The majority of the summary, related art and claims are related to "smart cards". That is: a user plugs a smart card into their computer, which has one half of a licence key on it, and it then verifies this with a server either over LAN or the web.

There are a couple of broad claims which could, if upheld, cripple many systems which work like this (log in to installed software over the web, essentially).

I think (think) they might go on to claim that the SIM has a UID (it does) which is somehow involved in the process of authing a user for Google's store. If that's the case, or Google is indeed passing identifiable information from your phone to your Google account for auth purposes, then that appears to be covered by the patent, which specifically mentions SIM cards as one potential alternative "smart card".

What really pisses me off about this is the fact that the patent holders so clearly conceived of a really terrible piece of technology. It was filed in 2005 at a time when a lot of music software came with hardware decryption (i.e. an anti-piracy USB key you had to stick in to your computer when using the software) and they apparently thought that "smart cards" were the way forward. Turns out they were shit out of luck on that, but in passing they mentioned something so vague that it inevitably came to pass.


Does anybody know where to report prior art. The US announced they were going to use CAC(common access cards) for security in 2000. CACs are smart cards you have to use to log in to military websites among other things.


Here are some I've bookmarked:

https://www.eff.org/patent-busting

Crowd-sourced prior art patent busting:

http://www.articleonepartners.com/

There's also PeerToPatent, but it appears to be oriented toward preventing a patent being granted than busting them after the fact:

http://peertopatent.org/


Sending this to Mojang wouldn't hurt.


Sorry, I made a mistake in my summary: the patent was granted in '05 but filed in 2001.


I don't remember the details, but I read somewhere that a US court has ruled that only patent attorneys can understand patents.

If you're not a patent attorney, and you read a patent, and determine that you don't violate it, and later the court finds out that you did, then you're on the hook for 3x the damages you would be if you hadn't read the patent.

Needless to say, this is totally f'ed up.

But that doesn't change the ruling.

As a consequence, it's probably better for us techies to bury our head in the sand when it comes to searching out patents that exist. Assume that if you're somewhat successful, patent trolls will attack you, and the best option you have may be treating the "protection money" as a cost of doing business.

Practical things we can do:

(1) Bring the issue to the attention of your Representatives/Senators. Focus on your role as a small-business job creator; politicians love that particular turn of phrase.

(2) When you're Google- or Facebook-successful, remember what the little guys are going through, and go after the patent trolls to improve things for our entire industry!

(3) Donate to people like EFF.

(4) If you pay "protection money", try to make sure the deal includes clauses that let you back out later when you have more resources. For example, a clause that says you'll pay the troll, but neither admit nor deny that you violate the patent. That way, when you're small you pay them to go away; when you're successful enough, you might be able to sue them and recover your protection payments.

(5) Become a patent troll yourself. It seems like a foolproof business model, at least until the law changes.


Wow, this is crazy. Basically covers nearly any way of phoning home to see if someone is a licensed user, so long as you provide updated license data (whatever that means). Look at claim #1:

> A system for preventing unauthorized access to electronic data on an electronic device, the system comprising: a portable licensing medium configured to communicate with the electronic device and to store license data, the license data configured to be used by the electronic device to determine whether to allow access to the electronic data; and a registration authority configured to communicate with the electronic device, the registration authority having verification data for verifying the license data stored on the licensing medium, wherein the registration authority provides updated license data for the licensing medium.

So an infringing device must contain all of the following: a 'portable' licensing medium (dependent claims 20 & 23-26 make it clear that anything from CDs to RAM qualify for that medium; though RAM is really stretching the "portable" requirement) which stores license data, it must use the license data on there to decide whether or not you can access the data, there must be a registration authority that communicates with the device, that authority must have verification data that allows it to verify the data from the client device, and the authority must provide updated license data.

Funny thing is that I can find a lot, if not all, of the elements in a computer virus from 1986. I wonder if they mentioned it as prior art? :)

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110127/23533212868/one-ea...

Problem is this patent was filed in Feb 26, 2001, and there wasn't as much phoning-home to licensing servers/updating license data done back then, though I'd imagine someone can find something.


While you may be correct that the system was designed for/with/about smart cards, none of the claims relate specifically to smart cards, and are quite broad. Stay out of the summary, description, and abstract when reading a patent, and just skip to the claims. Read the independent claims (the ones that don't start with "the .... according to claim X").

If you find that there are reasonable definitions of each term in the claim that you might fall under, you are gonna have a bad time.

(IE Spend a lot of money trying to get it invalidated)


Hence:

> There are a couple of broad claims which could, if upheld, cripple many systems which work like this (log in to installed software over the web, essentially).


This is pretty fucked up. So now anyone in the world can expect to be sued in the US on base of US software patents? How do you release anything in a situation like this. Then there is the burden of going to a court in Texas? How in the fuck they expect that a Swedish company hires lawyers in Texas? Just how much would that cost? Also this is going to beyond any sanity. Practically you have to stick to some common "protected by a big company" technology, else you run the risk of inventing something new (on your own), and running into some broadly worded patent.

This is actually contrary to "protecting innovation". If you actually innovate, you run the risk inventing something that someone already patented, and then you are fucked. Under such circumstances its much safer to just not try to innovate...


It's because Mojang sells stuff in the US via their website.

I also assume Mojang could just completely ignore it if they have no assets in America, although I guess they'd be a risk of having minecraft.net seized as .net's US administered isn't it?


So their alternative is to close shop in the US? I like that thought. This might actually be the best action to improve the US patent system.


Maybe just boycott sales to Eastern Texas where most of these patent lawsuits get filed ...


Is it possible to prohibit the use of your products in that part of Texas to avoid exposure?


I have a question about this. Can you be sued from Texas if you sell your software in any state _but_ Texas? So if I add a clause to my EULA that the product can not be bought or used in the state of Texas, would that force patent trolls to sue in a different state?

edit: This wiki.answers page seems to say that could work http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Can_someone_sue_another_person_if_...


Patent lawsuits are filed in federal court. There are jurisdiction rules, and even recent attempts to curtail the practice of forum shopping, but now that many patent trolls make their home in Marshall, Texas, it's rather difficult to avoid that forum. They will more or less say that due to the fact that the troll has set up shop in Texas, any other jurisdiction is as good as here, so you're stuck with Texas.

In short, the trolls do everything they can to make you fight them in their home court. Enough so that it makes the news whenever people find a new legal trick to escape. Many such tricks have failed. One example that springs to mind is that one troll who filed a day earlier than anyone else would be able to, because they used tricky local rules to get a cover sheet while technically filing just after midnight. But because they were first, they got to choose to stay in Marshall, TX.


You might also be expected to take some measures to enforce this, such as a State drop-down box, with an "I agree" EULA/ToS.


You are referring to a "choice of forum" clause (which is distinct from a "choice of jurisdiction clause").

Choice of forum determines where any disputes are held. Choice of jurisdiction determines what state's laws apply (if the dispute involves a matter of state law).


I don't think so, I was suggesting that a company could simply not do business with anyone in an undesirable location (e.g. Texas), and have that as part of the EULA, but with some proactive form of enforcement such as a drop-down, much like those "enter your birthday" age-checks, as passively adding it to the EULA text might not be good enough.


That doesn't work. Putting it in the EULA is not enough. You would actuallly have to reject customers with Texas addresses.


Quite possibly, but it gets worse: judging from Natsu's comment about patent suits being federal, and the trolls being based in Texas, it looks like it's almost impossible to avoid being sued in Texas, whether or not you do any business there, as long as you do business somewhere in the US.


I'll defer to experts on the patent issue, but in principle, if you are quick to take measures to avoid doing business with people in states that cause you trouble as soon as they bring it up, it will very likely give you much better chances in court, and much more favor with whoever is deciding your fate, especially if it's international.


Patents are federal law, not state law, which is the basic point here. It seems very dangerous to think that you can dodge federal law by avoiding doing business in a specific state, and I should think that the jury would be instructed as such. An attempt to state-dodge might even be seen as indicative of an awareness of wrongdoing.


They were also dumb enough to sue EA, my bet is this goes away pretty quickly (at least for EA)

http://www.scribd.com/doc/100637098/Uniloc-et-al-v-Electroni...

A cursory reading of the claims explicitly outlined against Mojang makes me wonder if it's even a valid claim, they seem to be claiming the 'computer executable code' in claim 107 instead of a 'method'.

It also seems like there would be plenty of prior art to find computer code on an electronic device to prevent unauthorized access. I think the PDP-10 and UNIX would suffice such prior art.


I was actually quite surprised to read this on HN, I once met Ric Richardson the founder of Uniloc shortly after he sued Microsoft for infringing a similar patent, and I usually laugh at anyone trying to enforce software patents but this time I would take it a lot more seriously.


Why would you take it a lot more seriously?


Because the decision has flip-flopped a few times, but at the moment Microsoft has settled.

(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-05/microsoft-settles-f...)

MS has lawyers, and money, and time, and thus for them to lose is concerning. (Not saying anything about the applicability of this patent to Mojang.)


Defending a patent suit costs millions. Settling may simply have been cheaper, while still giving a big payday to the troll.


$8 a copy of Minecraft sounds like a fair licensing price. How about that? Okay, thanks!


They spent millions defending it, the case lasted 8 years.


Dumb question maybe but how can they sue a Swedish company? As far as I know there are no such things as software patents in Sweden.


Probably because Mojang sell their product(s) in the US.


But what happens when they don't have a legal entity in the US? Who will enforce it?


They can stop the distribution in the United Stares. In addition, Swedish courts would probably honor the decision of the US court.


Swedish courts would not honor such a ruling if it were to be, since it would be against European law (there are no software patents in Europe). Generally court decisions almost never have international validity (especially business related ones).


this is a civil lawsuit (x has to give money to y because he created a damage), not criminal. If they deem the trial fair, whatever the underlaying law was, they will enforce the decision.


If the business is in Sweden, it would have to go to court in Sweden, would it not? Does Sweden actually allow judges to have a look at a foreign decision and then just declare their ruling, no trial, nothing? I suspect not (eager to learn if otherwise)


I think there are international treaties for that, to avoid having a re-trial. They rubber-stamp the foreign decision, and it becomes national stuff (still talking about civil).


Why would Sweden honor damages from a patent from the US which does not exist in the EU?


Stop distribution? With what, magic? Hasn't everyone learned by now that you can't stop distribution of digital data?


You can never stop the determined. But the courts could certainly pull the app from the Android store.


Last notch tweeted Xbox sales were over 3 million, at $20 each that's $60m worth of sales. No idea about Android or iOS.

Restitution could come from revenues of any US product sales or assets, not just the specific one being contested.


Stopping to sell it should be enough: "Looks like you are from the US. Sorry, we cannot sell Minecraft to you. Want to know more?"


They could sure as hell stop mojang getting paid. I don't think they care if people continue to pirate the infringing program.


No offense meant, but where does this idea come from? I hope it's not common - US Court decisions are valid in the US. Period.

Anything else is an international thing, and unless covered by treaties signed into law between countries, courts from one country never just honour some other countrie's legal system.

Extradition is possible on crimes where both countries agree it's a crime and generally have an extradition treaty, or policy for such requests, but to think that the US courts are somehow global is factually incorrect.


How would that be enforced for a download-only product? Also, there is another famous swedish operation which still hasn't been shut down despite enormous efforts by US firms.

edit: ok, any app store downloads probably could be shut down.


Domain seizure?


Or cutting off one's access to credit card processing, though I note that Wikileaks managed to deal with that in the end.


Enforcement limited to the U.S. European courts do not honor software patents.


This article suddenly reminded me of another link that was on front page a few weeks ago. That one was on how to incorporate a company in another country without being there. People wanted to incorporate their software startups in the US due to ease of payment processing and stuff. After seeing these kind of patent trolls, I wonder if anyone would even think of incorporating the the US.

If your product is international, and you're incorporated in the US and then a patent troll fucks you up, you'll have to waste so much time on all the procedures in addition to the money. And if anything goes wrong, then you'll have to pay hefty penalties/fines/royalties or close shop.

If your company is incorporated outside the country, granted you might find it a little hard to get your payment processor set up, but atleast you know that patent trolls [which, unfortunately seem to primarily originate from the USA] would be able to only shut down your business in one country. And, as long as you had a website up, people will find ways to bypass the country restriction. [Hint - Amazon's free app of the day isn't just being enjoyed by people in the USA]


Which is why you would set up a subsidiary LLC in the United States, and dissolve it if it's sued.


Would this be a viable way to escape some frivolous patent lawsuit? I've often wondered about this, and even tried to research it somewhat, but I'm still unsure about it.

Suppose I have an LLC for my small (one-man) business in the U.S., and then I get targeted by a patent troll with some ridiculous claims. Can I simply start up another LLC in another country (one with saner patent laws), transfer my domains/hosting/whatever else to it, and dissolve the U.S. LLC? It seems too easy.


Even I would like an expert to answer this. Assuming my domain is a .com domain, does the USA have jurisdiction over the company even if say, it's registered in Sweden?


Seizing your .com domain is the US's primary method of enforcement against non-US entities that violate US intellectual property laws.

http://mashable.com/2010/11/27/homeland-security-website-sei...


What about .net? Minecraft's URL is http://www.minecraft.net/


Verisign manages the registry and backend services for .com, .net, .name, .cc, .tv, .jobs and .edu (even though .cc and .tv aren't American TLDs). Other American companies run most of the other generic TLDs as well, including .org. Thus, they are all susceptible to US court orders to disable a domain.

Even if you register a TLD operated outside the US, be careful which registrar you choose to do so at. GoDaddy, a US company, is the #1 registrar worldwide, and has many times taken control of domains at US government request even when not legally obligated to.


I'd also like to hear an expert's opinion, but isn't the entire point of a limited liability company to limit liability?


I'm not an expert, but that's not quite how LLCs work. LLCs limit the liability of the owner. Not the LLC.

Lets say I install plumbing in your house and it fails and damages your property, so you sue my company. If I'm a sole proprietor or a couple of guys doing business as a partnership then suing the company effectively means suing me (us) personally. If I lose and owe you $1 million, you can have my plumbing stuff seized to pay the debt, but if that doesn't cover all of it then I personally owe you the remainder. You can put a lein on my house and screw up my credit and put a collection agency after me until I pay off the debt.

On the other hand, if I have an LLC or a corporation, then the liability is limited to the property of the LLC or corporation. You can have my vans and warehouse seized, but you can't take my personal property like my house. If the LLC can't pay the full debt then it can owe you and make payments or something, but you can't "ruin" the owners.

In this case, simply "dissolving" the LLC wouldn't solve the problem. While it existed the LLC presumably had property, and that's what they would go after. If you tried to pull a "The LLC didn't have any property" then they'd probably toss you to the IRS for running an illegitimate LLC. And when the IRS was done auditing you, the patent guys would come back and go after you personally.

I'm definitely not a lawyer or any kind of business expert, though. If anybody knows better I'd also be interested.


I'm not a lawyer, but I've got a LLC equivalent and you're almost spot on.

If I own 25 of a company's shares, and let's say the shares are worth $1000 each then it means they can only claim a maximum of $25000 from me. Which is actually my investment in the company. So the worst thing they can do is take over my shares. Along with that, they can hypothecate any and all equipment that has been purchased in the company's account. So, the company car, company computer, server space, domain name, tables, chairs, office space etc.

What they cannot do is physically come into my home and forcably take my wife's jewelry and my personal computer. They cannot take my television or my car. Because those have been bought on "my" money, i.e. the salary that I'm claiming from the company.

This is LLC/WLL.

But what I'm interested is a bit different. Say, I run a business called algorithms.com with my company registered in Sweden. If tomorrow a patent troll in Texas files a suit against me, it's obvious that the US DOJ cannot shut down my business. But can they seize the domain name, only simply because it's a .com instead of a .se or a .whatever else


Limited liability refers to the liability of the shareholders/investors for the obligations and judgements against the company. Their liability is "limited" to the amount of their investment.

Contrast with a partnership, in which the owners/investors are subject to potentially unlimited liability.

For example: LLC A settles a lawsuit for $10 million. Investors B and C's liability is limited to the size of their investment (we'll say $100).

Partnership X settles a lawsuit for $10 million. Partners Y and Z are each liable for the $10 million (the opposing party only gets to collect $10 million once, he simply can choose to go after either or both partners for payment). The opposing party can go after Partners Y'z and Z's personal assets, unless they declare bankruptcy.


The U.S. has jurisdiction over ICANN and thus over all TLD's that are not country TLDs (i.e., .co, .tv, .ly, etc.). But jurisdiction extends only to the domain itself, not to the company, unless you are doing business in the U.S., in which case you are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. to the extent of your business contacts. Transferring your U.S. assets will probably not spare you, as jurisdiction is established by past or present contacts (though past in this context means at the time of the tort/claim giving rise to the lawsuit).


Thanks for all your comments on this page, they're very illuminating.

I understand why a lawsuit could target the American LLC, but even if I dissolve it or let it go under, why wouldn't I and my assets still be protected?

I understand that once I switch to the foreign LLC I'd have to avoid any business ties to the U.S. (i.e. move my hosting overseas). I assume that I'd still have subscribers to my service in the U.S., but it doesn't make sense to me that that would constitute doing business there. By that rationale wouldn't every internet company be subject to the jurisdiction of every country on Earth?


Jurisdiction for the lawsuit arises from (1) past contacts with the U.S. at the time of the claim from which the lawsuit arises or (2) current contacts with the U.S.

For example, if your LLC is being sued for...say, slander, that supposedly occurred 6 months ago, and your LLC were conducting business in the U.S. 6 months ago, your LLC would be subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts based upon your past contacts. (Otherwise, businesses would just leave the country to avoid jurisdiction.) On the other hand, if you are currently in the U.S., but were not in the U.S. 6 months ago, you are still subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts based on your current contact with the U.S.

Again, your personal assets would be protected. However, the LLC's assets would not be protected. Once you've been targeted by a lawsuit, there's no point in moving the LLC's assets overseas. If anything, you're more likely to have an enforceable court order freezing the LLC's assets in whatever jurisdiction you've moved to.

I assume that I'd still have subscribers to my service in the U.S., but it doesn't make sense to me that that would constitute doing business there. By that rationale wouldn't every internet company be subject to the jurisdiction of every country on Earth? Accepting and continuing to do business with the U.S. subscribers constitutes doing business in the U.S. Under most double taxation (prevention) treaties, a software/online "service" is deemed performed where the customer uses the service, unless there is a significant human element to the service in which case the service is deemed performed where that particular human performs his tasks.


But if I've dissolved my American LLC and sold/transferred all its assets to my new LLC (or LLC equivalent) in $COUNTRY, what can they really do? They can't sue my old LLC, it's nonexistent. They can't sue me, I'm not liable for the activities of my American LLC. They could sue my new LLC, but they'd have to file in $COUNTRY, where the patent (or whatever) laws are more favorable to me. I suppose they could get an injunction in the U.S. to prevent my new LLC from selling to customers here, but with a webapp that I just sell subscriptions to, how could they enforce that?

I'm sure that I'm missing something here, but I don't know what.


It's a good bet that whatever company takes money from your US customers on your behalf has enough ties somewhere in the chain to the US to be forced to drop you as a customer.


Logged in just to reply.

European IP law makes US IP law look like a walk in the park. The RIAA and MPAA notwithstanding, the US has actually been the voice of restraint in the IP rights field. Enforcement and defense is also easier, as you do not have to contend with a variety of separate court systems as you do in Europe or Asia.

That being said, if you are running an international operation, your IP should never been based in the US for tax reasons. It should be held by an Irish (or other low-tax jurisdiction) company dedicated to holding your IP (i.e., an "IP holding company").


What I find so hilarious about this is that they refer to it as "Mindcraft".


Invalid lawsuit? :P


SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PREVENTING UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS TO ELECTRONIC DATA.

When are governments finally going to do something about the patent system?


When are people going to start reading more than just patent titles?

This specific system and method involve using a card inserted into a computing device paired with a server over a network for authentication. It goes deeper than just the title.


Yes, read the patent. It covers a lot more than that specific case, which is why the title is vague and is exactly why governments should step in and stop this madness.


No it doesn't involve that at all. Please read independent claim 1, not the abstract or the description.


When patents are readable. That is, never.


This is confusing. Minecraft on Android doesn't have any Minecraft specific authentication service, it's tied to your google account just like all other Android (market) apps.

You can find the app here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mojang.min...

The entire suit is based on something patently (ha ha ha) untrue.

Minecraft on the PC /does/ authenticate with a licensing server, but this suit specifies mobile.


It's alright, the actual product cited is MINDcraft.


Mindcraft doesn't exist, so I'm guessing that this is a mistake by the legal team.

If it were significantly wrong (e.g. "Photoshop" rather than "Minecraft") then they'd have to file again. In this instance it's similar enough that most courts will allow it, although it looks bad for the lawyers involved.


Or "Mindcraft" as the legal document describes it.


How is this even possible? Firstly, they've spelled the name of the infringing product incorrectly. Secondly, it doesn't even do what they're saying it does.

OK, I mean, it's possible, but is anyone taking this seriously? Does this lawsuit even stand a chance?


It's probably going to cost a gazillion dollars for Mojang to defend against, since patent lawyers are expensive.

The troll can probably determine how small Mojang really is and just try to use legal procedures to make things as expensive as possible. No need to actually fight for real (as they presumably did against Microsoft.)

This is why we should have a mandatory award of attorney's fees to the winner in IP cases. It would make lawyers more willing to take Mojang's side on a contingency basis (they only get paid if Mojang wins).


For further info on the patent in question http://news.priorsmart.com/uniloc-v-mojang-ab-l6rh/#pat-6857...


Link to the patent, no Flash required: http://www.google.com/patents/US6857067


Uniloc is Australian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ric_Richardson and it won more than $300m from MS.


That page says that the $388 million verdict was overturned on appeal, and that "an undisclosed amount in compensation to Richardson."


I found it confusing that he is portrayed as a "generous supporter of the innovation, invention and startup ecosystems" in Australia and has been invited to speak at startup conference in sydney. http://sydstart.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/ric-richardson-inve...


As far as I know, Mojang doesn't have a game called "Mindcraft[sic]."

I wonder if this makes the whole plaintiff void?


I have no idea of us law but I think they still have a case because they wrote "the unauthorized use of said application, including, but not limited to, Mindcraft." and not only "Mindcraft".


How do CEOs of patent trolls sleep at night?


On fat wads of cash?


Or in their coffins?


That's for day sleeping, only


You presume all people have a sense of empathy, but many do not.


Many people who claim they have a sense of empathy, could probably lose it or deal with the occasional conscience pang, if a seven-to-nine figure sum was involved.


I think the patent trolls might have chosen the wrong target on this one.

You can get away with suing Microsoft without too much PR fallout. No-one is going to get that upset.

But attacking a much-beloved company with a much-beloved founder with a suit that could prevent millions of people from playing their favourite game?

I'd expect a certain amount of, shall we say, "third party action". Said patent troll might want to hire more phone operators. And PR guys.

And security personnel.


PR only matters to them if their relationship with their customers is consensual.

This is not the case with a patent troll.


This is hilarious. Mojang is on not subject of US laws, US software patents can not be enforced either. So Mojng can totally ignore that case.


Dangerous ... A default judgement could prevent them from selling Minecraft in the US, and could implicate other companies helping them who are based in the US (ie. Google & Appple because their stores are presumably located there).


> selling Minecraft in the US

This I don't understand. Mojang sells Minecraft in Sweden. You come to them, not the other way around (unless they have a US-based webshop).

A person from the US can fly to Sweden and buy a bottle of Absolute Absinthe (made-up) and then bring it back to the US. She may not succeed getting it through the customs, but it will be the US customs who enforce the import restriction, not the Swedish liquor store. Similarly, Mojang is a liquor store, Minecraft is a bottle. Why should Mojang be enforcing US e-com restrictions? This doesn't make any sense.


> Why should Mojang be enforcing US e-com restrictions?

They wouldn't be expected to enforce any restrictions. The US will simply demand that all US financial branches refuse Majong business---that is VISA/Mastercard and your bank will not send money into his account or process payments for transactiosn related to him.

In addition, if he has a .us or .com name, they may try to seize it.

It'll be a headache for Mojang to try and fight it, so might as well 'self regulate' rather than have the government and use the only tool it knows 'the club'.


They are legally obliged to for any sales to the US territories. So if you are in the US and buy Minecraft, then they are exporting software to the US and have to comply with relevant law and any trade agreements between Sweden and the US.


First. A company in whatever country is legally obliged only to that country's law. Export means that company is selling something in his jurisdiction to somebody who is not. That somebody is importer. Importer has to comply with the law of the country he/she is importing. One can not expect that exporter burden is to know all UN members laws.

Second. There cannot be and there is none agreements between Sweden and US which would prevent swedish companies producing something that infringes US-only patents. Also any swedish company can produce anything that is banned in US. I guess absynthe is.

Third. Pay attention to the HTC & Apple cases. Apple is trying to prevent import of HTC phones. That is the key! Apple can not sue taiwanese company of US patent infringement, not in US, not in Taiwan. What they can do is complain to ITC and ban import and that is exactly what they ar doing: http://www.fosspatents.com/2011/12/apple-wins-itc-ruling-of-...


First, A country is legally obliged to follow the laws of all countries in which they do business. For legal purposes, "doing business" means actual physical operations in a country or knowingly and deliberately selling into a country. This is basic international law.

Second. That is not how import/export law works. I do not have time to explain how it applies, so Google it.

Third. Your second statement is correct.

Fourth. Your third statement is not correct. Apple can sue HTC in the U.S. b/c HTC does business in the U.S. Apple chose to pursue this case in the ITC b/c it is asignificantly faster way to achieve its business goals (namely, interfering with a competitor's sales of a product). Patent litigation through the court system is a very slow, years-long process, and could take long enough that Apple would be on the down-cycle again.


Right. huhtenberg's analogy was flawed. His analogy to selling liquor only works if you remote-access a computer in Sweden and then buy Minecraft from that computer. Then when you copy Minecraft from the remote to your home system, you're the importer. If you buy from a US-based computer then it's Mojang acting as an importer to the US.

The liquor analogy would be if you ordered a bottle of liquor to be shipped to the US and the liquor store would be expected to comply with US import rules.


Neither your nor my interpretation of an online purchase is a correct one. An online purchase from a computer in one country at a web server in another can be treated as both an import (by a purchaser) and an export (by a seller). But since a sale is typically solicited by a purchaser (it's driven by those who purchase), I'd say it's an import rather than an export.

> liquor to be shipped to the US and the liquor store would be expected to comply with US import rules

It may want to comply with the rules, because the parcel will bounce at customs, but if there are no export restrictions, it has no other reason not to send a bottle into the US.


>it has no other reason not to send a bottle into the US

Except to serve it's customer, because if it doesn't meet import requirements then the customer's package will never arrive. I understand it may not be legally obligated so there's no repercussion except the shipment being confiscated, but it's in business to serve customers.


Generally under international law, a consumer cannot be the "importer" of record because there are all sorts of fun obligations that come with being an "importer".

Carrying stuff you bought on an overseas trip through customs is not "importation" for legal purposes.

Also, export restrictions are different from import laws. Export laws are applied by the seller's country. The buyer does not have to comply with export laws. Import laws are applied by the buyer's country. Both the buyer and seller must comply with import laws unless the buyer is an "importer of record" in which case only the buyer must comply with import laws.


"legally obliged" as per which country's law? Also, depending on how one views it, it's not them exporting, but rather their customers importing bought software.


It is always both, not one perspective or the other. You can't export something without it being imported to somewhere.


How do you prevent sales in the US if it's only sold online? They can't order blocking using geolocation since the company is in Sweden... now I'm curious.


[I'm not saying any of this is right, just pointing out how it's done]

(1) You go after the companies collecting the money (Visa etc) and delivering the app (Google, Apple). These very much have physical offices and principals in the US.

(2) You arrest people who dare to fly through/over/near the US. See: legal UK gambling companies.

(3) You attempt to extradite anyone not caught by (1) or (2), if necessary pushing for one-sided extradition and IP laws to do so.


In response...

1) Yes, also I guess they could order ISPs to block the website, but I don't know if there is any precedent for this.

2) No, patent infringement is not a crime

3) No, patent infringement is not a fellony (or crime).

If there was a Default Judgement against them then violating it may be a contempt of court, which may be a crime - anyone know if that's the case?

Edit: Wikipedia says "Contempt of court in a civil suit is generally not considered to be a criminal offense".


I don't know US law, but is this http://www.quizlaw.com/patents/what_are_the_penalties_for_pa... correct? You see, if there's only monetary penalties and company is sued then no individal is in danger of any sort. I mean (2) and (3) often came around in such discussions, so I have to ask: is anybody ever arrested in US and thrown in jail when that somebody's company potentially owns money to somebody. Because at least in Europe I'm not aware of cases even when some individual owns money to somebody and he can be arested - the only method of extracting money out of somebody is seizing the assets. Realistically (1) is the only thing you can do as patent owner. All you can do is try to prevent sales in US. But still, Swedish company can not break any US law.


The U.S. specifically forbids debtor's prison. You cannot be thrown in jail simply for owing money to someone. European countries copied this right from the U.S. when they got around to modernizing their legal systems.



Not paying a judgement against you is not contempt of court.

In the Yahoo Article, the woman arrested failed to show up to multiple court hearings, despite receive notice at the proper address. The fact that the court hearings related to a debt was incidental. Blame shoddy journalism.

The second one, is a blog post, which actually talks about something entirely different from a debtor's prison. It refers to a "debtor's exam", which is a fancy way of saying that your finances are examined to see if you can afford to pay the debt. No prison time involved. Intrusive maybe, but warranted if you haven't paid the debt at issue.


Plenty of Judges treat not paying a judgement against you as contempt of court. Even though it is not supposed to happen, it often does.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/06/opinion/06mon4.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/14/opinion/return-of-debtors-...

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870439650457620...

Debtor's prison is alive and well in America.


> How do you prevent sales in the US if it's only sold online?

Just preventing sales from customers in the US app store would be a lot of damage. Google and Apple already have different products available according to country of origin. Billing addresses can also be easily checked.


Wrong. If Mojang sells products or services into the US market, which they do, then they are subject to those laws.

The presence of "Minecraft" on the US XBox Live store is just one example.


How can a European company sue a European company in ... Texas? If I were the judge I'd kick it out of court on shear lunacy.


That's why they are filing in east Texas, it's a jurisdiction that is friendly to patent trolls. Lunacy is the business model.


> Uniloc

aka "one line of code"?

I have a hypothesis that at least some of the patent trolls are actually a non-violent protest against the way patent law is implemented. They're forcing, demanding, the legal system catch up.


I propose a fun and existing amendment to intellectual property cases: if the plaintiff loses, the defendant gets to shoot the plaintiff (or the plaintiff's CEO) and the losing legal team. Not at a distant time and place, mind you, but right there on the spot. "We the jury find the defendant not liable blam blam."

I think that should reduce the number of patent lawsuits to approximately the number appropriate for an educated and free society. If you really, really feel that you've been wronged, go for it! But don't waste the court's or society's time, resources, and goodwill on horrid antisocial crud like this.


The fuck?

Replace 'intellectual property' with 'whistleblower' and you've suddenly illustrated exactly the terrible climate that scares a lot of people away from doing the right thing.

The problem isn't overzealousness. Hell, overzealousness should be commended. The problem is a system which drains time and resources regardless and outcome, and a general ignorance due to the complexity of technology & prior art.


We want overzealous IP litigation? To the contrary: yes, that is exactly the problem.


Overzealous litigation is preferable to underzealous litigation with the assumption that litigation always favors justice and truth.

Obviously, that latter is not true, and that's the issue here.


How about a more realistic thought (the humor in your post has been noted), how about if when you lose a patent case as the plaintiff, you (or your company) are no longer allowed to file patents in the future, and your existing patents are now invalid.


I could get completely behind that, or at the minimum, the specific patents used in the lawsuit are invalidated.


People being sued for patent infringement often go on the offensive, filing reexamination requests with the USPTO in order to invalidate the patent.

One problem is that the courts, especially those in East Texas, do not care to wait for the reexamination procedures to finish, so you can infringe on a patent later found invalid.

It would be very interesting if Notch got their lawyers to supervise a crowd-sourced search for prior art, though. I hope he does so!


Notch should mobilise some of those millions of players.

(http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml)


haha love the typo "mindcraft" rather than "minecraft" (pg3, section 12).


I love how the Plaintiff has called the game 'Mindcraft'!


How did the patent troll know about the unreleased and unannounced Minecraft 2 aka Mindcraft??




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