Kicking it up a Notch

First off, the spelling error…Pssst, Uniloc? Minecraft, not Mindcraft.  {shakes head}

Digital Spy and a few hundred of our other favorite IP-watching news sources tell us that Notch, the hero behind the pixelated game my kids love to play, has been sued.  In the Eastern District of Texas.  By a Troll!

Will wonders never cease.

My favorite thing about Notch is that he’s from Sweden, ja.  How can you not love someone from the country that produced the golf-club wielding woman scorned who beat the daylights (or was it headlights?) out of her husband’s car after he was caught cheating on her?  I mean, she’s pretty much the international version of Miranda Lambert.  Hell hath no fury, indeed.

My second favorite thing is that he has the attitude of Mark Cuban, but with more smarts about patents.  A lot of his blog post in response to the suit makes sense.

A common argument for patents is that inventors won’t invent unless they can protect their ideas. The problem with this argument is that patents apply even if the infringer came up with the idea independently. If the idea is that easy to think of, why do we need to reward the person who happened to be first?

Part of my personal answer to that would be the same answer I would provide to a lot of life’s little questions: “So lawyers can make money”.  But that’s just the former law firm employee talking.  The reason this resonates is because he seems to be supporting the notion that an idea should not be the money-maker.  The execution of the idea, the result, the product, should be.  And this is why the “use it or lose it” idea feels so right.

If you are so afraid someone’s going to take your idea and execute on it before you do, then act like a grownup and set a deadline.  Or let the USPTO do it for you by conditioning patents to expire within 24 months of issue if no product is brought to market.  That way the inventor, who legitimate companies want to help and trolls want to exploit, will get his/her fair due but the rest of the world won’t  be prevented from using an idea that, as Notch also nicely points out, they may actually have already had themselves.

He loses me a bit on the medical patents:

I will say that there are areas which are very costly to research, but where the benefits for mankind long term are very positive. I would personally prefer it to have those be government funded (like with CERN or NASA) and patent free as opposed to what’s happening with medicine, but I do understand why some people thing patents are good in these areas.

There’s not much I would put on my “Do Not Want” list ahead of the government owning medical patents.  OMG, no.  But I do see his point that in some cases, the cost to develop a particular product is so incredibly high, and the stakes of it’s outcome so worth it for humans with diseases, that perhaps a forced non-compete in the form of a patent is OK.

From this post over at Techdirt:

On the bright side, as more such patent infringement suits are filed and more companies and individuals are harmed by the current patent system, perhaps we will see those in Washington take notice and implement some real reforms.

Though clearly the patent system is broken and needs elimination some reform, I don’t want Washington to solve the troll problem.  I still think that a consortium of companies being sued needs to form the equivalent of a Super PAC fund and fight these guys tooth and nail every single solitary time they sue.  One of my favorite quotes on parenting is this:  “The certainty of punishment is more important than the severity.”  If, every time a troll files a lawsuit the defendants fight back, they’ll eventually run out of money and energy and they’ll crawl back under their bridges.  Very similar to how you break down a kid who insists on forgetting to make his bed, hang up his towel, and turn his lights off when he leaves his room each morning.  The consequence for that is an 8:00 bedtime, no exceptions.  A week or two enforcing that rule and all of a sudden Jr. remembers what he needs to do.

I hope Notch makes good on his promise to throw money at these guys.  I’d happily donate to the cause, though I may already have in that I’ve bought more than my share of Minecraft merchandise over the last year or so.  For the the boys, of course.  I would never not ever play with that foam pick axe at night after everyone goes to bed.

Just sayin’,