Entrepreneur Mark Cuban and Markus “Notch” Persson, the developer of the popular videogame Minecraft, announced Wednesday they are donating a combined total of $500,000 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help protect innovation and reform the system for software patents. And they’re backing up the money with a dose of sharp humor.
Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and an outspoken critic of the U.S. patent system, stipulated that some of his $250,000 donation be used to fund the EFF staff attorney position that oversees intellectual property issues—currently held by staff attorney Julie Samuels—and specified that the funded position be called, “The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents.”
“The current state of patents and patent litigation in this country is shameful,” Cuban said in a statement. “Silly patent lawsuits force prices to go up while competition and innovation suffer.”
The money will also pay for the hire of a new attorney experienced in patent reform and high-profile patent litigation, EFF said. Daniel Nazer, who has been a Fellow at The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, will join EFF in January.
Perrson’s separate donation of $250,000 will be used to tackle systemic problems with software patents, EFF said. The organization said it plans to push for reform in the courts through activism campaigns, and by educating the public and politicians about what is wrong with software patents and what needs to change.
“Temporary fixes aren’t good enough—we need deep and meaningful reform to protect software development and keep it as free and democratic as possible,” said Persson, who is the owner of Mojang AB, which makes Minecraft. “New games and other technological tools come from improving on old things and making them better—an iterative process that the current patent environment could shut down entirely. “
Both innovators have been highly critical of the U.S. patent system. After the jury reached its verdict in the case Apple Inc. brought against Samsung Electronics Company Ltd. in California earlier this year, Cuban took to Twitter to express his outrage over Apple’s tactics and about the patent system in general.
Persson has written frequently on his blog about the need for software reform. Shortly after his company was sued for patent infringement by patent troll Uniloc USA Inc. and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A., the Swedish game developer and programmer posted that he had no problem with the idea of owning and selling things an individual or company has made. “But there is no way in hell you can convince me that it’s beneficial for society to not share ideas,” he wrote
“Ideas are free,” Persson continued. “They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve.”
EFF, the recipient of the donations, has established a “Defend Innovation” project, which promotes seven “fixes” for the U.S. patent system. These include shortening the term for software patents, allowing winning parties in litigation to recover fees and costs, and protecting inventors who independently arrive at a patented idea. The organization, which was founded in 1990 to protect civil liberties in an increasingly digital world, has focused on such issues as online free speech and illegal surveillance, as well as patent reform.