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Nintendo Suffers $21M Patent Infringement Award 70

Posted by timothy
from the patent-rolling-your-eyes-derisively dept.
CowTipperGore writes "The AP reports (via Yahoo!) that Nintendo of America Inc. has been ordered to pay a small East Texas gaming company $21 million for infringing on a patent while designing controllers for its popular Wii and GameCube systems. No stranger to lawsuits over controller designs, a Nintendo spokesman said the company will seek an appeal. The suit was originally filed in 2006 and included Microsoft. Microsoft's aggressive legal push back apparently helped as they reached a (confidential) settlement agreement before the case went to trial."
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Nintendo Suffers $21M Patent Infringement Award

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  • by nuzak (959558) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:57AM (#23418880) Journal
    I'd like to "suffer" a $21 award.
  • Well... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Kingrames (858416)
    At least they wiil appeal the ruling.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by oahazmatt (868057) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:06AM (#23419030) Journal

      At least they wiil appeal the ruling.
      Why bother? It'd be easier to auction off a few Wiis under assumed eBay accounts to make-up the difference.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by powerlord (28156)

        At least they wiil appeal the ruling.

        Why bother? It'd be easier to auction off a few Wiis under assumed eBay accounts to make-up the difference.


        I can see it now:

        When contacted for comment, Nintendo of America issued this press release:

        "Wii would like to Pay"

        and suggested interested parties should check new eBay auctions.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I caught it, even if nobody else did...
  • Patentability (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Azaril (1046456)
    I know its been said many times before, but how are any of these patentable? A 3d controller with vibration - how can a patent office and a judge believe that qualifies as non-obvious and novel? Not only that, but on all of these controllers surely all of the playstation controllers, the n64 controller, dreamcast constitute prior art?
    • Re:Patentability (Score:4, Informative)

      by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:14AM (#23419168) Homepage Journal
      Actually it doesn't seem to have anything to do with motion control.

      The jury found that Nintendo infringed on Anascape's patent while designing its Wii Classic, WaveBird and Gamecube controllers.

      Scibettra said Nintendo was pleased no infringement was found with the motion-sensing technology used in its wandlike Wii and Nuncheck controllers, which mimic movements by users in games such as tennis and boxing.
      None of those controllers have motion sensing in them.
      • Oh sorry, I thought you said motion not vibration.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by falcon5768 (629591)
          The real question here is, how stupid is this Judge. Its not hard to look at the "evidence" and realize this company is a front for a patent troll, yet here we go again a judge with no technical background is smoke-screened by a company who makes no product and who's sole income has been through settling and lawsuits.

          It doesnt take much to figure out whats going on here, yet apparently it was too much for this dolt.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by KDR_11k (778916)
            It does not matter if the judge knows that company is a patent troll, there are no laws that say patent trolls cannot sue for infringement and the judge's job is to apply existing law, not create new laws on a whim.
            • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

              by Majik Sheff (930627)
              It hasn't stopped judges in the past. All Nintendo had to do was frame the lawsuit as an infringement on their right to privacy. Then the Judge will have no choice but to not only drop the case, but immediately create a new class of laws.

              Judges don't have the power to legislate, and there is no right to privacy outlined in the constitution. Neither of these facts seem to matter though.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Uncle Focker (1277658)

                and there is no right to privacy outlined in the constitution.
                Looks like another person who has failed to read the 9th Amendment.

                The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
                Monster. Fucking. Fail.
                • Because, as we all know, the ninth amendment was basically saying that the government cannot stop a person's pursuit of life, liberty, happiness, Macs, DRM-free music and privacy on your Wii. That's pretty obvious. I mean, it's right there people, freedom. That means freedom from DRM music. There's no need to invoke the Fair Use doctrine - it doesn't really apply to stealing music anyway - just saying that the ninth amendment says that everyone is entitled to their privacy is enough. What is more priva
          • Re:Patentability (Score:5, Informative)

            by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @01:21PM (#23421704) Homepage Journal
            If you bothered to RTFA, you'd find out it wasn't the judge but a federal jury that found in favor of Anascape.
    • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:35AM (#23419484) Homepage Journal

      A 3d controller with vibration - how can a patent office and a judge believe that qualifies as non-obvious and novel?
      Only the claims of a patent, not its title, have legal force. But I did read the list of patent titles from "suit was originally filed [joystiq.com]". Taking into account the aspects infringing products (Xbox controller, GameCube controller, and Wii Classic Controller) and the titles of the patents, I guess that the patents cover some aspect of the analog L and R shoulder buttons on those controllers. The claims of U.S. Patent 6,344,791 appear to cover specifically the tactile detent that the player feels when pressing the GCN controller's L and R buttons all the way.
      • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @01:18PM (#23421624) Homepage Journal
        You get the exact same feedback from the Super Nintendo controller's shoulder buttons. This company is indeed a patent troll and neds t be labeled as a vexatious litigant.
        • You get the exact same feedback from the Super Nintendo controller's shoulder buttons.
          The SNES's shoulder buttons were not analog.
          • by Khyber (864651)
            "The claims of U.S. Patent 6,344,791 appear to cover specifically the tactile detent that the player feels when pressing the GCN controller's L and R buttons all the way."

            My post still stands. It's the tactile feedback you get after pressing the button in all the way, AKA a 'click.'
            • by grumbel (592662)
              The SNES shoulder buttons don't click, the GCN shoulder buttons do.
              • by Khyber (864651)
                The SNES buttons do indeed click. I'm holding my controller right now and pressing the buttons. They have a tactile "click" you can feel. Take it apart and you'll find the membrane switch making that soft tactile 'click'
                • by Khyber (864651)
                  To add to that, the Sega Genesis controller buttons click as well when you press them, so do the a and b buttons on an old NES controller.

                  This sort of tactile feedback is NOT new, and hasn't been since ARCADE GAMES or even PINBALL.
                  • by xenocide2 (231786)
                    I believe the novelty is that the button is designed to have a range of inputs, yet still have a "click" on the high end.
                    • by blincoln (592401)
                      I believe the novelty is that the button is designed to have a range of inputs, yet still have a "click" on the high end.

                      Sounds like a $21 million idea if I've ever heard one!
                • The SNES buttons do indeed click. I'm holding my controller right now and pressing the buttons. They have a tactile "click" you can feel. Take it apart and you'll find the membrane switch making that soft tactile 'click'

                  The SNES/Genesis/Pinball buttons do are not analog sensors that click at their extents. The patent is not as broad as you are describing it and does not include the controllers you're talking about. One of the other posters posted a link to the patent. You and the dudes wasting their mod-points on your posts need to go read it. Heck, just read the frickin abstract.

                  Good grief people are quick to spout nonsense around here.

                  • by Khyber (864651)
                    "Pinball buttons do are not analog sensors that click at their extents"

                    Do you even know what a solenoid is? It's an analog sensor that clicks at it's extent. My Zizzle pinball table is a perfect example of this.
                    • That's nice. Anyway, read the f'n patent. It specifically mentions the SNES controllers and how it's built. It also mentions why pinball machines aren't prior art for this thing, etc. Imagine how much more you'd know right now if you spent 5 minutes clicking a link instead of arguing with me and continuing to be wrong.
                    • by Khyber (864651)
                      I've read the link, the fucking patent, and the whole damned article, and as I look around everywhere I see prior art. Hey, the exact same thing is used in musical keyboards, WITH A CLICK AT THE END. Oh, hey, The original Playstation controller did the exact same thing, STILL DOES. Why isn't this patent troll suing Sony?
                    • "Oh, hey, The original Playstation controller did the exact same thing, STILL DOES. Why isn't this patent troll suing Sony?"

                      Because the patent troll knows something you don't about the difference between the GC and the PS1 controller. Odd that somebody like you that has read the patent so very thoroughly doesn't quite get the difference.

                      Oh well. Anyway, the PS1 controller doesn't contain the mechanism discussed in the patent. The PS2 doesn't. The Dreamcast doesn't. The 3DO doesn't. The Saturn doesn't.
                    • I was referring to the original XBOX, not the 360. But I could be mistaken about its shoulder button layout, I've never actually had one.
            • I described the patented response as happening "when pressing the [...] controller's L and R buttons all the way". You seem to think my description applies as well to a 2-state switch like the one in the Super NES shoulder buttons. In that case, I'd like to know what you think I meant by "all the way". Read the patent's claims [uspto.gov] to see what I meant: the patent applies to the combination of a "variable sensor" and this "click" at the end of the range. For your convenience, I will quote two of the claims here:
              • You can't of course, but analog shoulder buttons have been around for rather a long time now. Off the top of my head, the earliest one I can remember is the NeGcon back around 1994. It didn't click, but maybe Namco can use their NeGcon patents and sue these trolls for their Wii moolah?

                What kind of "variable depressive force" can you read out of a Super NES shoulder button's binary switch?
              • by DeadCatX2 (950953)
                Yours is the post I've been looking for. Thank you for pointing out the pertinent information, instead of just telling people to go read it themselves.

                I believe the GP thinks that the issue is adding analog input to buttons that already click. In such a case, we're patenting "when it clicks" (i.e. click at the end, or the beginning). This makes sense, because the DualShock doesn't click you press the analog buttons, and Sony wasn't sued. I think there are other more important flaws with the claims you c
                • You're telling me it's clever, unique, or non-obvious to make a button that clicks at one end, instead of a rotary pot?

                  Compared to a rotary pot, the non-obvious part is spring-loading this sensor away from the side that has tactile snapping.

                  From there, it's non-obvious to make it click at the other end? Perhaps you could say "but this is all the way on", however a volume knob is called an attenuator by people who build things like this for a living (otherwise known as "someone skilled in the art"). You get maximum attenuation when you hear the click.

                  Unlike a button, a knob is not spring-loaded and therefore doesn't measure "depressive force", let alone "variable depressive force". You'd have to have a volume control button that snaps to maximum attenuation (that is, mute) when the button is pressed all the way and then returns to zero attenuation when the button is released.

                  Analog inputs to video games were common long before this patent.

                  The analog joysticks and gas pedals of the prior art hit

                  • by DeadCatX2 (950953)
                    Compared to a rotary pot, the non-obvious part is spring-loading this sensor away from the side that has tactile snapping.

                    And this differs from spring-loaded digital buttons in what way? It's now novel and non-obvious to add an analog sensor to spring-loaded buttons?

                    Unlike a button, a knob is not spring-loaded and therefore doesn't measure "depressive force", let alone "variable depressive force".

                    My point was meant to compare the variable pressure sensor with a click-through mechanism to other types of con
                    • by tepples (727027)

                      And this differs from spring-loaded digital buttons in what way? It's now novel and non-obvious to add an analog sensor to spring-loaded buttons?

                      The three features are more than 2 states (A), a momentary sensor (B), and snap-back tactile feedback (C). B + C = PC mouse button. A + C = attenuator knob. A + B = analog thumbstick. As far as I can tell, the USPTO thought A + B + C was novel and non-obvious.

                      And here is where my point comes full circle. They took the idea of a volume knob, a fairly conventional analog input with a click-through at maximum attenuation, and applied it the conventional button. This is a synthesis of common techniques that every electrical engineer would be aware of.

                      My understanding of patent law in Slashdot's jurisdiction is that both the problem and its solution must be obvious to anyone skilled in the art in order for an invention to be excluded from patentability on grounds of obviousness.

                    • by DeadCatX2 (950953)
                      The three features are more than 2 states (A), a momentary sensor (B), and snap-back tactile feedback (C). B + C = PC mouse button. A + C = attenuator knob. A + B = analog thumbstick. As far as I can tell, the USPTO thought A + B + C was novel and non-obvious.

                      It appears that we agree this is merely the result of synthesizing together features from any of multiple types of disparate but common input devices. We either add A to BC, or B to AC, or C to AB.

                      Given common examples of AB, AC, and BC, I don't think
                  • by DeadCatX2 (950953)
                    Actually, I was re-reading this, and I'd like to make four points.

                    First, there is nothing in the claims about any springs.

                    Second, according to the body, the "spring" is actually the plastic part of the membrane switch pushing back up. So I question whether that is really "spring loaded".

                    Third, the idea of spring-loading an analog sensor would be similar to normal analog sticks which return to center when released.

                    Fourth, I thought the patent in question was this one [uspto.gov], awarded in November 2000, not the one a
                    • by tepples (727027)

                      Fourth, I thought the patent in question was this one
                      The article lists about a dozen patents. I picked an arbitrary one from the list to dissect.

                      Do you really consider that putting together two currently existing but separate technologies is worthy of a patent?
                      "Is"? Yes. "Should be"? I'm not so sure.
    • by cjb658 (1235986)

      I know its been said many times before, but how are any of these patentable? A 3d controller with vibration - how can a patent office and a judge believe that qualifies as non-obvious and novel? Not only that, but on all of these controllers surely all of the playstation controllers, the n64 controller, dreamcast constitute prior art?

      1. Create vaguely worded patent, using complex technical terms to describe very simple ideas.
      2. Find patent office worker who has never used a computer before, or knows very little about it.
      3. ???
      4. Profit!

  • Dumb patents abound (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CogDissident (951207) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:55AM (#23419846)
    Well, you do know Nintendo owns the patents on both: Water reflections in a video game The concept of "high score" Of course, they're not dumb enough to use them, but as part of their star fox 64 patent, they included those as sub-technologies that were patented, and it was approved.
    • by morari (1080535)
      I also heard that Nintendo owns the patent to the "Sanity System" from Eternal Darkness. That one's a doozy, especially if you want to make a Call of Cthulhu game. :P
    • If you release some new piece of technology and it's successful, hell, if it just gets good press coverage, then you will be sued by another company that built the same thing you did... but five years ago. On a related note, I have $5 that says someone sues over the LHC before the year ends.
  • how? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dart524 (1273640) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:57AM (#23419906)
    iv'e never seen a controller by these people how can they have a patent for something that no one has seen or heard about thats like me thinking about making a special kind of rocketship getting a patent then scrap the idea and sue anyone who tries to make the idea
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Valcrus (1242564)
      Thats the problem with the current patent system. You could potentially do just that. Its not fool proof but that is pretty much what these companies are doing. They will buy or create a patent and then sit around until some company makes something close to the patent then sue them and try to get a settlement out of them.
    • by MBGMorden (803437)
      That's the way the patent system works. You patent your design, not a physical product (though the concept of "design" has gotten pretty loose these days).

      The original intent was to reward little guys who came up with ideas that they wouldn't otherwise be able to finance production of. Instead of keeping their idea secret while they tried to find the money to make their new gadget, they could license or sell the patent to a big company and let THEM make it. Sounds like a good idea in concept (or at leas
      • No, the original intent of patents was to fill the Royal coffers by selling limited monopolies to merchants after the Magna Carta required democratic consent to levy taxes. The system was adopted in the US as a way to encourage people to bring ideas to an underdeveloped US with plenty of resources but not many highly educated inventors to employ those resources. When the founders wrote the constitution there were no "big companies". Eben Moglen had a pretty good talk on the origins of patents and the implic
    • by baxissimo (135512)
      When NVIDIA sues ATI over patent infringement, ATI just turns around and says "oh yeh, well you're violating all these patents of ours". But the beauty of being a patent troll is that you can't be in violation of the defendant's technology patents if you don't make anything.

      This really ought to be made illegal. If you cannot show that you are at least actively pursuing creation of a product based on your patent after X number of years, then your claims to the patent should be considered abandoned, or at l
  • by archammer2 (1041754) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @12:26PM (#23420516)
    After doing a 30-second search for "Anascape", the only thing I could find on them are the law suits. Though, to be fair, most every gaming news site is covering this one. Still, who are these people? Have they done anything besides file the patents and then smack down anyone that uses "their technology"? Side note: Something the summary doesn't mention. Anascape originally sued Sony over the Playstation controllers. Then, they went after Microsoft and Nintendo at the same time. They don't seem to have any problems with the wiimote yet. Just the classic controller and the Gamecube controller.
    • by mog007 (677810)
      No, afraid not. Immersion is the company which sued Sony. They also didn't sue Microsoft, because Microsoft paid them a license for their patent. Nintendo wasn't involved, because Nintendo's vibration technology doesn't infringe upon Immersion's patent.
      • by mog007 (677810)
        Bah, I should have previewed that, they did *sue* Microsoft, but they never got to court, because Microsoft settled out of court for a license.
      • At least Immersion was a real company. They had a website and showed which technologies they developed and the companies they worked with. There seems to be nothing behind "Anascape"
    • by kesuki (321456)
      Anascape has only one employee, Brad Alan Armstrong.

      He's been acquiring patents on video game controllers since 1999, he has moved a lot

      "Subject: ARMSTRONG, BRAD ALAN, Age: 54

      * 1 address in CHICO, CA
      * 1 address in PARADISE, CA
      * 6 addresses in CARSON CITY, NV
      * 1 address in TYLER, TX
      "

      all his information is available from Intelius, but since you have to pay for the report, i didn't bother http:// [intelius.com]

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