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Nintendo Loses Controller Patent Lawsuit 324

Posted by kdawson
from the break-out-the-brain-computer-interface dept.
kryogen1x alerts us to coverage at 1up indicating that Nintendo controller may soon become scarce — Nintendo lost in court to Anascape over analog sticks in their Wii and GameCube controllers.This isn't the first time the big manufacturers have been targeted in lawsuits involving features in their controllers. From the article: "The lawsuit concerns the analog sticks in the Classic Controller and GameCube controllers, which Texas-based Anascape Ltd. claims to hold a patent on that Nintendo violated. The court has ruled in favor of Anascape, and US District Judge Ron Clark has rejected Nintendo's request for a new trial. As a result, Clark said he will put a ban on the sale of the controllers (which includes sales of GameCube systems) starting tomorrow, July 23, unless Nintendo posts a bond or puts royalties into an escrow account."
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Nintendo Loses Controller Patent Lawsuit

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  • Could be worse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GMThomas (1115405) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:03PM (#24298679) Homepage
    Hopefully they will redesign their analog sticks. All my analog sticks on my GameCube controllers are very jiggly and have huge nullzones.
  • by MBraynard (653724) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:03PM (#24298681) Journal
    When you pry it from my cold, dead hands...
  • Prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eggman9713 (714915) <{eggman97132007} {at} {mac.com}> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:12PM (#24298741)
    DOesn't prior art have some bearing on this? I mean, the gamecub controllers have been around for how many years now? And Anascape waits until how long ago to file suit? Can they still defend a patent after this long or am I missing something? Something definitely smells fishy here.
    • terms (Score:5, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @12:30AM (#24299219)

      This is a bit of a pedantic response, but "prior art" means something different. Prior art is evidence of the patented invention, or something substantially similar, having already been invented by someone else, earlier than the patent holder's earliest evidence of invention. Prior art usually invalidates a patent, since only the first inventor can patent something.

      What you're asking about is the case of someone sitting on a patent for a while, not enforcing it despite being aware of the violation, and then enforcing it later. There is no automatic statutory ban on this, unlike with trademarks, where you can lose the trademark after a period of not enforcing it. There is a general legal doctrine of "estoppel", which prohibits you from inducing someone else into doing something and then suing them; for example, if you told someone you forgave their debt (even if you didn't legally sign documents to discharge the debt), and they relied on your statement to that effect and bought a house, and now you want the money back and they don't have it because they bought a house with it, they could invoke estoppel since you misled them to their detriment about the status of the debt. In cases like this it's a bit harder to invoke---it's not like the patent trolls actively say "hey anyone can use our patent!" and then later "ha ha just kidding, see you in court!" Instead, they keep quiet for a while, and then sue later, so you'd have to argue their silence was acquiescing to or encouraging the use implicitly, and that it was done intentionally for the purpose of getting the defendant to rely on the patented technology before suing. This has worked on occasion.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by k_187 (61692)
        Be quiet, I won't have your well reasoned and thoughtful posts making sense of what's happening here.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:15PM (#24298775)

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=awZrhG5wo.jw

  • by adah (941522) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:17PM (#24298789)

    Apparently the big corportations are not hurt enough to change their attitudes towards patents. May more ridiculous patent suits appear, and clear everybody's eyes that patents are sucking and they are obstacles to (rather than protection of) innovation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Some have changed their attitude. Software companies in general tend to be in favor of changing the patent system (check this article [bbc.co.uk] for a quote by an ebay spokesman saying patent trolls are "an unfortunate cost of doing business). On the other hand, medical companies tend to be in favor of keeping the current system. In general, companies who benefit from patents (like Qualcomm) don't want to change things, whereas companies who are hurt by them want to change things. It has nothing to do with the siz
  • Anascape, you have just unleashed the fury of zillions of Slashdot zealots!
    Take no prisioners!

  • by Stephen Ma (163056) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:26PM (#24298839)
    This looks like another trivial patent. Whatever happened to the old "non-obvious" test for patentability?

    Here is one way to fix the problem: let the Patent Office be heavily penalized for every patent overturned by the courts. If the Office goes bankrupt as a result of its own negligence, too bad, let it die. Congress can always start a new Office with completely different management.

    At the moment, the Patent Office is too unaccountable; there is little penalty for doing shoddy work. The threat of bankruptcy might concentrate a few minds over there.

    • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:40PM (#24298917) Homepage Journal

      Here is one way to fix the problem: let the Patent Office be heavily penalized for every patent overturned by the courts. If the Office goes bankrupt as a result of its own negligence, too bad, let it die. Congress can always start a new Office with completely different management.

      At the moment, the Patent Office is too unaccountable; there is little penalty for doing shoddy work. The threat of bankruptcy might concentrate a few minds over there.

      I like this line of thought, but you are way too generous. Why penalize with money? Give each patent examiner a strike when their decisions are over turned. After three strikes, kill them. ( Most would retire after two )

      Hmmm...this plan could bring accountability to other governmental agencies too. Imagine every congressperson getting a strike when a law that he/she passed was found to be unconstitutional.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Here is one way to fix the problem: let the Patent Office be heavily penalized for every patent overturned by the courts.

      Here's another one: Let the federal courts be heavily penalized for every patent lawsuit overturned by higher courts.
      The rubberstamping going on in Eastern Texas [technologyreview.com] makes me ashamed of our justice system. It's become a farce, and unless the DoJ does something soon, people will lose all faith that there is any "just" in "justice".

  • Analog sticks?? The first generation of consoles (as in 1970) used them almost exclusively, see: This link [wikipedia.org]. Surely patents on using an analog stick would have expired by now?
    • Surely patents on using an analog stick would have expired by now?

      The patent isn't for 'any analog stick ever made'. It's for a 'specific construction of an anlaog stick'. Patents (in theory, anyway) aren't that broad.

    • Re:Prior Art (Score:5, Informative)

      by triffid_98 (899609) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @12:22AM (#24299167)
      Consoles in the 1970's had paddles. That's not really the same thing.
      The earliest mainstream console with an analog stick I'm aware of was on the (82?) GCE Vectrex, though from your link the infamously terrible 5200 stick predates it by a few months.

      Anyway, this patent is about analog sticks with built in rumble packs. Previous controllers (N64,DC) used plug in modules instead. Building one into the controller itself, wow, go go patent trolls.

      Analog sticks?? The first generation of consoles (as in 1970) used them almost exclusively, see: This link.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Yer Mum (570034)

        The classic controller doesn't have rumble, possibly for this very reason (Nintendo saw this patent lawsuit coming). Incidentally neither does the GCN Wavebird controller.

        So I'm not sure why the classic controller falls under the patent but the Nunchuk doesn't, unless it's controller with two analogue sticks that are patented.

        Anyway, Nintendo can just raise the price of the classic controller in the US or not sell it.

  • I would put this under the obvious section, think about it, arcade machines have used them for god knows how long (i remember them 20 years ago). If you put arcade games ona console, you'd expect that the same controllers would be ported to a controller as well. Thinking back, there was a game called time commando(or something similar) in which you could face six or eight directions using the stick, there have been a few with dual controllers as well. The machines the games are run on have changed, so shoul
  • by Rhalin (791665) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @12:02AM (#24299039)
    Found here [google.com]

    //Leached from someone else's hard work in Kotaku comments
    (http://www.kotaku.com.au/games/2008/07/nintendos_patent_case_the_unanswered_questions-2.html [kotaku.com.au])
  • by Kopiok (898028) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @12:10AM (#24299095)

    According to Doug Cawley, Anascape's lawyer, his client argued for the ban because Anascape wants to enter the market itself, and they claim that Nintendo has "clogged the channel."

    Hah... Tell that to MadCatz, or Game Infinity, or Pelican Accessories and others. They seem to be doing quite well at making alternative controllers. (With analogue sticks!)

  • At what point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nightfire-unique (253895) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @12:17AM (#24299135)
    ... do the actions of a few motivated individuals become "intellectual terrorism?" Excuse the hyperbole, but every time a patent lawsuit is filed, a lot of people are harmed. How long will we allow this to go on?
    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      ... do the actions of a few motivated individuals become "intellectual terrorism?" Excuse the hyperbole,

      Ok, let's call it "gramatical terrorism" and forget about it.

      How long till "trolling" becomes "forum terrorism"?

      I'll call the news "mediatic terrorism"; starting today.

  • Sega had an analog controller before Nintendo and Playstation, it was bundled together with the game NiGHTS into Dreams (wicked game btw) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamepad#Saturn [wikipedia.org]
  • As I recall Atari was the first to put the analog controller into my hands. They should be the one's with the patent. Perhaps someone from Atari should sue anascape or who ever the person Patent trolling is.. I also think the penalty for a patent troll should be life without money. Yes take all their cash away and force them to live at the sewer dump.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @12:51AM (#24299337) Homepage
    Between Atari's analog stick from way back and nintendo's analog stick? metal poles vs rubber pads with conductors?
  • by voss (52565) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @12:51AM (#24299343)

    Anascape may be an IP company, but it doesnt mean Brand Armstrongs patents are invalid.

    This guy has 32 patents issued to his name.
    http://globaldevices.com/ [globaldevices.com]

    Now the validity of these patents may be called into question. Looking at the patents it doesnt bring to mind submarine patents as much as the question...shouldnt the person who patents something actually be able to demonstrate a working prototype before a final patent is issued not just a paper invention?

  • Needless Hysteria (Score:4, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @02:03AM (#24299761) Homepage

    Sales are not going to stop. Nintendo will, of course, either post a bond or put the royalties in an escrow account, and continue on manufacturing the infringing items while they appeal. If they win on appeal, they get the money back. If they lose, they pay it, and pay a reasonable royalty from then on, or change the design of their devices to not infringe.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @02:21AM (#24299851) Homepage

    Nintendo used an interesting strategy. They basically conceded that the Gamecube controllers and Wii Classic controller infringed, and concentrated on making sure that only those would be found to infringe. The Wii remote was also accused, and their goal was to keep that from being found to infringe.

    Judge Clark commented on this when denying Nintendo's motion for remittitur:

    It appears to the court that Nintendo made some skillfully calculated decisions regarding trial tactics to protect the Wii Nunchuk with Remote. Sales revenue to date from the Wii Nunchuk totals more than the revenue from the other three products combined. In terms of an on-going royalty or compulsory license, that is where substantial future damages would have been. Having virtually admitted that three 'old school' products infringe, and having made no serious attempt to rebut Anascape's damage calculations, Nintendo is not in a good position to argue that the jury's verdict is the result of passion or prejudice, or even that it is disproportionate to the injury sustained.

  • Crazy courts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TRRosen (720617) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @03:42AM (#24300263)
    even if somehow these patents were valid,shouldn't the manufacturer of the infringing device be sued not the end user. The controllers don't infringe the sensors in them do. They should be suing a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer not Nintendo.

    .

    Note. I've looked though the patents and there is absolutely nothing non-obvious in them. its all things any reasonably intelligent designer would have come up with.

  • by atamagabakkaomae (1241604) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @04:37AM (#24300553) Homepage

    The Wii has been become the most popoular console in the US (here [slashdot.org]) Based on these facts, of course an US court will rule in favour of a US company as the result will make the country profit from an overseas competitor like Nintendo.

  • we wont be suffering that kind of shit here.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @08:46AM (#24302499)

    I'm really starting to get pissed off. Corporate America is infringing on freedoms more and more, but in insidious ways.

    Challenging free speech with law suits.
    Challenging freedom of "fair use" with lobbyists who write laws and get them passed.
    The patent system affects our freedom of expression.

    If these were invading armies, we'd get our guns and defend ourselves. With internationalization, private entities are acting more like governments with no democratic feedback.

    I tell you, "patent trolls" wouldn't dare file stupid law suits if we stormed their offices and took the corporate officers as POWs.

    I know this is hyperbole, but I'm also kind of serious, we need to start fighting these extra-legal entities who abuse our laws and have no personal legal responsibility.

"But this one goes to eleven." -- Nigel Tufnel

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