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United Kingdom Input Devices Microsoft Patents The Courts XBox (Games) Games

Microsoft Sues UK's Datel Over Controllers 109

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-gotta-be-kidding-me dept.
nathanielinbrazil writes "Microsoft has sued a British manufacturer over the infringement of four of its patents for Xbox game controllers. The suit was filed in Seattle, Washington, and Datel has yet to respond. Datel is a United Kingdom company with a US unit and has produced two specific controllers — the TurboFire and WildFire — that Microsoft wants stopped." The infringing patents are over "portions of a gaming controller" and "portion of a gaming input device having an illuminated region."
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Microsoft Sues UK's Datel Over Controllers

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  • 4 + 2 = 4? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:20AM (#31734262)

    Specifically, four of the patents - 521,015, D522,011, D547,763 and D581,422 - relate to "portions of a gaming controller", another two, D563,480 and D565,668 cover a "portion of a gaming input device having an illuminated region"

    the infringement of four of its patents for Xbox game controllers.

  • by Mekkah (1651935) on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:23AM (#31734318) Journal
  • Re:Yay! (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:32AM (#31734428)

    you say that, but if I'm playing my ps3 in the dark and a game asks to press the "square" key, i have to squint to work out which one it is. on a 360 controller, they're lit up.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples.gmail@com> on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:38AM (#31734500) Homepage Journal

    the action replay (which uses stolen code from Nintendo)

    Accolade used "stolen" code from Sega to get the console to recognize video game cartridges. Sega sued and lost [wikipedia.org]. Post-DMCA, Static Control Components used "stolen" code from Lexmark to get the printer to recognize toner cartridges. Lexmark sued and lost [wikipedia.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:43AM (#31734584)

    No wonder Datel hasn't responsed yet. "Response" isn't a verb!

  • Re:Yay! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Movi (1005625) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:12PM (#31735020)

    Umm, no they're not. Only the dash (huge green X) is lit up, or rather flashes on certain occasions.

  • Re:Yay! (Score:4, Informative)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:21PM (#31735158)
    You are probably right that this isn't a patent troll case. An interesting thing not mentioned in the article is that it seems that Datel sued Microsoft first [seattlepi.com]. I guess this is Microsoft's way of saying "don't sue us; we're bigger than you; due process will not apply here".
  • by canajin56 (660655) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:21PM (#31735160)

    Oops, they aren't. They are design patents, not hardware patents. I mean, obviously you couldn't patent having a light on a control to show its mode. Turbofire controllers for the NES had lights on them. What you can patent via design patent, though, is having a light in a particular spot. And handgrips in a particular shape. Analog sticks in a particular spot. And so on. Basically, you can't make a controller that has anything at all in common with the xbox controller, because it's protected by a dozen or so design patents. You'd think that if a design patent is on a design, you could only have one on a design. But that would be bad, because then you could just have your own design! No, it's important to have each button, each stick, protected by its own patent. That way, it's basically impossible to make a third party xbox controller without infringing at least a few of the design patents.

    The controller does look identical to an XBOX controller. The black/white buttons are above instead of below. But those guys are all over the place on the different official xbox controllers anyways. All the other buttons are the same, and the shape is identical. Now, design patents can only cover the ornamental portion of the design, not the function. (If the function of your device is novel, it needs a regular patent). So, you could argue it needs all of those buttons. Certainly microsoft has no claim on a diamond of four buttons, X,Y,A,B, considering the SNES has the exact same diamond arrangement of buttons, even with the same damn names! The PS1 had the same setup with 4 shoulder buttons, but they aren't the same shape, and the Datel controller copies the exact shape of the shoulder buttons. Datel could also try to argue that users of an XBOX would be used to the positions of the sticks and buttons, so that's a necessary part of the device, as opposed to simple aesthetics. However, the fact remains that the shape overall is identical, and since there are all kinds of controllers out there, you couldn't argue that the EXACT shape is a necessary part of the device.

    So, all in all, no, this isn't hardware patents. It's design patents, which are more like copyright than actual patents. It doesn't have to be a novel invention. It just has to be a distinct ornamental design. Though like other patents, they are frequently abused to cover any and all designs, regardless of aesthetics. Which makes it messy. They are difficult to defend against if your design is close to an existing design, because it can be hard to demonstrate which parts of a design are needed for functionality, and which are purely aesthetic. Especially for a controller, where the games might be designed around the assumption of a particular layout.

  • Re:Ok, really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by NemosomeN (670035) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:32PM (#31735322) Journal
    I think the real issue is that they don't want rapid fire buttons to give unfair advantages in online play, so they want to stop them using whatever means necessary without opening them to liability (As banning controllers with a certain vendor id would do). And also to avoid putting in place a stop-gap that the vendor could circumvent (Fake Vendor ID). I also think the USB license agreement might forbid both methods, blocking and faking IDs.
  • Re:Yay! (Score:2, Informative)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:43PM (#31736602)

    Good thing it's a design patent, and that Datel's controller is pretty much copied exactly from M$'s.

    Just look at it. [codejunkies.com]

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