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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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  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:18AM (#31734228)
    As long as they limit their suits to infringements on hardware patents, I'm okay with that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Why? I'd think something like RSA is more worthy of a patent than 'a controller that lights up'.
      • by russotto (537200)

        I'd think something like RSA is more worthy of a patent than 'a controller that lights up'.

        The "controller that lights up" patents are design patents, which have different standards; they cover what the controller looks like, not how useful it is.

      • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:27PM (#31735260)

        Something like RSA is certainly more important, more worthy, and in many ways better than an Xbox games controller but that doesn't mean it's more patentable.

        There are a number of fundamental things wrong with "software" patents. Firstly, software is fundamentally just ideas that you can do in your head. Anything a computer can do is something you can do but just much quicker. A patent on that is directly a patent on an idea; is a fundamental breach of freedom of thought and through that on freedom of speech. Pure software patents should be eliminated, possibly criminalised.

        A second, more practical difference is that software is intangable. Software ls much more malleable and copyable. Many different ideas come up, are used and abandoned. The original and non-obvious tests just leave far too many things that are patentable. Because there's no obvious "thing" which actually achieves a particular physical transformation, software patents end up either far too broad, covering many different variants each of which would have a separate hardware patent, or too narrow, covering a thing which can only be valuable if you force others to use it by incorporating it into some communications standard. There's can be no happy obvious way to define the limits of a software patent.

        RSA, is a particular example where a patent is really bad because it is fundamentally a patent on basic mathematics. Mathematics has never been patentable, never should have been patentable and has been proven to advance fine without any need for a patent system. Mathematics is also, in some sense "discovered" rather than invented. There just isn't the right trade off to justify such patents and no real philosophical way to justify ownership of such ideas.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      Then there are still some factors to consider:

      1. The patents - are they valid only in the US? And if the controllers aren't sold in the US and the patents are valid only in the US then the infringement wasn't occurring in the area where the patents are valid.
      2. Are the patents valid? Prior art, obviousness, overly broad?

      But this seems to be proof that just about anything can get patented regardless of how obvious and stupid it is.

      • I would go with prior art and obviousness, on the "lit portion" bit of the suit. As for the rest of it, I'd be skeptical of any claims of having "invented" a unique controller. I'll admit up front, I'm not ready to examine the patent to decide for myself. I'll leave that to people who actually use game controllers. It's possible that the internals are unique in some non-obvious way, and MS has a valid suit. I wouldn't take that to the bank until the fat lady is done singing though.

        • by brainnolo (688900)
          As far as I have understood the problem here is not the "lit portion" per-se, but the fact that it looks basically identical to the Microsoft one. If you see the Datel controller, you can hardly distinguish it from the Microsoft controller.
          • Turbofire Wired Controller [codejunkies.com], while looking similar externally, would not be mistaken as a Microsoft product. If you have seen the XBox 360 controllers, I don't think you would confuse this with being the same. I'd expect competing controllers to look similar in layout since games are documented to use that sort of layout. As for the contours of the control and the internal components, I wouldn't expect them to be the same (other than basics that just about all controllers use for detecting a press of a bu
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by canajin56 (660655)

      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

      • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Monday April 05, 2010 @04:45PM (#31740602)
        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.

        You sure as hell cant patent any such thing in the UK. However, it is possible your "design patent" is our "registered design" in which case, to infringe, the lights would have to be the same shape, colour and position, and a bunch of other sameness. So this could lead to a culture clash. I suggest fill the controllers with tea and throw them into Boston Harbour.

        "No controllers without desperation" shall be your battle cry!

        Or perhaps you should be throwing congress-critters in the harbour?

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I wouldn't be so sure about that. I had a conversation with my dad about software patents, and he says it's the same in his industry (fertilizer and seed treatments). The same thing that happen in the software industry, such as broad patents that cover everything, and patenting stuff that has been done for the past 10 years, shows up in other industries too. I don't think there's anything specific about the software industry when it comes to bad patents. I think they probably exist in all industries. I
  • 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.

    • He wants to get his Math back. Did you not read it earlier on /.. This is one of his tricks to get that back.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:38AM (#31734502)

      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.

      Interrogator: I'll ask you one more time. How many patents do you see? Make it easy on yourself.

      Patent Lawyer: THERE. ARE. FOUR. PATENTS!

  • by Mekkah (1651935) on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:23AM (#31734318) Journal
    • by lennier1 (264730)

      Thanks!

      The whole design of that product is a bit too close for comfort.
      Still original enough but the purpose is more than obvious.

      • Too close? Really? It clearly says “Datel”. I’m sorry, but someone who can’t tell such an obvious difference, should not be able to survive an any evolving community anyway. (Of course in our counter-evolving communities, they can survive, because the worse parts of our society get the most “help”, thereby punishing everyone who ever achieved something or has half a brain.)

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And how many ways can you design a game controller?

      It's somewhat like a hammer - there are just so many variations of a theme.

      However if the visual design is too similar to the original you may get into trouble for design infringement instead. But maybe it's easier to make a case for the court with a patent since it's likely that the court then believes whatever evidence that is thrown at them.

      • by Homburg (213427)

        AIUI, in the US, the protection against design infringement is a patent, specifically, a design patent; that's what MS is alleging is being infringed in this case. If the particular appearance is necessary for the functioning of the object, it can't be covered by a design patent; I can imagine that the general button layout would count as necessary for the functioning, for instance, and the general curved shape to fit into people's hands. However, the ring of four lights around the central circle, which is

      • Design infringement is exactly what the case is about, way to not bother looking beyond the 'Microsoft sues x' portion of the article. 'D' before a patent number means you're talking about a design patent. Functionality isn't the issue here, the issue is that Datel clearly ripped off Microsoft's patented cosmetic designs.
      • by grumbel (592662)

        And how many ways can you design a game controller?

        When it comes to the pure shape: lots of ways. In terms of actual controls and button placement you are of course, as changing it to much would be the controller non-functioning. Anyway, while the controller does look similar to the original, thats nothing unusual really, third party controllers have always looked kind of like the original.

  • Datel has been sued 3 times in less than a year...by Sony over their battery tool, Microsoft over the controller and a pending suit by Nintendo over the action replay (which uses stolen code from Nintendo). Even the open source community should find it hard to support Datel after proving they have no problem stealing from them as well (with the pandora battery they weren't even smart enough about it to remove comments). Consumers get screwed as well when they find cheap products they purchased no longer work once the holes are plugged and devices are rendered useless (PSP and DS action replays to be specfic). This is an attempt to stop 3rd parties, all 3 have licensing available for that, its about stopping a rather unscrupulous company that will stop at nothing to rip off manufacturers and consumers alike.

    • 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].

      • The first case you cite is about copyright infringement, and fair use (which was recognized long before - the case was about whether it's applicable to this particular case).

        The second one is about DMCA non-circumvention clause, and the issue at hand was whether its interoperability exception (explicitly written into the law) applies.

        I don't know much about this whole "stolen code from Nintendo" case, so I can't comment on that. But with respect to TFS, this is a patent claim. So far as I know, there is no

    • Strange arguement (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Consumers get screwed as well when they find cheap products they purchased no longer work once the holes are plugged and devices are rendered useless

      I find it a strange argument that Datel is bad because when the companies figure out how to stop allowing their device to interface with the Datel ones the consumer's product is devalued. Seems that one should be upset with the device companies removing functionality from their (purchased) devices all for a money grab.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:05PM (#31734914) Journal

      If Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft didn't lock down their devices, Datel wouldn't have to sell lock picks to restore control of these devices to their owners. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are the bad guys here.

      Obviously Datel should credit the authors of the Pandora battery software. But otherwise, their products serve a need (which has been ignored or refused by the manufacturers). When the manufacturers disable these device, blame them, not Datel.

      • by grapeape (137008)

        Locking down their platforms is well within their right. I really do not understand the logic that companies should just spend millions on a platform then just leave it completely open. If as a gamer your not willing to accept their sandbox, you are always free to skip the device and buy something else. If your looking for totally open solutions there are things like Pandora, Gamepark, etc. That said, I haven't seen anyone beating down their doors for them, in fact all I tend to see are complaints that

        • Not in Best Buy (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tepples (727027)

          you are always free to skip the device and buy something else. If your looking for totally open solutions there are things like Pandora, Gamepark, etc.

          Why don't I ever see major-label titles for any totally open platform other than the PC? Must I carry two devices, one exclusively for major-label games and one exclusively for indie games? And why don't I ever see any totally open platform other than the PC for sale in Best Buy?

          • by grapeape (137008)

            Probably because there has to be enough of a market for it to justify the shelf space? It sounds nice to think that if Best Buy or whatever would make a space for say Linux games that the masses would just gravitate to it, but the reality is that store shelf space is a premium that cant be obtained without some marketing muscle or proven track record, neither of which can be said for any open platform.

            While things like pandora are nice for us...for the masses they are just a lump of plastic with little pur

            • by tepples (727027)

              marketing muscle or proven track record, neither of which can be said for any open platform.

              It can be said for Lenovo-compatible PCs, which are an open platform. So why isn't there a set-top or handheld counterpart to the PC?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192)

          If as a gamer your not willing to accept their sandbox, you are always free to skip the device and buy something else.

          I'm also free to unlock my property and use it as I see fit.

          • by grapeape (137008)

            Sure and they are free to lock it back...if thats a cat and mouse game you want to play its fine...but when you do so your pretty much on your own. Most people I see just whine about it rather than accept that.

            • No they aren't (Score:1, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              No they aren't: it's not THEIR device any more. If they relock it, then that is computer trespass and illegal.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        Why don't open source zealots see piracy as an actual problem for games console manufacturers? A vast minority of people going for custom firmware are doing it strictly for homebrew purposes, most people are pirating games with their CFW enabled PSPs.

        • by grapeape (137008)

          Because the people quickest to harp on about the "homebrew" community aren't the real developers (most of those interested in console development are doing it on open platforms or though legitimate sources like XNA) they are pirates...they think its their magical blanket defense. Take 100 people crying over homebrew and you will likely find 1 has actually tried writing anything and maybe 2-3 have actually used anything the rest are all just looking for iso loaders and ruining the image of the true homebrew

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by Hatta (162192)

          Why don't open source zealots see piracy as an actual problem for games console manufacturers?

          Because the biggest pirates are also the biggest customers. I will not buy a platform until it is well and truly cracked. As long as DRM is intact, they get zero dollars from me. Once a platform is cracked, I can try all sorts of games and buy the ones I like. Then they get as much money as I can afford to spend on it. How is that a problem for anyone?

          • Well, no. Just because you pirate the living crap out of something doesn't mean you're going to buy the software. Piracy also isn't the only form of gaming demos either. They actually DO offer games demos for download via PSN.

            Also, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus is nearly unplayable online because everyone who's got CFW is cheating their damn faces off.

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by Hatta (162192)

              Just because you pirate the living crap out of something doesn't mean you're going to buy the software.

              It certainly doesn't. But it makes it much more likely that I will.

              • Yes but your ideology makes up what percentage of the PSP using population? 1%? 2? 10? This is true for music but I doubt this is true for games too.

      • FYI, Datel didn't get sued over their red Tool battery, because they didn't break any sort of encryption scheme. The Light Blue Tool on the other hand, did. Which is why they got sued.

    • I have one of the aforementioned Action Replay DSs. The boxart shows it being used with Mario Kart DS, the only problem is that Mario Kart DS includes a firmware update that closes the hole Datel used (along with a little thing called Multiplayer WiFi support for the DS firmware, IIRC). Ironically I think that was the first game I tried to use with it. Hey, it was on the box... I think I was able to return the ARDS for a refund thankfully.
      • by tepples (727027)

        The boxart shows it being used with Mario Kart DS, the only problem is that Mario Kart DS includes a firmware update that closes the hole Datel used

        Nope. The "firmware update" in Mario Kart DS only interfered with booting a DS unit with FlashMe installed, where the FlashMe had been installed using PassMe or WiFiMe plus a GBA flash card. Older versions of FlashMe put some of their code into what eventually became the Wi-Fi settings area. Owners of affected units could use the recovery key combination built into FlashMe to install the new version of FlashMe that put its code in a different area. The hole Datel used for ARDS was the unrelated "NoPass" hol

    • I don't see a source on Nintendo suing Datel.

      I see that Datel's stolen code from the ROM header from a commercial cart to make the AR boot, but I see no lawsuit.

      • by grapeape (137008)

        It became at topic at one of the GDC sessions, rumor there was that a lawsuit was coming and several key developers seemed pretty confident about it...thats why I said pending. I guess I should have said "possible".

    • Not that it has anything to do with this lawsuit (the pad looks like an obvious rip off), you should look into the facts before you start commenting. It is usually the 'comment' left in that is the basis for the checksum to make sure it is a 'real' product. Most of the time you have to leave the comment intact or the device won't work. Like the word SEGA in megadrive carts, etc or the psx comment to get a psx external boot rom to start, Nintendo gameboys wouldn't boot a cart that didn't say the word 'Ni

  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • by Dread Pirate Skippy (963698) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:55PM (#31735670)
    I love all the insightful comments people are making on this article. It's nice to know folks are making sure their positions are valid, not just deciding that Microsoft is always wrong, and that this is no exception. Anyway, the patents are all valid and Datel is clearly at fault, unless prior art exists that proves the patents are invalid in the first place, which is unlikely. MS is not claiming to have invented controllers or lights on controllers, that's stupid and you're stupid for thinking it. All six patents mentioned in the article are design patents. They have nothing to do with the actual functionality of the controller. Rather, they've patented the 'ornamental design for an object having practical utility', like the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, or a new font. If I create a font and obtain a design patent, I'm not claiming to have invented text, only to have made a cosmetic change that does not have any impact on the functionality of the original invention. Even that PS3 controller that some other poster linked above infringes, because the design is what's in question, NOT the functionality.
    • by brkello (642429)
      You are being foolish. Slashdot is all about reinforcing the group-think. Fortunately for you, the anti-group-think is part of the group-think. Just so long as there are less of your comments then that of the group-think. In this case, patents are evil and bad and so is MS.
  • For those of you who happen to be in the industrial automation & data acquisition field, and were wondering "what, Datel makes XBox controllers now?" -- this is evidently a different Datel.

    After some Googling, it seems that the data acquisition Datel was acquired [cdtechno.com] by C&D Technologies in 2004, which in turn was acquired [murata.com] by muRata in 2007.

    The DAQ Datel was not some obscure company. They had the datel.com [datel.com] domain, which currently forwards to murata-ps.com.

    • by BillX (307153)

      Kind of ironic that the Datel NOT being sued was acquired by a company named "C&D".

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