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NES (Games) Classic Games (Games) Businesses Nintendo Patents

The Reality of Patent Expirations for the NES 259

Tashimojo writes "Gamasutra's running a feature entitled 'Nintendo Entertainment System - Expired Patents Do Not Mean Expired Protection', an interesting read. From the article: 'This article originated when the Gamasutra editors noticed a number of online sources such as Wikipedia stating that it was now completely legal to make NES 'clone' consoles, because all of Nintendo's patents regarding the NES had expired. How true was this statement? We asked game IP lawyer S. Gregory Boyd the question: Are the NES patents expired? If so, is a company free to build and sell new NES-like systems?'"
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The Reality of Patent Expirations for the NES

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  • So many sleepless nights...
  • ROMs? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Moreover, is it now FINALLY legal for me to download and use nintendo ROMs?
    • Re:ROMs? (Score:4, Informative)

      by linguae ( 763922 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:20PM (#14012073)

      Not until 2080, unless the MPAA/RIAA^W Congress extends copyright again.

      • Re:ROMs? (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I think it is only fair that the great-great-great-grandchildren of the original copyright owner should benefit too.
        • Or, more to the pont: The great great grandchildren of the stock holders of the original copyright owner. As most are publically traded these days.
    • Re:ROMs? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelKaiserProScri ( 691448 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:27PM (#14012126)
      Well, no. But you COULD play your legally purchased Nintendo cartriges on a no name clone of the Nintendo console, provided that the console did not call itself a "Nintendo", "Nintendo clone", "NES", or "NES clone". The terms "Nintendo", "Nintendo Entertainment System", and "NES" are trademarked. Nintendo could potentially sue over the use of these terms. But the hardware itself is generic.
      • Re:ROMs? (Score:4, Funny)

        by gid13 ( 620803 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:35PM (#14012180)
        Could a company advertise to the effect of the following?

        "We copied the Nintendo Entertainment System! Play all your old Nintendo games! Buy the Clonebox today!"
    • If you own the carts, sure.

      Otherwise, no.
    • Comments like these just go to show how effect the powers that be (e.g., corporations, government) have been at confusing the issue of so-called “intellectual property” with people. This fundamentally makes people less informed and more vulnerable to abuses of patents, copyrights, and trademarks. For example, this reality distortion could easily cause a lay-person to think that if something is patented, they cannot copy it (which is entirely false).

      Better writings exist [gnu.org] on this particular t

  • by b0r1s ( 170449 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:15PM (#14012025) Homepage
    How many NES consoles did they sell? How much money could Nintendo possibly lose from clone NES systems?

    If anything, the title familiarity may help them in selling similar titles/lines for Gamecube and Revolution.
    • How much money could Nintendo possibly lose from clone NES systems?

      IIRC, Nintendo makes quite a lot of money on their old licenses. Besides the versions they put out for their portable consoles, I believe the Revolution is going to have a sort of classic-gaming-on-demand system in place. They likely want people to pay for their new stuff instead of picking up an old NES or clone console and Nintendo not seeing a dime.

      • by jd ( 1658 ) <[imipak] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:50PM (#14012251) Homepage Journal
        It's not bad for Nintendo to keep an eye on the money, but the patents (AFAIK) refer to the hardware (which Nintendo makes nothing from, today) not to the software (which Nintendo MIGHT make money off). The software is still covered by copyright, so the patent stuff is a non-issue there. The hardware is NOT covered by copyright, so the copyright stuff should be a non-issue there.

        Producing a binary-compatiable console that is hardware-compatiable to the NES should (by anything remotely approaching fair and civilized rights) be legal, especially as Nintendo would still be making money off all the things they still make money from. However, the US is dubious on both counts, so don't count on it.

        • I agree with your post; however, ... to what end? I mean, if someone can create a binary-compatable console that plays NES games... I seriously doubt they can do it cheaper than you can buy a used NES for (about $25 last I checked).
        • Missing the point (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ACNiel ( 604673 )
          They will lose money off the hardware sales of cloned systems if they are trying to integrate a classic gaming interface in their new system.

          Yes, the basic idea in the story is only about their old hardware, but you don't need an imagination to see the money.

          If I have a ton of legal roms laying around, and CompanyA makes a clone console for $20, and CompanyN makes a new console that plays everything under the sun, plus my old legal roms, but charges $300, which will I buy. That depends on if I want to play
      • A clone NES would only get you the ability to play old carts. At this point, very few people would bother to buy a cloNES, and also buy a bunch of used carts to play. Thus, the impact on selling downloads of the old games should be negligible. Most of the people who already have a collection of NES games already have an NES, or could get one used fairly easily.
        • I dunno... in a few years maybe. Look at the Atari Flashback. It's up to a 2.0 with more games... (granted the 2600 is much older, but the point being, there's some market, however small for nostalgia gaming....)

          And as the system gets older and older, perhaps the nostalgia crowd will want an NES like they did the old 2600. (The NES being very popular as well..)
          • Sounds simple to me. Make a box with a dual hardware interface: CF card and Cart.
            If you have old carts, go at it. If not DL them ala iTunes onto a CF card and play them on your console. 99c a game for old games is cheap enough that people might pay it (or if you're scared of piracy, scramble the DL roms and make the CF socket require scrambled roms). Give a fair cut to nintendo as a licencing fee and they likely will go along with you on the venture. In this case playing nice is good, because even if y
      • And that is the business rationale for perpetual copyright: If Ron Howard's The Grinch is the *ONLY* movie you can legally watch this Christmas, then innovators like the estate of Dr. Seuss will be well rewarded. Woo.

        Yes, I know you aren't advocating perpetual patents for the good of Nintendo.
    • Good point about this helping to market current versions of Zelda, Mario, etc.

      I also think there's a big opportunity for Nintendo to pre-emptively turn this into a cash cow. If they release their OWN "clone" system, they could clean up. They could put together a $35 bundle that had 2 controllers, a small hard drive that had all original Nintendo games, and beat the clone makers at their own game. Even if it was just all games Nintendo made, what gamer geek wouldn't see that as an attractive investme
    • How many NES consoles did they sell? How much money could Nintendo possibly lose from clone NES systems?

      If anything, the title familiarity may help them in selling similar titles/lines for Gamecube and Revolution.

      Isn't the Revolution supposed to be backward compatable with all the previous consoles?
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PenisLands ( 930247 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:18PM (#14012054) Homepage Journal
    I've seen so many NES knock off "100 in one" game things selling on ebay and in other small video game shops for a long time now. If it is indeed legal for people to make and sell NES like machines now, I wonder what would happen with those. Would they start selling in well known shops?
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Informative)

      by cloudkj ( 685320 )
      Those have been around since the late 80's. I still have a bunch of those from when I was a wee lad.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

      Story time.

      I know a guy with a shop that sells upright and cocktail-style arcade games. He sells on eBay and some of his products include 39-in-1 boards with classic games combined into one board - he slaps the board into a cabinet and they sell like hotcakes. (Even better is his customized PC-in-a-cabinet-and-load-whatever-you-want-box.) A while back, his eBay account was suspended because eBay was sent a cease and desist letter from Namco. Apparently they do not approve of these multi-game boards and figh
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Makarakalax ( 658810 )
      Obviously, the copyright on the games won't expire for 50 or more years. So no, it isn't legal unless the game publisher specifically says so, since they still have the right to restrict copying of said materials.
    • even if they can make a legal nes clone they can't legally include its back catalogue of games and a system that only played nes carts would be of somewhat limited marketability.

      nes knockoffs bundled with a huge rom full of nes games will be as illegal as ever.
      • a system that only played nes carts would be of somewhat limited marketability.

        Oh really? What makes you think that?

        nes knockoffs bundled with a huge rom full of nes games will be as illegal as ever.

        Not if the "huge rom full of nes games" is actually "The Best of PDROMS.de". There's a project going on over at nesdev.com called "Garage Cart" to do just that, and I'm contributing a tetramino game.

        • Re:Marketability? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by petermgreen ( 876956 )
          a system that only played nes carts would be of somewhat limited marketability.

          Oh really? What makes you think that?

          1: it would have to be quite bulky and/or not enclose the cart (nes carts aren't exactly small)

          2: if you started seriously marketing them in any one area you'd cause a run on stocks of old nes carts locally. Maybe this wouldn't be a problem if you only sold them online though.

          nes knockoffs bundled with a huge rom full of nes games will be as illegal as ever.

          Not if the "huge rom full of nes gam
  • by LiNKz ( 257629 ) *
    Walk into about any mall these days and you will find these really cheap knock-off's of a Play Station design that can play thousands of games. I played Mario Brothers on one. I thought it was just a small operating down here until I went up north and found the same thing, and a bit more funny (side note), they're Colombian. All of them! :o
    • Like, Pegasus?

      I owned one as a kid. They used cartridges that were incompatible with real NES, but the ROMs inside were direct copies of genuine NES ones.
    • by IoN_PuLse ( 788965 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:41PM (#14012212) Homepage
      Last year around this time I saw one in a mall near my place also, and they were demoing obvious Nintendo games on it. Heck, the Nintendo logo was still present in the games. A week after I saw on Slashdot [slashdot.org] an article about Nintendo cracking down on these businesses commiting copyright infringement. I e-mailed Nintendo about the one in the mall near my place, I never received a reply but they were gone soon after. This year I haven't seen any.
  • by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl AT excite DOT com> on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:22PM (#14012091) Journal

    Why should -any- restrictions last beyond the period of time that Nintendo is actively manufacturing and selling the system and/or games for it? What "incentive to create" would Nintendo lose if someone did make clones of an old, obsolete system that stopped making them money over a decade ago? TFA talked about "being aware of comprehensive protections" or some garbage like that-I'd say the more important advice is "learn when to let go." And since that's apparently not possible, the law needs to change.

    • by gid13 ( 620803 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:41PM (#14012210)
      And what if, say, an oil company purchases the patent for some exciting new fuel technology, and then just sits on it so it won't threaten their business. Seems to me that forcing a company/individual to make an honest attempt to market their product to have any kind of IP law protections MIGHT help some, but fundamentally I think the whole idea of IP law needs to be at least rethought and possibly scrapped altogether.
      • I agree that a IP should have to be used to be protected, but companies can just "half-ass" use it to skirt the law.

        And eliminating IP laws entirely would destroy innovation and capitalism as we know it. What's the point of R&D if you are just donating the time and money spent to your competitors?

        The issue of IP is complicated. I am all for reform, but the problem is coming up with reform that doesn't end up harming good companies or the people.
      • I would like to see patent holders required to license their patents for extremely reasonable fees. How "reasonable" is defined is a bit of a problem - perhaps accurate research costs must be made part of the application process, and a license is a small percentage of that.

        Not knowing much about the patent system, isn't that how it's supposed to work? Either you make money selling an invention yourself, or license the rights to somebody else to make it. Preventing others from making something entirely s

    • Simple, the longer you can play Mario and Zelda on NES, the less you are tempted to play a new version or Mario or Zelda on Super NES, N64, GameCube, or Revolution. If your NES breaks, instead of buying a clone, you have to buy the latest and greatest. If you buy the latest and greatest, quite often you have to buy all new games. That's changing with the revolution which has promised backward compatibility with Gamecube, and PS2 is backward compatible with PS1. But Gamecube isn't anywhere near compatibl
      • And I'm sure it would very nicely protect Ford's "upgrade revenue stream" if only they were allowed to make parts for their cars, and they stopped doing so after a few years. That doesn't mean we should implement that situation and allow them to do so. So why should we do it for Nintendo? If they want to protect "upgrade revenue", let 'em come out with a product that's worth upgrading to, and a Zelda 5003 that blows away the original. THAT, is encouragement to innovate!

    • nintendo still plans on capitalizing from their old games and system. the NES was an immensely popular system. Everybody had one, and the nostalgia factor is huge. Nintendo rereleased games for the gba, and as i understand it plan on doing so for the revolution too. from their perspective, there is no point letting people who had nothing to do with the creation of the system profit off it.
    • What "incentive to create" would Nintendo lose if someone did make clones of an old, obsolete system that stopped making them money over a decade ago?

      If Consumer #2472843 [1] spends 100 Pepsi Credits on Nintendo Clone, then that's 100 fewer Pepsi Credits that consumer has readily available to spend on Nintendo New Product.

      [1] I am not a number!

      • [1] I am not a number!

        1214 of 930500, you are a number. resistance is futile.

        besides, nintendo is also planning on selling old 'nes/SNES' games online via a p2p sharing program on the Nintendo Revolution, to try and avoid loosing more market share to sony and microsoft.. At least that's my understanding of part of their strategy to avoid being completely crushed by sony and microsoft. Which considering that the PSP being the awsome portable movie player and porn viewer that it is (and a crappy portable "

    • I agree with you in theory, but the line of reasoning that Nintendo would use is that they might want to design new products based on their old patents, and they should have exclusive right to do so. For example, they might theoretically introduce a miniature retro-NES which contains NES guts + 200 popular oldschool games all bundled inside a single controller with a TV-out (like the other retro games machines in controller form factor we've seen lately).
    • ### Why should -any- restrictions last beyond the period of time that Nintendo is actively manufacturing and selling the system and/or games for it?

      While I agree with you on the general point, Nintendo *is* selling NES games, just resently there was the NES classic series for GBA, soon there will be plenty of NES games for the Revolution for download and the Gamecube also had at least all the NES Zelda titles. While the games maybe old, Nintendo is still using them to make money. Sure, they probally won't s
    • Nintendo has released their classic NES games on their latest handheld devices. I think that means the old "obsolete" stuff is still making money for them.
  • IP & QM (Score:4, Funny)

    by TeaQuaffer ( 809857 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:25PM (#14012112)
    Law, particularly IP law, has a lot in common with quantum mechanics. In both fields, answers are often given in the form of probabilities rather than certainties.

    I had a lot of trouble in QM. Now I know why all this IP stuff confuses me too. I guess the new expression is "It doesn't take a IP lawyer" rather than "It doesn't take a rocket scientist" SIGH.

    • by Quadraginta ( 902985 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @07:13PM (#14012413)
      Come on. The article was written for wide public consumption by a lawyer, who makes his living giving advice for big bucks, and can be held liable for bad advice for equally big bucks. Realistically, is there any chance at all he'd come right out and publish a direct answer to the extremely interesting question of whether a specific clone system would be legal? When that's a question he can make large amounts of money answering privately?

      Ha ha. What he's done, basically, is give a long-winded "it depends" while strongly implying that anyone who even thinks about getting into this business should begin by hiring a top-notch IP lawyer, such as his own humble self. Golly, what a surprise.
  • Patents from 1995? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by qbwiz ( 87077 ) * <john.baumanfamily@com> on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:25PM (#14012116) Homepage
    Wait a minute - they're saying that a patent received in 1995 could apply to a product that was created in 1985. It took a long time for that patent to be processed by the USPTO.

    I also suspect that the 10NES cartridge authentication system is not additionally a console authentication system: the clone NES consoles shouldn't need to verify that the cartridges are authentic to get them to work.

    That leaves it up to trademarks, which I'm sure that it's not to hard work around. You could say that your console "plays games which are designed for the Nintendo Entertainment System (a trademark of Nintendo of America."

    As always, IANAL, though, so take these words with a grain of salt.
    • by Carnildo ( 712617 )
      Wait a minute - they're saying that a patent received in 1995 could apply to a product that was created in 1985. It took a long time for that patent to be processed by the USPTO.

      Development on the NES didn't stop in 1985. Many of the controllers, such as the light gun, were developed afterwards, and have their own patents. Also, mapper chips that gave cartriges features such as additional ROM, battery-backed storage, more sound channels, and so on, were being developed for years afterwards.
      • Also, mapper chips that gave cartriges features such as additional ROM, battery-backed storage, more sound channels, and so on, were being developed for years afterwards.

        How would that apply to cloning the console? All those things are on the cartridge.

    • I also suspect that the 10NES cartridge authentication system is not additionally a console authentication system: the clone NES consoles shouldn't need to verify that the cartridges are authentic to get them to work.

      In fact, the top-loading version of the NES doesn't contain the lockout chip at all; it just leaves the lockout chip data pins unconnected.

      The Super NES, on the other hand, did use the lockout chip in both directions in some cases. Games using the SA-1 chip (Super Mario RPG; Kirby Super

  • by CorporalKlinger ( 871715 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:26PM (#14012122)
    The patents on the physical, hardware components of the Nintendo may have expired, but the code programmed into the various ROM's both in the console and in games is protected by international copyright. Those copyrights won't expire within most of our lifetimes, so I think it's safe to say that the "true" NES is protected. Whether or not the hardware could successfully be reverse engineered to yield the secrets of the system's operation for later use with completely new software remains to be seen. Still, though, if any of the original NES's code were reused or even used as an example for a new OS for the NES, Nintendo would have a good argument against whoever was duplicating their systems with regard to copyright rules.
  • by Rude Turnip ( 49495 ) <valuation@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:31PM (#14012162)
    I've seen the Polystation and similar systems pictured in TFA at one of the souvenir shops at Penn Station in New York, as well as in some of the electronics shops on 8th avenue. For about $50 bucks you get about 100 games built in, so it's a good deal. A friend of mine has an NES clone built into a clone of an N64 controller that outputs to the TV...it also includes an extra controller and light gun that plugs into the main controller, along with 100 or so games. For $35, I bought a Yobo NES clone at the local flea market. You can get the Japanese version from Lik-Sang for USD60. No built-in games, but I don't mind staying partially honest and picking up some old carts for $3-$5 a pop.

    Of course, the best part about the NES knock-offs is the hilarious the packaging. "Best Quality" "Super Graphics" "Super 8-Bit Technology"...usually spelled wrong, and abound the box. One particular box had Spider-Man 2 promotional movie graphics and the device was labelled as Spider Game. Infringing upon Nintendo and Marvel IP...now that's some balls!
  • Console Repair (Score:5, Interesting)

    by l3prador ( 700532 ) <wkankla@gmaTOKYOil.com minus city> on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:34PM (#14012177) Homepage
    Out of curiosity, what would be the legal ramifications behind selling repairs of old consoles? And how far can you go and consider it still a repair and not a new console? If the controller ports are busted and you replace them with your own components? The logic board, the power supply? All of the electronics, but keeping the external frame? Why can't you replace the external frame with your own design? Wouldn't selling refurbished things like this be legal? I mean, how much can you replace and still consider it a repair or a refurbishing? Everything that is broken, right? And what's wrong with adding your own modifications, such as wireless controllers and updated video out? How is that different than what Messiah is doing [playmessiah.com], other than they probably didn't start out with one dead NES for their new ones?
  • On a sidenote:
    TFA mentions that executives of companies can be held personally liable in cases of copyright infridgement (prison!). If that is true and if it can indeed be shown that Sony's CD contains LGPL code from LAME, then they have gotten themselfes into deeeeeep sh*t (although I doubt that anything that drastic would happen).
  • Pffft.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <spydermann.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 11, 2005 @06:50PM (#14012250) Homepage Journal
    while the NES patents are about to expire in 2013, we already got emulators for the GBA, and in-the-works for the DS.

    Just a thought.
  • On the other hand consider the business realities. How many NES consoles did Nintendo sell last year? Is it worth it to Nintendo to fight over an obsolete product?

    Given Nintendo's announced plan's for a Revolution download service [slashdot.org] for older Nintendo games, I would say that is a big yes.

    On another point, I went to a major mall in the Phoenix area and saw a retailer selling the Power Player Super Joy III Emulator [wikipedia.org]. I was quite shocked to see such a blatant case of copyright infringement at a major retail

    • I plan to notify Nintendo's piracy center because it ticks me off that someone is making money by ripping Nintendo off.

      • Why?
        Because they are just parasitically siphoning off of someone else's creation. This is not just enjoying Nintendo's work; this is knowingly, illegally, profiting off of them in a public place.

        You don't have a problem with this?

    • Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bogie ( 31020 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @07:43PM (#14012611) Journal
      "I plan to notify Nintendo's piracy center because it ticks me off that someone is making money by ripping Nintendo off."

      Oh please. How about actually doing something useful for society instead? Give blood, write your congressman about how unfair DRM is, adopt a highway, volunteer to help the less fortunate this Thanksgiving, etc.

      Writing letters to rat on some retailer who actually provides jobs for people in your area so some multi-billion dollar company can collect a few bucks and also enforce the idea that IP lasts forever is about the last thing you should be doing. If your so insistant on doing something for nintendo how about you look up actual coders and people who made the artwork for those old games and send them a few bucks. At least then your heart would be in the right place.

      IP will be the downfall of society as we know it.

  • by AvantLegion ( 595806 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @07:12PM (#14012410) Journal
    A $10 replacement connector from eBay fixes virtually every dead NES system out there.

    The vast, vast, vast majority of non-functioning NES systems have nothing wrong with them except worn-out connectors. The ones you can get on eBay today are much more solid and long-lasting than the ones that were in the system originally.

  • i mean they sell old nintendo games on the gameboy, have a nes controller gameboy, they love to rehash old products in new wrapping. why not just sell old school nes clones. find a way to sell the old games through some medium. they should have done this with the 2oth anniverary recently. a limited run in their factories. god knows everyone would buy one for a decent price.
  • by Mr. Cancelled ( 572486 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @08:43PM (#14012904)
    Copyright and patent laws were intended to protect someone's intellect, and to allow for works to eventually enter the public domain, ideally to benefit society as a whole once the inventer/creator has made some cash off their idea (IMHO... I'm sure that there's some /. lawyer wannabe getting ready to challenge my definition somewhere).

    But nothing really happens this way anymore it seems. Nowadays, when the public is supposed to see some benefits from something entering the public domain, the big, money hungry companies [disney.com] just find some greedy, two-faced politician [georgebush.com] who's willing to sell out the people who elected them for some easy cash, and they extend protections, and enact new laws to prevent people from getting what they're legally entitled to.

    And it's sad actually... Do you think that when the cpoyright laws were put into place, the lawmakers were thinking planning for this to happen? If so, then why set a duration in the first place?

    Actually, the fact that they did enact patent laws to protect the little guys (never mind that it's the guys with the money to twist the laws who are reaping all the protection these days), and they did set terms on copyright shows that at one time, politicians and lawmakers were there for the benefit of the people. Nowadays, it's only millionares(sp?) who get elected, largely due to they're having more money, which gives them more visibility. The laws are now so twisted and full of holes that they're totally meaningless.

    And I've seen some arguments in favor of laws extending copyright, and granting new rights to content owners, wherein it's argued that the original types of copyright, and patent laws aren't meaningful anyway, as the people who wrote them couldn't have envisioned what technology would bring to the world, but I think that's fucking insane! This is essentially saying that people who were smart enough to found and develop countries, who studied law, and who developed the world in which we live had no vision, or sense of the future? That's crazy talk...

    And this Nintendo thing's a great example of the problem: They made lots of money off the NES, knowing all the while that the patent laws would eventually expire, allowing anyone to build an NES machine, and now that they have (or are, as the case seems to be), they're suddenly saying "but, but, but..." as they see that people still are interested in this technology.

    I think it's about time that the laws started working for the people again, and those who try to circumvent these laws should be held accountable for violating them. Copyright limits were not put into effect just so that some wealthy, never-worked-a-day-in-their-lives people, who've inherited millions from their ancestors inventions, can use some of that money to keep you and I from getting what we're entitled to.

    But me ranting on my virtual soap box isn't going to change anything, and the population as a whole is too wrapped up in their reality TV, and Paris "Dog face" Hilton sexcapades to realize what they're losing out on. It's just so depressing where we as a society have let ourselves be led to. And the whole while, those passing the laws continue to claim that they're doing so for our best interests.

    George Carlin said it best in last weekends HBO special (and more people should watch it, and listen to what he's saying!): "They (the politicians) don't care about you. They don't." It's up to we, the people, to dig us out of the mess that we've let others make of our legal system.

    Ok... I'm done. the soapbox is free for someone else to rant on. I'm off to download all the NES Roms I can get my hands on! 8)
  • by BillX ( 307153 ) on Friday November 11, 2005 @10:39PM (#14013418) Homepage
    Hmm, the name sounds familiar...where has Slashdot heard that name before [blort.org]?

    BTW - although I'm sure they just meant it as an example, the "10NES" copyright case would have no bearing on developing your own clone console, unless you were specifically designing said console to reject unlicensed cartridges as the actual NES did. The CIC chips on the cartridges authenticate the cart to an official NES, but have no internal connection to the ROMs - failure of the console to implement the authentication would have no effect on playability (you can verify this by cutting the clock pin to the CIC chip in the console*...and play unlicensed carts :) .

    *ironically, this is the same method used in many of the CueCat hacks.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday November 12, 2005 @03:32AM (#14014356) Homepage
    OK, let's see what they've got.

    • 5,426,762 -- "System for determining a truth of software in an information processing apparatus".
      That's the lockout system for non-Nintendo game cartridges. You don't want to include that in an emulator. Expires January 24, 2006, anyway.
    • 5,207,426 -- "Controller for a game machine".
      Covers the physical design of the game controller. Irrelevant for an emulator.
    • 5,070,479 -- "External memory having an authenticating processor and method of operating same".
      More lockout system stuff. Expires January 24, 2006, anyway.
    • 4,799,635 -- "System for determining authenticity of an external memory used in an information processing apparatus".
      Still more lockout stuff. Appears to expire December 23, 2005.
    • 4,687,200 -- "Multi-directional switch"
      This is about how to make a cheap four-direction arrow key switch.
    None of those would ever have interfered with building an emulator.

    The design patents cover the "ornamental design" of the case and cartridge. They're irrelevant to an emulator.

    The copyright issues are a separate problem, and probably a bigger one.

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb