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Wii Nintendo Patents The Almighty Buck The Courts

Jury Finds Nintendo Wii Infringes Dallas Inventor's Patent, Awards $10 Million (arstechnica.com) 113

A jury has ruled that Nintendo must pay $10.1 million because its Wii and Wii U systems infringe a patent belonging to a Dallas medical motion-detection company. Ars Technica reports: iLife sued Nintendo (PDF) in 2013 after filing lawsuits against four other companies in 2012. The case went to a jury trial in Dallas, and yesterday the jury returned its verdict (PDF). They found that Nintendo infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,864,796, first filed in 1999, which describes "systems and methods for evaluating movement of a body relative to an environment." The patent drawings show a body-mounted motion detector that could detect falls in the elderly, which is the market that iLife was targeting, according to its now defunct website. The $10.1 million was less than 10 percent of what iLife's attorneys had been asking for. When the trial began in Dallas on August 21, Law360 reported that iLife lawyers asked the jury for a $144 million payout. That damage demand was based on a royalty of $4 per Wii unit, multiplied by 36 million systems sold in the six years before the lawsuit was filed.
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Jury Finds Nintendo Wii Infringes Dallas Inventor's Patent, Awards $10 Million

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  • by renegadesx ( 977007 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @06:33AM (#55136043)
    Another day, another patent troll gets millions for abusing the patent system.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      iLife appears to be the actual inventor of the patented technology, not someone who acquired the patent second-hand purely for the purposes of suing people, so I would argue that they are not patent trolls as the term is normally used. Without actually reading the patent, I wouldn't like to comment on whether there is any substance to the patent itself, but not every patent infringement lawsuit can be considered patent trolling.

      • by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @07:14AM (#55136213)
        Having skimmed the patent, it's basically bullshit.

        It is simply describing a possibly wireless device with an accelerometer, running some program.
        This is, in 1999, exactly as any engineer would design a fall detection thing. It adds nothing to the knowledge of mankind, and in no way deserves protection.
        It should not have passed the novelty test.
        • Having skimmed the patent, it's basically bullshit. It is simply describing a possibly wireless device with an accelerometer, running some program. This is, in 1999, exactly as any engineer would design a fall detection thing. It adds nothing to the knowledge of mankind, and in no way deserves protection. It should not have passed the novelty test.

          It basically tries to suck up anything remotely based on motion capture for input.

        • "Twenty years later, I can say X is exactly what I would have done with my knowledge 20 years ago" is just not super reliable evidence, because of hindsight bias. While I think there should be a little more room for testimony that "of course this was obvious. My grandmother could have designed this with both hands tied behind her back while she was falling," patent law frowns on using guesses about what was or wasn't obvious in the past.

          That's why they look to things like suggestions from the time in questi

          • Using accelerometers to detect motion (actually changes in motion) is blindingly obvious because that's what they're designed to do.

            But if you want to be a stickler about where they're used and for what purpose, crash test dummies have been using accelerometers for this purpose in human body analogues since at least 1997 [thoughtco.com], pre-dating and invalidating this patent.
            • Excellent, you've just cleared the way for me to release my Elderly Person Crash Detection Device.
              It detects when an elderly person crashes to the ground.
              I just need more real-world testing to detect hip breakages.

      • The company went out of business long ago (and not because elderly people have been strapping Nintendo Wii's to themselves for fall detection) so they're searching for any business that does any sort of motion detection using a motion sensor to sue.

      • I don't buy that they invented the chips.

        or even the obvious idea of using said accelerator sensors for detecting free fall or falling over. I mean goddamn those are like the reference examples for said chips and so obvious it's not even funny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by truedfx ( 802492 )
      "Patent troll" usually means to a company which buys up patents and doesn't create anything but lawsuits. In this case, the lawsuit was brought by a company which actually attempted to sell a product which made use of the patent. So, regardless of whether the patent is valid, not a patent troll, unless you have an unconventional definition of the term.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 04, 2017 @07:24AM (#55136235)

        Read the patent, its a sensor they didn't invent, connected to a processor they didn't invent, attached to a body to detect falls.

        The people who did invent the sensor, had some of their value stolen by this company because this company patented one of the uses of their motion sensor (detecting people falling). The jury here, widens that to cover more general body movements during games, i.e. increases the amount of theft of IP that this company did.

        This is a troll that stole some of the functional uses for the motion sensor invention.

        If a company invents a flying car, and cannot sell it because a troll has patented "flying car used to go to work, flying car used to go to school, flying car used to go shopping", that's true *theft* of IP there. It denies the true inventor the right to profit from their invention.

        • The patent in question seems to describe a "new use" for existing technology. Assuming that there is no prior art describing this new use, then it's quite possibly a perfectly valid patent. However, wii remote controls are used for gaming, not for determining when an elderly person has fallen (unless there is an old person falling game out there ...a horrifying thought to be sure). The provided and rather abbreviated description of Nintendo's defense appears to be exactly this. I'd go with Nintendo. I can't
          • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

            Nasty foreign firm stealing the hard work of bonafide Americans played out in front of a jury is how they lost.

            My bone of contention is that patents are not supposed to be granted for something obvious to those "skilled in the art". So using a motion sensor to detect someone falling is fecking obvious to someone skilled in the art of motion sensors. Heck it's obvious to me and I have zero experience of designing products with motion sensors.

            As such the patent should never have been granted.

          • Nintendo will very likely win on appeal, because as you say, use patents are supposed to be limited to their original scope (in this case a wearable fall detector) which is not what the Wii and Wii U are. Hopefully they can also get the patent invalidated and take every penny this patent troll of a company has...

            On a related note, we also seriously need tort reform in the US. We need to have a system where judges who make consistently overturned decisions either directly or by false jury instruction (dete

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I haven't read the patents involved here, but can say that accelerometers used in game controllers was not new in 1999 when their patent appears to have been filed. I was part of the team that worked on the Cyberstuff CyberStik, which was an accelerometer based PC Gaming joystick that we had on store shelves in 1997, and which also won the "Best Toy" award during Comdex of 1997. Microsoft copied us shortly thereafter, putting accelerometers in their 1998 Sidewinder Freestyle Pro gamepad.

  • From the patent... : '3. The system as claimed in claim 1 wherein said communications device comprises one of: a hand held computer, a laptop computer and a wireless Internet access device.'

    Have laptops not been detecting falling situations from far before this came along?

    • Nobody had patented it in the context of detecting falls by the elderly. In 1998, accellerometers were expensive.
      • If that were the limit of it Nintendo would be fine.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      The patent essentially reinvents Inertial Navigation [wikipedia.org]

      An inertial navigation system (INS) is a navigation aid that uses a computer, motion sensors (accelerometers) and rotation sensors (gyroscopes) to continuously calculate via dead reckoning the position, orientation, and velocity (direction and speed of movement) of a moving object without the need for external references.

      Using that in the context of detecting someone falling is hardly innovative; but even if it is that wouldn't matter because that's not what the Wii does.

      • Actually, that's just an example:

        For example, when a communications device detects a body movement that signifies the occurrence of a potentially dangerous event (e.g., a fall), the communication device can immediately send an alarm to call for assistance.

        The patent is actually about detecting and evaluating movement relative to environment, instead of detecting it. They open by describing systems which detect static acceleration (tilt), dynamic acceleration (movement), or even reason about those (fall detection), and lead into suggesting:

        It would be very useful to have a communications device that is capable of evaluating movement of a body relative to an environment.

        That's a Wiimote.

        So the patent is about what they say it's about; whether it's valid is another matter. We're at least not saying we've described a way to detect when something has sud

    • Have laptops not been detecting falling situations from far before this came along?

      The earliest reference I can find to hard drive fall sensors had IBM shipping them around 2032, so four years after this patent.

  • My opinion (Score:5, Informative)

    by ewanm89 ( 1052822 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @07:11AM (#55136201) Homepage

    Is iLife a patent troll: no they actually made a product and released it using the patent.

    Is the patent valid? Well according to this judge and jury yes, according to most of us probably not. The patent covers using a 3-axis accelerometer and some sort of data processing to detect motion of a body. Well in physics a body is any cohesive group of matter that moves, for example the earth is a planetary body. The V2 missile in WW2 used 2 gyros and an accelerometer in its inertial navigation system, I wonder how many missiles since? More recently the year before filing date on the patent the Amida Simputer was commercialy released in India, a handheld Linux based computer with an accelerometer based gesture interface. Even if these were not using a 3-axis accelerometer is using a 3-axis accelerometer instead of a 1 axis of 2 axis or multiple accelerometers a novel application?

    • by AC-x ( 735297 )

      I think the patent of the whole system, i.e. a plastic device that clips to a shirt that sends a fall alert via a computer, is valid. It's nothing like a wiimote though, so wiimotes shouldn't be covered by it.

    • Infringement litigation does not look at the validity of a patent. If Nintendo wants to challenge its validity in court it has to sue in a separate trial, if the patent gets invalidated than the litigation trial ruling gets vacated
      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's incorrect. During this litigation, Nintendo had the opportunity to challenge the validity of the patent - and failed to do so. For infringement litigation, the plaintiff gets a presumption of validity, but it can be overcome by the standard of "clear and convincing evidence." Nintendo can also challenge the patent's validity by filing with the USPTO, where the standard is lower - "more likely than not."

      • Infringement litigation does not look at the validity of a patent. If Nintendo wants to challenge its validity in court it has to sue in a separate trial, if the patent gets invalidated than the litigation trial ruling gets vacated

        That's not true at all. I don't know where you got this idea, but it's simply incorrect: invalidity is a defense to infringement and comes in every single infringement trial. In fact, Nintendo made two separate arguments here having to do with invalidity.
        In fact, your statement is not just incorrect, it's the precise opposite of correct: failure to challenge the validity of the patent here would waive those defenses and Nintendo would be estopped from being able to bring a separate claim of invalidity.

        Com

    • Respectfully, that subject line should be according to your uninformed opinion:

      Is the patent valid? Well according to this judge and jury yes, according to most of us probably not. The patent covers using a 3-axis accelerometer and some sort of data processing to detect motion of a body.

      The patent doesn't actually cover that. In fact, the background of the patent admits that using an accelerometer and data processing to detect motion of a body was well known:

      In point of fact, many methods are known for sensing body movement, or non-movement (i.e., sensed dynamic accelerations, including cessation of movement), as well as, for sensing body movement over time, which is commonly used to determine comparative levels of activity of a monitored body (See, U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,110,741, 4,292,630, 5,045,839, and 5,523,742).

      For a guess - you didn't actually read the patent, you just went by the Slashdot summary?

      I haven't done a prior art search or read the patent closely, but I did look at the jury form [documentcloud.org]. Interestingly, it only asks two questions going to invalidity of the pate

      • Actually, I read the patent several days ago, and I like how you missed the rest of that line that specifically mentions it in regards to 2-axis accelerometer as if that makes any fucking difference to using a 3-axis accelerometer the clearly invalid patent. There is nothing novel about the patent, if we are going to say the novelty is in the data processing, then sorry to tell you software/algorithms can not be patented as per a recent Supreme court case that finally struck down that one ;) the patent does

        • Actually, I read the patent several days ago, and I like how you missed the rest of that line that specifically mentions it in regards to 2-axis accelerometer as if that makes any fucking difference to using a 3-axis accelerometer the clearly invalid patent.

          Ah, now I'm calling bullshit. Here's the entire paragraph:

          In point of fact, many methods are known for sensing body movement, or non-movement (i.e., sensed dynamic accelerations, including cessation of movement), as well as, for sensing body movement over time, which is commonly used to determine comparative levels of activity of a monitored body (See, U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,110,741, 4,292,630, 5,045,839, and 5,523,742). These methodologies, however, merely report various levels of body activity, and, simply stated, fail to recognize possible causes for any increased or decreased level of body activity.

          There's nothing there about 2-axis accelerometers.
          You may be thinking of two paragraphs later, when it says:

          Various training methods have been conceived for sensing relative tilt of a body (See, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,300,921 and 5,430,435), and some such methodologies have employed two-axis accelerometers.

          However, the patent doesn't claim the use of three-axis accelerometers as opposed to two-axis accelerometers. In fact, the word "three" appears once in the entire patent, and the number "3" only appears in reference to Fig. 3.

          Sorry, no, your post is complete and utter bullshit, and this confirms that your earlier post was indeed based off ign

      • Finally I would point out, it is possible the Judge threw out all prior art evidence or similar, if something like that happened, I'm sure Nintendo would appeal.

  • 36 million systems sold in the six years before the lawsuit was filed.

    IANAL, but isn't that laches by about 5.5 years?

    • Not if iLife contacted Nintendo, and typically not for patents. Ignorance of the existence of a patent is no defense other than you can show you didn't do it willfully. And if iLife and Nintendo negotiated for 6 years and couldn't come to an agreement - then Nintendo could still be liable for every unit made over those 6 years. IANAPL, but I do have a few dozen issued patents, 20 more pending, and have been an expert witness 5 times...
  • If this particular patent includes a wiimote, couldn't it pretty much apply to any application of an accelerometer in any smartphone made henceforth? What made the wiimote different than a phone with regards to this patent?
  • Soo HW manufacturers will be sued next?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • He's the person who invented the kinect system, sent a prototype to Microsoft, who then magically created their own version looking just like it.

    https://hackaday.com/2011/07/14/did-microsoft-steal-the-kinect/ [hackaday.com]

  • by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @02:17PM (#55137807)

    As always, read the entire article.
    The lawsuit is bullshit, the company never sold any product with the patented tech, and it wasn't anything but a design composed of components iLife did not develop. It's a patent troll through and through.
    Nintendo is also appealing the decision, so this isn't final.

  • They are super special made of unicorn horns and fairy dust, not less than 1 billion per patent.

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