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Nintendo's 'Wiimote' Subject of Patent Suit

By Erika Morphy
Dec 12, 2006 11:13 AM PT

Nintendo's intellectual property right to the technology in its Wii Remote -- or "Wiimote" -- was challenged this week by Interlink Electronics, which was granted a patent last year for a trigger-operated electronic device that can be operated with a pointer sensor.

Nintendo's 'Wiimote' Subject of Patent Suit

Interlink claims Nintendo's Wii game console, which has been on store shelves for less than a month, infringes its patent.

The suit was filed in a federal district court in Delaware.

Rising Numbers

Until recently, the gaming sector has been less plagued by lawsuits than other tech-oriented industries.

"Patent lawsuits are more infrequent, but not uncommon [in gaming]," Ross Dannenberg, a partner and shareholder at Banner and Witcoff, told TechNewsWorld, "especially when the product in question is as popular as the Wii Remote has turned out to be."

There was very little information included in the initial filing, which is standard at this stage of most patent challenges. "The biggest issue Nintendo has to worry about now is Interlink winning an injunction," he said.

New Era

The Nintendo-Interlink case could signal a wave of tech-related patent suits in the gaming industry.

"There is enough money being made in gaming that this is inevitable," David Teske, a partner specializing in gaming and patents in Alston & Bird's technology practice, told TechNewsWorld.

Worst Case Scenario

One notable case that has been unfolding for more than a year is the Immersion-Sony suit, in which Immersion accuses Sony of infringing its "force feedback" technology in the PlayStation system.

The initial outcome represented a worst-case scenario for tech giants challenged in court by smaller firms: Sony was ordered to pay approximately US$91 million to Immersion and, even worse, had to stop selling the controllers, PlayStation systems and games that used that feature. The case is still working its way through the appeals process.

As with Immersion, Interlink comes from outside the gaming industry, said Teske, adding that the industry will likely see gaming companies suing other gaming companies next.

"Right now, there has been a firewall or gentlemen's agreement of sorts among most of these firms not to challenge patents. Sooner or later, that will change," he predicted.

"Gaming companies are no different than anyone else. They are willing to go the patent lawsuit route to keep a competitor out of particular technology or space," said Robert Sloss, an intellectual property litigation partner with Farella Braun & Martel.

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