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.
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.
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.
The Nintendo-Interlink case could signal a wave of tech-related patent suits in the gaming industry.
“Thereis 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 challengedin court by smaller firms: Sony was ordered to payapproximately US$91 million to Immersion and, even worse, hadto stop selling the controllers, PlayStationsystems and games that used that feature. The case isstill working its way through the appeals process.
As with Immersion, Interlink comes from outside thegaming industry, said Teske, adding that the industry will likely see gaming companies suing othergaming companies next.
“Right now, there hasbeen a firewall or gentlemen’s agreement of sortsamong 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 tokeep a competitor out of particular technology orspace,” said Robert Sloss, an intellectual propertylitigation partner with Farella Braun & Martel.