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Print 32 comment(s) - last by patentman.. on Aug 9 at 7:48 PM

A Texas-based company takes Microsoft and Nintendo to task over game controllers

In our lawsuit happy country, nothing is too surprising anymore. This time around, Microsoft and Nintendo have been hit with a lawsuit by Anascape, a small Texas-based company. Anascape claims that Microsoft and Nintendo have infringed on 12 of its patents relating to game controllers. The patents in question were issued between 1999 and 2005.

Anascape wants to be compensated for the infringements including interest and has asked to see what revenues have been generated by both companies as a result of the claimed infringements. This unknown company is working the patent system and using it to its advantage. In fact, if the company fails to get a permanent injunction against Microsoft and Nintendo, it intends to have a licensing fee enacted against the two giants. From GameDaily.biz:

The patents seem to deal with almost every aspect of today's modern video game controller, such as analog controls, analog pressure sensors for buttons, vibration and tactile feedback, and more. One would think that Sony's PS2 controller would come into conflict with these patents as well, so it's not clear why Anascape has targeted Microsoft and Nintendo and has not included Sony in the suit.

This isn't the first time that console makers have been attacked concerning game controllers. Back in 2005, Immersion took Sony to task and won $91 million USD as a result of infringements on its force feedback technology.



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Patents
By BioRebel on 8/8/2006 6:21:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'd really like to see exactly what these 12 patents contain.




RE: Patents
By patentman on 8/9/2006 12:08:20 AM , Rating: 2
Amen. Finally someone posted an intelligent comment.


RE: Patents
By Zoomer on 8/9/2006 6:59:07 AM , Rating: 2
I searched for anascape and this is one of them:

Patent 6,906,700, issued on June 14, 2005

A hand operated controller or converter structured for allowing hand inputs to be converted or translated into electrical outputs, the controller structured with a plate or platform moveable relative to a base or housing about two mutually perpendicular axes generally parallel to the platform to effect a plurality of sensors for defining output signal(s) based on movement of the platform. The sensors each have an electrically active activator spatially separated from an electric contact surface. A tactile feedback motor with shaft and offset weight is mounted as a component of the controller for providing vibration to be felt by a hand operating the controller. In some embodiments the sensors are pressure sensitive variable output sensors.

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT...

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to coax the engine to cough out the remaining 11.

Regarding the patent, last I checked, the ps1 controller looks like it could be prior art to me. Pretty sure that was released before 2000 (the filing date).


RE: Patents
By WeaselITB on 8/9/2006 8:54:50 AM , Rating: 2
Your last line is exactly what I was thinking ... I read through all the claims, and while I'm not fully versed in patent law, it does appear to be to be exactly describing the dual shock style controller. Four unidirectional buttons, two multidirectional "joysticks" controlled by poteniometers, rumble feature ... the only thing that I can think of is something that Patentman said earlier, where Sony doesn't use a "sheet" as described in this patent.

Irregardless, why does the claims of the patent seem, to me, to be extremely broad? "A sheet with circuitry" basically ...


RE: Patents
By BioRebel on 8/9/2006 9:16:22 AM , Rating: 2
That patent is so fucking broad Nintendo and M$ should be suing THEM! They don't go into any detail as to how to make such a controller. This is like me making a patent on a controler that senses your mental waves and mimics them on the console. *sits and waits 10 years*


RE: Patents
By patentman on 8/9/2006 1:11:10 PM , Rating: 2
"I searched for anascape and this is one of them:
Patent 6,906,700, issued on June 14, 2005"

And you know "this is one of them" how? Anascape could own a lot of patents, and thus the one you ar elooking at could very well not be involved in this lawsuit.


So IF they win,
By middlehead on 8/8/2006 4:22:49 PM , Rating: 3
and the award would be based on revenues earned since the patents were approved, and the XBox has never been profitable, these twits should have to pay Microsoft.




RE: So IF they win,
By jon1003 on 8/8/2006 4:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
Revenue is different from profit:

quote:
In business, revenue is the amount of money that a company actually receives from its activities, mostly from sales of products and/or services to customers. To investors, revenue is less important than profit, or income, which is the amount of money the business has earned after deducting all the business's expenses.


RE: So IF they win,
By therealnickdanger on 8/8/2006 4:53:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
and the XBox has never been profitable

That's not true. It had its first profitable quarter in December of 2004, but on the whole, it has been a financial loss, but one that Microsoft was prepared and planned for. If memory serves, they predicted long ago that they wouldn't truly experience year-over-year profitability until some time after 2007.

Back to topic, litigation over vague patents should be a crime in itself. I should submit a patent that allows users to take a digital poo on the Internet. I'll bet I can sue someone in about 10 years.


RE: So IF they win,
By patentman on 8/9/2006 12:02:00 AM , Rating: 2
Good luck patenting that; computer software patents are pretty hard to obtain; and you would have an interesting time describing that invention, without at least thinking about it quite a bit, in sufficient detail to meet the disclosure requirements.


RE: So IF they win,
By patentman on 8/8/2006 11:59:58 PM , Rating: 2
No. The damage award in a patent case can be based on any number of things, and most of the time it has nothng to do with "profit." Often times it is a percentage of sales revenue, some amount of money associated with loss of reputation/customers, lost sales, and possibly punitive damages if the infringement was willful.


Sony
By Kilim on 8/8/2006 4:46:23 PM , Rating: 2
I do not think they sued Sony becuase Sony did not settle with Immersion and take them to court for years before it was resolved. Microsoft settles, figuring it was cheaper. I think that is why they did not sue Sony, because they do not have the stomach or money for a long court battle and want a cheap and dirty settlement.

As for Nintendo, maybe they assume they will do the same




RE: Sony
By LumbergTech on 8/8/2006 4:53:27 PM , Rating: 2
microsft and nintendo had paid the licensing fee for the usage of the controller features that that company hada patent to, sony didnt, i could be wrong , i dont think they settled though, i thought they did it legally the first time around


RE: Sony
By Xavian on 8/9/2006 3:45:39 AM , Rating: 2
Nintendo used a different implementation of the rumble tech, thus ended up not be liable for damages.

However Microsoft settled their case by buying a considerable amount of stock in immersion, thus they settled out of court.


RE: Sony
By Xavian on 8/9/2006 3:50:33 AM , Rating: 2
Oh and adding to that Sony fought immersion and lost (probably the main reasion why Dual Shock 3 doesn't have an rumble tech in their controller).

Nintendo is by far the patent concious company i've seen and they wouldn't be caught offguard by this. They have patented so many things to do with controllers that they should be relatively safe. Not to mention that Nintendo's lawers seem to be the best around.

Companies should know by now that going up against Nintendo for patent infringement is basically impossible to win.


RE: Sony
By patentman on 8/9/2006 12:07:49 AM , Rating: 2
They might not have sued Sony for a number of reasons, including the one you mention. Likely sony either licensed the patents at issue, already sued out of court (prior to even filing suit), or was determined by the company not to infringe their patents. Or, the patentee in this case may hate Msoft and Nintendo. Or they could think that they have a better case against Msoft and Nintenodo. Or they could simply only afford two lawsuits and are pursuing the ones they feel they have the best chance in etc. etc. etc....


By Aquila76 on 8/8/2006 6:24:58 PM , Rating: 2
How are they going to sue for damages that have already been ruled in favor of and awarded to another patent holder?




By patentman on 8/8/2006 11:53:08 PM , Rating: 2
Sheesh, once again I must again stick my nose in and clear up the massive fog of ignorance that surrounds patent lawsuits.

1. Lots of people in here are whining about the "vague patents" owned by this company. Neither the Dailytech article nor the article it links to lists the patent numbers associated with this lawsuit. Thus, unless someone in here has some info that I don't have surrounding this case, there is no way to tell from the article what the patents at issue cover.

2. The Only way to tell what a patent covers is to construe the claims of the patent itself. The specification of a patent can be extremely broad, but the claims are often much narrower. I.e., in this case the specification could disclose a bunch of general stuff related to game controllers, but the claims may cover a very specific aspect of the controller, i.e., the manner in which analog stick is constructed, what materials it is constructed out of, etc....

3. While patent claims are not easy to construe, patents themselves are rarely "vague." Indeed, in order to get a patent at all, applicants must comply with a staturoy duty of dislcosure, as well as the written description and enablement requirements of 35 U.S.C. section 112, paragraphs 1 and 2. Failure to comply with these statutes can render the entire patent unenforceable, which essentially means that the applicant spent a lot of money tro obtain something of no value. Hence, Applicants have little interest in "pulling the wool" over on the patent office, so to speak.

4. Aquila76 stated "How are the going to sue for damages that havealready been rulked in favor of and awarded to another party?" Simple, the damages in this case would be for infringement of patents having claims that are distinct from the prior case, e.g., the prior cases may have involved patents drawn to some aspect of the analog control stick; the patents in this case might be drawn to a different aspect of the analog control stick, or indeed, a different part of the controller entirely.

5. Patent lawsuits happen all the time because the patent system is valuable and provides a strong incentive for the DEVELOPMENT, not the implementation, sale, and distribution of technology. Patents give companies a means to develop new technology that they otherwise may not have spent the resources developing in the first place. The mere fact that the technology is not incorporated into a commercial product is irrelavent. I'd bet large sums of money that INTEL, AMD, ATI, NVIDIA, etc. etc. etc. own tons of patents on products that never make it to commercial development. And do they sue for infringement of those patents, hell yes. Why? because they spent the money to develop that technology, and they should have the opportunity to exploit whatever benfits it may entail, even if those benefits are simply monetary through a licensing agreement, before anyone else.

7. I fully acknowledge that the patent system has it problems. Patent "trolls" so to speak were never intended to be a part of the system, and can make the development of technology more difficult. However, the mere fact that a few companies may be misuising the patent system should tno detract from the fact that the system works for thousands upon thousands of other companies for its intended purpose. These "troll" cases simply make it into the news because theyb are a hot button issue. But by and large, these types of suits are in the minority.

/rant.


By mindless1 on 8/9/2006 4:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry but no, not only the trolls are patenting what are essentially inevitable evolutionary things. This is yet another example of why the entire patent process must be thrown out, it is not workable and must be reformulated from scratch.


By patentman on 8/9/2006 7:48:28 PM , Rating: 2
"Sorry but no, not only the trolls are patenting what are essentially inevitable evolutionary things. This is yet another example of why the entire patent process must be thrown out, it is not workable and must be reformulated from scratch."

I've heard this sentiment many times. Funny thing is, not one person who makes this argument can seem to come up with a better system.....


One of these every week...
By jon1003 on 8/8/2006 4:31:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The patents seem to deal with almost every aspect of today's modern video game controller, such as analog controls

Didn't atari use analog controls...? ROFL I'm so sick of this, there's only so many ways to make a game controller and at least 50 companies are out there producing all kinds of controllers for every game and PC system! What about the 3rd party controllers for every system? They better go after EVERY company infringing on these vague patents they have, or their case better get thrown out.




RE: One of these every week...
By patentman on 8/9/2006 12:05:47 AM , Rating: 2
Ah, but there are lots of parts in a gsame controller to be optimized. The fact that there are a finite numbr of ways to make the controller is meaningless. Heck, I used to examine applications at the PTO that were drawn towards magnetic media. 99.99% of magentic media nowagays comprises a substrate, one or more underlayers, a recoridng layer, a protective layer, and a lubricant. Seems like there should be only a finite number of ways to make that media too huh? But there are well over 10,000 patents on magentic recording media. Why? because each patent covers some small improvement in the technology that nobody rpeviously though of and which was not considered by the Examiner to be obvious (in the 35 U.S.C. 103 sense, not the common conception of obviousness) in view of the prior art.


RE: One of these every week...
By Epyon on 8/9/2006 3:55:10 AM , Rating: 2
I just wanted to say thanks for posting here patentman. Its great to have someone here who really knows what they are talking about. You have helped clear up alot of things about patents and the lawsuits that go along with them.


By exdeath on 8/8/2006 4:13:02 PM , Rating: 4
bullet, gun, rope, some assembly required.




No Wonder
By viperpa on 8/8/2006 5:21:30 PM , Rating: 2
It's no wonder no one ever heard of this company, they probably don't even have a legite office. It's funny how small obscure companies own a patent and do nothing to advance technology. As some would say, they hold the advancement of technology hostage.

If companies don't own products and advance the technology, then they shouldn't own a patent.




RE: No Wonder
By patentman on 8/8/2006 11:57:54 PM , Rating: 2
UNless they are a true troll, they did do something to adcvance technology. They filed for and obtained a patent, which means that their developments associated with that particular aspect fo controller technology, whether incoporated into a commeercial product or not, are now available for inspection by the public. Sure, the public cannot use claimed technology for a period of time wiothout permission, but the alternative is that the technology may not have been divulged at all.


By Bull Dog on 8/8/2006 6:11:37 PM , Rating: 4
Enough of these friggin patent lawsuits. Thinking about them makes want to vomit.




*rolls eyes*
By exdeath on 8/8/2006 4:15:00 PM , Rating: 2
Does this company even produce anything or did they just secure vague patents dealing with "push buttons in a plastic hand held enclosure" and watch and wait 10 years before coming out of the dark and sueing all of the sudden?




Paranoia
By Le Québécois on 8/8/2006 4:23:05 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know for MS but Nintendo is one of the companis with the most Paranoia "instinct" I know of about patents related stuff. Just look out there, they have patents on about anythings games related you can think of. So much that I think they probably use about 5% of the patents technoligies they have. This doesn't make any sense for a company likes Nintendo to fall to such things (patents infringements).

As for MS even if it did happen in the past, I doubt they would do that mistake again and again and again.

And to finish, it's quite strange that Sony isn't part of this. After all, except for the new Nintendo Wii(revolution) controller, the 3 companies use very similar if not exactly the same technologies in their controllers.




?
By slashdotcomma on 8/8/2006 4:33:39 PM , Rating: 2
If Sony's not liable, why is Microsoft? I can remember the old sidewinder controllers, and if I remember correctly some had rumble, tilt, and other xbox controller features. It's also interesting that they don't go after 3rd party (for example, Logitech).




War of the Patents
By tigz1218 on 8/9/2006 12:16:05 AM , Rating: 2
These patent lawsuits remind me of War of the Worlds. Many years ago a company makes patents and no one notices. When a company takes their idea, they wait and wait until millions of dollars are being made off it and then they come up from out of the ground and exterminate that companys money, or well alot of it before they get sick.
War of the Patents Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You! lol




By patentman on 8/9/2006 1:22:54 PM , Rating: 2
A copy of the actual complaint filed by anascape in the E.D. of Texas can be found at http://www.theinquirer.net/images/articles/anascap.... While complaints are not required to be exceptionally detailed, this one lists the patents at issue. So have fun.

Note: I did not read the complaint yet, so I cannot further comment on it.




"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer











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