Booth girls love the Wiimote!  (Source:
Wii're not guilty, Nintendo says

Nintendo's Wii has been a runaway and unheralded success story.  After a woeful showing with its Gamecube, Nintendo recouped, delivering a uniquely fun gaming system that left its graphically brawny competitors scratching their heads.  It did not take long for the Wii to catch up to the earlier released Xbox 360, and it now leads worldwide and U.S. next generation console sales, having finally seized the U.S. lead from the Xbox 360 in June.  It regularly outsells both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 monthly, an impressive feat.

With all the excitement surrounding the Wii, there is one new troubling piece of news for Nintendo.  A U.S. tech company Hillcrest Laboratories, based in Rockville, Maryland, has filed a complaint in the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington and a patent infringement lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Maryland against Nintendo Corp.  The company announced its move Wednesday (PDF).

Hillcrest claims that Nintendo violated four of its patents on handheld three-dimensional pointing devices and display interface systems for organizing graphic content on a TV.  The company says in a statement, "While Hillcrest Labs has a great deal of respect for Nintendo and the Wii, Hillcrest Labs believes that Nintendo is in clear violation of its patents and has taken this action to protect its intellectual property rights."

So who exactly is Hillcrest Labs?  Hillcrest Labs was founded in 2001 by Dan Simpkins.  It focuses on interactive media, including pointing devices.  Among its licensed clients is Logitech, which is coming out with a new 3D mouse based on the company's devices.  It also makes a special remote called Loop TV.

The Nintendo Wii has brought lucrative profits to Nintendo and in doing so perhaps has set itself up as a perfect target for lawsuits.  Nintendo already had to dish out $21M USD for an infringement suit on its less commonly used controller, the Wii Classic Controller.  Texas company Anascape sued Nintendo and Microsoft, for what it argued was multiple violations on its patents on gaming controllers.

Startup company Talismoon announced a 3D motion sensing controller of its own for the Xbox 360 last year.  It might want to wait out this suit or risk becoming Hillside Labs' next target.  No word yet on whether Hillcrest will also target Sony's 3D motion sensing DualShock 3 controller.

The WiiMote, as Nintendo's 3D controller is called, is the integral selling point of Nintendo's next generation console.  It allows for spirited party games, by controlling such actions as swinging a tennis racket, swinging a baseball racket, going fishing... or even beer pong.  It has helped Nintendo to current worldwide sales of 29.6 million units.  Nintendo hopes to sell 25 million units for its fiscal year ending in March 2009.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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