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Booth girls love the Wiimote!  (Source: el33tonline.com)
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.


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Sounds like...
By MrBlastman on 8/22/2008 9:30:47 AM , Rating: 5
Some jerk is just digging for gold. Leave it to the people to always go after people with more money as long as Lawyers walk the earth.

But - who knows. I don't know the full background behind this, perhaps there is merit.

To me, it just seems like another silly attempt to cash in on a successful business who was smarter, quicker and far more savvy to bring to market an idea which would have mass-appeal.

We must also remember that Nintendo is a Japanese company. I doubt they have much fear of our patent system within the United States.




RE: Sounds like...
By ski2slow on 8/22/2008 9:38:13 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, Japanese companies do follow the convention on patents and do get sued. Of course, they can always decide not to sell the products in the US, but it is very unlikely.
As far as the law suit, it probably is another money grabbing attempt by lawyers.


RE: Sounds like...
By Samus on 8/23/08, Rating: 0
RE: Sounds like...
By Solandri on 8/24/2008 2:18:56 PM , Rating: 3
The Japanese are no strangers to patents and patent suits. They stonewalled TI's patent application on the integrated circuit for 29 years while their electronics industry was growing. After the patent was granted, they dragged out the lawsuits over it in court until it expired.

http://www.design-reuse.com/news/1717/fujitsu-wins...

Kawasaki also took the U.S. patent application for the water ski, photocopied it, and replaced the inventor's name with names of their own employees, then submitted it for a Japanese patent. The patent was granted and later found by the Japanese courts to override the U.S. inventor's claims. The inventor had to sue in U.S. court to collect any sort of damages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clayton_Jacobson_II

So they know how to play patent hardball.


RE: Sounds like...
By JustTom on 8/22/2008 9:51:48 AM , Rating: 2
Of course they would be afraid if this suit was valid. Nintendo sells an awful lot of Wiis in the U.S.. Any sort of injunction of sales would be extremely harmful to their bottom line.


RE: Sounds like...
By JSK on 8/24/2008 8:55:01 AM , Rating: 2
Really? You seen a Wii in the store lately? ;)


RE: Sounds like...
By Mitch101 on 8/22/2008 11:14:31 AM , Rating: 5
I just don't know what the limit is but if I recall its something like 3 years to file a lawsuit for damages.

Seems some of these companies like the one on Blackberry sat on their patents forever then come out with a lawsuit when the items are at the peak market so they infringed on the patent 10 million times instead of 3 million a year or two earlier expecting a bigger payout.

Lets allow for patent infringement but put a cap on it if you never created a prototype. For example 100K if all you have is a paper patent but if you were in development of the product but someone else achieved it then you have 3 years to file and are capped at the 3 years of distribution of the product that infringed and you must have notified them in the first year of the infringement. No more waiting 7 years at market peak and suing as if you never heard of the Wii's controller. Bad example with the Wii controller but the lawsuit on Blackberry was more clearly ambulance chasing and waiting.


RE: Sounds like...
By AlexWade on 8/24/2008 9:15:14 AM , Rating: 3
Better yet, disallow BACK royalties, but give the patent holder future royalties at a fair rate. You want to screw patent trolls but help ordinary citizens who patent things.

And put a time limit. Not 3 years. But 1 year from the date that it became knowledge of the infringing item, judge's discretion. In this case, it looks like the patent was awarded January 2007. Here it is August 2008 with a lawsuit. Too late! Wii has been out for since late 2006. So, these guys clearly knew the Wii-mote was available, unless they have been living in a cryogenic chamber. They should get nothing, they waited too long.


RE: Sounds like...
By dvinnen on 8/22/2008 8:12:44 PM , Rating: 2
This is one of the patents in question: http://www.google.com/patents?id=bZV-AAAAEBAJ&dq=p...

As you can see it was applied for in May 2005 and issued Jan 2007.

Just judging by the pictures and description it looks like they have a solid complaint against Nintendo unless there is enough prior art to overturn the patent. They also are getting royalties from Logitech for a similar device, they would be stupid not to sue Nintendo for trying to cash in on their idea.


RE: Sounds like...
By Solandri on 8/24/2008 2:03:08 PM , Rating: 3
That patent looks like it may actually be too specific to apply to the Wii. It includes a rotational sensor, gyroscope, and magnetometer, which the Wii doesn't have (the Wii's controller is remarkably minimalist in how it determines 3D motion and rotation). The other principles used by the Wii have been around for decades (see the list of citations in the patent), and Nintendo owns its own share of patents on them. And of course the math has been around for centuries.

In fact I remember an accelerometer-based joystick for the Atari 2600 back in the late 1970s, although of course that was limited to 8 directions since that was all the 2600 could encode.


RE: Sounds like...
By Screwballl on 8/23/2008 12:05:09 PM , Rating: 2
agreed, this is just another patent troll looking to cash in on the success of another. Submit a generalized patent for a "motion capable remote for displaying information on a screen" and you got any company that actually produces anything similar. they may as well go after companies that make remote controls for anything (TVs, VCRs, remote control cars, garage door openers, X10 devices) since it also falls under their generalized definitions.

patent troll: company or person that submits generalized (non-specific) patents with the intention of never creating a product that actually uses the format or technology behind it (usually claiming it is in the "research" phase). The trolls then sue large companies that create anything similar, even if the other company holds one or more specific (non-generalized) patents on their devices.


By WonderSausage on 8/22/2008 10:17:49 AM , Rating: 4
Way back in 1994, Sony shipped a home-theater A/V receiver, the STR-G1ES, equipped with a 3D motion sensing controller. I know, because I bought one. There's a mention of it on Wired here, titled "GUI Vibrations": http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.04/fetish.htm...

And here's a pic of the egg-shaped 3D motion-sensing controller:

http://www.dvdremotecontrols.com/Mfrs/Sony/SonyAud...

I have no idea why Sony hasn't mentioned this and/or asserted concept/patent rights. Maybe the engineers have all retired and they've just forgotten?




By BladeVenom on 8/22/2008 11:20:24 AM , Rating: 2
Even earlier there was the Atari Le Stick which came out in 1981. http://classicgames.about.com/od/consoleandhandhel...


By danskmacabre on 8/22/2008 11:56:07 AM , Rating: 2
I remember that, I actually saw one in a shop wayback.
I even had a go on it.
It was really nasty to use, not very accurate and unresponsive.


Get off your high horses, all of you.
By Lonyo on 8/22/2008 11:23:36 AM , Rating: 4
This company has a patent.
They are shipping products based on the patent and have licensed it.
The may only now be suing Nintendo because they asked Nintendo about licensing their stuff, and after negotiations, Nintendo said "No", so now they are approaching it in a different way, via the courts.

If they didn't try and sue, then their patent would probably end up being worthless, as other people would feel that they can get away with doing the same thing (using it without licensing it).

Patents also cover (usually, or should) specific implementations of ideas, not necessarily the ideas themselves. We saw with the Immersion/Dual Shock lawsuit that Nintendo's Rumble Pak wasn't included, but DualShock was because of the method of producing the effects.

Now maybe I'm wrong, right now I can't be bothered to go through the patent specifics, but it seems to be like a lot of people here are hating on this lawsuit because of other lawsuits without caring about the specifics of this case.
If people want to tar all patent suits with the same brush, they can, but they are also idiots. There are valid patent infringement claims, and this may well be one of them, assuming that the claims about existing licenses are legitimate.
This company doesn't appear to be a patent troll patenting obvious ideas and then trying to cash in. They are licensing and making products based on the patents.




By akugami on 8/22/2008 1:10:58 PM , Rating: 4
http://tinyurl.com/6qfdwz

I agree with everything you say. However, the thing is that Nintendo does happen to have a patent on motion sensing controllers and it was filed in Japan in '99 and filed in the US before Hillcrest. Now, I do agree that Hillcrest is not a patent troll though they do believe their IP has been infringed upon. However, in this case, I think they (Hillcrest) will have an insanely tough time trying to win since there is a lot of prior art as well as Nintendo having a patent filed earlier than them.


Copyright?
By Ard on 8/22/2008 9:30:50 AM , Rating: 4
Shouldn't the title say "Nintendo Slammed With Patent Suit"?




RE: Copyright?
By fezzik1620 on 8/22/2008 10:13:35 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. I don't know why you got modded down either. It is a perfectly valid point. Patents and copyrights while both designed to protect the rights of those who do something original (only way I could think to put it to incorporate both) they serve very different purposes and are treated very differently. And this article clearly has nothing to do with copyright.


Soo....
By ZaethDekar on 8/22/2008 6:23:01 PM , Rating: 2
All of their patents are issued AFTER the Wii was released.

As in.. some were issued one year ago, the earliest patent was at November 21, 2006... then the rest were all in 2007. Talk about retarded company practices.




RE: Soo....
RE: Soo....
By rainman1986 on 8/22/2008 7:26:08 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention, only 2 of the patents were even filed before the Wii was released.

One was TV graphical interface 7139983, and I'm trying to decide if every media center interface on the planet infringes on that one.

The other being the vaguely worded 7158118. And it was filed only 6 months before the Wii was released. Nintendo had been working on the controller for 5 years. (wikipedia)


Patents are silly anyways.
By SilthDraeth on 8/22/2008 10:15:05 AM , Rating: 1
I am sure the concept of them is well and all. You come up with a tangible idea. You then patent it, and then sale your idea, or proceed to build a product from the idea.

Your patent protects you from another seeing, and stealing your idea.

I don't believe an inventor/innovator needs to read over every single patent to make sure their new idea isn't already patented.

I also believe its possible for hundreds of people to have the same idea.

Considering the Wii mote is close to those old arcade games where you hold a controller tethered to the arcade machine and swing a virtual sword, I would say this is prior technology and there is no Patent violated.




RE: Patents are silly anyways.
By SiN on 8/22/2008 10:36:18 AM , Rating: 2
or you could even sell it.


RE: Patents are silly anyways.
By SilthDraeth on 8/22/2008 10:45:06 AM , Rating: 2
Thank you. I accidentally wrote "sale it" instead of "sell it".


Maggots
By karielash on 8/22/2008 9:32:56 AM , Rating: 2

With a product doing this well I am suprised it took this long for the maggot minority to crawl out from under their stones lawsuits in hand.

It's about time someone took a serious look at the copyright and patent laws in this country.




Funny...
By cscpianoman on 8/22/2008 10:32:05 AM , Rating: 2
It would be really funny to have two companies claiming patent infringement against another company for the same exact thing. It may finally wake up lawmakers to the state of the current patent system. I think this is ridiculous.




All about the benjamins
By TexanReader on 8/22/2008 10:41:50 AM , Rating: 2
I guarantee you the only reason this lawsuit is coming out when it has is because of the tremendous success that Nintendo has had with the Wii. It's been out for years now. You mean to tell me that this Hillcrest company is just now getting around to filing a lawsuit?...just now realizing their idea was "stolen"? C'mon! Give me a break. It's obvious that they're just in it for the money. They saw that Anascape made money by sueing, so they're doing the same thing.

I agree with SilthDreath, this type of technology has been around for years in the arcades and other arenas, such as home audio, as was mentioned. There's always going to be an idea that is taken to another level as Nintendo has taken the wireless pointer idea and run with it in the gaming market. You don't see touchscreen phone makers getting sued all over the place. What about the Instinct by Sprint? Is that not alot like an iPhone? It's called not reinventing the wheel people! You take one technology and make it better. That's all that's being done here. I promise you, if Nintendo had flopped on this thing or hadn't had near the success that they have had, you wouldn't be seeing these lawsuits. And speaking of lawsuits, I saw that a lady was sueing Apple because her phone wasn't getting good reception. Man, I need to call my lawyer!!




Not valid
By Spivonious on 8/22/2008 11:27:44 AM , Rating: 2
I read the patent application and it is definitely not what the Wii remote is. There invention was a 3D pointing device with orientation compensation. The Wii remote doesn't compensate for orientation, it communicates it to the software. This suit will quickly be thrown out.




Hey Jason
By clovell on 8/22/2008 4:40:21 PM , Rating: 2
Could you post a link to the patents in question? I must admit I'm not very adept at scouring the web for such things. I'm familiar with the engineering of the Wii Remote, but not with this company's patent that has allegedly been infringed upon.

Thanks.




great
By DOHCZC on 8/22/2008 5:36:00 PM , Rating: 1
I love to swing my baseball racket




Breathing Patent
By Tegrat on 8/22/08, Rating: 0
Hmm...
By 325hhee on 8/22/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hmm...
By NARC4457 on 8/22/2008 10:30:19 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
I wish more people wake up and see the Wii is nothing more than a slightly better Game Cube with a new type of controller.

Why do you even care what other people play? I wish more people would wake up and see that it's ridiculous to hate on other people having fun.


RE: Hmm...
By Polynikes on 8/22/2008 12:37:06 PM , Rating: 2
Amen. The Wii isn't a "hardcore" gaming system, so people should stop making the apples to oranges comparison with Xbox and PS3.


RE: Hmm...
By augiem on 8/22/2008 3:30:30 PM , Rating: 1
Wow, you hit the nail on the head there... Never heard anyone blow the whole console wars crap away this effortlessly before. This should go into the quotes down at the bottom of the page! :)


RE: Hmm...
By encryptkeeper on 8/22/2008 10:32:18 AM , Rating: 4
I wish more people wake up and see the Wii is nothing more than a slightly better Game Cube with a new type of controller.

And the XBox 360 is just an XBox with better graphics. The Nintendo Wii has a wide range of appeal, and more people can enjoy and afford to play. It's been on top for two years, it's not going away.


RE: Hmm...
By 325hhee on 8/22/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hmm...
By karielash on 8/22/2008 12:15:20 PM , Rating: 2

Seriously, who cares. You pay your money you take your poison.

This is not a discussion or article comparing various different platforms, perhaps you should take your argument to www.fanboyzare!@#!$%#@.com


RE: Hmm...
By KernD on 8/22/2008 12:19:36 PM , Rating: 3
That's just because you define a generation by the power of the machine, they decided to define there next generation of console by other means, next generation controller.

How many more mhz would the Wii require to be called next gen by your standard? Maybe it has to do with the graphic hardware feature set? then the PS2 was never next gen in it's time, because it never had shaders while the old xbox had them.


RE: Hmm...
By Flunk on 8/22/2008 12:44:56 PM , Rating: 3
Now now, let's be fair. The Xbox 360 uses an IBM PowerPC processor design and an ATI-designed graphics chip. It's nothing like the origional Xbox. It's much closer to the being an improved Gamecube than anything else ;)


RE: Hmm...
By AlvinCool on 8/22/2008 11:38:54 AM , Rating: 3
I didn't buy the Wii because it's an awesome game machine. I bought it because it's so interactive, and the games are simple to play. We actually use the Wii fit and it works. When we play the games we actually work out and it helps improve balance and co-ordination. The people we bought it from hated it, they said they didn't realize that they had to get off the couch to play it, so they took the money I paid them and bought a 360. I guess they are still sitting on that couch glued to the screen and are, literally, fat and happy.


RE: Hmm...
By mikeblas on 8/22/2008 1:22:21 PM , Rating: 3
quote:

Everybody is going after every body these days to make a buck, and it's just a sad world when people just think the only way to make money is not to create, just sue.
You're saying that you know this lawsuit is baseless? Is that a conclusion you've just jumped into because of some preconceived notion of IP law you have? Or do you have information that the rest of us don't have?


RE: Hmm...
By EricMartello on 8/22/2008 6:07:50 PM , Rating: 2
I don't have a problem with what console people play...but 325hhee is right that the Wii is little more than a redressed Gamecube. What's the problem? It's considered a "next gen" system when in reality it's not. People say "don't compare it to XB360 or PS3", but why not? The Wii IS Nintendo's current generation of consoles...why not compare it?

The core of any game should be how fun it is to play...but innovation in terms of complexity - both graphically, sonically and interactively - are all important factors. The Wii may be fun in some cases, but it lacks the ability to compete with its counterparts in any category other than control interface.

Nintendo has shown us that recycling the garbage can yield good results - but what does the future hold for a company that is 5 years behind the competition in terms of technology? Maybe the Wii console sales are doing well - but isn't it a lot more fun to play the XB360 on XB Live with your friends? To those who say "Wii is more fun to play in person with friends..." Cute, but when you get together with friends in person - do you really have nothing better to do than sit around and play video games? :P

Anyway, Nintendo has always made fun games - that cannot be attributed to the Wii. From a business standpoint, the Wii is little more than a stop-gap. Nintendo remains profitable because it is unwilling to invest in new technology...if it wasn't for XB360 and PS3, we'd all be years behind the tech curve.


RE: Hmm...
By akugami on 8/23/2008 3:24:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't have a problem with what console people play...but 325hhee is right that the Wii is little more than a redressed Gamecube. What's the problem? It's considered a "next gen" system when in reality it's not. People say "don't compare it to XB360 or PS3", but why not? The Wii IS Nintendo's current generation of consoles...why not compare it?


Please point me to the encyclopedia entry that defines what is "next gen" and what is not. When did "next gen" require a huge update in GPU and CPU power? Why can't "next gen" refer to brand new vastly different and (arguably) innovative forms of controlling games? Or are we just suppose to take your (and other fanboys) word that the Wii is not a "next gen" console?

quote:
The core of any game should be how fun it is to play...but innovation in terms of complexity - both graphically, sonically and interactively - are all important factors. The Wii may be fun in some cases, but it lacks the ability to compete with its counterparts in any category other than control interface.


So the core of any game should be how fun it is to play, and yet you are rather dismissive of the Wii trying to bring in new ways to control games. Dismissing it because the competition to the Wii brings in the same old thing except in a pretty new dress. Let's be honest here, 99% of the Xbox 360 and PS3 games are nothing more than updates to last gen games with a fresh coat of paint. For better or for worse, at least Nintendo is trying to up the ante. Nintendo has been experimenting with new controllers since the original NES so in a way the Wii is just a continuation of their philosophies. If not for Nintendo there would be no cross controller (and its various ripoffs) nor would there have been an analogue controller as we know it today. My argument is the graphics and processing power is important but they are tied for a close second while gameplay and by extension ways to control games is first and foremost.

quote:
Nintendo has shown us that recycling the garbage can yield good results - but what does the future hold for a company that is 5 years behind the competition in terms of technology? Maybe the Wii console sales are doing well - but isn't it a lot more fun to play the XB360 on XB Live with your friends? To those who say "Wii is more fun to play in person with friends..." Cute, but when you get together with friends in person - do you really have nothing better to do than sit around and play video games? :P


Nintendo recycling garbage? Umm...look at the rehashed games on other systems before you make that comment. 95% of the games industry as a whole is recycled. Nintendo actually has a very nice track record in introducing new game play types. Certainly better than Microsoft or Sony.

Sony and Microsoft have a definite edge on Nintendo in the online front. Microsoft with its various software technologies, its past (though failed) experience with MMORPG's, and most importantly Xbox Live. Sony has an insane amount of experience with MMORPG's so even though they are behind MS in the console connectivity front I would not count them down or out by any means. Nintendo quite frankly sucks in the console online front. As for preferring to play games together or separately online, to each his own.

On the tech front...what a load of garbage. Nintendo is ahead, not behind. They have vastly more experience with the motion controllers and they are free to refine it and add new controlling mechanisms that will enhance it further. Sony and MS are playing catchup. The other thing is it doesn't take more than a few phone calls to get the latest GPU and CPU and other tech from the likes of Intel, AMD, and IBM. Basically the same places Sony and MS get their CPU and GPU's from. Unless there is some rule that Nintendo has to buy technology in a certain order that forces them to buy CPU's and GPU's that are roughly equal to what is out on the top console markets today before they can buy the latest and greatest.


RE: Hmm...
By EricMartello on 8/25/2008 6:02:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Please point me to the encyclopedia entry that defines what is "next gen" and what is not. When did "next gen" require a huge update in GPU and CPU power? Why can't "next gen" refer to brand new vastly different and (arguably) innovative forms of controlling games? Or are we just suppose to take your (and other fanboys) word that the Wii is not a "next gen" console?


Next Gen now = current generation of consoles, i.e. the version that succeeded the previous most recent revision. In Nintendo's case, that is the Wii. Wii offers nothing other than a gimmick controller that sucks for all but a few games.

quote:
My argument is the graphics and processing power is important but they are tied for a close second while gameplay and by extension ways to control games is first and foremost.


Many people, myself included, still play old 16-bit games...from a technical standpoint they are obsolete, but they're still fun. Nintendo's approach has been to completely ignore graphics, sound and computing power in lieu of "redoing" the Gamecube by adding a gimmick controller that. FYI specialty controllers have been around for ages - and for a company to release a 'new' console based on ancient technology along, touting a controller as its saving grace is simply not innovative in any way.

quote:
Nintendo recycling garbage? Umm...look at the rehashed games on other systems before you make that comment. 95% of the games industry as a whole is recycled. Nintendo actually has a very nice track record in introducing new game play types. Certainly better than Microsoft or Sony.


Nintendo has also failed since the SNES to gain a respectable market share. As for recycled games on other systems - of course they're there, but there are plenty of new and better titles to choose from as well. Nintendo doesn't even rehash titles - they just rerelease the same garbage that was on the GC, and the GC was a pure failure.

If Nintendo wants to be competitive, their consoles need to be powered by current technology. A fancy controller is not going to save a system. Wii's may be selling strong, but it's like I said, what does Nintendo have planned for tomorrow - they're very far behind the tech curve and their controller alone is not enough to pull the company along.


"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer














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