Last year a company called Anascape brought a lawsuit against Nintendo and Microsoft, claiming the companies violated several of its patents on game controllers. Microsoft’s deep pockets settled the case for an undisclosed amount. Nintendo decided to continue the fight, but lost. A jury awarded Anascape $21 million in damages.. The judge has refused to give Nintendo a new trial and threatens to halt sales of GameCube controllers, Wavebirds, and Wii Classic controllers until Nintendo puts up the money or posts a bond so it can continue fighting.
With Sony losing a similar suit to Immersion and Microsoft caving in, it doesn’t look good for Nintendo to win its case.
ArsTechnica looked deeper into Anascape and its patents. They found that Anascape doesn't have a web site. All of its patents belong to Brad Armstrong of Carson City, Nevada. Searches for Anascape’s offices haven't turned up anything. Anascape's lawyer Doug Cawley claims that the company wants to enter the game controller business, but Nintendo has "clogged the market”.
ArsTechnica also listed some of Anascape’s patents:
• Patent 6,135,886, "Variable Conductance Sensor with Elastomeric Dome Cap" • Patent 6,208,271 "Remote Controller with Analog Button" • Patent 6,222,525 "Image Controller with Sheet Connected Sensors" • Patent 6,343, 991 "Game Control with Analog Pressure Sensor" • Patent 6,344,791 "Variable Sensor with Tactile Feedback" • Patent 6,347,997 "Analog Controls Housed with Electronic Displays" • Patent 6,906,700 "3D Controller with Vibration"
They rightfully point out that these are all pretty broad ideas that could apply to most any type of controller.
Patent trolling is becoming more prevalent, after all why bother making anything when you can sue your way to profits without lifting a finger. This sort of mentality will lead to a decline in innovation, as small companies can’t afford to litigate weak claims and larger companies will seek ways around them.
Patent and copyright law is broken; it is an obscenely long time before technology/music/Mickey Mouse falls into the public domain. Quinn Norton, had a great article in her column in the June or July issue of MPC you should check out on this subject.
We run the risk of patent “gridlock” and it will be small business and consumers that will pay the price. Will you want to pay it?