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Interactive Exercise Company Sues Nintendo For Patent Infringement

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the blurring-lines dept.

Patents 67

isometric writes with this excerpt from Gamasutra: "IA Labs is accusing Nintendo of infringing on two separate IA Labs patents through technology used in the Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus, the Wii Balance Board, Wii Remote, Wii Wheel, Wii MotionPlus, Wii Nunchuck and Wii Zapper. ... The patents in question are 'Computer interactive isometric exercise system and method for operatively interconnecting the exercise system to a computer system for use as a peripheral' and 'Force measurement system for an isometric exercise device.' The claim said that IA Labs had been in contact with Nintendo during 2007-2008, discussing possible overlaps of IA Labs and Nintendo patents. Emails between IA Labs and Nintendo showed that IA Labs wanted to license its technology to Nintendo. IA Labs was also in talks with Nintendo about a product called Sqweeze, a controller for Wii and PC that's meant to increase physical activity when gaming."

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67 comments

Hopefully Nintendo's track and field games count (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31881924)

Hopefully Nintendo's track and field games count as prior art. The problem here is that we're now dealing with hardware.

Re:Hopefully Nintendo's track and field games coun (2, Funny)

stoned_hamster (1531291) | about 4 years ago | (#31881936)

and if we're lucky, the Wii will not go away. Its a pretty good system, just needs to get some of the kinks worked out. plus, who here doesn't like the pictures of the guy who threw his Wii remote thru his tv?

LIke the old addage (or new?) says, (5, Funny)

Aldenissin (976329) | about 4 years ago | (#31881952)

Those who can, do. Those whose products and marketing suck, sue!

Re:LIke the old addage (or new?) says, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882246)

Except Nintendo had contacted them about the technology. Just like Microsoft of old (maybe they still do), they looked at the product, went away and basically stole it, knowing the smaller company is very unlikely to win a long very drawn out court case.

Re:LIke the old addage (or new?) says, (2, Informative)

jIyajbe (662197) | about 4 years ago | (#31882574)

Actually, I don't think IA products suck; I am one of the (apparently) few owners of their Kilowatt fitness controllers for the original XBox. It works really well, it is a sensitive controller, and it really makes some games incredibly fun. And, after an hour or two, I am seriously worn out. (I work out in more traditional ways, too.)

However, I agree that their marketing sucks.

Re:LIke the old addage (or new?) says, (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 4 years ago | (#31882702)

Schweet. I've created an old adage. :D

Re:LIke the old addage (or new?) says, (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | about 4 years ago | (#31885170)

It's a figure of speech, "the old adage." Now on the end of surveys there should be a NeutronCowboy option instead of a Cowboy Neal because of your big head. (I kid, I kid.)

Moderation (0, Offtopic)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 years ago | (#31881964)

Where's the mod tool for marking an entire story -1, Troll?

Re:Moderation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31884258)

where is the mod tool to mod your stupid ass off of slashdot?

Latency at best? (-1, Troll)

adosch (1397357) | about 4 years ago | (#31881974)

Uh, some of these gadgets and games have been out for 2-3+ years already under the Nintendo name and IA Labs is just now figuring out there could, potentially, maybe, a-slight-possibility, perhaps, kind-of, sort-of be a copyright infringement?

Regardless of IA Labs 'intent' to manufacture the Squeeze; I can't believe this holds any water at all as far as a copyright suit is concerned. If anything, I see IA Labs trying to get into profit on the exercise gaming market, not being stifled by it (e.g. Nintendo). Their demo of the Squeeze appeared, when? Circa 2008. Again, competing demo, not an undisclosed, super-duper market changing gaming gadget set to take over the world.

Re:Latency at best? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882000)

Wow, your post is so stupid. I could hardly stand it.

First this isn't copyright. Second read the fucking article.

it's patent, not copyright (2, Funny)

ChipMonk (711367) | about 4 years ago | (#31882064)

Please, don't confuse the terms. It only motivates the lawyers to continue muddying the waters.

Re:Latency at best? (0, Redundant)

adosch (1397357) | about 4 years ago | (#31882158)

Let me reply to my own post to stop the pessimism against the post: #sed -i -r -e "s/copyright/patent/g" /my/post ...there. Fixed.

Re:Latency at best? (1)

toleraen (831634) | about 4 years ago | (#31882218)

Yeah the only way to fix your OP is probably to rm -rf /. Maybe reread the summary, focusing on the part that says:

The claim said that IA Labs had been in contact with Nintendo during 2007-2008

Re: IA Labs actually around a lot longer (2, Informative)

TimTucker (982832) | about 4 years ago | (#31882194)

From reading the article, it looks like IA Labs is actually Powergrid Fitness -- a company that has been releasing gaming-based exercise devices since as early as 2004: http://www.futurelooks.com/forums/showthread.php?p=81382 [futurelooks.com]

So definitely not what I would consider to be a "patent troll" given that they've had devices on the market since before any of the control mechanisms for the Wii were even announced.

If you look around, they've been at CES with new or updated devices pretty much every year from 2004 onward.

Re: IA Labs actually around a lot longer (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 4 years ago | (#31885038)

Take a look at the Wii history. They announced the Wii and controller in CES 2004. The prototypes were displayed in sep 2005.

Looks to me like patent filing dates and claims would have to be closely looked at. However, the TFA notes only that IA wanted to license their "tech" to Nintendo. I'd like to license my tech to Nintendo too (I'll make some up in the next few minutes...;) That doesn't give me a real claim nor a court case I can win.

Prior Art? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882018)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_Pad seems to take care of this patent: "Computer interactive isometric exercise system and method for operatively interconnecting the exercise system to a computer system for use as a peripheral", though not sure about the force measurement one.

Re:Prior Art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882096)

Atari had a system quite close to Wii balance board long ago:
http://gonintendo.com/viewstory.php?id=42384

Re:Prior Art? (1)

Dachannien (617929) | about 4 years ago | (#31882202)

Yeah, great job finding prior art that anticipates the title. Now go read the claims and see how well you do with those, since that's the only thing that counts.

Re:Prior Art? (3, Insightful)

Mikkeles (698461) | about 4 years ago | (#31882340)

Controlling any device with a computer based in data from sensors is not inovative and should not be patentable regardless of how many adjectives are added.

Re:Prior Art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882388)

"on teh interwebs" still works like a charm

those who do not know history (of computers) (4, Interesting)

ChipMonk (711367) | about 4 years ago | (#31882046)

The Amiga's "Guru Meditation Error" is derived from a balance board connected as a peripheral [wikipedia.org]. IA did not have an original idea here. I strongly doubt it was original with Amiga, either.

Re:those who do not know history (of computers) (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#31882586)

It doesn't matter if someone else had a balance board, that is not enough to invalidate a patent. All that matters is if the specific configuration mentioned in the claims section of the patent is original (and it probably is, they tried to write it in such a way that it would be original), and that the specific configuration matches the nintendo device.

You can find the patents themselves by pasting the titles of the patents into a Google search.

Re:those who do not know history (of computers) (1)

Splab (574204) | about 4 years ago | (#31885660)

well that, and it has to be non-obvious, but if someone has already done the same thing with different materials it's no longer non-obvious when you do it.

Re:those who do not know history (of computers) (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#31887664)

From a legal perspective, it is hard to prove things are obvious. Really, if one-click purchase doesn't count as obvious, then there is probably nothing that will count as obvious. Which in my opinion is the #1 single biggest problem with the patent system.

Re:those who do not know history (of computers) (2, Funny)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 years ago | (#31882932)

The Amiga's "Guru Meditation Error"

If anyone is seeking compensation for use of the "Guru Meditation Error" they might want to consider going after slashdot as well; I see Guru Meditation Errors on slashdot at least 5-10 times a week...

Nice Clear example of Patents Hurting the World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882084)

A patent will stop cheap exercise equipment for people who need exercise and will undoubtedly die earlier if they don't get it.

So the companies health is more important than the consumers health.

Let em compete.

But the Wii isn't isometric (4, Informative)

jfengel (409917) | about 4 years ago | (#31882132)

The remarkable, novel thing about the Wii was using accelerometers in its controller. That means you're not just applying force; you're doing so with a range of motion. That's aerobic exercise, using your own weight as the resistance.

Isometrics are another good form of exercise, and they can be done with much simpler tools, since all you need to measure is force. But that isn't what the Wii is doing.

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (0, Offtopic)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 4 years ago | (#31882206)

bench.free weights. 'nuff said

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882238)

Shut the fuck up.

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (1)

AnotherUsername (966110) | about 4 years ago | (#31882708)

Pushups. Pullups. Situps. Running. 'nuff said.

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 4 years ago | (#31883264)

i actually sat for a minute coming up with some smart ass answers, but, really, i've got no argument with that, altho, i'd be less than honest if i didn't say swimming is a far better way to go than running. just in terms of an overall fitness programme, especially if you are seriously overweight; or, if like me, you've suffered a compression break on a femur and have joint issues

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (2, Insightful)

AnotherUsername (966110) | about 4 years ago | (#31883656)

I agree, swimming is better than running. I personally prefer running to swimming, due to the ability to just start running anywhere rather than go to a water source(pool, lake, ocean). Also, fewer speedos.

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (2, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 4 years ago | (#31882274)

Yeah, I don't see how Nintendo could possibly be infringing. Nintendo's games aren't used for isometric exercises, the only Nintendo device that even contains strain gauges is the Balance Board—and similar force platforms have been used since before IA's patents were filed.

On the other hand, they didn't file in East Texas, so they must think they actually have a case...

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (2, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#31882550)

Here is one of the patents [freepatentsonline.com]. If you look at the actual claims, you can see that what is needed is a device for doing isometric exercises, including a rod with a sensor that is used to detect force. The balance board alone doesn't have such a rod, so I think they needed to include the wii remote for it to count. It seems to me that the patent actually applies, as long as they can find any game that include isometric exercises (I've never played wii fit, so I don't know). Remember to understand if a patent applies to a device, you have to look at the claims, not the title; specifically the independent claims, which in this case are claim 1 and 9.

Here is the other patent [freepatentsonline.com], I am too lazy to read through two patents in one day, someone else have a go.

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (3, Informative)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | about 4 years ago | (#31883452)

They're describing a single device in the patent. Pretty much all the claims require that whatever device they claim infringes infringe Claim 1 or 9 which requires that the device itself be an isometric exercise system including a frame to support the user and a sensor affixed to an elongated rod. Claim 1 uses the language "elongated rod" and Claim 9 also repeats this requirement. They patented a very specific invention (the one in their figures).

At least as far as the first patent, I don't think they can get away with suing over 2 separate non-infringing inventions because they can be combined to serve a similar purpose for specific pieces of software.

The second patent's early claims sound like electronic scales until the more specific claims. If I'm not mistaken, Nintendo was initially going to work with bathroom scale makers on the technology in the balance board so that's probably where they got their ideas from. Chances are these guys are going to have to prove electronic scales aren't prior art or that Nintendo is infringing based on the more specific claims (they're pretty specific about such things as use of metals, resins etc). I suspect they won't get it to fly on just the initial claims due to prior art then get shot down as soon as the claims involving materials pops up and Nintendo is using a different material in their invention. In fact, after looking over all the claims of the second patent... did they really just patent their own implementation of a damn scale?

Re:But the Wii isn't isometric (1)

Altus (1034) | about 4 years ago | (#31895332)

I'm having a hard time thinking of a single exercise in Wii Fit plus that is actually isometric. Pretty much all of them are dynamic.

Some of the yoga poses might barely qualify, but stretching and exercise are not really the same thing.

They've also apparently patented plastic (1)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | about 4 years ago | (#31882342)

I have no idea how the Wii Wheel and Zapper could be infringing on their technology patents when they're nothing but plastic shells.

Re:They've also apparently patented plastic (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 years ago | (#31882988)

Hmm, perhaps the careless parents who killed their toddler with atrocious gun safety habits [slashdot.org] will sue the owners of the wii zapper patent and this other company as well.

Re:They've also apparently patented plastic (1)

HisOmniscience (1361001) | about 4 years ago | (#31885644)

How did those parents get a black zapper? I know Nintendo and Nyko sell their models only in white. (They could have painted it, but why bother.)

Re:They've also apparently patented plastic (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 years ago | (#31886822)

That was one of many questions left unanswered at the time. And if you look at the image closer, you'll see that the zapper isn't only black, but it was made to look especially similar to the actual gun that the idiot left loaded and ready to fire within easy reach of the toddler. Hence the idiot went out of his way to get that particular zapper ... perhaps a very, very, far ways out of his way.

That said, young children are naturally curious, and will generally try to put just about everything they can reach into their mouths. The parents are 100% the cause of the death of the toddler, not the Wii, the zapper, or even the loaded gun itself. The gun owner demonstrated an appalling lack of concern for gun - and toddler - safety, and now that young child is dead because of his utterly recklessness. The article as posted here did the same thing the parents did - tried to blame it on the Wii. I mention it here because those atrociously stupid parents will now probably try to sue this company as well.

I still think software should be unpatentable (1)

mrflash818 (226638) | about 4 years ago | (#31882382)

...it just seems that the recipe is: Wait till someone makes an honest effort software product that makes them money, then someone pops up and sues for money, due to infringement.

So sick of this.

Also tired of copyright extensions that keep works out of public hands, but is off-topic for this /. article.

Re:I still think software should be unpatentable (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882410)

Yea, this has nothing to do with Software patents. So your whole post is off-topic for this /. article.

Please try again.

Re:I still think software should be unpatentable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882704)

This patent is hardware and software related.

Hardware patents should be just that, hardware patents. If you can make other hardware that does the exact same thing, great. Its not covered just don't do it the way we did it. However software patents are fucking retarded.

Imagine if the car was patented by the company before ford? Now imagine that patent was extended for 190 years. (the equivalent of 15 software years).

Now imagine riding your horse to work still in 2010!!!

wouldn't an electronic scale fit this description? (2, Insightful)

Nyder (754090) | about 4 years ago | (#31882456)

You use the scale as part of your excerise, ie. to check your weight.

It requires balance, and if it's electric, it has some sort of computer (roughly) in it.

It gets it's reading by the force of your gravity on it.

I don't get it. (1)

Kikuchi (1709032) | about 4 years ago | (#31882468)

If they're suing over a precise piece of hardware/software, they might get a point. But it looks to me like they're suing over the idea of linking an interactive material to a game and that's just plain stupid.

And the Amiga balance board c. 1985 as prior art? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882504)

Those who recall the Amiga 1000 will note that the error screen "guru meditation" came from a computerized balance board that was used inside Amiga Inc. c. 1985 and whose design and use were widely publicized. It did much of what Wii does, but long enough ago that any patents by now would be expired. I despise these Johnny come latelies who claim first invention of ideas long ago invented and published, and believe USPTO should demand full searches of all literature (open source and not) wherever found before giving a patent, and there should be huge penalties for later disclosures of prior art. As it is they look at a few patent apps, so ideas not patented are apparently not searched at all.

wii pot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882570)

any time i hear that product's brand name my first reaction is that electronics and "water sports" can't possibly go well together; my second reaction is with that name i'm amazed that the first accessory and software wasn't some sort of baby potty training positive feedback system which would appropriately be called the wii pot.

put an end! (1)

alienzed (732782) | about 4 years ago | (#31882618)

We really have to put a stop to all of this 'patent' bull. If you can come up with something, so can anyone else.

This all ends when someone figures out... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31882950)

That the criminal litigation for conspiracy to commit murder is cheaper than litigating with the patent troll. At that point all you need is a service provider - and I'm sure the Mafia is ready to chip in to help free trade :D

Who do I cheer for /.? (3, Funny)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | about 4 years ago | (#31883240)

Do we hate Nintendo?

Re:Who do I cheer for /.? (1)

ashidosan (1790808) | about 4 years ago | (#31898244)

When they release system updates to prevent projects like WiiBrew from enabling homebrew hackers, we hate them. When they are the victim of patent trolling, they have our brief, sarcastic sympathy.

Remebmer when.... (1)

ArcadeNut (85398) | about 4 years ago | (#31883694)

Patents used to cover the implementation of an idea rather then the idea itself? I seriously doubt that Nintendo's implementation of these ideas is exactly the same as this companies..

Re:Remebmer when.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31883924)

Remember when the US wasn't insane? Good times.

Oh well. All good things...

Interactive Exercise company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31884696)

are a bunch of greedy, innovation stifling douches. I hope they all eat a bowl of hot dicks.

Prior Art (1)

canajin56 (660655) | about 4 years ago | (#31885322)

Decades ago, my dad had a Nordic Track ski machine. The flywheel has a magnet in it that connects to a sensor for the speed display. My dad had the idea to connect it to a serial port for logging purposes, so you could get a graph of your speed over time. I further suggested connecting your speed to a game, for visual motivation. MONEY PLEASE.
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