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Nintendo Sued over Wiimote Trigger

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the wiimote-to-the-head-ed-grubberman dept.

Nintendo 229

kaizokunami writes "A company named Interlink Electronics, Inc., creator of interface devices has filed a suit in US District court against Nintendo of America, claiming the Nintendo the trigger on the bottom of the Wii controller infringes on their patent. The article includes images submitted with the patent application." From the article: "The complaint alleges that the trigger on the bottom of the Wii controller infringes on Interlink Patent No. 6,850,221 (Trigger Operated Electronic Device), which the company secured on February 1, 2005. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata first presented the Wii controller to the public not too long after that date, during the 2005 Tokyo Game Show."

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229 comments

Um, prior art? (4, Interesting)

Southpaw018 (793465) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167446)

I have a remote for a LCD projector that's a good 3 years old that looks almost exactly the same. I'd imagine there are plenty more examples out there. My guess is Interlink is simply banking on the damage they can do before their patent is invalidated.

Re:Um, prior art? (3, Funny)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167540)

Too bad this has priority to Sep. 5, 1995. Patents are fun aren't they? The issue date really means shit; look at the filing date and then check for a priority. In this case, we need to go back 11 yrs.

Re:Um, prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167550)

What model is it?

Re:Um, prior art? (0, Troll)

ADRA (37398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167642)

Hello, what about the original NES gun? I really really hate you America!

Re:Um, prior art? (3, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168144)

Don't forget the N64 controller. I've also come across a mouse that has a trigger underneath. The mouse is gyroscopic and that was the left click button.

Re:Um, prior art? (2, Interesting)

jevvim (826181) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168378)

Hello, what about the original NES gun?

The NES gun was wired and had only one button. The patent [uspto.gov] actually covers a wireless device where there are two buttons: one on the underside, a "trigger", and a second on the top surface, near a natural position of the thumb while the hand is in position for the index finger to use the trigger. Each claim of the patent includes a button or trackpad-like surface on the top side, opposite of the trigger.

Re:Um, prior art? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17168530)

Why do people who hate america get modded up?

Re:Um, prior art? (3, Informative)

blincoln (592401) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167810)

It looks like any number of Star Trek hand phasers to me. There were plenty of those designs from the 60s onward, with this one looking (IMO) most like the ones in III.

I also think it fails the non-obvious test pretty dramatically. Handheld clicky remotes are at least as old as slide projectors. The only difference is that this one has a button on the bottom as well. How is that not obvious? Furthermore, I wouldn't be surprised if some of those old slide projector controllers had buttons on the bottom too.

Re:Um, prior art? (2, Funny)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167892)

IANAL (yet) but I'm not aware of any case where fictional descriptions of an object were used as prior art to invalidate a patent under 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103. If someone could produce a proper citation, I'd be *very* interested to read about it.

Re:Um, prior art? (2, Interesting)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168102)

Well, it would be a good rule. IRRC patents were originally designed to encourage innovation. If an idea is already thought of in fiction and the original creators didn't patent it, well, the invention has been made and the inventors passed on their chance to profit.

So obviously not realistic, but when you get down to it and consider the purpose of patents, it would be a good rule IMO.

Re:Um, prior art? (1)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168284)

I don't think that is a good idea. If all fiction is unable to be patented it while not stifling innovation it would hamper development, who would want to invent a warp drive that would cost some very large amount of money to develop if as soon as they were done anyone was able to copy the design because a patent was unavailable to them. There are many other examples. I think this should fall under the so obvious that it doesn't deserve to be patentable rather than to change the rules and say that if it has been designed in fiction you can't get a patent.

Re:Um, prior art? (1)

notthe9 (800486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168458)

Their developments, insofar as they aren't obvious, would be patentable. Others would be free to patent very different warp drives.

Re:Um, prior art? (1)

technos (73414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168432)

IANAL (yet) but I'm not aware of any case where fictional descriptions of an object were used as prior art to invalidate a patent under 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103. If someone could produce a proper citation, I'd be *very* interested to read about it.

Existing patents can already be a case for invalidation. Couple that with the fact most patents are already strictly fiction in that they describe something that doesn't work, has never and will never be built, or when implemented doesn't exactly follow the intentionally over-broad patent, and I see no reason why a work of literary fiction isn't prior art.

Actually, I can think of one. Arthur C. Clarke is credited with inventing the communications satellite on the strength of fiction.

Doggy doorbell patent knocked out by UK comic! (2, Interesting)

pbhj (607776) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168514)

The classic piece of prior art as taught to UK examiners (it might be UKPO folk-lore!) is that a doggy doorbell, IIRC, was deemed to lack Novelty due to a citation of the Beano (a long running UK comic featuring Dennis-the-Menace and his dog Gnasher as the figurehead characters).

See http://www.innovation.rca.ac.uk/PD/sw/IP/st_rights 6_patent.html [rca.ac.uk] for tentative corroboration.

Re:Um, prior art? (2, Funny)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168686)

It looks like any number of Star Trek hand phasers to me.

I hate to be the one to have to tell you this. I never like being the bearer of bad news. Star Trek isn't real, dude.

Re:Um, prior art? from the 80s (3, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168056)

I remember using military weapons technology between 1982 and 1989 that had similar triggers.

Sounds like someone trying to make a fast buck.

Prior Art (2, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167450)

Re:Prior Art (1)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167634)

That was the first thing that came to mind to me as well. Glad to see that multiple people came to the same conclusion. I also fail to see how the trigger is any different than those on the bottom of the N64 controller [wikipedia.org] . The whole concept of a "trigger" for a controller can probably be seen on plenty of arcade games as well and it's a obvious thought to take the idea of a gun to a controller given the number of FPS games.

Re:Prior Art (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168060)

Until we know what specific part of the patent is being 'infringed' on, you cannot declare anything as prior art. For all we know, it could be a patent for using ground up orphan meat as a conductor. In that case, the NES Light Zapper wouldn't be prior art since Wikipedia didn't say anything about using orphan meat.

Note: I am in no way saying they have a case or a good patent, just pointing out that simply calling up a list of devices that use triggers and calling them 'prior art' is a big waste of time.

The Zapper shouldn't get Nintendo off the hook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17168668)

Sure, it may be prior art, but it also reminds me of that damn laughing Duck Hunt dog, and Nintendo still needs to be punished for him.

Obvious? (3, Insightful)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167452)

It's a trigger on the bottom of a controller.

If that's not obvious, what is?

I don't care how you use it, where you put it, whatever. Once a button, always a button.

Re:Obvious? (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167546)

As long as they dont start putting buttons ON TOP of other button, I think well all be safe

Re:Obvious? (2, Funny)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167628)

Well, Xbox (and Sony I think) already have analog sticks on top of buttons, so I don't see how buttons on top of buttons would be much worse.

Re:Obvious? (1)

modecx (130548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168140)

I think there's a button on the hat switch on my joystick. Does a button on a switch count?

Re:Obvious? (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168394)

Or just put the Wiimote upside-down... now the trigger is on the top of the remote and the suit is moot...

ummm (2, Funny)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167468)

I'm thinking finding prior art on a trigger shouldn't be too hard.

Re:ummm (2)

kyouteki (835576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167536)

Like the Nintendo 64's Z Button?

Re:ummm (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167616)

As I said before, prior art must be before Sep. 5, 1995. N64 wasn't out until 1996. Of course, there might be a Nintendo patent that pre-dates this.

Re:ummm (1)

Dorceon (928997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167682)

But if Nintendo revealed the N64 controller before Sept. 5, 1995, then that would be prior art, even if you couldn't buy one yet, right? Also, do the shoulder buttons on the playstation controllers count as triggers because of the shape of the controller (where the SNES controller's shoulder buttons might not have)?

Re:ummm (1)

kyouteki (835576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167890)

The Nintendo 64 was publically announced Nov 24, '95, one would assume that they would have submitted a patent much earlier in the development pipeline. I'm at work right now and I can't investigate properly, though...

Can you say N64? (2, Insightful)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167476)

The only real difference is the shape of the controller, I get the feeling this is going to be thrown off the deep end

Re:Can you say N64 & Sega Saturn? (1)

yagisencho (930201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167880)

Arriving two weeks after the Nintendo 64 was Sega's 'marukon', a round controller with two under-the-unit spring-tension triggers. The same basic design you can now find on most modern game controllers.

There's so much prior art for this patent that they may as well throw in the towel now.

since it's not a mouse... (2)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167484)

One's a controller for a game system, the other is a mouse for power point presentations. Since they're not really related at all does it still infringed?

Re:since it's not a mouse... (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167638)

Well, actually the Wiimote can be used at a wireless mouse. Search the web, several people have made drivers for it already and the Wiimote uses standard Bluetooth communications. BTW while I'm positive the Wiimote designers in no way were influenced by this patent, it is very similar to the wiimote in Several ways, and as patent law goes nowadays, these people stand a high chance of winning.

Re:since it's not a mouse... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167712)

I hope when (if) it goes to court Nintendo just brings in examples of the Zapper, Super Scope, N64 controller. Having a trigger button on a Nintendo console controller is just brain-dead obvious, because all the previous ones except the Gamecube had one too!

Re:since it's not a mouse... (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167666)

you are reading the specification way too much. Everything a patent is exists in the claims. The claims do a very nice job of avoiding making it sound like the system is overtly PC based. It refers to an "electrically responsive system", which is a nice broad term to cover a variety of systems. Remember, patent lawyers get paid a lot more than we do, and they are the masters of broad terminology, while avoiding the vagueness that will get a patent tossed.

Re:since it's not a mouse... (1)

rootofevil (188401) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167670)

as someone who has presented in a large scale, allow me to say that getting the wiimote to work in powerpoint (especially if you can use it as a pointer on the streed) would be sweet especially being about the same price as others, and being bluetooth, and comfortable, and solid.

in fact, thats a really good idea. too bad youd need a sensor bar to really make it work. maybe the portable sensor bar project really is going to come in handy...

Re:since it's not a mouse... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167854)

Hint: look through yesterday's Slashdot game section stories (or at another of my posts in this thread).

Re:since it's not a mouse... (1)

DaveJay (133437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167946)

Eh, if this catches on, laptops will have two infrared LEDs mounted in the upper left and right corner of the lid, so that when open it acts as a sensor bar. Easy to do a clip-on attachment, as well.

heh (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167492)

it's obviously bogus so really the question is will nintendo settle or take the chance of losing the case in a trial? i'm going with settle. it's what i would do and write it off as a cost of doing business.

Re:heh (2, Insightful)

archen (447353) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167582)

There seem to be a lot of innovations in the Wii. If they just pay them off, then I'm sure they're opening the flood gates from lawsuits from all directions. Especially for the trivial stuff that is rather obvious, like this appears to be. I'm willing to bet that motion based interfaces is actually a patent minefield no one has ever forged across before.

Re:heh (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167646)

eh, they settled on the rumble. you could be right. if i was a betting man i'd set up a pool on this. geek gambling at its best because what actually happens will have (i predict) zero impact on my life other than popping up as another slashdot story or two later. it does provide something to wager on but that's about it.

Re:heh (1)

Hes Nikke (237581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168734)

eh, they settled on the rumble

no they didn't. the Nintendo rumble implimentation doesn't violate the patent that MicroSony violated. :)

Article snipit is missleading (3, Insightful)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167498)

The device patented looks frighteningly like the WiiMote. It is an infrared device that is set up similar to the WiiMote (if it can be ussed as a pointing device, I dono). I am not sure why they specificly say that the trigger is what infringes

FTFA:
The drawings (above) that accompanied the patent application--first filed on September 17, 1997--do look suspiciously similar to the Wii trigger, but in the filing, Interlink offers scant detail of exactly how Nintendo currently infringes on the '221 patent, stating only that "Nintendo has made, used, offered for sale and sold in the United States, and continues to make, use, offer for sale and sell in the United States one or more controllers which activities infringe, induce others to infringe, and/or contributorily infringe the '221 patent."


Do I think that Nintendo riped these people off? No
Do I think that they are patent Trolls? Probably.

Re:Article snipit is missleading (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167750)

Do I think that they are patent Trolls? Probably.

From my quick research, they really are not Trolls, using the regular definition. They did not sit on a patent for years and pop up with it blindly. They actually do sell products on their website, and have been signing licensing agreements for their patents with large electronics companies since the 1990s. These are not the typical moves of a patent troll. NTP is a patent troll. They had an invention, which they could not sell. RIM makes a product that uses a similar technology and becomes successful. Well after they are successful, NTP comes in and sues. That behavior is much more trollish then this case.

Do I think this patent is lame? Quite possibly. There has to be something very close to prior art for it to take almost 10 years to get issued.

Re:Article snipit is missleading (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167894)

True, they are not a patent holding group of rabid lawyers. Just some tools that are trying to enforce a patent on something we all like, and thus must be trolls! (note me poking fun at my self here, I still think, from what I have seen, they dont' have a leg to stand on)

However I am starting to be curious my self (after looking on their website)

features Interlink's patented ClickTrigger design.

From here [interlinkelectronics.com]

mabey they actualy are suing over the friken trigger. TFA makes it sound like they (Gamespot) don't know wth the company is suing over. And if that is true, then they really are idiots.

Re:Article snipit is missleading (1)

j35ter (895427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168640)

IMHO the real problem is not whether InterLink is suing or not, the real problem is that the USPTO and the American government endorse granting such "patents". Instead of patenting the position of a trigger (a position made necessary by ergonomics), they should help people innovate and protect their innovations. The way things are going, I find it more and more disturbing to see the US forcing their patent rules on other countries.

And just how else (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167506)

Is one going to put the trigger under the remote? Nintendo came up with the idea for the Wii Remote well before the patent was granted. The previous GC controller had a trigger type button used often in shooters. How could they combine that? I wonder...

This is why I hope the Sumpreme OCurt rules against such obvious patents.

Re:And just how else (2, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167530)

there are three other ways, and i hold patents on them all. i'd tell you about them but then i'd have to sue you.

Re:And just how else (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167744)

[And how else] Is one going to put the trigger under the remote?

And how else is one going to reduce a commercial transaction to one click?

Re:And just how else (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168250)

[And how else] Is one going to put the trigger under the remote?

Put a trigger on the top of the device, then turn it upside-down?

Wiimote PC driver (1)

freeweed (309734) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167644)

"The complaint seeks a jury trial and damages to determine the amount of "loss of reasonable royalties, reduced sales and/or lost profits as a result of the infringing activities."

Hmm. "reduced sales and/or lost profit", eh? Their patented device is for use with a PC during slideshow presentations. I don't see how the hell a videogame console controller would ever have any impact on that at all. Well, unless Nintendo licenses out *shudder* Powerpoint to run on the Wii.

Then again, with the Wiimote PC drivers coming out, maybe they're worried people will start using wiimotes instead of their gear. It's cheaper (I've seen a $40 vs $60 comparison), and likely available in far more stores. Only thing to work out now is the IR interface - well, that and hookup up an IR array around your projector screen.

Sorry folks, I don't think your precious IR mouse product is about to be supplanted by the wiimote any time soon. These are 2 different products used for entirely different purposes, in 2 entirely different markets. A homebrew hack that doesn't quite cover the required functionality isn't a threat to your business.

Re:Wiimote PC driver (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167688)

I've seen mention of people using candles instead of the sensor bar, and christmas tree lights throwing off the alignment, so it's not hard.

Re:Wiimote PC driver (2, Informative)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167840)

Hmm. "reduced sales and/or lost profit", eh? Their patented device is for use with a PC during slideshow presentations. I don't see how the hell a videogame console controller would ever have any impact on that at all. Well, unless Nintendo licenses out *shudder* Powerpoint to run on the Wii.

The lost profit easily comes from the loss of royalty fees. Also, note that there has been software written for Mac that allows control using the Wii remote. So they could actually attempt to use this against Nintendo, even if it wasn't the intended purpose of the device.

Sorry folks, I don't think your precious IR mouse product is about to be supplanted by the wiimote any time soon. These are 2 different products used for entirely different purposes, in 2 entirely different markets. A homebrew hack that doesn't quite cover the required functionality isn't a threat to your business.

Unfortunately, patent law doesn't care. The claims for their invention seem to cover just about any electronic system and could be construed to cover this other market. Their similar patent issued in the late 1990s has already been licensed to other companies, including TV makers, so this idea that the two markets do not cross is not really applicable in the patent world. They managed to get a patent whose claims seem to cover this, and in the end, that is all that really matters. Doesn't mean I like this patent. The 10yrs to issue makes me wonder how much prior art is really close to invalidating this patent.

Help me out here... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167686)

...if I forget any. Note that I am only going to stick to the big-named systems:

(Nearly) every flightstick ever made
NES Zapper
N64
Dreamcast
Xbox
Xbox 360
Wii

Any particular reason why the Wii is the only one getting a suit against it? Oh, because they filed a patent in 2005...maybe Nintendo should file a COUNTER-suit against THEM!!! /sarcasm

Re:Help me out here... (2, Insightful)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167900)

Um, the patent was filed in 1997 with priority to 1995. Therefore you can erase, Wii, Xbox360, Xbox, Dreamcast, and N64, as established in prior postings.

Now, the NES zapper might be close, but I have to more closely read the claims then my cursory glance. The same for your flightsticks. I will admit there has to be some very close art for it to take almost 10 yrs to get these claims patented.

Re:Help me out here... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167920)

I direct you to your nearest arcade (if you can find one that is) and look for any one of hundreds of games....hell, even Gorf had a trigger!

Re:Help me out here... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167922)

No, it's because the Wii controller also looks like a remote -- what this company is actually upset about is how similarly shaped the two things are. The patent is on the trigger, though, so that's listed as the reason for the lawsuit.

Personally, I think that if the patent had been on the shape of the device instead, this company would have a better case (not that such a patent wouldn't be asinine too, of couse...).

Re:Help me out here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17168222)

Yeah, something that you hold in your hand being shaped like the gap between your fingers and your palm... patented!

murky (0)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167728)

While the patent photos are similar to the Wii remote, Nintendo invented the trigger button on the N64 controller. Surely that can be construed as prior art, since they're both video game controllers.

Impossible to ask (2, Insightful)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167730)

How can one possibly be sure that you're not violating anybody's copyright when creating something so complicated as a console system? With thousands of different copyrights protecting hundreds of different idea's, how do you as a company protect yourself from litigation? Assuming Nintendo did not willfully violate the copyright, is there anything they could have done to prevent this, apart from going throught thousands of patents trying to see if what they're doing falls under any one of them?

I think there should be a law where you as a patent holder must warn the company that violated your copyright, at which point that company (Nintendo in this case) can either:

1. Change the design of the device and pay you royalties on the ammount of devices produced with the old design

OR

2. Continue to design the controllers in the same way, but agree on royalties, avoiding any legal costs in the first place.

Re:Impossible to ask (1)

Throtex (708974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167948)

First off, patents protect ideas. Copyrights protect expressions of ideas. It's important to use the right label -- I know it's not the easiest thing to keep straight, but it really does matter.

That said, the issue here is patents. What you described in points 1 and 2 is, by the way, pretty much what filing a lawsuit does. The problem here is that you are assuming the validity of the patent. Few people go into court blindly, and those that do are destined for failure. Usually when a complaint is filed in a case like this, some amount of back-and-forth between the parties has already happened.

Run through 1 and 2, but this time put yourself in Nintendo's shoes, arguing that either your product doesn't infringe Interlink's patent, or that Interlink's patent is invalid or unenforceable.

If you're sure you're infringing and that there's nothing you can do about it, you'll settle! You have absolutely no incentive to fight it out in court. If the plaintiff wants to push the issue despite your desire to settle, many courts will go out of their way to encourage the settlement.

My write-up of this (4, Informative)

Throtex (708974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167860)

I did a write-up for the Kotaku crowd, but I figure this might help some Slashdotters understand how to read the patent and better determine what's going on here:

http://jointstrikeweasel.blogspot.com/2006/12/how- to-quick-and-dirty-patent-analysis.html [blogspot.com]

I hope this helps. Analyzing patents is much more fun when you understand how to do it. ;)

Re:My write-up of this - I think I understand (2, Informative)

borkus (179118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168496)

It's not just the location of the bottom trigger but the location of the top buttons AND their functionality (one is a "thumb pad" type device, the other is a regular old button). Lastly, the Wii-mote is shaped more like a remote control than a gun or a two-handed controller. So, Interlink's remote seems more unique and it bears a striking resemblance to the Wii-mote.

Best image is here

http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2006/news/12/ 08/90interlink_screen005.jpg [com.com]

I have to admit that I can't think of a another remote control looking device with a trigger on the bottom.

Re:My write-up of this - I think I understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17168834)

It's half of an SNES controler for fucks sake. Shoulder button = trigger, d-pad = thumb pad, button = select. Should "holding a SNES controller with only the left hand and slaping old age IR tech on it" be a valid patent as well? What it looks like doesn't matter at all, that's waht design patents are for.

Not Infringing? (2, Interesting)

Starji (578920) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167960)

I don't really have a desire to read through the entire patent to see if this is the case, and IANAL, so I don't know this for sure, but I'm not certain that Nintendo is actually infringing on that patent. According to the Abstract, the patent specifies that the device transmits data via infrared to a receiver mounted somewhere. The Wiimote doesn't do that. It communicates button presses to the Wii through Bluetooth, and uses the sensor bar to transmit IR data to the Wiimote so it can determine it's own position in space.

Maybe someone with a little better understanding of patent law, and/or has time to read the patent can enlighten me?

Okay... (5, Informative)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167976)

I am tired of posting replies, so I will simply make one big huge post so hopefully everyone will read it.

1. N64 is not prior art. Nor is anything else not seen until after Sep. 5, 1995. This patent was filed in 1997 as a continuation of another application filed on the date I provided. If you want prior art, please pre-date 1995. (Note: N64 was first shown in Nov. 1995.)
2. The use of this device as a "mouse" is irrelevant. The patent claims are broad enough they can be construed to cover a gaming console. I have to given them some credit for that claim wording, it made me shake my head.
3. No matter how many people "came up" with the idea, it does not matter. The patent definition of obviousness is not the human definition. It might seem obvious to place a button in such a location, but did anyone file a patent or design such an item before them? If not, then was it really that obvious for someone to do it?
4. They really are not trolls. They have been making these products and making amicable licensing agreements with other companies. I still think this patent might be bogus, but I would not know without doing a full patent search.

So to recap, prior art must be before 1995, read the claims and ignore most everything else, and they are not really trolls, but this patent is probably pretty weak, especially if you consider it took almost 10 yrs to issue and there are a good number of reference arts provided.

Re:Okay... (5, Informative)

yagisencho (930201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168158)

In that case... Zaxxon (SEGA, 1982) Pointing device (4-point flight stick) with trigger-shaped button on underside of the device.

Re:Okay... (2, Insightful)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168476)

3. No matter how many people "came up" with the idea, it does not matter. The patent definition of obviousness is not the human definition. It might seem obvious to place a button in such a location, but did anyone file a patent or design such an item before them? If not, then was it really that obvious for someone to do it?

Sometimes, you can come up with an idea (putting a button under a device instead of over it) that is so obvious that you don't consider it worthy of your time to apply for a patent. Putting a button on a device is obvious, and *where* on the device you put it really shouldn't matter. Every monitor I've seen have the on/off button on the right-hand side. That doesn't mean I can get a patent on a monitor that has a on/off button on the left.

Re:Okay... (1)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168482)

Magnavox Odyssey, circa 1972. First light gun, or a "Trigger Operated Electronic Device" as they want to call it. I assume that's early enough for ya.

Re:Okay... (1)

djasbestos (1035410) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168628)

Super Nintendo was released August 13, 1991, and the Super Nintendo controller has buttons on the front migrating towards the bottom. I know it's not precisely in tune with the patent, thus eliminating it as a fair direct precedent, but like in physiology, things tend to droop with time...it seems a logical and obvious assumption that buttons would end up on the bottom of game controllers eventually.

Look at the generational evolution of ergonomic design between Colecovision, NES, Genesis/Super-NES, Playstation (released September 9 of '95 in the USA...four days after the gold diggers' patent was applied for, indicating design by Sony would have obviously happened prior for their front-side trigger(s)) and even N64 (even though it's after the '95 patent application date)

I bet someone even hacked a Colecovision or Atari controller back in the day to get a triggerlike interface...hell, if you hold a Coleco controller sideways...

Then again, I hate US IP law.

Re:Okay... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168700)

3. No matter how many people "came up" with the idea, it does not matter. The patent definition of obviousness is not the human definition. It might seem obvious to place a button in such a location, but did anyone file a patent or design such an item before them? If not, then was it really that obvious for someone to do it?

It sounds like you're saying the patent office definition of "obvious" is "there exists prior art in the form of a patent or design". I'm no patent lawyer, but I know that isn't true.

My advisor was rejected on a patent he filed for his idea to use low-order address bits to do the row select in a computer data cache and high-order bits to do column muxing, so you had more time before the high-order bits were needed from the TLB when using a physically indexed cache. He did his research beforehand, and found no patent nor published design that used this idea. It was rejected due to "obviousness". While both he and I agreed that it was a rather obvious idea, that was by the "human" definition of obvious. Whatever definition the patent office used, it seemed closer to the "human" definition than what you are implying.

Anyway, placing a trigger at the location at which anyone holding the controller would have their index finger is definitely "really that obvious". "Hey, we need another button on our controller." "How about put one where the player's finger will be?" "Genius!"

Whether that means the patent is or should be invalid, I can't say.

I got it!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167986)

I am going to patent the function of how humans breathe.

I will become filthy fucking rich.

The patent says it's for a computer not a console (3, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168174)

No wait, hear me out, I'm not just being pedantic - didn't Sony recently lose a court case to have the PS3 classed as a computer? Surely if the courts draw a distinction between consoles and computers then they would also do so in the case of the patent such that the patent describes a device designed for a computer and not one designed for a console?

Of course IANAL but would this kind of argument stick in court?

patent triviality (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168598)

Once upon a time, patents were awarded for breakthrough inventions. You know, the stuff that really changed the way the game was played. The original patent system was designed for a small number of those, maybe a couple a year. On that scale, prior art and researching claims by comparing them other other patents works, and at that small number you can expect experts in a field to know the few relevant patents that exist.

But that's been perverted long since, and today you can get a patent for things as ground moving, earth shaking and future creating as the placement of a button on an input device. I'll let the other posters discuss obviousness, I'll just stand here in the corner and shake my head that such trivial nonsense is supported by an artificial exclusive monopoly system. It certainly took years of research to come up with this revolutionary idea, and thousands upon thousands of tries to get the details right, so a patent is surely adequate.

My suggestion for patent system reform: If it obviously took longer to write the patent application than to invent the thing in question, reject and have the applicant pay a fine for the wasted time of the patent office.

Re:patent triviality (1)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168846)

Criteria like that are hard to quantify, just don't let those who don't use patents, enforce them. If you haven't used it, and it is clear someone infringed on your patents, doing things their own way from scratch then tough luck.
2c

Re:patent triviality (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168908)

When I think of patent, I think of things such as algorithms that solve a common problem and order of magnitude faster, a revolutionary new input device (no, not putting buttons on the bottom of the friggin controller), and things of that nature. All of these petty patent claims make a mockery of the entire system. Its situations like this that just scream patent reform. It all just goes in line with the new American business model: find ways to sue a major innovative company for millions.
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