Nintendo Heads Into E3 With a Major Patent Fight In the Wings

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 14, 2014

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An embattled Nintendo will likely relish the opportunity the Electronic Entertainment Expo provides to focus on what it does best—games. While “the Big N” has prevailed in one recent patent suit, another courtroom battle is brewing over the motion control patents used in the Japanese video game giant’s Wii and Wii U consoles.

Nintendo Launched Vigorous Defense in Wall Wireless Patent Suit

MarioIn 2009, Wall Wireless LLC brought suit against Nintendo both in Japan and in Texas for alleged patent violations relating to Nintendo’s then-current handheld the Nintendo DS (and the smaller DSi iteration). Wall Wireless, despite the tech-ish name, was what is commonly referred to as a “patent troll.” According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a patent troll “uses patents as legal weapons, instead of actually creating any new products or coming up with new ideas. Instead, trolls are in the business of litigation.” Patent trolls often attempt to coerce dubious licensing fees from targets who, unable to shoulder the cost of expensive litigation, often capitulate to the trolls’ demands. Nintendo, however, is not afraid of a fight.

Vigorously defending against the cases filed by Wall Wireless, Nintendo’s Vice President and General Counsel, Richard Medway, issued a press release stating “Nintendo vigorously defends patent lawsuits and other proceedings when we believe we have not infringed another party’s patents. It does not matter where such cases are filed or if it takes more than five years to vindicate our position. Nintendo continues to develop unique and innovative products while respecting the intellectual property rights of others.”

Patent Trolls Lose Recent Cases Against Nintendo

The Wall Wireless cases are the latest in a string of patent troll cases Nintendo has been involved in over the last few years. A 2012 case in Maryland, as well as a 2013 case in Ohio and a case in February 2014, all saw Nintendo successfully repelling efforts by patent trolls to extract money from the home entertainment juggernaut’s coffers. Heading into this year’s E3 conference, where Nintendo will unveil the latest iteration of The Legend of Zelda and numerous other games to be released in the coming months, Nintendo still has one patent lawsuit pending—and this time the plaintiff is no patent troll.

Philips Patent Lawsuit Targets Nintendo’s Motion Control Schemes

Koninklijke Philips, known more commonly as Philips, has sued Nintendo for alleged patent violations that straddle two generations of Nintendo home consoles. Both the Wii and Wii U utilize motion control schemes Philips claims violates patents they hold. Fueling the suit are allegations that Philips tried to warn Nintendo of the violations but was met with indifference. Philips has filed suit in Delaware seeking an injunction prohibiting Nintendo from selling both its current and last-gen consoles, as well as associated peripherals and controllers.

Such an injunction could be devastating to Nintendo’s bottom line, especially in light of the less-than-stellar financial disclosures the company made public earlier this year. With all eyes on Nintendo’s E3 offerings and its upcoming slate of games, Nintendo has not issued a statement regarding the Philips suit. Considering their very public refutations of prior patent troll claims, it seems likely Nintendo will pursue settlement in an attempt to head off what could be a damaging legal battle.

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