PSLS  •  News

Sony Saves Nintendo’s Ass in Court

April 15, 2010 Written by Steven Garcia

Sure, Sony and Nintendo may be competitors and probably don’t sit at the same table during lunch, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help each other out every once in a while, albeit unknowingly. That’s exactly what went down today when Nintendo was found, once again, in court defending itself against a Texas firm’s exclusive rights to a temporary monopoly of sorts on a particular invention, otherwise known as a patent.

The patent in question, U.S. Patent No. 6,906,700 filed in 2000, was awarded to Anascape Ltd back in 2005 and claims a handheld controller with multiple inputs and tactile feedback. One day back in the summer of 2006, Anascape decided to sue both Nintendo and Microsoft claiming their controllers infringed on a whole slew of patents. While Microsoft opted to settle out of court before the situation escalated, Nintendo stood its ground, lost, was ordered to pay $21 million in damages, and appealed multiple times. Now, you would think that considering the high costs associated with patent lawsuits Nintendo would simply accept defeat and move on. Instead the big N remained defiant until the end and, to much surprise, it actually paid off — thanks to Sony.

As it turns out, Anascapes ‘700 patent is actually a “continuation-in-part” application of an earlier patent filed in 1996 and awarded in 2001, U.S. Patent No. 6,222,525. This means that for the ‘700 patent to be given the effective filed date of patent ‘525 and thus the ability to invalidate any product sold between 1996 and 2000, patent ‘525 has to support patent ‘700. Still with us? Good. Since the court found patent ‘525 nonsupportive of patent ‘700, ‘700 was rendered invalid against products released prior to the date it was filed in the year 2000.  But Nintendo’s GameCube, WaveBird and Wii Classic Controllers were released after 2000, so Anascape still won, right? Well, you’re right, kind of.

You see, despite this little setback for Anascape, they would still have a case against Nintendo if it weren’t for Sony, who decided to start selling its original DualShock controller way back in 1998. Now, we’re not math majors, but we’re pretty sure 1998 comes before 2000 on the number line. Because of this the ‘700 patent is effectively invalidated by what we in the legal field like to refer to as “prior art”, causing the court to overturn the earlier rulings and ultimately enabling Nintendo to walk away victorious. Of course, the real winners here are the lawyers, amirite?

In other news, Sony was seen today finishing up a juicy steak dinner while Nintendo picked up the tab.