In 2002, Sony and Microsoft were sued by Immersion for patent infringement on the vibration functions in their controllers. Microsoft settled out of court, and purchased a 10% stake in Immersion, while Sony decided to fight their case.
The outcome was not pretty for Sony – the court ordered the company to pay Immersion $90.7 million, and Sony had to repeatedly appeal an order to suspend sales of infringing devices. Then, in 2006, Sony announced that the PS3’s controller would not feature rumble, with Phil Harrison saying it was a “last generation feature”.
Finally, in 2007, Sony Computer Entertainment and Immersion settled their differences, with Sony paying the company $97.2 million (the original $90.7 million was included in this) plus royalties, ultimately allowing them to release the DualShock 3.
Now, with the DualShock 4 on the horizon, Immersion hopes to get additional revenue from the controller, PSLS has discovered. Victor Viegas, President and CEO of Immersion, said in an earnings call (transcribed by SeekingAlpha):
In terms of next generation we thought it was terrific to see Microsoft launch a controller with triggering mechanism. It adds another dimension to game play, gives us some opportunity to work with their third party controller supplier, potentially license them.. And in terms of Sony PlayStation 4, I think they have announced advanced [rumble] capability, we haven’t yet seen the product but we are optimistic that they have haptics to provide an immersive experience. So we are very optimistic that this will yield additional revenue for Immersion.
Now, the only question is – will Sony pay royalties or try to contest any patent disputes? We’ll have to wait and see.