And Of Course: Nintendo Sued For Patent Infringement Over Wii Devices

from the only-a-matter-of-time dept

These days it's almost guaranteed: if you do something innovative in the tech world, bringing a new type of product to market successfully, get ready for that lawsuit. If anything, it's almost surprising that this lawsuit wasn't filed earlier, but research firm HillCrest Labs has sued Nintendo for patent infringement over its Wii controller. And, of course, HillCrest gets two cracks at it, since the company is using the popular loophole to both file a lawsuit in court and ask the International Trade Commission (ITC) for an injunction against Nintendo.

At this point, plenty of companies are recognizing that it's just too expensive to actually innovate. If you do something well, you're only going to get sued by someone else who hasn't been able to innovate as well as you. While we can point to the various examples of companies getting sued, it's also worth thinking about all the companies who don't even bother to innovate, recognizing it's just not worth the expense of these lawsuits. The patent system is functioning in exactly the opposite manner from its constitutional purpose. It's not promoting the progress, it's hindering it by making sure that "progress" has a toll booth attached to it.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    James, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 2:31pm

    Hillcrest Labs probably has the right to sue

    check out www.hillcrestlabs.com, i don't think them not being able to innovate is the problem here. From the looks of it they actually have a pretty good product line... and if nintendo did cross the line, they deserve what they're getting.

     

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  2.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 20th, 2008 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Hillcrest Labs probably has the right to sue

    The fact that they have products doesn't mean much. The issue is that they're blocking anyone else from creating their own products.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 2:58pm

    From what I read elsewhere, someone said that both Hillcrest and Nintendo licensed similar stuff from Gyration. I'm not sure if that pertains to all of the patents, but it does sound kinda fishy.

     

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  4.  
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    Lazy Commentor, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 3:04pm

    I wish I got sued by a patent troll

    I wish I would get sued by a patent troll. That means I've made a bunch of money that the troll is trying to get. Money I've made from selling all the products I've created.

     

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  5.  
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    Joe, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 3:04pm

    Yeah Hillcrest has products but why are they filing suit?

    I looked over the website, it has almost nothing to offer, and to wait almost 2 years after release of the Wii to file that suit? This is pathetic.

    There product is a device pointer that looks a little like the mario kart wheel. That is used for IPTV and a media center type application.

    Overall i'm not that impressed, they should have released this years ago if they are so cutting edge.

     

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  6.  
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    Jason, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    What Trash!

    So they claim to have the rights to the technology? The website is dated as of 2008, well after the Wii was produced let alone designed. There are no products for sale on the site, only the intelectual rights to an idea they have. I think they missed the boat on this one. And even if they did have the idea tucked away in a book somewhere I will not buy from them for attacking someone that can market the idea.

     

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  7.  
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    Jake, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 3:31pm

    Why

    I agree, why should companies continue to try and innovate. We should just stick with the same 'ol thing because it "works." There are so many companies, so many patents and copyrights... how can anyone expect a company to make any progress if they spent 5 years of research just to see "if it's been done before." If you're using a technology in a general way (aka wiimote) and it's successful, they shouldn't be penalized for that. Gyro's are in use for a ton of applications, aircraft in particular. The lawsuits over patents are no longer about protecting IP, rather they're about making a quick buck the easy way without any actual work or true innovation and marketing.

     

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  8.  
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    Benjie, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 3:39pm

    Copy Right/Patents

    They should just give everything a functional deffintion or required outcome. eg. CopyRight protects the creator and allows them attiquate time/power over the copyright to make $$$, but may not have limitations that hurt it's ability to become publicly owned once it's purpose has been fulfilled.

    Same with patents. The instead of a legalistic view, they need a functional deffinition. The instant exercising one's power of patent ownership hurts the public, they are bared from exercizing the ownership on whatever action.

    Even if Nintendo wass infringing, putting an injuction would be concidered hurting the public and would no be allowed

     

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  9.  
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    Michial, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 4:04pm

    Again why shouldn't their work be protected

    Mike;

    Why exacly shouldn't this company be paid for their invention being used by Nintendo? In this case they have working models of their patents. If Nintendo did cross the line and used their ideas, the they deserve to be paid for them.

    If you wish to complain about patents, then harp on the thousands of them that have been granted to companies and individuals who a) never intended to create anything from their ideas or b) cannot even prove that their concept is possible.

    I agree that the copyright and patent laws are far from perfect but allowing anyone to take and profit from another's work/ideas is far from the solution.

     

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  10.  
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    eleete, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Again why shouldn't their work be protected

    "If Nintendo did cross the line and used their ideas"

    That's a mighty big IF there. What if Nintendo proves it just came up with the idea around the same time without knowledge of this patent. Should they still have to pay ?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 4:43pm

    "It's not promoting the progress, it's hindering it by making sure that "progress" has a toll booth attached to it."

    Maybe, just maybe, someday in the future you might sit down and read the historical record relating to what "progress" was meant to signify by our Founding Fathers.

    Of course, I do not expect that "someday" to be anytime soon.

     

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  12.  
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    nick, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re: Hillcrest Labs probably has the right to sue

    Patents don't block anyone from creating their own products. They only prevent others from making the patented invention.

     

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  13.  
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    Poobah, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 5:02pm

    Patent

    I went to a technology demo at a military base in Arizona back in the late 80s. We used a mouse like device with an clear antenna sticking out of the front. You could use the mouse to play 3d handball. Click to catch the ball - make a throing motion and release teh button to release the ball.

    The mouse was also able to contol an airplane. Move up down, left or right to control the plane, when you "flew" into teh ground the plane became a truck and you could drive it using the mouse. The graphics were pretty basic but it was very smooth. The idea was that a pilot could "fly" through a mock up before making an actual flight.

    It was for all intents and purposes an early wii contoller. We were told by the vendor that they were working with Nintendo on the device.

    I think the hardware was run on a Silicon Graphics machine.

     

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  14.  
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    LTDLP, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    These days it's guaranteed: if you do something innovative, bringing a product to market successfully, get ready for that lawsuit.

    There, fixed that for ya.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 20th, 2008 @ 5:57pm

    Re:

    Maybe, just maybe, someday in the future you might sit down and read the historical record relating to what "progress" was meant to signify by our Founding Fathers.

    I've read it. I've written about it.

    Which part did I miss?

     

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  16.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 20th, 2008 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Again why shouldn't their work be protected

    Why exacly shouldn't this company be paid for their invention being used by Nintendo?

    You're assuming someone can "own" an invention. Why should that be the case? What if Nintendo came up with the idea on their own?

    In this case they have working models of their patents. If Nintendo did cross the line and used their ideas, the they deserve to be paid for them.

    What's wrong with just competing in the marketplace. You don't say that there can't be any Burger Kings because McDonalds came up with the idea first, right? We let the marketplace and competition sort it out and everyone's better off.

    If you wish to complain about patents, then harp on the thousands of them that have been granted to companies and individuals who a) never intended to create anything from their ideas or b) cannot even prove that their concept is possible.

    Sure, we point that out too, but that doesn't mean that situations like this one aren't an abuse worth discussing as well.


    I agree that the copyright and patent laws are far from perfect but allowing anyone to take and profit from another's work/ideas is far from the solution.


    Why? What is so wrong with competition? Historically, competition is what leads to growth and innovation. Why block that?

     

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  17.  
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    I think HCL has a right to sue. However...., Aug 20th, 2008 @ 7:17pm

    Patents should go out to companies who really have an innovative idea rather than an evolutionary idea, AND this company has given a genuine attempt at releasing a product that utilizes the ideas detailed in the patent. If they just hold onto the patent waiting to sue others in 5 years, or if they just try to licence it out, they should lose the patent and not be able to sue. Sorry, but having some brain-fart 5 years ago should not mean that nobody else can use this idea in the future, particularly if the holder of the patent has no intent of bringing out their own product.

    And it's really sneaky that they only sue Nintendo now, because the more successful Nintendo's Wii is, the more compensation HCL can ask for. If a company doesn't sue immediately, they should lose that right as well.

     

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  18.  
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    mobiGeek, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 7:18pm

    Re: Patent

    Yes, but was it done with Web 2.0 technology? Did it use gyro-branding? Was it done over the internet? Did it have the scent of ginseng?

    Each of these "advancements" could be argued by a bunch of pro-patent people as "non-obvious" and therefore qualify as a valid patent.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 8:49pm

    Re: Re: Again why shouldn't their work be protected

    --Sure, we point that out too, but that doesn't mean that situations like this one aren't an abuse worth discussing as well.--

    Why not come right out and say it, instead of dancing around the issue by answering questions with questions? You do not like patents based upon your study of economics. You feel they stifle "innovation", and for at least that reason patent law should be eliminated. The same can be said for copyright law.

    Now, perhaps you may want to parse my words, but do try and keep an open mind by asking whether or not your reference to "abuse" accurately reflect your views. I seem to recall a recent comment you made that you have not ever seen a "good" patent.

     

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  20.  
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    Director Mitch, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 9:28pm

    All successful companies are sued. Period. Not just on patents, but on everything.

    It's like the old joke: Q: "Why do you rob banks" A: "That's where the money is".

    So people sue companies that have money. Not exactly news. How many lawsuits does MS have against it now? Or McDonalds (hot coffee spill?).

    And the biggest pursuer of successful companies: the government. The government is guaranteed to sue, tax or regulate any new company or industry that makes money.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 10:06pm

    Re:

    Director Mitch -> All successful companies are sued. Period. Not just on patents, but on everything.

    Yes, but can I patent slipping on their sidwalk ?

     

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  22.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 20th, 2008 @ 10:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Again why shouldn't their work be protected

    Why not come right out and say it, instead of dancing around the issue by answering questions with questions? You do not like patents based upon your study of economics. You feel they stifle "innovation", and for at least that reason patent law should be eliminated. The same can be said for copyright law.

    You may call it "parsing" words, but it's important to be precise here. It's not that I "do not like patents." I do not like anything that stifles innovation, and I consider anything that does an abuse of the system -- since, after all, it was designed to encourage innovation.

    I have said, repeatedly, that I am willing to consider any system that can be shown to encourage, rather than stifle, innovation. I have asked you, in particular, for such examples. To date, you have refused to take up that challenge.

    Now, perhaps you may want to parse my words, but do try and keep an open mind by asking whether or not your reference to "abuse" accurately reflect your views

    As I have made clear: stifling innovation is an abuse of the system, since the system is designed to encourage innovation. I'm not sure what you are suggesting with the comment above. Should I not call it an abuse even though it appears to meet the definition of an abuse?

     

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  23.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 20th, 2008 @ 11:02pm

    Re:

    All successful companies are sued. Period. Not just on patents, but on everything.

    And thus we shouldn't complain about a system that is contributing to that issue and making it worse?

    You lost me there.

     

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  24.  
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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Aug 21st, 2008 @ 4:03am

    Re: Hillcrest Labs probably has the right to sue

    Mike Masnick, you have provided us with a perfect example about how those who cannot produce inventions of significance use the word innovate. People like you and those big patent pirating transnational corporations who are members of the Coalition for Patent Fairness (aka Piracy Coalition) have long misused the word innovate and its derivatives to say that they have incorporated someone's invention into their product. The majority of the time they have not acquired the right to incorporate the invention.

    Generally they are warned repeatedly and when they ignore those warnings they get sued. And this is EXACTLY the way the patent system is designed to work.

    The solution to this is really simple, acquire rights before use of another's property!!!

    The patent system is designed with a toll booth to compensate inventors for the time, energy, and costs of their producing an invention and then TEACHING the invention through a patent with the purpose of advancing the arts. This system has produced the greatest economic powerhouse the world has ever seem.

    Today that economic system is strained in large part because of widespread theft of American ingenuity.

    You really need to work on those critical thinking skills. Being a wordsmith without the ability to see what the underlying story is pretty much useless. Repeated failure to learn from such mistakes makes the person making them pretty much useless.

    You really need to spend some time learning about the patent system and learning about economics rather than writing idiotic drivel like this.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.patentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

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  25.  
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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Aug 21st, 2008 @ 4:23am

    Re: Re: Hillcrest Labs probably has the right to sue

    "The issue is that they're blocking anyone else from creating their own products."

    Amazingly poor reasoning Mike. The truth is that there is an incentive for others to invent a better solution, if they can. And if they cannot then they have to pay the toll.

    Your problem is that you, probably with good cause emphasize with those who cannot invent.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.patentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 4:27am

    hmmmm . . .

    "it's also worth thinking about all the companies who don't even bother to innovate"

    I finally understand Balmers strategy now . . .

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 4:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Hillcrest Labs probably has the right to sue

    "The truth is that there is an incentive for others to invent a better solution, if they can. And if they cannot then they have to pay the toll."

    What incentive is that exactly, the fun of being sued?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 4:33am

    Re: Copy Right/Patents

    "Even if Nintendo wass infringing, putting an injuction would be concidered hurting the public and would no be allowed"

    They wont get an injunction . . .

     

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  29.  
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    AJ, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 5:10am

    My opinion

    I have to admit, there is overwhelming evidence that companies use the system to crush innovation. No matter how someone spins it, it does happen. Filing all those lawsuits in Texas is a perfect example of this in my opinion. I think it’s obvious that there are too many powerful people and to much money being used to make sure the system doesn’t get fixed. Maybe a band aid on this would be to make it so expensive to loose a case, people think twice before filing bogus lawsuits as a business model, or as a way to prevent innovation.

    I read all the posts here, including Ronald Riley’s post. Seems to me, people always take the position on issues that best supports there monetary interests, not the collective interests of the people.

    “The patent system is designed with a toll booth to compensate inventors for the time, energy, and costs of their producing an invention and then TEACHING the invention through a patent with the purpose of advancing the arts. This system has produced the greatest economic powerhouse the world has ever seem.”


    I think the above statement Ronald may have been the intent of the patent system, but as even the common person can see, there are some who are using it as a weapon prevent innovation. Whole business models have been created and are being used to exploit the patent system, this in itself is proof that the system is flawed and is in desperate need of being changed.
    I really enjoy Ronald’s personal attacks on Mike, it in itself validates Mike’s position by pointing out the lengths people will go to protect their cash cow we call a patent system.

    Keep up the good work Mike.

    AJ

     

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  30.  
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    stv, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 5:43am

    stop the shilling!!!

    Boy, do you have a distorted view of reality. You really need to get off those hallucinogenic drugs. You need some serious intervention. Turn in your high tech and financial services dealer friends before its too late. Just say NO.

    Once you’ve sobered up you may realize the truth of the matter is many large companies commandeer creations of small firms who then have no choice but to sue if their rights are to be respected and to have any hope of financial benefit from their discoveries. The large firms aren’t targets because they innovate, but rather because they “borrow” the discoveries of others who do. Rather than pay, their reaction is frequently “so sue me”. They get what they deserve. Some of these big companies are working in the shadows to destroy our world leading patent system. But then, you know all about them; don’t you, Mike.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Ed, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 7:10am

    Idea stealing

    It never stops amazing me how the pro-patent people "always" assume that big companies scan the patent world for ideas to steal, then produce products. All the pro patent people talk about is "stealing ideas". It never seems to occur to them that a company might independently create something, with no knowledge of another companies patent, and could either have been unaware of the patent, or might honestly feel that their product is not infringing. There are basically only so many ways to make a wireless device that can sense direction, rotation, motion, etc. And a relatively obvious reasons for wishing to do so. Independent creation is quite believable.

    I am in favor of patents on the whole, but feel reform is needed.

    Patents need to be specific, not general (i.e. a patent on using a small battery powered laser as a pointer, not a patent on light to indicate something).

    Patent usage fees need to be commensurate with price of the product produced. MP3 players can cost $30, but in today's patent rich environment, might be remotely connected with 500 patents. If each patent wanted $1 per device, or even worse, 1% of the sale price, the device would not be produced.

    Forget software patents, it's math.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Aug 21st, 2008 @ 8:11am

    Re: stop the shilling!!!

    So your point is that a small company cannot out innovate a large company? That once a company becomes large, the only way to compete with them in the market place is to litigate?

    Your take is that without patents, then no small business can succeed?

    So that means that any small company needs to start with an idea and a lawyer? That sure makes the capital needs for a startup go through the roof....

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Inventor Supporter, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:07am

    Hillcrest sues Nintendo over Wii devices

    Mike - Your opinion seems a bit one-sided in favor of the "huge so-called innovator Nintendo". Does Techdirt have a bias in this discussion? Think about this for a second. Isn't it possible that, just maybe, Nintendo should have sought out all the small innovators for this type of device BEFORE they invested in launching the Wii, apparently with extremely little external research? I bet Hillcrest would have sold them a license if they had simply asked. But, instead, acting in the usual arrogant manner, Nintendo probably assumed that since no other large manufacturer had made it to the market yet, and those direct competitors are the only other folks capable of developing something so incredibly complex as a video game platform, that no one of importance had already developed the same controller technology! Seems like Nintendo was planning to steamroll little guys like Hillcrest with their huge presense in the market for games. I wonder why they are getting sued now?

     

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  34.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 11:11am

    Re: Hillcrest sues Nintendo over Wii devices

    Your opinion seems a bit one-sided in favor of the "huge so-called innovator Nintendo".

    I favor innovation.

    Does Techdirt have a bias in this discussion?

    My bias is towards making sure innovation is allowed, not stifled.

    Isn't it possible that, just maybe, Nintendo should have sought out all the small innovators for this type of device BEFORE they invested in launching the Wii, apparently with extremely little external research?

    That doesn't make any sense to me. If you have an idea for a product and decide to build it, why should you be responsible for looking to see if someone else is doing it also. Why can't you just build it?

    Seems like Nintendo was planning to steamroll little guys like Hillcrest with their huge presense in the market for games.

    Uh, or they just decided to build a cool game controller and didn't know/care about Hillcrest.

    That seems a lot more likely

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Just Passn, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 1:08pm

    Nintendo Sues Wii

    hello... Wii IS NINTENDO IDIOTS!

     

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