One of the problems we have in the various discussions about patent and copyright law is that people falsely assume that both systems are designed to give "credit" to the original creator and to somehow enforce "fairness" in making sure that original creator receives recognition. That has never been the case. Both are designed to create monopolies, to provide incentives to create. That has nothing to do with credit -- and, that's especially clear in patent situations where the actual people named on the patent are rarely parties to a case, as it's more often owned by a firm (such as the company the person worked for). Most companies require that their employees assign any patents to the company. So it seems fairly ridiculous to find out that a guy who doesn't actually own the patents he received is pissed off at Nintendo for using his idea in their Wii controllers
. The guy worked for Midway Games, a popular videogame maker, who now owns the patents in question. It's difficult to see what his complaint is, since the patents are no longer his and Midway does not appear to have any problem with what Nintendo has done. In the video itself
, a patent attorney suggests that the Wii seems to go well beyond the patents in question and it seems unlikely that Nintendo is infringing -- but since the few second demo looks similar, it makes for a nice news cast claiming someone "stole" an idea.
The likely situation is probably a lot less interesting. Lots of folks have been working on motion sensing videogame controllers for quite some time. This wasn't a new concept that sprung up overnight. There are also many different ways to create such a tool and just because the end results look similar, don't mean that a patent was infringed. However, an even bigger point is one that we've been trying to drive home for a while. The invention part is only one small part of the equation. Innovating and actually bringing
the product to market is more important -- and that's what Nintendo did successfully. This guy worked for a gaming company and came up with a prototype six years ago and didn't do anything with it. While lots of folks were trying to come up with motion sensing gaming devices, Nintendo successfully brought one to market.