Latest Pointless Patent Claims: Who Invented The Wii Controller?

from the you-need-to-own-a-patent-to-enforce-it dept

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 5:57pm

    If you watch towards the end of the "video itself" link (in the TD article), the reporter says that the ex-Midway employee aigned away all his rights to whatever he created while at Midway, in order to accept his termination severance pay check. Because of this, I don't see where he thinks he has any sort of case here - Possibly Midway, but not this ex-Midway employee guy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    If you go through the actual patent in question with foreknowledge of how the Wii controller functions internally, you realize this is like comparing Atari 2600 joysticks with a current model USB flight simulator stick. The basic concept was there, but was not polished to a point that would make it a marketable product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    anon coward, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 6:43pm

    i think its more about how this guy invented it then money. if nintendo gave credit you know,itd be cool. or at least everyone knows that its his..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    rawrwat, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 6:50pm

    Just because he made something similar doesn't mean he made the actual thing. People make improvements on existing patents and then they patent those, so this is just silly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    marc, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 7:43pm

    if the company made the inventor sign away his rights to collect a severance check then the company broke laws covering employment in the state where this all happened.

    Midway basically held his paycheck hostage which is a direct violation of labor law, the guy is going about this case all wrong, he could get the agreement voided if he attacked them on the labor laws pertaining to these issues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Michael, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 9:07pm

    Legal Action

    Severance checks are voluntary on employers part, so there would be no employment laws broken by requiring them to sign away the patents. A lot of companies will use this legitimate form of bribery to even have the employee sign agreements that they are not allow to sue the company. Unforunately, he most likely will not be able to get the agreement voided.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    James, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 6:04am

    Big Difference Here...

    If this guy had made a Bluetooth controller independently of a company (for example, if he had worked for McDonald's instead of Midway Games) that does everything the Wii Remote does, and if he had retained the patent years before anyone had even heard of the Wii, yes, then he might have a case.

    Instead, he's indicated, in an interview yesterday with Engadget, that he's pretty much broke and looking for a quick buck, and he thinks this is the way to go about doing it. Now, with regard to the severance check, he might be able to convince a judge to void the agreement. I don't mean it's at all legal or correct or moral or right, I just mean if he finds the right judge, he'll be able to snow him with a sob story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    4-80-sicks, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 6:55am

    Re: Big Difference Here...

    I saw the newscast Sunday night and the first thing I thought was "why did he wait so long?" The Wii's been out over a year and, if I remember correctly, the controller was announced almost two years ago.

    Thanks for the answer James :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    mjakowlew, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 7:10am

    All about the Recognition

    In the latest Engadget article he says that "I just wanted to people to know. Wanted the truth to come out. Did this 8 years ago, and the Wii has been such a huge deal, I wanted the truth to get out there. It wasn't these two or three Japanese guys that came up with this thing." He doesn't have any plans on suing anybody. He just wants some recognition... that's it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    James, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Re: All about the Recognition

    Yes, but further down in the interview they ask him if he's considered purchasing a Wii - his response:

    Right now Goschy is doing engineering consulting work to pay the bills, and when asked if he could take a few shots of his controller alongside Nintendo's, told us that he "can't afford a Wii."

    If he hadn't said that, I'd have been inclined to believe he might legitamately be going after them for recognition alone. That sentence says to me "my bills came due and I regretted giving up my patents and now I want them back so I can reap a huge windfall and live high on the hog and make videos about technology in my underpanties."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Chris Brand, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Copyright and credit

    While that first sentence is true for the US, in Europe (and Canada) copyright does have much more of a "give credit to the creator" feel, I believe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2008 @ 7:52am

    Ok, so you're saying I sue sue both sides then...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2008 @ 7:56am

    OK, so you're saying I should sue this guy and Ni

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    stupid, Mar 12th, 2008 @ 4:51pm



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Nicky, May 2nd, 2008 @ 7:59am

    Who invented the wii i need to know plz it is for school

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    mima, Dec 5th, 2008 @ 9:52am

    Who invented the wii i need to know
    nd jst bcus he made something similar dnt mean its dat atuall thing..... i need to know who made it da actuall person not a claimer or a copyer

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    dj, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 7:58am


    wii whar is it

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    ek, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 8:02am



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    kfg, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 6:56am



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    fox, Feb 19th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    who cares

    i love bikinis

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Nick Robinson, Apr 27th, 2009 @ 4:59am

    Am I Reaching Mike?

    Hi Mike,

    I saw your most of blog post very interesting with reasonable.i am Nick Robinson,a community member at Patents DOT Com(a comprehensive free patent search engine).Will like to talk(through email) to you,is this the right time to talk about or should we talk during weekends ?

    Nick Robinson

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Hide this ad »
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Hide this ad »
Recent Stories
Advertisement - Amazon Prime Music
Hide this ad »


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.