Joe Mullin has the details of a rather bizarre patent dispute involving a patent covering the user interface of force feedback technology used in "cybersex" or "teledildonics."
You may have heard of the company Immersion, which, for years, has claimed to hold pretty much all patents on "haptic" technology, which most people are familiar with in the form of "force feedback" game controllers for console games. Some feel that Immersion's patents are overly broad, but that's beside the point on this one. Apparently, at some point, Immersion realized that there was going to be (or already was) a decent sized market in using such haptic technology for virtual sex. Yet, at the same time, the company felt uncomfortable about filing infringement lawsuits on such uses, recognizing that it could lead to negative publicity. So, instead, it licensed out the patents and the right to sue for infringement to a company called Internet Services, LLC (ISLLC), which (from the description in Mullin's article) sounds like a shell company just for this purpose.
However, when Immersion won
its patent infringement lawsuit against Sony for its use of force feedback controllers on Sony gaming consoles, ISLLC apparently felt that Immersion owed it some of the proceeds. It hired famed patent attorney (and patent system expert) Mark Lemley to represent it. However, for somewhat unclear reasons, Lemley now appears to want nothing whatsoever to do with ISLLC and has asked to withdraw from the case. ISLLC has now hired other lawyers just
to force Lemley to still represent it in its lawsuit against Immersion. It's like a patent battle soap opera -- complete with sex toys. See, just because stories are about patents, doesn't mean that they're not sexy.