Microsoft Demanding Some Of Immersion's Patent Booty From Sony

from the ah,-patent-law dept

A few weeks back, we wrote about how Immersion was involved in a bizarre lawsuit involving a firm focused on the "teledildonics" market (look it up -- or, actually, you're probably better off not). Immersion, of course, is well known in the tech world for holding a bunch of patents on "haptic" technology, which many people are more familiar with as "force feedback" in devices like video game controllers. Immersion is not afraid to use its patents and has been involved in numerous lawsuits -- with the big one yielding $130 million from Sony for the force feedback controllers used in the PlayStation. The case mentioned a few weeks ago involved a shell firm that Immersion had done a deal with. Since Immersion didn't want to smear its own name by suing companies involved in force feedback sex devices, it basically licensed the legal rights out to this shell company. However, that shell company felt that Immersion owed it some of the $130 million Sony booty.

While the case with the shell company has now been dismissed, Joe Mullin notes an even more interesting case: Microsoft is also demanding a large cut of the Sony settlement money. Here's where things get tricky. Basically, Immersion had sued Microsoft as well for violating the patents. But, as we've seen other companies do, part of the settlement terms between Immersion and Microsoft are that Microsoft would join the patent battle against Sony and get a cut of any settlement money that came out of that lawsuit. In effect, rather than just paying up to license the patent, Microsoft switched sides in the lawsuit.

However, Immersion used some sneaky tricks to skirt around its agreement with Microsoft -- most specifically never referring to its deal with Sony as a "settlement." Thus, it claimed that it doesn't owe a dime to Microsoft (some thanks Microsoft got for paying up, huh?). So now Microsoft has sued, though muddling the whole case is the fact that in filing the lawsuit, Microsoft released some confidential info, which caused Immersion to sue Microsoft as well. And just think, folks, all this money being spent on lawyers could actually have gone into making better game controllers. But who wants to do that when there are more lawyers to pay?

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2008 @ 1:35am

    Re: Immersion == Patent Trolls

    "....but giving them credit for not doing something evil." So you think that switching sides in the original suit just so they could give Sony a hard time and get some of the settlement money was not evil ?.
    Wouldn't it be much better if patent suits were settled on the issues of who legitimately patented what ?

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