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back to article Philips lobs patent sueball at Nintendo in US: Seeks to BAN Wii U

Electronics manufacturer Philips has launched a legal bid to ban sales of the Wii U in the United States after filing a suit alleging the Nintendo consoles and other Wii kit had infringed two of its patents. The Dutch firm yesterday filed a suit claiming Nintendo had infringed its "virtual body control device" patent (6285379) …

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Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

Makes you wonder.

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Re: Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

That's a huge part of the problem. The US is the most profitable place on Earth to do business. Sure, the lawsuits are a pain in the ass, but the wonders of accounting still make operating costs far, far lower than all the regulatory hoopla you get in most desirable markets (the EU for example).

I'm certainly not the first person to say that introducing lots of artificially expensive regulation of unrelated business operations would cut down on patent litigation. It would, but that's also really short sighted. Even with the way things are it's unbelievably cheap to do business here and the rampant consumerism pretty much guarantees you scads of money if you don't mind fighting off the constant legal attacks.

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Re: Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

I don't understand the downvotes. A statement of fact isn't subject to opinion you know. Perhaps you don't know that. Therefore I'll tell you; a statement of fact isn't subject to opinion.

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Re: Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

Nope. Its crazy profitable as most of us do not realize that we are living Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World'...

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@Don Jefe - Re: Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

> the rampant consumerism pretty much guarantees you scads of money if you don't mind fighting off the constant legal attacks.

ITYM "If you can *afford* to keep fighting off the constant legal attacks..."

The point is that the broken patent system combined with rampant ambulance chasing lawyers pretty much guarantees that they are the only ones who will really be guaranteed to make scads of money.

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Re: @Don Jefe - Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

But the lawyers being the only ones who make money is patently (Ha!) false. Dealing with stupid lawsuits is a part of doing business here and, as I said earlier, the costs are still cheaper than 'simple' regulatory compliance for consumer products in some markets.

The media does a really good job of highlighting ridiculous cases involving obscene amounts of money, but those cases are the exception. If you're not a Samsung/Apple/Google/MS/Oracle type super entity the legal costs and settlements are typically on par with what you pay for a nasty wrongful termination or sexual harassment suit.

The legal lobbying groups pop off with crazy bullshit like the average cost of getting a patent being $3-5M and the costs of litigation costing $10's of millions. Again, fringe 'averages'. The most I've ever paid to file for and receive a patent was $160k, the most I've paid to defend against alleged infringement is just over $1M and the most I've ever got from any of the infringement cases I've initiated is about $9M, plus 12 year licensing agreements and those were cases of willful infringement and conspiracy to defraud, so the amounts were above average.

Over 2/3 of alleged infringement cases are settled out of court for legal fees and the cost of licensing. Not millions of dollars in legal fees and huge financial awards. Those cases are in the realm of big business and they're perfectly capable of dealing with those big numbers.

I'm a big advocate for patent reform and the elimination of software completely from the existing patent system. The system is broken, no doubt, but it simply inaccurate to say that small and medium businesses, where most (~75%) of all commerce in the US is done, are under constant attack from IP trolls. That just isn't the case.

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Re: Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

All this time and Philips only just noticed, eh...?

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Re: Is it even profitable to sell in the USA any more?

Nope. Its crazy profitable as most of us do not realize that we are living Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World'...

Have a thumbs up just for simply keeping your eyes open when most people have close theirs.

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Nearly 8 years since the Wii was released globally, and they're only just noticing?

Can't've been all that important to them beforehand, then.

I kind've hoped a company like Philips would be above this sort of bullshit.

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jai
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Philips are tragically late too. Surely it would have been far better a couple of years ago, in the height of Wii-mania, when Nintendo would have been happy to pay a large settlement. Now, is it even worth the cost of the lawyers to settle and avoid the impact to what few Wii U's they might sell?

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Patents take a long time for approval

The patents were initially filed in 2002 or something like that, but were only approved a couple of years ago. That would explain the delay.

As I said in another post, though, please don't mistake this observation as a defense of Phillips in this matter. I think the patents should be invalidated because they are taking a throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks kind of approach. They don't really describe a specific means for accomplishing anything. Also, I'm sure if you looked hard enough, you could probably find prior art.

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Re: Patents take a long time for approval

Patents can take a long time for approval, yes. But you're issued a Provisional Patent at the acceptance of the application for review. The date the provisional patent is issued is when you start searching for potential infringing.

But you're right about this being speculative trolling. There's a lot of money in it. More than anything though, this sort of trolling turns legal into a potential revenue generator, as opposed to a pure cost center, like IT for example. Until somebody gets off their ass and fixes the patent system here the practice of speculative trolling will just continue to grow.

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Re: Patents take a long time for approval

What a bringing-low of the firm that once made such beautiful innovative products and marketed them so cleverly. From the combinatorial engineering fun of the Electronic and Mechanical Engineering kits to the genius of making the spec for the compact cassette open and well-known right before they pushed out the world's first cassette player, guaranteeing a unified format. If Sony had done the same thing we'd have been watching Betamax all the way and the VHS format would have gone the way of the Philips/Grundig Video 2000.

Heeeey...

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Joke

Watch Sales rocket in the short term

Telling somebody they can't have something is a surefire way to ensure they want it.

Nintendo might even sell 10 Wii U consoles this week.

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Trying to prevent Wii U sales?

Isn't that a little bit like trying to cockblock a Star Wars fan?

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Crazytown...

Not sure about the first patent, since it wouldn't load. But the second patent specifically mentions a camera taking an image. That seems more like Kinect than the sensor-based Nintendo version. Correlating a camera to a couple of IR LEDs is more than a stretch...

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Roo
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Re: Crazytown...

I haven't read the Phillips patent, but I can tell you that the Wiimote has a monochrome camera built into the 'pointy' end to pick up the position of the IR LED(s). :)

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Re: Crazytown...

Sounds like the Nintendo Zapper, which also used a camera-based method of determining where it was pointed, and by far predates the patent filing.

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Re: Crazytown...

I have glanced at the patents. I'm not a lawyer.

The first patent clearly describes something that models the whole body. It's sad, really, because at times it seems to be a tolerably accurate description of the Wii Fit - but then it starts going into details, and it's clear the patent author has never dreamt of anything remotely like what Nintendo came up with. But as I understand it, this is often how patents work: the team that actually did the hard work ends up paying money to someone who wrote some distantly related bollocks to which they owe precisely nothing.

The second patent claims:

User interaction system, comprising:

- an electrical apparatus (110);

- a portable pointing device (101, 300) operable by a user for pointing to a region in space;

- a camera (102) taking a picture; and

- a digital signal processor (120), capable of receiving and processing the picture, and capable of transmitting user interface information (I) derived from the picture to the electrical apparatus (110),

wherein the camera (102) is connected to the pointing device (101, 300) so that in operation it images the region pointed to, the system being characterized in that it further comprises at least one room localization beacon (180, 181, 182 the system being), in a room wherein the pointing device is used,

that can emit electromagnetic radiation, for use by the digital signal processor (120) in order to recognize to which part of the room the pointing device is pointing; and

the digital signal processor (120) is further arranged to recognize to which part of a room the pointing device is pointing.

Bits bolded by me are where I'd first start trying to poke holes if I were Nintendo's lawyer.

This patent witters on about how its big innovation is that you can use this pointer to point at anything in the room. It even cites prior patents, that it says are flawed because you can only use them with a specific screen. I really can't see how they're planning to argue this one.

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Re: Crazytown...

It sounds like Phillips stands to loose their patent to prior art. The Zapper had a camera to determine where it was pointed back in 1986.

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"a user interface system based on pointing device"

Well bugger me, that sounds about as original as Candy Crush.

Besides the trivial nature of the patent, it applies to actions triggered by gestures recognised via the camera; not push buttons or accelerometer-based gestures which the Wii remote uses.

That such a claim could even pass an initial sift in a court submission just highlights how preposterously un-informed and corruptible the US patent and legal systems are.

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Re: "a user interface system based on pointing device"

Mind you, I'm not defending Phillips on this one. However, they do also mention in the second patent actions triggered by gyroscopic or accelerometer inputs. Button inputs are also depicted in their appended drawings.

However, the whole patent reeks of a throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks approach. I thought the object of these things was to protect *specific* inventions and innovations.

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Roo
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Re: "a user interface system based on pointing device"

"it applies to actions triggered by gestures recognised via the camera;"

As already mentioned the Wiimote uses a camera. The "sensor bar" in a Wii setup is literall a pair of IR LEDs for the camera in the controller to track, so superficially at least it looks as though these patents are in scope regardless of their merit. Nintendo have also been taking people to court over patents relating to the Wiimote, so what comes around goes around so to speak. :)

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Coat

Wrong country

However, the whole patent reeks of a throw spaghetti at the wall

Not spaghetti, slices of soft cheese.

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Anonymous Coward

submarine patents should be illegal.

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Roo
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Windows

"submarine patents should be illegal."

They are practically inevitable. Try proving that a product of your choice does not infringe any patents - let us know how you get on. Hint: you can't prove a negative... :)

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Headmaster

Only one "l" in "Philips"

See title /|\

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Paris Hilton

NEED MORE CASH!

Apparently the regulatory capture forcing us all to buy their stupid "low energy" "lightbulbs" (powered by dark energy judging from the emitted light) BY LAW isn't sufficent?

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Anonymous Coward

@Joefish

Just a hint - "a user interface system based on pointing device" is the author's summary of the overall technical area, and not the actual claim in the patent.

/but don't let that get in the way of some self-righteous huffing

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Trollface

Philips have given up on Electronics.

They gone back to Light bulbs (all they did really before 1926) and Healthcare. All the other Philips stuff is someone paying for a badge.

The Components part spun off as NXP.

I guess Patent Trolling is a logical development now. Though of course there may be merit in it.

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Joke

Re: Philips have given up on Electronics.

What does the X stand for? Xavier?

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Hollywood should be worried

Reading through those patents I think that the also cover the basic methods used in a lot of motion capture systems to generate the data used to animate cartoons and special effect these days. While there's a lot of prior art in these fields it's mostly considered commercial secrets by the companies in the motion capture industries so proving "prior art" would be difficult.

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'a user interface system based on pointing device'. That patent very obviously states that a camera is part of their system, which the Wii most certainly doesn't use. However, the patent system in the U.S is so messed up it will probably fly. The situation in the E.U isn't much better, and when you're only slightly better than something than the U.S, that's a sad state of affairs,

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"That patent very obviously states that a camera is part of their system, which the Wii most certainly doesn't use."

I can assure you that the pointing functionality most definitely involves a digital camera embedded in the Wii remote.

Or are you saying the Wii console (the physical white box) doesn't contain a camera?

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"In the remote". Thus, does the patent cover this?

If the patent covers "cameras used to track the USER", the Wii does not infringe, as it uses the camera to track the CONSOLE (clever trick, but literally what Nintendo did, they moved the camera from the console to the controller and did the opposite to everyone else).

If this patent covers "cameras used to track anything", then I don't care what happens, there is no hope if such shotgun patents are allowed. I'll just go patent "thing used to do thing" and reap my billions.

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Anonymous Coward

They don't want a settlement in cash

Philips are doing pretty well but aren't really a brand you think of. They're just sort of... there. You always know they're a pretty respectable brand, they're just not first port of call for anything.

Nintendo have brand awareness to die for, guaranteed fanbois if they turn out the right platform, and a massive gaping hole where their sales should be.

Philips are, quite possibly, gunning for a takeover of Nintendo, or at least something more significant than some more cash to add to the pile or a takedown on hardware that has no significant effect on their product lines.

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Re: They don't want a settlement in cash

"Philips are doing pretty well but aren't really a brand you think of."

That wasn't always the case. Back in the 60s and 70s, and to some extent the early 80s, they were very well known not only for light bulbs, but their TV sets, radios, tape decks and record players. I still remember the TV ads from that era for Philips' home electronics (along with companies like Rank Arena, AWA, Thorn, National and Sharp.)

They just sort of faded away during the 80s, as if they got left behind by the computer revolution. I was surprised at the time to see that Philips never really pushed a home computer of their own amongst the Commodores, Sinclairs, Acorns and Apples of the day, since they struck me as just the kind of company that would cater to that market.

These days they seem to be mainly a component supplier; you can still encounter their brand in electronics hobby shops on items like transistors and ICs.

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Re: They don't want a settlement in cash

They did try competing in the home computer market, with the CDi in the early/mid 90's. It failed, badly. Despite having stock and titles for over a year I can only ever recall selling 1 Star Trek film for it. We were only allowed to demo Space Ace on the cabinet machine and that just crashed constantly.

I cannot recall ever seeing them as a major figure in electronics after that.

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Anonymous Coward

Remind me.....

1. If this is such a bad violation of Philips' patents, why didn't their lawyers discuss this with Nintendo's lawyers when the Wii U was launched*?

2. What do Philips do these days (other than make electric kettles)?

* Erm, I think 1 can be taken as a rhetorical question,

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Kinect?

- a camera (102) taking a picture; and

- a digital signal processor (120), capable of receiving and processing the picture, and capable of transmitting user interface information (I) derived from the picture to the electrical apparatus (110),

So that's a Kinect isn't it...

Wonder when they plan on taking on Microsoft....

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Re: Kinect?

Wonder when they plan on taking on Microsoft....

It could be that they're testing their patents against a softer target first. You'd need to be very sure of your patent portfolio before you started a patent brawl with Microsoft between their rather intimidating portfolio and the buckets of cash they have to throw around.

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Roo
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Re: Kinect?

"So that's a Kinect isn't it...

Wonder when they plan on taking on Microsoft...."

That crossed my mind too, it's also possible that MS has already got a licensing agreement with Philips. I'm not saying it's likely... Just possible. :)

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WTF?

Plumbing new depths

A new Mario which will mean Wii U's being sold

Phillips go for a cash grab

coincidence?

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Anonymous Coward

Illuminati? maybe

Seriously, and half seriously, This could be a conspiracy against Nintendo. With all the hate, bashing, and deliberate neglect, there maybe someone in the shadows aiming to take them down for whatever reason. Its just a theory, something that cross my mine as I was reading (completely new here btw). You all sound like professional talking very seriously, I just wanted to spark a discussion on it, but I'm sure there's not much to say on a hypothetical organization the works in the shadows. Think about it, but its only a theory, A game theory.

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