It looks like the bad news is going to just keep coming for Nintendo. Dutch electronics manufacturer Philips has filed a lawsuit against the video game giant, claiming that both the Wii and Wii U infringe on some of Philips’ own motion control and interface technology patents, and is looking to halt any further import and sale of the Wii U in the United States.
This puts even more pressure on the Japanese company, and exactly what the ailing Wii U didn’t need. Only a week ago Nintendo posted a massive loss for the 2013 fiscal year, with a lot of the blame being laid at the feet of their current home console. Nintendo shipped only 2.72 million Wii U units in the last year — far below its initial projection of 9 million units, and even falling short of its amended estimates.
In this lawsuit, which was posted on Wednesday and can be read here on Scribd, Philips claims that Nintendo infringed on its “User Interface System Based on Pointing Device” and “Virtual Body Control Device” patents. These patents both involve the modelling of “a user’s body in a virtual environment by animating a virtual body to follow the physical movements of the user.” This allegedly refers to the motion technology used in the Wii and Wii U, both the consoles and peripherals such as the Wii remote and Wii U gamepad. The lawsuit also states that Philips made Nintendo aware of at least one of these alleged infringements back in December of 2011.
So what does this mean for Nintendo? Philips is asking for a trial by jury, and is seeking treble damages for the alleged use of their patents, as well as interest for all damages and “such other relief as this Court may deem just and proper.” Not only this, but Philips is also calling for a ban on the sale of the Wii U, and any other devices that have allegedly infringed on their intellectual property, until the issues have been resolved. This will potentially come as a big blow to Nintendo, who must have been hoping to turn around the fortunes of their home console with the release of much-anticipated Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros titles. They have also been hinting at other strategies to help overcome their recent slump.
Nintendo has come under scrutiny over issues of copyright before (here and here for the Wii), particularly regarding their more recent hardware. However, aside from being found guilty of using Tomita Technology’s 3D tech in January and having to pay them royalties on all 3DS units sold, the company has come out relatively unscathed in other legal challenges. They were also sued last month by Secure Axcess for a patent filed back in 2000 “for multiscreen personal computer display method and apparatus.”
With one of these Philips patents dating back to 1996, it will be interesting to see whether there is substantial proof that Nintendo has infringed on these patents with its recent hardware.
That said, can Nintendo afford for it to be taken to court, particularly given the need for the Wii U to start coming good on its early promise? Either way, it’s a good job that Nintendo have been working on a new console — they could need it sooner rather than later. Hopefully that one doesn’t get slammed by lawsuits over existent patents as well.