Dual Shocked: Sony Immersed in $90.7 million fine, injunction

US District Court favors San Jose tech company Immersion; Sony injunction to halt American sales of PS2s and affected materials.

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Three years ago, Northern California technology company Immersion Corporation brought a suit against Sony Computer Entertainment and Microsoft Corporation claiming patent infringement of its proprietary technology used in the controllers for the companies' home consoles: the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.

Microsoft settled out of court with Immersion in 2003, avoiding messy legal proceedings for $26 million, which also got Microsoft a 10 percent stake in Immersion.

Sony, on the other hand, left the decision up to the courts, a move that appears to have cost the company a serious chunk of change. Last Thursday, United States District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered the electronics giant to pay Immersion $90.7 million in patent infringement damages. The fine stems from the $82 million awarded to Immersion by a jury's decision on September 21, 2004, plus prejudgement interest of $8.7 million tacked on last week, which Sony unsuccessfully objected to.

The tiff involves Immersion's technology that creates the "rumble" feature that causes controllers to vibrate in sync with events in games. The court found in favor of Immersion's claims that Sony's Dual Shock controllers, the standard sticks for Sony's PlayStation and PlayStation 2, and several of its games infringe on two of its patents.

The Oakland, California, court also ordered an injunction stating that Sony is to immediately stop selling the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, both versions of the Dual Shock controllers, and 47 games found to use the vibration technology, including Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Gran Turismo 3. The injunction only affects sales in the United States.

Sony immediately appealed the decision and has been granted a stay of permanent injunction, allowing Sony to sell its products as normal during the appeals process. However, Sony will have to pay a licensing fee to Immersion for the duration of the stay.

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