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Judge upholds suit against Sony

Sony's attempt to overturn $90 million lawsuit by Immersion for copyright infringement rejected; further Sony products could be affected.


In 2003, Immersion Corporation sued both Sony and Microsoft for infringing on the company's "haptic" technology, which allows gamers to feel their controllers vibrate in sync with action that takes place on the screen. Microsoft decided to settle out of court, and is now a licensee of Immersion's technology. Sony decided to fight in court, but lost last year when a judge ordered the PlayStation factory to pay more than $90 million in damages.

In addition, Sony was ordered to stop selling both the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, as well as several games that used the force feedback system. Sony immediately appealed and was granted a stay, but was required to pay Immersion licensing fees while it continued to sell products that infringed on Immersion's patents.

Sony brought the case back in court last week, basing its argument on the fact that Immersion withheld information about previous haptic-technology inventions made by Craig Thorner, who previously consulted with Immersion. Sony claims it could have used some of the concealed information in its case to render Immersion's patents invalid.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that US District Judge Claudia Wilken denied Sony's motion to overturn the decision. According to the WSJ, Wilken claimed that Thorner's pro-Sony testimony was "unreliable" and that there is reason to believe that Sony paid him $150,000 "quid pro quo" for his services.

Sony still has an outstanding appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the stay of injunction. Should that case fail, Sony would be legally required to pay the entire $90.7 million and decide whether or not to pay Immersion licensing fees. If Sony opts not to become one of Immersion's licensees, which includes BMW, Logitech, and Mad Catz, the company would have to find an alternative design for its DualShock controllers.

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