Nintendo and third parties sued over Wii exercise game patents

Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, THQ, Konami, Namco Bandai, and Majesco allegedly infringed on patents held by interactive sports simulation maker Impulse Technologies.


Impulse Technologies is giving an assortment of exercise game publishers' legal teams a workout. The company last week filed a patent lawsuit in United States District Court against Nintendo and a handful of its third-party partners alleging that their Wii exercise games infringed on an Impulse-held patent.

Impulse Technologies' 1996 patent included this visualization of its exercise program.
Impulse Technologies' 1996 patent included this visualization of its exercise program.

Beyond Nintendo, the suit names Electronic Arts (EA Sports Active 2.0), Ubisoft (Gold's Gym Cardio Workout), THQ (UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System), Namco Bandai (Exerbeat), Konami (Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 3), and Majesco (Zumba Fitness 2). Each of those companies is accused of using the Wii, Wii Remote, and Wii Balance Board in violation of a 1996 Impulse patent covering interactive experiences "where the motion of the player is tracked to effect movement of a virtual avatar, and the exertion of the user is monitored." A visualization included with the original patent filing shows a user standing on a pressure sensor board with an accelerometer strapped to his leg.

Impulse Technologies is the parent company of TRAQ Ltd., maker of the Trazer fitness system, which is marketed to gyms and athletic training centers and uses the patent in question. Billed as an "interactive sports simulator," the system lets users work out in front of a TV screen, with minigames taking them through a variety of exercises, sometimes with peripherals like resistance bands or foot switches that need to be activated.

This is the second major gaming suit from Impulse this year. In July, the company filed suit against Microsoft and eight third-party publishers alleging that the defendants' Kinect games infringed upon a half-dozen Impulse-owned patents. The sued publishers included all the aforementioned third-party publishers (in some cases for the Xbox 360 versions of the same products), as well as Sega (for Virtua Tennis 4 and Sonic Freeriders) and Harmonix (for Dance Central). With the exception of Namco Bandai and Konami, all of the sued companies in that suit have filed counterclaims against Impulse.

A TRAQ representative declined to comment. As of press time, none of the game publishers had returned GameSpot's request for comment on the suit.

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Avatar image for digi-demon

Smart - let all the big softco's roll out multiple games and addons - then wait years for them to saturate the market creating billions of dollars of sales - then cry like a baby and claim patent infringement = cheap bucks. Sad, sad, very sad. After these companies invested millions in advertising costs to sell these products, some outsiders interest peaks to rush in at the final hour - crying fault. Certain people should hang their head in shame - imo after waiting so long after the event they deserve nada.

Avatar image for Linaxel

So its Impulse Technologies vs. ..... well practically the world. Good luck with that!!

Avatar image for otanikun

Well lookie there, another company come to challenge the industry giants in a feeble attempt at getting a slice of the proverbial pie. How sad is this?

Avatar image for zeonfollower

Never heard of Impulse Technology...

Avatar image for RPG_Fan_I_Am

Never heard os Impulse Technologies, but their lawsuit can't hold up. The problem is That the third party members didn't copy their technology. Infact, the only possible thing that could be sued over is the Wii balance board. The games all were developed around that. You can't patent an idea, *not to be confused with an idea for an object, just an idea in general.* so using motion controls to sense a person's movement isn't something that can be patented. The Balance board, being used with a fitness game can be patented, which is why I can see the claim for that. But the balance board was designed for use in different games, whereas impulse designed theirs for use as a gym alternative.

Avatar image for TheoAlmighty

never heard of impulse technologies....

Avatar image for psychotic_pig

yeah, i don't think that kinect or wii fit are hard to think of, at all. so there's really no proof that they stole it. unless that doesn't matter, in that case I'd say, whatever.

Avatar image for PC_Otter

Apparently nobody read the entire article and how it mentions that TRAQ actually made use of their patent. They just didn't sit on it hoping others would come along. Yes, consumer level technology of 1996 would've been too slow for real time implementation of these programs, but that doesn't mean they could not started the process of programming, optimization and building of these devices, doing so until computing tech and their ideas could finally converge into a practical tool ready for the market. In a way it reminds me of how so many pivotal graphics rendering techniques (bump/normal mapping, stencil shadowing, etc) were actually pioneered in the late 1970 and early 80s. Yes, the tech of the time lacked the capability to render such graphics in real time, but of course years later, current computers make it look like child's play.

Avatar image for saber1992

judging by their patent the only people they could sue is kinect even then they dont have a board. Wii doesnt have a camera and has completely different tech to what it looks like they were going to use.

Avatar image for nintendians

So what if Nintendo and it's 2nd/3rd parties make a fitness game, it's better if you paid at lease $100 for Wii Fit and the Wii Balance Board like $30-50 game versus a monthly member subscription, which you might or might not need to do exercise, if you fit enough. I think having a fitness at home beats going to the gym, if your always low on gas. Why stop there, minus well sue all the gaming company, who do fitness game.

Avatar image for Buck_Swaggler

Sooo... they copy the Power Pad from Nintendo, then try to sue them for it years later...?

Avatar image for cr8ive

On second thought, if what I mentioned in the below post about the patent in Japan and US is true... Impulse might not be able to get a damage settlement from the lawsuit.. and can probably only get a cease of sales and distribution of the Wii-Fit... In any case, it would be interesting to follow the development for this lawsuit, hopefully gamespot will continue to update it

Avatar image for cr8ive

I think Nintendo will try to work on a settlement for this lawsuit. Regardless of how Impulse is actually doing with the sales their products, I think they have the upper hand... at least against Nintendo. Their patent diagram basically IS a Wii-Fit (a 1996 version and with an accelerometer and that sad excuse of a TV... :D) What I don't think will work is the lawsuits against all the other developers who made games to use to Wii-Fit, the burden might actually all fall on Nintendo. I suspect the Wii-Fit is patented in Japan, and that patent right might not be honoured in the US (and vice versa for Impulse's) I wonder if a company could patent just a general concept, i.e. tracking of movement via an input device (camera, IR, laser) and it would be legit enough to make lawsuits .... Cuz if they can, then Hollywood can get sued as well for a having motion capture technology... (unless they have an even earlier dated patent for that... and instead they can sue impulse LOL). Note to self: apply patent for the concept of breathing.. Using the lung organ to inhale o2 and exhale co2 from the body.... sue everyone on earth and get filthy rich!

Avatar image for jamesh-42

@kreegan64: it seems far more likely that they just want some money and hope that one or more of the defendants will settle out of court rather than try to invalidate the dodgy patent.

Avatar image for kreegan64

OR!!! Impulse could be doing this law suit to get publicity. I doubt many people even knew what Impulse WAS, let alone owned one of their products. But now I bet the amount of people who know of them now has doubled, maybe even tripled, or possibly beyond that. With more people knowing of the company and their products they could make some profit in long-term, and from the looks of it, they probably won't be losing too much money from this. But this company could get money in more ways than one. If some of the companies think Impulse have a good chance, they could pay them some sum of money to stop the lawsuit, and even if they lose, many people could still buy their products. It seems like Impulse has a good chance of scoring big. Lawsuit scams like this have been going on for a while, and it seems like they work quite well considering people KEEP USING THEM!

Avatar image for kreegan64

SONIC FREE RIDERS??? WHAT THE FUDGE!!! That's NOT an avatar-based motion fitness game/simulation! It's more of an Sonic-based fantasy extreme racing game, note that the game uses copyrighted, pre-existing characters, not avatars. If Sega loses this, I will have lost faith in our judicial system. On another note, Nintendo had released the Power glove accesory for the NES in 1989 while Sega released the Sega Activator in 1993 for Sega Genesis, both of those as you see were released before Impulse had released their TRAZER, although our corrupt judicial system would probably grant Impulse their wishes, but that would be based on who is giving them more "persuasive" arguements, and considering we have the widely-unknown-until-recently Impulse in one corner, and pratically every big name in gaming that you can think of, it doesn't look like Impulse could use "persuasion" as an effective means of fighting in this case. Though I wouldn't be too surprised if Impulse won against Nintendo, Microsoft, EA, and some others, considering the less-than-great system of justice we have. (of course when I say we I mean the citizens of USA, I don't mean to offend anyone by saying this) Not only can Nintendo and Sega Counter claim, but downright counterSUE. Impulse had better have some cards up their sleeves.

Avatar image for SillyMushrooms

people these days

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887

Now that think about it, it is a lose-lose situation. These lawsuits seem like karma getting back at them for their anti-consumer practices. On the other hand, these lawsuits are also getting out of hand. Success=see you in court. I can't really side with anyone in the end.

Avatar image for popon01

D**** it! Another b******* lawsuit against Nintendo. First we got the Universal sued Nintendo back then because Donkey Kong is a copyright infringement of King Kong. Then we got PETA because in Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo resurrected the Tanooki suit which attracted PETA's attention because for PETA, the Tanooki suit promotes the wearing of fur. And now we got this? I can't comment on this anymore.

Avatar image for soulless4now

Good luck with this lawsuit. I bet it'll get thrown out.

Avatar image for StJimmy15

Would the Kinect not be covered here also? I'm getting really sick of hearing about these BS lawsuits tho. Have a good idea and make some money. Don't try to milk others success.

Avatar image for justindragon

Nintendo lost nearly a billion dollars and there are the other lawsuits for months ago and now this if Nintendo goes bankrupts then everyone owning a Nintendo console (including me) is screwed

Avatar image for servb0ts

NES had track n field cintroller floor mat, this lawsuit is just silly.

Avatar image for servb0ts

These Loser Sue because no one wants thier 60% garbage games, 40% DLC.

Avatar image for GuilhermeHQ

So, if we follow TRAQ way of thinking, soon enough they'll sue players who play these type of game... for the love of god...

Avatar image for kkxtrouble

@Daemoroth Thats probably why they wont get anything... this is just a cheap attempt to get money they wouldnt have gotten if they had filled the lawsuit before. I mean, no judge in his right mind would allow that. They are buying a major battle... I do get your point and all but the wii came out in 2006...thats way too much time... Maybe they can win against nintendo... it looks a lot like wii fitness...but the rest...i really cant see it...

Avatar image for kkxtrouble

They are .basicaly, going to sue any company that has made a game that remotely involves exercise and motion sensors...right... im sure they will win... a bunch of counterclaims...

Avatar image for Daemoroth

@yaba, sure, no argument there. This is probably the first time such a patent lawsuit kinda makes sense. What most people are wondering, is why wait so long before filing the suit? It seems to be done so the claims (And settlement) can be based on how much money has already been made (Which wouldn't be that much right at the beginning). Which means this patent suit has nothing to do with Impulse trying to protect their I.P., it's just a paycheck to them. And that's where I call bull$#!@. If they wanted to protect their I.P., they could have filed when the Wii/Kinect was announced. Now they're just trying to cash in.

Avatar image for wiidsduelpack

How does TRAQ expect to win in this lawsuit? They are going against so many big companies that they will lose to the core.

Avatar image for batkinson001

the image shown in the article, shows their pattented device using a line of sight detection system (like a tv remote), todays existing devices use wireless tech like bluetooth... different enough I think that this legal challenge will go nowhere.

Avatar image for comb5

It's pretty simple in my opinion. TRAQ's target market for the Trazer fitness system is athletic centers and gyms, not families and households. If they wanted to make a home version of their "professional" product, they easily could have. They probably just didn't think it would be a big success. But now that Nintendo made a similar home based product that was a huge hit, they want some of the profit.

Avatar image for endorbr

I have to say for all those that keep pointing out that Trazer is a real product, that is not in dispute. The question is why now? Why present a lawsuit saying that all of these motion control exercise games are violating their patent rights now? These games have been around for years and were highly publicized so it's not like TRAQ Ltd. had no clue they existed. So did they get a new CEO who suddenly realized that they could get some media attention or possible settlement from game manufacturers by pressing a case on flimsy patent violation grounds?

Avatar image for MERGATROYDER

About time.

Avatar image for megakick

I remember when Nintendo sued everybody, everybody. Payback.

Avatar image for lamprey263

while I think people should be allowed to defend their intellectual property, I think said intellectual property owners need to justify why they wait years to make a legal claim if they're to have any claim at all

Avatar image for twztid13

@yaba agreed. i don't think a single person between my comment & yours read anything but the title, lol. c'mon folks, if you're gonna hate, at least be informed. very sad.

Avatar image for twztid13

@atopp399 did you read the article? they already went after Microsoft.

Avatar image for KeleenRem

You know, I rarely hear the conclusion of these sueing attempts.

Avatar image for atopp399

I am pretty sure you have to pay a bunch of money to actually file a patent so it isn't just a guy submitting a sketch for free. If people were willing to drop $10k or however much a patent costs I am sure we would see much worse than we even see now.

Avatar image for atopp399

Let me guess, they win this and then will go after Sony and Microsoft next?

Avatar image for AngelCage-2

For a change, this case is not about a patent only, but a patented PRODUCT that has been on the market for some years, BEFORE the wii and all that games... I agree that is just wrong that companies fill patents out of ideas waiting for someone to make real products and then they sue the hell out of it, BUT this is not just an unrealized idea, is a REAL product.

Avatar image for deth420

heres my drawing of people taking in air...thats just like breathing. you all owe me money! no but really this patient s**t needs to go away. i remember the same exercise like board in 1986, on the Nintendo, for track in field. why are they not suing?

Avatar image for mercutio665

So does this mean that if I draw and notarize concept art for a holodeck that I can sue the pants off any poor b@stard that builds one?

Avatar image for Megavideogamer

Wii Fit and the compatitible first and 3rd party games have been out since forever. Well 2008 and Impulse is just now launching a lawsuit. Or the courts are very slow.

Avatar image for MindwalkerX

Wow, everyone is sueing everyone nowadays. I guess if you can't take money from the consumers due the bad economy, you have to grab from the other companies.

Avatar image for yaba

Why is everyone giving TRAQ and Impulse crap here? Have they actually read the article or are they just reading the headline? The Trazer is a patented consumer product that has been available for years, which is very similar to the Wii Fit. I'm not saying they deserve a settlement, but most people don't even read the article before commenting.

Avatar image for raahsnavj

The patent office needs to die. They protect very little in life and now only protect patent trolls.

Avatar image for MarcJL31

I think someone said it best. Why wait all this time to sue? Or did they try to contact the devs and state their case? They state they use the patents currently so I guess we cant call them out as a "patent troll" but just wonder if they knew right away (and given the description of the patent their legal team would have seen this just from the Wii Fit demo) why wait so long to take action. Wonder how this one is going to go. They are going after some big players with a lot of legal power .

Avatar image for deathblow3

i guess what they are saying is we created motion fitness with an avatar. can you even copy right that? some one mention the power glove or the activator so control of avatars was around in the 80's and 90's. their tech has nothing to do with wands or cameras so how can they sue. the games industry is right to counter sue so when they lose they also lose in their wallets. talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

Avatar image for endorbr

Funny that this is just coming up now. These exercise "games" have been available for how many years? And this company suddenly just up and decides to file a lawsuit now... That should raise some eyebrows for the judge that gets this case.