Nintendo pointer patent suit on hold

Activity stayed pending possible revisions and re-examinations of claim at the heart of dispute over pointing device technology.

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Patent fights are a fact of life for hardware manufacturers these days, with Sony and Nintendo both losing suits over their controllers, and Microsoft opting to settle at least one such case at the cost of $26 million. The latest patent suit to surface, as reported by GamePolitics, sees an Illinois man suing Nintendo over his patent on a "method for operating an electronic machine using a pointing device."

Image from the patent at issue.
Image from the patent at issue.

Originally filed in March, the case is currently on hold pending the outcome of a US Patent and Trademark Office re-examination of the patent. That process was set in motion by iPod maker Apple in a separate suit Martin brought against the company over alleged infringement of the same patent, according to an unopposed motion to stay the proceedings filed by Nintendo. The re-examination may tilt the case in either direction, as Martin is looking to expand the patent with 14 new claims, but the patent office could also amend or cancel the patent's existing claims.

The patent's abstract describes a gaming system that has an amusement mode and a gambling mode, as well as a touch screen. The system would also have a GPS system, allowing access to the wagering functions only if the system were located somewhere gambling is legal. That feature would be particularly useful if the units were installed on planes, boats, and other transportation methods that move through areas where gambling is legal. The patent was originally filed in August of 2003.

While the patent title specifically mentions a touch screen, the suit doesn't necessarily involve the Nintendo DS. When contacted by GameSpot, Martin's legal representation confirmed the Nintendo Wii was an example of a product that he believes infringes on the patent. He added that Nintendo's product line is being assessed for other possible violations.

Before the proceedings were stayed, Nintendo responded to the suit by denying that it had violated the patent, saying the patent's claims are invalid, among other defenses. As of press time, the publisher hadn't responded to GameSpot's request for comment.

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