"Wii-mote" trigger prompts lawsuit

User-interface specialist Interlink cries foul, files patent infringement lawsuit against Nintendo of America.

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While most in the game industry view the Wii's unconventionally shaped controller as something unique, there's one company that has a different view of the device.

Interlink Electronics, Inc., a California company that specializes in the design and manufacturing of interface devices, on Monday filed a complaint against Nintendo's US subsidiary, Nintendo of America, accusing it of patent infringement. Interlink's products include devices to assist in PowerPoint presentations, conference room keyboards, and portable speakers.

Interlink filed its complaint, first reported by Kotaku, in US District Court in Delaware.

The complaint alleges that the trigger on the bottom of the Wii controller infringes on Interlink Patent No. 6,850,221 (Trigger Operated Electronic Device), which the company secured on February 1, 2005. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata first presented the Wii controller to the public not too long after that date, during the 2005 Tokyo Game Show.

The drawings (above) that accompanied the patent application--first filed on September 17, 1997--do look suspiciously similar to the Wii trigger, but in the filing, Interlink offers scant detail of exactly how Nintendo currently infringes on the '221 patent, stating only that "Nintendo has made, used, offered for sale and sold in the United States, and continues to make, use, offer for sale and sell in the United States one or more controllers which activities infringe, induce others to infringe, and/or contributorily infringe the '221 patent."

The complaint seeks a jury trial and damages to determine the amount of "loss of reasonable royalties, reduced sales and/or lost profits as a result of the infringing activities."

This lawsuit brought by Interlink recalls the legal wrangling Microsoft and Sony found themselves in when Immersion Corp. brought lawsuits against those two console giants. Back in 2003, Immersion hauled those console makers into court, alleging patent infringement of Immersion's "haptic" technology, which allows gamers to feel controllers vibrate as they react to onscreen action. Microsoft eventually settled with Immersion, while Sony went to the mat, suffering defeat at the bench and paying Immersion Corp. more that $80 million in damages.

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