On Wednesday, August 9th, Japanese consumer electronics and gaming company Nintendo Co. (TYO:7974) was hit with a patent suit in U.S. district court over allegations that its Nintendo Switch video game console infringes upon claims of a patent held by Simi Valley, CA-based video game equipment developer Gamevice Inc. According to the complaint, Gamevice is seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages over alleged patent infringement involving detachable controllers which are included with Nintendo Switch consoles. Gamevice’s patent suit against Nintendo has been filed in the Central District of California.
Gamevice is asserting a single patent in this case: U.S. Patent No. 9126119, titled Combination Computing Device and Game Controller with Flexible Bridge Section. Issued in September 2015, it claims a combination device having a computing device with sides disposed between an electronic display screen and the device’s back, a communication port interacting with the computing device and having a pair of structures confining the computing device, an input device in communication with the communication port and having a pair of control modules providing input module apertures securing an instructional input device. Claim 1 also indicates that the input module apertures are adjacent to opposing sides of the computing device and that the input device is a structure which is separate and distinct from the communication port.
Gamevice’s complaint alleges that the company was first founded in 2008 under the name Wikipad, Inc. The Wikipad, an Android-based tablet computer, was the company’s first product and it provided an improvement upon tablet and smartphone mobile gaming platforms by providing a detachable game controller that held the tablet while also providing separate gaming controls like joysticks, buttons and triggers. This improved the user experience for mobile gaming by providing controls in a way which didn’t take up space on a touch-sensitive screen. In 2015, the Gamevice was introduced as the next-generation version of the Wikipad. The Gamevice was another detachable video game controller which was designed to work with mobile devices developed and sold by Apple and Samsung.
Then in October 2016, Nintendo released its Switch console, which by many accounts has been selling very successfully compared to other recent Nintendo mobile consoles, such as the Wii U. Through late July, news reports indicated that Nintendo had sold 4.7 million Switch units and the company maintained its forecast of 10 million units sold through 2017 in a recent earnings report.
Gamevice alleges that the Nintendo Switch infringes upon multiple elements of claim 1 of the ‘119 patent. The suit notes that the Switch console, which includes a multi-touch capacitive touch screen, can be controlled with the use of detachable Joy-Con controllers. Gamevice alleges that the Switch is a combination of claimed elements including the computing device with a plurality of sides, an electronic display screen and a device back, as well as a communications port with confinement structures. Further, the Joy-Con controllers constitute the input device with a pair of control modules which is separate and distinct from the components making up the communication port. Thus it appears that more elements of the Nintendo Switch are being targeted in the patent infringement allegations than just the Joy-Con controllers; other reports have indicated that the controllers are the sole focus of the infringement suit.
Gamevice is seeking a jury trial as well as judgment that Nintendo has infringed upon the ‘119 patent. Along with damages, Gamevice’s prayer for relief also seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions on the Switch to prevent Nintendo and its affiliates from selling the gaming console. That would be quite the coup to prevent sales of a popular gaming console which has already seen millions of units ship. An order issued on Friday, August 11th, by Judge Manuel Real in the case indicating local rules of which counsel on either side should take note, including the court’s schedule for hearing motions in the case as well as meetings between counsel for initial disclosures.