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Analog Sticks in the Mud Print E-mail
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Written by Alison "TheGirl" Richards   
Wednesday, 23 July 2008

[Wii] [News]

Nearly 7 years after the release of the Nintendo GameCube, it, its controllers and the new Nintendo Classic controllers may be pulled off the shelves. That is if Anascape has anything to say about it.

It reads like a fiction novel or a lawyer's worst nightmare: a company holding a patent on something comes forward and starts making money grabs at the people who successfully implemented it or something like it. Nintendo is the latest target in Anascape's money grab (having already grabbed a fat stack from Microsoft and Sony). It's all about analog joysticks you see and Anascape seems to hold the patent on them.

This lawsuit has dragged on since August 2006 and has only now come to a close with Nintendo being banned from selling the Classic Controller for the Wii and the GameCube Controllers. What? Wait a second, the GameCube has been selling since 2001 and it took Anascape 5 years to realize their technology was in it? That's ridiculous. Maybe they forgot they had the patent?

Anascape has stated that they want to get into the market which I can only assume means they want to make their own controllers and not license the technology further. They state that Nintendo 'clogged the channels' though how they might do such a thing is beyond me. Honestly if Anascape wants to produce joysticks then they should have done it. It sounds to me like a bit of extortion is going on here. Well if you won't help us then we'll sue you...

 The lawsuit rings up to a total of $21 million dollars and the ban, should it go into effect, will only cover the U.S. Nintendo has already lost and is set to appeal in the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals which could stay the ban indefinitely. This says to me that Nintendo believes themselves to be in the right.  $21 million is nothing to Nintendo and they've probably paid more in lawyer fees over the last 2 years just on this case alone.

 I'm all for people getting paid for their work. But springing this, as I see it, revenge-based, frivolous lawsuit 5 years after the specific product in question was launched is just stupid.  Did it take 5 years for Anascape to realize the GameCube was on sale? Did it take them 5 years to pull apart the controllers and look inside to see their technology?

How did Nintendo even get the technology if they didn't get a license and the specifications? Does Anascape own all rights to all forms of analog joysticks? Haven't they been around since what?

Ralph H. Baer, inventor of television video games and the Magnavox Odyssey console, created the first video game joysticks in 1967. They were analog, using two potentiometers to measure position. --Wikipedia

But wait, there's more:

The first electrical 2-axis joystick was probably invented around 1944 in Germany. The device was developed for targeting the glide bomb Henschel Hs 293 against ship targets. --Wikipedia

Among those patents included in the company’s complaint are patent numbers:

  • 5,999,084, labeled “Variable Conductance Sensor”
  • 6,102,802, labeled “Game controller with analog pressure sensor(s)
  • 6,135,886, labeled “Variable Conductance Sensor with Elastomeric Dome Cap
  • 6,208,271, labeled “Remote Controller with Analog Button
  • 6,222,525, labeled “Image Controller with Sheet Connected Sensors
  • 6,343,991, labeled “Game Control with Analog Pressure Sensor
  • 6,344,791, labeled “Variable Sensor with Tactile Feedback
  • 6,347,997, labeled “Analog Controls Housed with Electronic Displays
  • 6,351,205, labeled “Variable Conductance Sensor
  • 6,400,303, labeled “Remote Controller with Analog Pressure Sensor
  • 6,563,415, labeled “Analog Sensor with Snap Through Tactile Feedback
  • 6,906,700, labeled “3D Controller with Vibration

All of these patents were issued between 1999 and 2005 but filed between 1996 and 2001.

Oddly, the Nintendo GameCube launched in 2001 (September in Japan, November in the U.S.) so wouldn't that mean that they had been working on the controllers for some time before that? Didn't the N64 have joysticks as well? That was launched in 1996. See a link here? The first patents were filed the same year that the N64 was launched and the last the same year the GameCube was launched. 

I smell a rat and his name is Brad Armstrong of Paradise, California who filed the patents. I smell something even worse and it's Anascape trying to cash in on the success of Nintendo over the years.

Sony licensed this in 2004 so they are probably safe. Microsoft settled the lawsuit and paid up already implying they knew they did something wrong. Nintendo is still fighting and that really makes me believe they are not at fault. After all, this only affects the Gamecube which isn't even in production or has new games coming out and the Classic Controller which, by now, is everywhere including used gaming shops around the world.

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