News Article

Philips Claims Wii And Wii U Infringe Two Of Its Patents, Seeks Ban In The United States

Posted by Damien McFerran

Dutch electronics giant seeking compensation package, too

Dutch electronics manufacturer Philips is claiming that the Nintendo Wii and Wii U systems infringe on two of its patents — one of which dates back to 1996.

According to Dutch site NU, Philips has submitted documents in the United States which call for a ban on selling both systems in that region.

The first patent — listed as “Virtual Body Control Device” — involves tracking a person's body and movements in order to replicate such actions in a virtual environment. The word "game" is mentioned specifically in the patent, which was applied for back in 1996. The second patent — "User Interface System Based on Pointing Device" — describes a portable device that is in communication with a camera, with which another device can use to track movements.

Philips claims that Nintendo was made aware of these patents in 2011, but took no action to acquire a license to use them. Should the claim be upheld, Philips would be entitled to a large amount of compensation and Nintendo could be forced to stop selling the Wii and Wii U in the United States.

This isn't the first time that Nintendo has been accused of infringing patents, of course; the Wii's motion control system has been attacked by various claimants, all of which have failed to convince the courts of any wrongdoing on Nintendo's part. However, the company isn't invincible — Seijiro Tomita successfully won a case against Nintendo after it became clear that the 3DS infringed his own patents.

Nintendo and Philips have something of a history; it was Philips that Nintendo turned to when it wanted to extract itself from an alliance with Sony back in the early '90s — an alliance which was supposed to have resulted in the SNES "PlayStation", a CD-based console which would have been Sony's first foray into the gaming hardware arena. When discussions broke down over how much cash Sony would make on each PlayStation game sold, Nintendo cancelled the agreement and promptly hopped into bed with Philips. Ultimately, Philips didn't produce any CD hardware for Nintendo either, but was allowed to license some Zelda titles for its struggling CD-i system.

Thanks to JP Lahaye for the tip.

[via nu.nl]

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User Comments (125)

matirishhh

#2

matirishhh said:

Now playing my WII U on my 42" Philips TV will feel awkward....
No more Philips for me anymore...and wanted to buy one next month...I guess SONY will get my money instead!

3dcaleb

#4

3dcaleb said:

the first one sounds more like xbox's kinekt(?) sensor system. and the second one like playstation move or whatever its called, with those white balls on the end of things.

Yoshis_VGM

#5

Yoshis_VGM said:

Nuh-uh, Nintendo BETTER win this. If the Wii U gets banned in the U.S. I will be so freaking mad. It doesn't help that the Wii U is already struggling over here and if this falls through, it truly will be the end of the Wii U because the U.S. is a MAJOR market and Nintendo can't afford to lose it.

I'm not too worried though, Nintendo typically wins these things but still...

FluttershyGuy

#6

FluttershyGuy said:

Here is the only piece of evidence Nintendo's defense team needs to present...

Untitled

Judge: Case dismissed, with prejudice! ;)

bennjerryuk

#8

bennjerryuk said:

I just don't get the patent system in America, aside from the fact that the Wii doesn't use a camera, it uses IR sensors to track the device, and that that is tracking the device rather than the body (meaning it sounds much more like the Kinect) I don't understand how these types of concept, that are never actually used, can be patented. The trouble is that it's only big rich companies that can get away with this too, if I submitted a patent for something that might exist in the future then I wouldn't see a cent.

Yoshis_VGM

#9

Yoshis_VGM said:

Ok, I read the complaint and the second patent was completely BS. The patent was issued in September of 2013, ONE YEAR after the Wii U launched. And it claimed that Nintendo was notified of the "infringement" today. So doesn't this mean that Phillips is actually infringing on Nintendo?

BulbasaurusRex

#12

BulbasaurusRex said:

I have to agree that this is probably a desperate cash-grab, as the timing is very suspicious. Why did they wait 5 years after the Wii launched to inform Nintendo of that first patent, and then why wait another 3 years after that before taking legal action?

Goginho

#14

Goginho said:

Well, looks like I won't go back to a Philips TV. Too bad, I really like their Ambilight feature.

@matirishhh :D lol same. Oh well. I think I'ma go with Sony as well. Been looking recently for best gaming TVs, since my Philips has quite a terrible response time. Sony Bravia seems to be ideal, as I found out, so I guess I stroke out Philips anyway for that matter.
http://www.hdtvtest.co.uk/news/input-lag

turbo409uk

#15

turbo409uk said:

What would they gain from banning the Wii / Wii U anyway? It's not as if Philips is still trying to compete in the console market.

Guybrush20X6

#16

Guybrush20X6 said:

Just show the judge a CD-i and the case will be thrown out of court like a pot of burnt pasta out the window.

readyletsgo

#18

readyletsgo said:

Its strange cause usually its a small company or an individual that is trying to sue Nintendo, but this time its Phillips, a very BIG company, no mater what cha think.
I doubt they will stop Wii/U sales in America but still... I wouldn't take this one lightly. I woudl think there is a lot of bad blood between the two companies due to the CD-i and zelda and mario games etc.

I dont know, could go either way this time too, like the guy with the 3DS patent last year.

erv

#19

erv said:

Could very well be upheld, although the fact that the sensor bar is no camera but just a means of orientation might make the case for philips rather thin.

Also, the first sounds like kinect - not anything nintendo has in its wii U. Does it apply to wii U by default? I doubt it, what am I missing?

Artwark

#20

Artwark said:

I don't know why you guys are so angry about this? Sure Phillips is doing a bad thing but I'm pretty sure that it will come to a settlement. After all Nintendo did win the 3DS patent.

AltDotNerd

#21

AltDotNerd said:

Philips attorney: "Gee, it sure is boring around here."
Philips CEO: "My boy, this peace is what all true warriors strive for!"
Accountant: "Your majesty, Nintendo and their minions are making more money than us!"
CEO: "Hmmm...how can we help?"
Accountant: "It is written: 'Only Philips can frivolously sue Nintendo."
Attorney: "Great! I'll grab my semi-resonable argument!"
Accountant: "There is no time. Your bullsh*t is all you need.
Accountant: "Scrodala! We're off!"
CEO: "Dinner."

BertoFlyingFox

#22

BertoFlyingFox said:

This' ll be squashed for sure, most of the details dont technically sound like wii or wiiu motion control. The parts that do sound like wii or wiiu motion control are blanket statements that could even apply to atari's old motion controller from the 80s.

cornishlee

#23

cornishlee said:

Weird. As others have pointed out, the technologies described in this article don't match the Wii/WiiU but do sound similar to those in rival products. Meanwhile, the Wii launched in 2007 and they're doing this in 2014?

Hardly makes sense for such a big company to do this unless they're pretty sure of themselves so I can't help but wonder if I'm missing something.

Remisio

#25

Remisio said:

The first patent sounds like the kinect, and the second like the Playstation Move/Camera. Im not a technician or anything, but I'm pretty sure the wii's sensor bar isn't a camera?

TreesenHauser

#27

TreesenHauser said:

My sister and her husband bought a Philips HDTV, which stopped working for them less than two weeks later. They got a replacement which had dead pixels and eventually dead lines within the same time period, and Philips flat-out refused to replace it after that. Plus, anything Philips I recall ever using or buying was awful. Universal remotes, DVD players, even their HDMI and other cables, all garbage.

So of course Philips would try something like this. Besides, considering they were responsible for the rip-off known as the CD-i along with those unspeakable excuses for Zelda games for it, I think Nintendo should sue THEM. :-P

ROBLOGNICK

#29

ROBLOGNICK said:

"The second patent — "User Interface System Based on Pointing Device" — describes a portable device that is in communication with a camera, with which another device can use to track movements."

Well, that's not how the Wii Remote or GamePad work, is it? Isn't that how the PlayStation Move works though? Why aren't they going after Sony? Or are they still sore after the embrassing CDi fiasco?

And the first patent described all kinds of things. Mocap? Virtual Reality? Kinect? Move? Again, why just go after Nintendo?

I don't think Philips are doing too well right now anyway, so this could explain it.

Dipso

#31

Dipso said:

Could we have a trend where a company filing these kinds of lawsuits are considered to be in desperate need of profits and their stocks dumped by shareholders?

Wouwter

#32

Wouwter said:

I wonder if companies realise how bad they make themselves look with these bs patent claims?

Trikeboy

#33

Trikeboy said:

They are including the Wii in this one? Why didn't they file a suit back when the Wii was out? Sounds like another patent troll trying to get some extra cash. Are Philips getting low on cash?

RaylaxStaff

#35

Raylax said:

The first patent — listed as “Virtual Body Control Device” — involves tracking a person's body and movements in order to replicate such actions in a virtual environment.

Neither console does this, they track the controller (well, the controller tracks an IR emitter and gyroscopic motion)

The second patent — "User Interface System Based on Pointing Device" — describes a portable device that is in communication with a camera, with which another device can use to track movements.

The Wii doesn't have a camera, the Wii U does but it is not used as a motion-tracking device.

Good luck, Philips.

Mega719

#37

Mega719 said:

Another day another lawsuit. Sales of the Wii U would go down the toilet if this succeeds which is doubtful

unrandomsam

#38

unrandomsam said:

@Goginho I am in the same position I think when it comes to getting a new TV. I would rather buy anything other than a Sony. (And I don't like the way the screen looks on those suitable ones - ok in pitch black but otherwise far too many reflections).

Darknyht

#39

Darknyht said:

I smell patent war via proxy here, or a corporation dumb enough to think since it got licensing deals from Microsoft and Sony they deserve one from Nintendo. While both of these will get tossed because they have nothing to do with the Wii or Wii U (or the Wii/Wii U is prior art), it will succeed in producing more bad press (when Nintendo doesn't need it) and waste time and money in defending them.

Of the two likely sources of this, MIcrosoft comes to mind. It smells like their usual MO (sue via proxy), and Xbox One has been struggling with sales and bad PR vibes that they finally decided to fix the subscription paywall of Xbox Gold and remove the Kinect sensor to sell a cheaper Xbox One.

SanderEvers

#40

SanderEvers said:

@Raylax Actually both are about the WiiMote.

The WiiMote can track movement and uses a camera to see the sensorbar.

Also, being from the Netherlands, I still support Nintendo in this.
But this will end in a nice settlement for Philips. Which is what they needed after deciding to outsource the production of TVs and other consumer electronics.

AyeHaley

#42

AyeHaley said:

Philips is turning into a patent troll... :/ You would think they'd wait till Nintendo sells more Wii U's to catch a piece of that action. But I guess thats why they are targeting Wii as well as Wii U.

Uro

#43

Uro said:

@erv Actually, te wiimote is an infrared camera, the sensor bar emits ir signals, the wiimote captures them and sends the feedback back to the console.
But yeah, Ninty doesn't deserve it :/

KodyDawg

#44

KodyDawg said:

Oh, come off it, Philips! You should be praising Nintendo, the one who allowed you to make several very, VERY cruddy games on your dumb CD-i thingy. Plus, Nintendo's already going through enough trouble as it is. Can't you just go bother Microsoft? They're the ones with the actual infringement on the first one. Cough Kinect Cough

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go thoroughly search through my house for any Philips products and throw them out the window. I'm not even kidding at this point.

BinaryFragger

#45

BinaryFragger said:

The patent system is in dire need of reform. The fact that companies can patent vague technologies such as "remotely control devices in an intuitive manner" is ridiculous, and companies are abusing the system (just look at Apple, one of the worst patent trolls in the world).

Mahe

#48

Mahe said:

Sounds like Philips was just patenting a vague idea, not an actual application. They should be ashamed for stooping this low.

pukka-pie

#49

pukka-pie said:

This happens with every console now doesn't it? I'm sure I heard the same with the PS3 at least.

SahashraLA

#50

SahashraLA said:

If this is the case, when is Philips presenting their case against Sony and Microsoft? All 3 companies use similar inputs, but with Eyetoy in conjunction with Move and Kinect relying solely on camera technology, the 'other guys' seem more in violation than Nintendo. Or maybe they already dealt with this? Regardless, Philips' products have never screamed anything other than 'value brand' to me.

SebCroc

#51

SebCroc said:

These vague patents are as ridiculous as Cadbury's copyright claim of the colour purple...

cfgk24

#54

cfgk24 said:

No phillips products for me - Stupid idiot Patent Trolls trying it on and trying to ruin Global Enjoyment from the Best Company in the World

mike_intellivision

#56

mike_intellivision said:

Well, at least this is a company that most people have heard of and the filing is not in East Texas.

However, something still does not seem right. Four years after Wii introduction to let Nintendo know. No signs that others were sued (though I have had one unconfirmed report that Microsoft was also hit with a lawsuit). Filing only in the United States, not in the home country of Phillips (The Netherlands) or Nintendo (Japan).

This speaks to how bad — and how trollable — the US Patent system has become. My guess is that the case is decided in favor of Nintendo since others have made similar claims and the only case it lost was an instance where it was documented that the person suing it had shown them the tech.

Of course, Magnavox (which is now part of Philips) won the first video game patent law suit when it was shown that Atari infringed on the patent to move objects on the TV screen.

However, if it loses, it could still cost Nintendo several hundred million dollars. It is highly unlikely that Philips could prevail on getting sales stopped. The ITC (International Trade Commission) has been reluctant to take that action. Apple — which only won its global suits against Samsung in the US — could not even get that to stop the Galaxy phones.

Xcape_DuCkMAN_X

#57

Xcape_DuCkMAN_X said:

And here I thought those three lame Zelda games and Hotel Mario were low blows. Not a good look Philips, not a good look.....

jpfan1989

#60

jpfan1989 said:

Sounds like Kenect and Move respectively. . Somebody at Phillips doesnt know anything about the console line up and capabilities.

Blue-Thunder

#63

Blue-Thunder said:

Why is this coming so late? The Wii was released 7+ years ago.

Phillips aren't making TVs anymore they are focusing on medical tech, I think.

I stupidly convinced myself years ago that Phillip TVs were as good as Sony TVs and bought 2, believe me big mistake. Still have them but I would love to drop kick them out the door.

This is what big companies do now when they have nothing better to be at. Apple and Samsung being the best example.

jjmesa16

#64

jjmesa16 said:

I think Philips is actually making more money (or losing less money) than Nintendo is. I'm not sure about the figures so I'll have to look it up.

EDIT: It looks like Philips' income in 2013 was 1.169 billion euros. So they made more money than Nintendo.

SLiM

#66

SLiM said:

@FluttershyGuy

I would take a look at that, dismiss the original case, and create a new case to make Phillips pay Nintendo for defacing the best franchise of all time :-P

Unca_LzStaff

#67

Unca_Lz said:

@Raylax: The main patent infringed, #231, was also filed and issued after the Wii was released. Nintendo also patented the technology inside the Wii, so that case will be thrown out. As for the second patent, I'm not really sure what that one has to do with the Wii/Wii U

RedYoshi999

#68

RedYoshi999 said:

puts tinfoil hat on
Maybe Nintendo is secretly conspiring to abandon the Wii U without aggravating their fan base by paying Phillips to sue them and ban Wii U sales!

Captain_Balko

#70

Captain_Balko said:

Another sad attempt of a formerly well known company trying to remain relevant by stealing instead of producing their own products. Neither of their claims are remotely connected to the Wii U, this will surely get thrown out of court unless their lawyers somehow manage to trick the judge into belief. I hope that Nintendo counter-sues after and gets a big chunk of money from Philips.

Yorumi

#71

Yorumi said:

Kind of makes me think there should be some sort of statute of limitations on patent lawsuits. Something like you have to file within a year of finding out about the product. Sure that leaves some grey area but no one could reasonably claim to have just discovered the wii 4 years after it launched.

Anyway since NL likes doing these stories every few weeks have you ever considered finding someone with some degree of legal knowledge that could actually provide a bit of real analysis on these? I think it would be interesting to see from someone with real legal knowledge why he thinks these companies think they have a case, if he thinks they do, and any other insight.

CaviarMeths

#72

CaviarMeths said:

Philips still makes consumer electronics? I thought everyone had a Samsung or Panasonic TV by now.

Big fan of their screwdrivers though.

Jetset

#74

Jetset said:

"The first patent — listed as “Virtual Body Control Device” — involves tracking a person's body and movements in order to replicate such actions in a virtual environment."
That sounds exactly like Xbox Kinect.

"The second patent — "User Interface System Based on Pointing Device" — describes a portable device that is in communication with a camera, with which another device can use to track movements."
That sounds exactly like PlayStation Move.

What are they doing attacking Nintendo?! Philips is pathetic, won't be buying any of their products.

Jetset

#75

Jetset said:

@jpfan1989 Yes, exactly. They are describing Kinect and Move, not Wii or Wii U. Philips doesn't know what they're talking about but they put all the blame on Nintendo. Infuriating.

FullbringIchigo

#76

FullbringIchigo said:

well that description could also be implied for the Kinect and PSMove too so why ain't they sueing Sony and Microsoft ?

smells of greed to me

Purple

#81

Purple said:

Sounds like they should be suing Microsoft for their kinnect. Since it uses cameras and tracks body movement. Nintendo wii and wii u work differently. This is so obvious.

darklinkinfinite

#82

darklinkinfinite said:

@bennjerryuk As I understand it, you can patent ideas even if you lack the means or the intention to make use of them. This is what gives rise to cases where a patent for a very broad idea is patented and can later claim several products infringe upon it. Or they can be general and obscure enough that you can formulate a similar idea completely independant of the patent but still be considered infringing.

I've been told te system is different in other countries. My friend in australia tells me patents there are issued for products instead of just general ideas, meaning you have to have the idea and show some intention to make use of it.

Jayvir

#83

Jayvir said:

So they claim they've been infringing since 2006 but waiting 8 years to do anything? Sounds pretty sketchy

darklinkinfinite

#84

darklinkinfinite said:

@MadAdam81 Technically the Wii Remote contains an infrared camera not simply a sensor.

The Wii remote basically functions like the Move in reverse. Where the Move has a stationary camera tracking a moving reference (the colored ball), the Wii Remote uses a moving camera (the IR camera within the Wii remote) to track stationary reference (the IR emitters in the sensor bar).

Mk_II

#88

Mk_II said:

This makes me - a Dutchman with strong ties to Philips - very very sad.

DarkKirby

#89

DarkKirby said:

I've said before that the right to patent non specific and broad ideas or concepts is total horse manure and makes a total joke out of the patent system filling it with patent squatters and people intending to use the patent system to make a profit by suing and holding people who actually use technology to produce something hostage instead of using the patent to ensure you have the rights to a product you actually invented and produce yourself.

You should only be able to patent specific technology you are actively producing, and never be able to patent broad ideas or concepts.

tj3dsXL

#94

tj3dsXL said:

FYI BASIC LEGAL DEFENSE 4 CASE DIMISSAL:
If the device is over 12 years old& out of production a NEW file WON'T fly in any COURT legally anywhere on this PLANET anyway ! The 2011 "notification" from PH. to N may have been a scam letter sent to N in the first place (physical or digital letter doesn't matter LOL),hence reason it was ignored ! I think some old men are about to die-not-so-rich !!!!

Ernest_The_Crab

#97

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@Damo The problem is the Wii Mote uses an "optical sensor" while the patent refers to a "camera." Digital cameras use an optical sensor but it does not work the other way around, that is, an optical sensor is not a camera.

The other problem is that the Virtual Body Sensing part of the patent is using extremely vague language. The courts will most definitely narrow it down against Philips as they were the ones that created the patent.

Ryo_Hazuki-san

#102

Ryo_Hazuki-san said:

this is unreal... getting kind of stupid now... nintendo is and always will be innovative with their products.

Sir_Deadly

#103

Sir_Deadly said:

The Wii/Wiiu uses a sensor bar NOT a camera. This patent should be geared towards Sony for its Move and Microsotf for its Kinect. Considering NInty probably has much more money than the other two companies, this just seems like they need money and target only one company.

JaxonH

#105

JaxonH said:

@AltDotNerd

Hahaha.... no doubt.

This sounds like more bologna to me. You can't put a patent on IR technology as a whole. Or movement tracking as a whole. Track body movements? All it does is track motion so you can move a cursor on a screen.

What a bunch of garbage. It's like the whole world hates Nintendo and has joined together in a concerted effort to eliminate them from existence. Makes perfect sense- if someone ACTUALLY infringed on your patents, you'd probably want to do something about it BEFORE a decade rolls by. Everyone on God's green earth knew what the Wii was, and what it did. Why haven't they filed until now? I could easily see something like this happening from spite, desperation, or even a bribe on behalf of an interested party. What a crock... Broad a$$ vague body tracking patents...

It's like these companies nowadays set aside 5% of their profits into a jackpot fund, and use that money on hail mary attempts to file suit over patent infringements. Probably call a board meeting and scour their patents, then cross-reference with any and every product known to man. Houston, we have a hit. Nintendo has gaming consoles that use motion control. That kind of sounds like body tracking, right? Let's sue. Even though, ya know, that's EXACTLY what the Kinect does, yet we don't see them sueing Microsoft. Probably see Nintendo as an easier target is all. I smell cahoots

Vriess

#108

Vriess said:

@matirishhh
Don't be ridiculous . Philips tv's are really good and besides, it's just a brand name because Philips has sold of their tv division to a Chinese company and they have the right to continue the Philips brand. Also Sony has recently stated that they too will spin off their tv division. Better buy LG then, or have the Koreans done something to upset you too? ;)

Tasuki

#109

Tasuki said:

@Damo: I might be wrong but wasn't it SNES Play Station with two words instead of the now familiar Playstation name?

ogo79

#110

ogo79 said:

these guys are still around?
i heard they went into the potato peeler business,
much success!

Ernest_The_Crab

#112

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@SanderEvers Yeah I looked it's a camera. The patents will still be thrown out though, I seriously doubt Nintendo will settle outside of court on this.

The first "patent" if you can really call it that is much too vague in terms of wording. Not to mention many devices, companies and programs have used this type of tracking to do things for a while now. Good examples would be webcams and cellphone cameras. The court and Nintendo would both heavily emphasize the fact that Philips did nothing for a very long period of time. Chances are the first part will fail horrendously.

Philips' best bet lies with the second patent. The problem however is yet again the wording: "describes a portable device that is in communication with a camera, with which another device can use to track movements."

The unfortunate part of that phrase is that the portable device (Wii Mote) IS the camera as you pointed out earlier on. The camera is communicating with a light source (sensor bar) which is by no means a "portable device" as it must be plugged into the console to work (this is of course barring 3rd party creations). The console itself is also classified as a "home console" which implies that it is not portable in the sense that it is used in the patent.

This is most likely one of the reasons the Motion Controls operate in "reverse" compared to how most average people would "think" it operates.

ZebraCardeath

#113

ZebraCardeath said:

i thought Philips was better than this. How 'bout nintendo counter sues for loses on the Cdi and each can call it an even wash.

Manaphy2007

#114

Manaphy2007 said:

@matirishhh at least sony doesnt sue nintendo for false infringements so yes sony needs your support. i WAS going to buy that electric shaver from them but im sticking with gillette fusion pro glide

bmprsvz777

#118

bmprsvz777 said:

There are approx. 110 milion households using wii remote everyday and all these criminals infringe Philips know how every day... I guess Philips should sue them too and send them all to jail. I suggest WE BOYCOTT PHILIPS PRODUCTS from today.

thatguyEZ

#121

thatguyEZ said:

This just goes to show how broken the US patent system has become. It's embarrassing.

HappyMaskedGuy

#122

HappyMaskedGuy said:

I spent a few horrible months working in a Philips TV assembly plant when I was just out of school.
They fired people just for sitting down, even for a second, despite the fact shifts were about 8 hours, minimum wage, often with compulsory overtime. Standing up for four hours in an assembly line putting little plugs into microchip boards, roasting hot before shuffling into the prison-esque canteen to be served 'food' (dog food really) then back out for more monotonous slave labour.....was the most depressing job I've ever done. Sensory depravation is no exaggeration.

Philips treated their staff like expendable pieces of meat.
I was pulled up for talking to the person next to me once, and I just snapped. Chucked the plugs on the floor, told them to stick their job and walked out grinning.

Horrible employers. Horrible company.

Nail 'em Nintendo, for me? ;)

Amateur

#123

Amateur said:

Phillips is a company that I think should not be around. It's a company that did hurt Nintendo's name back the day by the the CD-I games. Honestly, if you have the balls to be like everyone else was on the Wii's case, then that is not a good business plan.

unrandomsam

#125

unrandomsam said:

@Ernest_The_Crab Philips is using the technology in Medical Devices. It is how the system is supposed to work.

I worked for somewhere with a set of really good patents that were licensed by loads of people until they expired and then they went under. (Undercut by the giant companies).

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