Not too long ago we reported on a Philips patent claim against Nintendo related to Wii technology, specifically with regards to recognising hand gestures and motion. It's not the first such claim against the Wii in this regard, of course, but is certainly significant considering the size of Philips as a company and the history that the businesses shared in a '90s partnership.
That article related to a case in the U.S., but it's emerged today that Philips has actually won an initial judgement for the same issues in the UK High Court. In this particular case there were three claims, one of which related to "modelling a body in a virtual environment", which was rejected. However, Judge Colin Birss did rule that Nintendo had violated two other patents, having failed to argue that they were irrelevant; the judge said the following:
The common general knowledge did not include a device combining a physical motion sensor with a camera and the reasons advanced by Nintendo for putting those two sensors together in one unit are unconvincing.
Nintendo believes the two patents in question are invalid and, as is often the case in these patent disputes, will appeal.
Nintendo has a long history of developing innovative products while respecting the intellectual property rights of others. Nintendo is committed to ensuring that this judgment does not affect continued sales of its highly acclaimed line of video game hardware, software and accessories and will actively pursue all such legitimate steps as are necessary to avoid any interruptions to its business.
Philips, in its statement, has re-iterated that it raised the issue in 2011 and has been seeking to settle, and highlighted ongoing equivalent cases in other countries, including the previously reported U.S. filing.
We believe Nintendo infringed the patents and have tried to settle since 2011, but as that hasn’t worked out we had to take this step. This case relates to other cases in the U.S., Germany and France. It might help in those cases, but that’s up to the local authorities in those countries.
In the case of the U.S. it's been suggested that Nintendo — should it lose — could potentially face paying major royalties to Philips or even see sales of Wii and Wii U systems banned in the country; we suspect the former option is the most likely. In terms of this UK ruling Judge Birss will issue a damages order next month, though any action from that will likely then go on hold as Nintendo appeals the decision.
Should Nintendo lose its appeal this could be particularly damaging from a UK perspective, of course, but also reflect unfavourably in similar cases in other countries. Whether the damage would be as significant or worse than the Tomita Technologies 3DS loss is unclear, though this is certainly a serious situation.
We'll keep you posted with any subsequent updates.