Texas gamer wins $21M award in patent suit against Nintendo

Marilyn Tennissen May 15, 2008, 12:00pm



BEAUMONT, Texas(Legal Newsline)--A small East Texas gaming company has won a $21 million jury verdict in a patent infringement case against Nintendo.

After deliberating for a full day, federal jurors found in favor of Anascape Ltd. of Tyler on Wednesday, May 14.

The original lawsuit, filed July 31, 2006, in the Lufkin Division of the Eastern District of Texas, alleged that the giant game maker infringed on Anascape patents when designing controllers for the Nintendo Wii and GameCube systems.

U.S. District Judge Ron Clark presided over the trial.

The original suit alleged infringement of 12 patents issued between 1999 and 2005 to inventor Brad Armstrong.

The patents covered products such as a Game Control with Analog Pressure Sensor and aVariable Sensor with Tactile Feedback.

According to an opinion by Judge Clark issued on , Nov. 30, 2007, the patents related to pressure-sensitive sensors useful for control of action intensity of electronic imagery as physical pressure is applied to the control surfaces in a hand-held game controller.

"For example, in a video game console with the present invention, the user can lightly touch the depressive surface to have the character walk, increase pressure to have the character walk faster, or press hard on the depressive surface to have the character run," the opinion states.

"In one embodiment, the game controller is sized and shaped to be grasped and held simultaneously by two hands with the thumbs remaining substantially free. The thumbs can then be used to depress a plurality of depressible surfaces, allowing for full involvement of the user," it said.

The technology is used in Nintendo's wandlike Wii and Nuncheck controllers.

In 2007, the court granted a stay pending reexamination before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding six of the patents.

So the trial focused on U.S. Patent No. 6,906,700 for a 3D Controller with Vibration issued June 14, 2005.

Nintendo spokesman Charlie Scibetta told The Associated Press that Nintendo was pleased no infringement was found with the motion-sensing technology used in the Wii controllers.

Scibetta also said the company will seek an appeal and expects the court to reduce the award "significantly."

Anascape also sued Microsoft Corp. for patent infringement, but reached an agreement with the company on May 6, before the start of the trial against Nintendo. Beaumont attorney Thad Heartfield was part of Microsoft's team of attorneys.

Douglas Cawley of McKool Smith PC in Dallas was lead attorney for Anascape. Sam Baxter of McKool Smith in Marshall and attorneys from Parker, Bunt and Ainsworth in Tyler also represented the plaintiff.

Lawrence Germer and Charles Goehringer of Germer Gertz LLP in Beaumont, Robert Gunther of WilmerHale LLP and James S. Blank of Latham & Watkins in New York, N.Y., and attorneys from Nixon & Vanderhye PC in Arlington, Va., represented Nintendo.

Case No. 9:06-cv-158-RHC

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