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PS2 Controller Suit Goes Badly For Sony 197

Immersion Corp, which owns the patent on 'rumble' technology, has won another round in its suit against Sony. Sony's 'dualshock' controller has used rumble technology for years, and in 2005 a judge awarded $82 Million to the patent-holder in payment. From the article: "Sony's defence was the alleged nondisclosure of some of the inventions of key employee Craig Thorner. who has been a consultant both for Immersion and subsequently for Sony. But, according to the report, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken was unhappy with Thorner's testimony supporting Sony, given that he had also been paid by Sony, and so dismissed this line of defence."
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PS2 Controller Suit Goes Badly For Sony

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  • We're talking about a fundamental principal discovered hundreds of years ago by Newton. How the hell was something as simple as a non-symmetric rotating mass patented in the first place?
    • And, more importantly, why isn't Immersion suing pager manufacturers, and the manufacturers of vibrating cell phone batteries????
      • Or sex toys...
        But seriously, vibrators have been used for years in mining, as well as fruit picking...
        http://www.clevelandvibrator.com/ [clevelandvibrator.com] (Yes, it is suitable for work- it is a company that has, since 1923, made industrial vibrators)
      • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:40PM (#14918398)
        Because unlike the majority thought on slashdot that goes 'All patents are extremely broad and prior art can be found in anything that remotely looks like it might use a part of the patented thing' - which is wrong - patents can include already known technology but applied in new ways, for example this would have been something like 'A electric motor induced vibration system that responds to a gaming environment manipulated by user inputs on consumer entertainment console systems and their controllers'. The prior art of, or usage in items such as pagers or cell phones would not have a standing here because it doesnt pertain to the precise grounds covered by the patent.

        NB I dont know exactly waht the patent says, the above is simply an example as to how a patent can be applied to a new usage from old techniques.
        • That still doesn't deal with obviousness. Faced with the problem of providing additional feedback to the gamer, exploiting an additional sense (touch) isn't non-obvious. Stimulating touch by vibration isn't non-obvious (in fact it's just about cheapest way to do it, short from electrocution). I'd posit that the VAST majority of application patents, and probably ALL "business method" patents are stating the bleedingly obvious. In fact, so many patents are issued for application patents, people are just apply
      • the idea of something vibrating is not what has been patent.
        How these particular products vibrates is the patent.
        There has yet to be any prior art found on this implementation, and several controller makers have tried.
      • "And, more importantly, why isn't Immersion suing pager manufacturers, and the manufacturers of vibrating cell phone batteries???? "

        For the simple reason that a cell phone or a pager uses the vibration feature as a form of display, not interaction. The patent covers force feedback, not simple vibration. This is why vibrators and pagers aren't covered in the patent. Neither of which vibrate because you're controlling an entity within a video game.

        You see, patents are typically pretty darn specific. Wanna
    • It was patented in the USA through the US Patent Office. Thats how.
    • I think the patent was for instant feedback via rumbling... but yes... it is indeed a steaming pile.
    • by kansas1051 ( 720008 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:38PM (#14918393)

      I dont think Newton had a video game system or a force-feedback controller. The scope of a patent is determined by its claims, not based on what a slashdot summary says. The claims of this patent are limited to a force-feedback controller

      Sony could have licensed this patent for a few dollars several years ago (like everyone else did), but instead they relied on a frivolous legal theory (inequitable conduct) to invalidate the patent. Despite attempts by numerous big companies to invalidate this patent based on prior art, no one has ever located any meaningful prior art. The only issue in Sony's case was inequitable conduct (lying to the patent office), and the only evidence Sony presented was testimony from an "expert" they paid.

      • Dual shock has no force feedback features. It just rumbles... Force feedback provides feedback with built in motors that cause you to fight the controller.
        • You control Snake.
          Snake Fights Pyscho Mantis.
          Psycho Mantis takes over the controller and makes it vibrate
          So you're fighting against the controller.
      • Despite attempts by numerous big companies to invalidate this patent based on prior art, no one has ever located any meaningful prior art

        Sorry, but since when was a patent's validity determined soley by the existence of prior art? Non-obvious is also a requirement.

        Sony don't have a "force feed-back" system as I understand it - think the steering wheel controller in the force-feedback steering wheel in Hard Drivin' in the arcades that made it hard to stear if you went of the road - what Sony have is a cont
    • It's not the rumble that was patented, but the specific implementation of it.

      Nintendo has a rumbling implementation as well, yet they never got sued. Only a part of it was that Immersion got their patent a year or so after Nintendo made their implementation.. the other piece is that Nintendo's works much differently than what Immersion patented.

      Sony (and Microsoft) however, ripped off Immersion's implementation. Microsoft knew they had no case, so settled. Sony thought they did, and put them where they are
  • Hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Cyno01 ( 573917 )
    Why does this have a Sony icon, but not the Dual Shock controller PS2 icon. It would seem more apropriate...
  • Prior Art (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:20PM (#14918236)
    You can pick up some prior art and your local adult boutique.
    • Actually I think a much closer piece of prior art is the ".1" of Dolby Surround Systems. Not sure if that would fare better from a patent perspective though. But if Sony is doing Dolby Surround, they can easily claim the controller is the .1.
  • by sbaker ( 47485 ) * on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:21PM (#14918248) Homepage
    A PS2 Controller Suit - neato!

    Am I the only one who read this and instantly imagined this jump-suit that you'd wear that could maybe read your arm and leg positions to put you directly control your PS2?

    Instead we get details of some bogus lawsuit about bogus stuff that we really don't care about.

    Whatever happened to cool stuff?
  • Nintendo (Score:2, Interesting)

    And yet Nintendo has escaped lawsuit? I remember way back when getting the bulky rumble pak for the N64. Prior Art?
    • As I recall, Nintendo implements their rumble feature in a way that isn't covered by the patent. Thus, no lawsuit.
      • Also, Microsoft pays Immersion Corp for use of their patent (at least for the Xbox, I don't know about the 360). Sony is really the only one fighting this at this point.
    • Re:Nintendo (Score:5, Informative)

      by BinaryOpty ( 736955 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:40PM (#14918402)
      The rumble pak and Gamecube controller use one unbalanced weight in the center whereas the Dual Shocks and Xbox controllers use two different unbalanced weights, one on each side of the controller. The patent is for the two weight configuration so Nintendo gets away scott free.
      • They need a PS2 MultiShock(tm) controller. 2 rotating weights and electrodes. So when U are playing games and you get "hit" by an opponent, you get an electric shock!. kinda like these [thinkgeek.com]
        • They need a PS2 MultiShock(tm) controller. 2 rotating weights and electrodes. So when U are playing games and you get "hit" by an opponent, you get an electric shock!. kinda like these

          That would be cool for the new Revolution controllers.
          • apart from the fact that they're wireless and would run out of batteries pretty quick if they shocked? And it's designed to be a one handed thing so you wouldnt probably drop it if you weren't expecting a shock.
      • The rumble pak and Gamecube controller use one unbalanced weight in the center whereas the Dual Shocks and Xbox controllers use two different unbalanced weights, one on each side of the controller. The patent is for the two weight configuration so Nintendo gets away scott free.

        So ... we should run out and try to patent the three weight configuration now? Jump the gun and go straight for four? Is the single-weight version already patented?

        Can I patent a new XZylophone which is just like a Xylophone but has

        • Re:Nintendo (Score:4, Interesting)

          by LionMage ( 318500 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @04:06PM (#14919092) Homepage
          I'm sure the razor companies are fighting it over who owns the patent for 3, 4, 5, 6, and higher number razor blades. But I just can't fathom there is anything materially different about them to be patentable.

          That's why when you write a patent, you try to make its claims as broad as possible (e.g., "...for configurations of 3 or more razor blades," or in the context of this article, "...for configurations of 2 or more unbalanced weights driven by electric motors."), and when you're trying to work around someone else's patent, you find all the loopholes and exploit them (e.g., "Oh, look, they didn't cover the case for a single unbalanced weight!").

          I used to work for a material scientist who was adept at both activities. He was very good at finding corner cases where other people's patents didn't apply, and then he'd file a patent on the corner case as an improvement to the original patent he was working around. Current patent law allows you to patent improvements to someone else's patented invention or process. (Traditionally, "process" means manufacturing process, although business process patents now seem to be allowed.)

          My boss was also good at making his own patents nice and broad to insure that his competitors would violate his IP. He had this fabulous patent on a method for growing a crystalline probe that would be formed on the end of a fiber optic cable. The probe had a face that was at a specific angle with respect to the long axis of the crystal, which he calculated to be the optimal angle for this face, but his patent was written to allow for a range of angles. Sure enough, some company that was using this technology to probe oil wells violated my boss' patent, and of course he went after them to defend his IP. The competitor's product, IIRC, didn't use the optimal angle for the crystal face, but it didn't matter, as they still were within the claims of the patent.

          Of course, there are some modifications which are materially insignificant -- like how many legs your apparatus has to stand off the ground -- but most patent authors these days like to leave nothing to chance.
      • Ok so what if the new PS3 controller has three unbalanced weights in it instead of two? Heeheheheehehehe, Sony beat the system, pwned! Now how about four, five, six, ehehehehehehe, just keep adding unbalanced weights to make it a totally new patent!

        See how silly that sounds? Like making a car with five wheels and then saying the four wheel patent does not apply to it.
      • The rumble pak and Gamecube controller use one unbalanced weight in the center whereas the Dual Shocks and Xbox controllers use two different unbalanced weights, one on each side of the controller. The patent is for the two weight configuration so Nintendo gets away scott free.

        So will the ps3 come with a triple-shock controller?
        • "So will the ps3 come with a triple-shock controller?"
          Yes. Sony has already announced that the current "boomerang" model is not final.

          Fortunately, an industry insider has been granted access to a beta version of this rumored "Triple Shock controller". He has generously taken a photograph of this top-secret prototype, which can be found here. [axess.com]
    • Re:Nintendo (Score:2, Insightful)

      "And yet Nintendo has escaped lawsuit? I remember way back when getting the bulky rumble pak for the N64. Prior Art? "

      Nintendo escaped because the Rumble Pak wasn't actually built into the controller. (Same goes for the Dreamcast.) Now you know why that functionality wasn't simply built in.
  • Could this.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:25PM (#14918280)
    perhaps have any correlation to the PS3 delays? Waiting to find out what will happen to their tried-and-true Dualshock controllers? From the boomerang shape of the demo controller at E3, it would seem Sony wants to hold onto the dualshock design, but does this suit keep them from implementing their old methods?

    This doesn't by any means overshadow the other hardware-related, possible causes for the delays, but might this be a contributing factor no one has mentioned previously?

    -NIs

    • Not sure an 89 million dollar speedbump would get in the way of a multibillion dollar rollout.

      It'd be akin to halting the rollout of a new car because the hubcaps aren't paid for.
      • Ah but you see. it was only 89 million because the judge determined the infringment wasn't willful(what the hell that has to do with damages is a testiment to our fucked up power grabbing civil system that tries to be a criminal system). If they went ahead and infringed again they would be in for some huge damages. I'm sure licensing this patent is extremely expensive as well, because the company surely knows that everyone expects vibration out of their console controllers now.
  • I wonder when they supposedly developed this technology. Video game controllers to my knowledge have had this functionality at least since the n64 Rumble Pak.
    • Yes, but the Nintendo 64 rumble pack didn't have multi-axis rumble features.

      The dual shock design has two motors for vibration, and IIRC they're mounted along different axes so you can have multi-dimensional vibrational feedback. I think it's a bit of a stretch to call this true "force feedback," but whatever. (To my mind, force feedback implies that you push on a control and it "pushes back," like steering wheels that simulate difficult turns and joysticks that simulate a stuck rudder or elevator on an a
  • In perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wombatmobile ( 623057 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:30PM (#14918319)

    We're talking about 1.37% of revenue:

    FTA

    In the last ruling against Sony, made in early 2005, Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court levied an $82 million award to Immersion Corp., or 1.37% of Sony's sales of PlayStations and PlayStation-related paraphernalia. The $82 million is less than the $299 million originally sought by Immersion Corp., but the court ruled that Sony's infringement of the vibration patents was not willful and therefore not deserving of the full penalties.

    • Now the important part. What is Sony's profit margin?
    • 1.37 percent is a LOT. A freaking LOT. And this is revenue, not profit.
    • We're talking about 1.37% of revenue:

      No, we're talking about $82 million. That's a huge number both in absolute terms and as a patent infringement verdict. There are only a handful of verdicts that have been larger.

      It's also not clear that the relevant percentage should be total playstation sales rather than controller sales. Under the Fonar and Bose standard, to use the entire market sales as the base for royalties, the infringer must show that the market was caused by the infringing device. There are lot

  • If it weren't for the fact that it takes so many years for these kinds of suits to make it throught the courts, I'd be inclined to think there was some shadowy force orchestrating all these high-profile patent cases to all make the news at the same time!

    Time to dust off the old tin foil hat, I guess.
  • There is prior art of vibration for feeback in user input device demonstrated in public forum. Where are all the old Atari then Apple people? Alan are you out there? This reminds me of the xerox graffiti vs palm patent war... I have to imagine that someone demonstrated that Ledeen-Teitelman created a single stroke character recognition, years I mean decades before graffiti.
    • gah.
      The technical mechanism for creating the vibration is what is patented.

      No prior art has been found for this device. If I come up with a new way to make the controller vibrate, then I could patent that.

      That like say a tire company can't patent it's tire technology because there is prior art on the wheel.
  • Bad Year (Score:5, Insightful)

    by highwaytohell ( 621667 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:53PM (#14918507)
    This is a real bad time for Sony.

    Format Wars
    Xbox 360 popularity
    Rootkitting CD's
    PS3 delays
    Ipod (yes this is bad for Sony)
    Lawsuits from vendors

    All this bad publicity surely can't be doing the company any good. At this point in time, the CEO would be sacked at most companies i am aware of, but it's not happening here. you have to wonder if the morale within the company is any good also. I hope their lawyers get paid well.
    • Xbox360 isn't doing so hot in japan because their barely moving any units there at all. Sony is like a national brand to them so no matter what the hell they charge people will buy it. For example, for big games companies charge almost 2x as much as average games over there. FFXII will be out for about $90 USD in japan.

      Here's a sample of XBox360 sale data in japan
      http://www.craxtion.com/content/view/133/2/ [craxtion.com]

      Even the launch was horrid:
      http://news.com.com/Study+Xbox+360+sales+start+slo w+in+Japan/2100-1043_3 [com.com]
      • To be honest, it's looking more and more as if *Nintendo* has Japan cornered. Look at the craze surrounding the DS Lite launches, and the top-ten-games lists dating back to the middle of last year. Once in a while a PS2 or PSP title will push its way in, but the consistent best-sellers (like the Brain Training games and Animal Crossing) are all DS titles. The PSP isn't doing shabby, either - it's pretty consistently in second - but neither it nor the PS2 approach the DS' performance, even speaking histor
      • Yeah MS is doing pretty poor in Japan (worse then the Xbox 1 if that's even possible) But they're doing great in the states... they might not have a "dominant" market-share over video games in general but they have 100% market-share of the next-gen (even Japan... there's no competition). Also the fact that you STILL can't just go to a store and buy one, and pre-orders entered before launch STILL haven't been filled in some places in the US and Europe should say something about it's popularity. In the few mo
        • Had an absolutely phenominal list of launch titles and a year on the ps2 (might have even been more) along with a promising amount of systems sales. The graphics on the Dreamcast still look comparable to that of many ps2 games today.

          The one year headstart, and the "100%" marketshare on nextgen isn't that big a deal as it may seem.
    • I own an Xbox 360, and I have to say "popularity" isn't a word that springs to mind.

      Sales have been low (restricted supply), and the games are nearly all really bad, and they're $60!

      360 has been a flop so far. Although I like the hardware by and large. Enjoyable experience overall.
  • by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @03:29PM (#14918789) Homepage

    I guess you could call that a double blow.

    Or maybe even a dual shock! LOL!! :)

  • by fithmo ( 854772 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @04:01PM (#14919048)

    I had a vibraiting game controller in the late eighties. It was called a pager.
    See, I'd give my secret code to some fly hunny; then it'd rumble right before I was about to score!

    They even called me a player.

    I think the language is similar enough to claim prior art. :)

    (FYI for anyone else thinking about picking up this game: Make sure to use a shield in the final encounter or you might play out your days with a permanent chance-on-pee to self inflict fire damage.)

  • Move from a ROTATING mass to a SLIDING mass for feedback. one magnet, alternate currents to change polarity and make the magnet move back and forth, thus creating vibrations in the controller. Oh, shit, I better patent that, QUICK!

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