August 11, 2017
It is without a doubt that Nintendo’s newest home console is a success. From the United States to Japan, stores are having trouble keeping the Nintendo Switch on their shelves. Just recently, Yodobashi Camera, a massive consumer electronics retailer, in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan had a considerable stock quantity of the Switch, 250 to be exact. In order to be fair to public demand, Yodobashi offered a lottery system that provided the winners with a chance to purchase the system. Despite having a larger stock quantity than most U.S. retailers during this time, the Japanese electronics store had over 3,000 people line up for a chance the purchase the system! This is not an isolated incident either. The Umeda location in Osaka, Japan also had over a couple thousand people line up.
Since the international launch of the gaming system on March 3rd, 2017, Nintendo has sold close to 5 million hardware units globally. In comparison, Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U, was only able to sell 3.06 million in its first year. In its first month, the Nintendo Switch sold nearly as many units as its predecessor did in its first year. Needless to say, Nintendo’s shares are on the rise and Nintendo’s earnings are showing positive projections for the next fiscal year.
With this kind of forward momentum, it seems unlikely that anything could slow down the video gaming conglomerate. Unfortunately, unlikely does not mean impossible. Gamevice, a maker of controller accessories for smart devices, filed a lawsuit against Nintendo based on the design of the Switch and the Joy-Con controllers. Gamevice filed a patent for a “Combination Computing Device and Game Controller with Flexible Bridge Section,” also known as the Wikipad, back in 2012. Nintendo did not file their application for the design and technology behind the Switch until 2015, three years after Gamevice.
Gamevice is claiming that Nintendo is infringing on the Wikipad’s design of utilizing a “pair of control modules” attached to a “separate and distinct” computing device. The Wikipad consists of a tablet-like screen with touch pad capabilities that allows users to access features and play games. The tablet can be slid into a controller apparatus/attachment that transforms the tablet into a handheld gaming device with buttons and directional joysticks on both the left and right side of the screens. The Wikipad also provides upgradable storage through the use of micro SD cards. The gaming device is powered by Nvidia technology. All of the Wikipad features listed above are features also found in the Switch, including Nvidia technology. Due to the number of similarities that both the Wikipad and the Switch share, Nintendo may have to tread carefully while navigating the lawsuit.
On top of this, Gamevice/Wikipad’s patent was granted in 2015, providing the company with full-protected patent rights. Nintendo’s filings so far only provide patent-pending status.
In the patent infringement lawsuit, Gamevice is not only seeking damages, but Gamevice also wants Nintendo to stop all sales of the trending game console. Gamevice has claimed that the Switch “has caused, and is continuing to cause, damage and irreparable injury to Gamevice.” If Gamevice were to win the suit, and halt all sales of Nintendo’s Switch, it would be a huge hit to the Japanese corporation’s shares and earnings. It will be up to the court to determine whether Nintendo’s Switch is in fact infringing on Gamevice’s Wikipad patent. What do you think? Does Gamevice have a foolproof argument against the Switch’s design? Can Nintendo be stopped at this point?
Author: Dan Truong, Legal Researcher & Assistant
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