A Dallas Inventor Is Suing Nintendo for Stealing His Idea for Wii U's Motion Sensors

Categories: Legal Battles

WiiU.jpg
Airport Freeway in Bedford is not a likely source of breakthroughs in consumer electronics and medical technology. But there, in a nondescript office building overlooking a Twin Peaks and Super 8 motel, is the world headquarters of iLife Technologies and Solutions. So far, the company has solved sleep apnea, elderly people falling and a handful of other "critical problems" with its menu of "innovative" -- and patented -- technologies. According to its website, it also invents peace of mind.

It's not clear what, if anything, iLife does with the things it invents. It is clear, however, that if anyone else wants to use anything resembling the devices described in its 11 patents, iLife wants a check. There's a name for such a company: "Patent troll."

Case in point: the Nintendo Wii. In a federal lawsuit filed this week, iLife claims that the game-maker stole its idea for the motion-sensing devices found in the Wii, the Wii U and various controllers, violating six patents in the process.

See also: Neiman Marcus is Fighting Back Against a Notorious Dallas-Based Patent Troll

As proof, iLife points to a series of product descriptions on Nintendo's website, which describe the Wii's "[m]otion-controlled, active play":

Up to four Wii Remote Plus controllers can be connected at once using wireless Bluetooth technology. The wireless signal can be detected within 10 meters of the console. Both the Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk controllers include motion sensors. The Wii Remote Plus also includes a speaker, rumble feature and expansion port, and can be used as a pointer within five meters of the screen.
The new Wii U™ console introduces the Wii U™ GamePad, a controller with a 6.2-inch touch screen that redefines how people interact with their games, their entertainment and one another.
The GamePad also includes motion control (powered by an accelerometer, gyroscope and geomagnetic sensor), a front-facing camera, a microphone, stereo speakers, rumble features, a sensor bar, an included stylus and support for Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality.

Those descriptions seem innocuous enough, but iLife says they are proof that not only are Nintendo's products designed to infringe on its patents, "they are not capable of any substantial non-infringing use."

With its suit, iLife is asking the court for monetary damages, plus a permanent injunction barring Nintendo from infringing on its patents in the future.

Wallace Dunwoody, the Dallas attorney representing iLife in the lawsuit, says his client is not a patent troll.

"iLife and its CEO Michael Lehrman are the original inventors of this technology, and the company does not enforce any patents that it did not develop," Dunwoody said in a statement. "Unlike so-called patent trolls, iLife also has a history of developing and bringing to market products using their technology."

Dunwoody describes Lehrman as a Cornell and Harvard Business School-trained inventor who joined iLife 20 years ago "to develop cutting-edge electro-mechanical monitoring devices to address serious medical conditions such as sudden infant death syndrome, sleep apnea, and falls by elderly persons.

"The company spent many years researching and millions of dollars devveloping the environment-based motion detection technology at issue in this suit."

This is the eighth patent lawsuit iLife has filed since last December, according to federal court records. Already this month, it's sued sportswear maker Under Armour and wearable fitness tracker Fitbit for similar violations.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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13 comments
lhollis1
lhollis1

Also, after having looked over the latest patent it's pretty clear this is patent trolling. The patent was originally issued in 1999, then modified in 2002, 2006, and 2009. Each time they modified it, they made it more broad so that can get away with stuff like this. If you don't believe me, go to their website and read it for yourself.

lhollis1
lhollis1

The reason they waited to file this until the Wii U released is because the patent was issued in 2009. If they had included the Wii in it as well, the lawsuit would have gotten shot down immediately.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Well, the "hi - tech" industry got what it asked for when it got Congress to change the law on what could be issued a letters patent.  Congress also refused to allow additional funding for the patent examiners needed to review these filings.  When these "design" patents started rolling in for "firmware" and software, the patent examiners looked for prior patents found none and issued the letters patent.


Most of these types of patents are overly broad and generalized to the point where is it conceivable that a user could be sued for infringement and in many cases could actually be infringing on prior patents.


Unfortunately, the litigation in this area is so arcane that it highly expensive to defend against an infringement claim or to prosecute an infringement claim.  Essentially, it ends up being cheaper to either cross license competing claims or to pay off a claim of infringement and obtain a license.

Stealth
Stealth

This is pretty much a non story

dingo
dingo

"Airport Freeway in Bedford is not a likely source of breakthroughs in consumer electronics and medical technology."

What difference does a location have to do with anything? Why so blatantly suppress the inventor/CEO's background as you ridicule?

"It is clear, however, that if anyone else wants to use anything close to the devices described in its 11 patents, iLife wants a check. There's a name for such a company: 'Patent troll.'"

Actually the company appears to have been formed by one of the actual inventors named on the patents listed. So, no, this concern would not be generally considered a 'patent troll'.

'Anything close to the devices'? Where is the infringement analysis that the Observer performed to arrive at this conclusion?

It may be that iLife is full of it, but this article is laughably void of any substance whatsoever toward that conclusion.

IMHO this is pretty irresponsible treatment of an individual that might have actually developed worthwhile innovation.

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

Um, well, depends on what their patent is for, and whether there is any evidence of prior use.

bifftannen
bifftannen

@dingo One of the defining aspects of a patent troll would be where the case is filed. Will it be heard in Marshall? If so, this company is a patent troll. There are a number of shell companies in Marshall that also have the patent inventors on staff.


And why wait for the Wii U? The Wii had the same motion sensing technology.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dingo  

"IMHO this is pretty irresponsible treatment of an individual that might have actually developed worthwhile innovation."  


Considering its the 8th lawsuit in 1 year, highly unlikely


"Actually the company appears to have been formed by one of the actual inventors named on the patents listed. So, no, this concern would not be generally considered a 'patent troll'


Do your for this patent troll, geez.


dingo
dingo

@bifftannen 

So lets tally up the scoreboard at this point.

(1) Crappy office - patent troll.

(2) Where did he file? - patent troll.

(3) Complaint contents - patent troll.

(4) When did he file - patent troll.

These characterizations are comical.


Patent transactions are extremely complex and costly. There are a myriad of reasons why things are done in the manner they are done. The contents of the complaint are not required to layout the detail of the infringement to the extent required to make an assessment on the merits of the alleged infringement (the formal infringement contentions will go into more detail and will be filed shortly after the complaint is filed).


There is nothing in the evidence presented that justifies characterizing this inventor as nefarious. I do not know this inventor from Adam. 


I will stand by my original assertion.


To indict these enforcement efforts as 'trollish' by bringing to light the office surroundings (hardly relevant) while COMPLETELY DISREGARDING the substantial credentials and accomplishments listed on the inventor's website is a wholeheartedly devious act of reporting. 


A patent troll is generally regarded as a holding company COMPLETELY APART from the original inventor, who sues small companies that cannot afford to defend their rights to assert non infringement. 


I do not see that to be the case here.


dingo
dingo

@ScottsMerkin@dingo 

Are you an expert on (1) the validity and merit of this individual's inventions (2) the merit of his infringement contentions, geez.

dingo
dingo

@ScottsMerkin@dingo 

Because big companies generally will not respect his patents unless he generates the lengthy due diligence necessary to sell an IP firm on partnering with him with that firm's investment to file lawsuits where costs alone (excluding legal fees) can exceed seven figures. He could very well be cash strapped. Why does he need a fancy office in the first place?


Its usually the people that don't do that criticize those that do without any justification.


Economics 101:

Innovation directly increases economic productivity which directly increases your 401k balance over the years.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dingo do you work for the guy? not hard to answer.  Suing 8 different companies for patent infringement gives everyone with a brain and not working for the guy a good idea if the individuals intentions though. 


If he really does own patents to 8 things that other companies make, and his lawsuits were valid why does he office in Bedford, and not some swanky office spce in Uptown

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