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