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Nintendo Hit With Patent Lawsuit Over Switch Controller Design

August 11, 2017, 4:55 PM UTC

A maker of paired game controllers for mobile devices is suing Nintendo over the design of the detachable Joy-Con controllers for its Switch console. The suit, filed on Wednesday in California, alleges Nintendo infringed on a patent first filed in 2012 by Wikipad, Inc., now known as Gamevice.

The patent describes a “pair of control modules” attached to a “separate and distinct” computing device. The idea was the basis for the Wikipad, an Android gaming tablet with detachable controllers that was released in 2013. The device received mixed reviews and is no longer on the market.

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In addition to seeking damages, Gamevice wants Nintendo to halt sales of the Switch, claiming that the Switch “has caused, and is continuing to cause, damage and irreparable injury to Gamevice.” Gamevice’s claim of harm would be central to any decision to halt Switch sales. While the Wikipad is no longer around to compete with the Switch, Gamevice is now focused on making peripheral game controllers for phones and tablets, and there’s at least an argument that the Switch is competing with those devices.

But courts have shown some reluctance in recent years to issue patent-related sales injunctions, even when infringement is found in two directly competing products. In a broadly similar case, Apple in 2011 alleged that Samsung had infringed on several of its patents, including design patents. Though it won its patent case, Apple was long denied an injunction to force Samsung to stop marketing the infringing features. A limited and largely moot version of that injunction was later granted.

Gamevice raised a reported $12.5 million from investors in May as the market for mobile gaming continues to grow.