Off Topic: Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo Sued over Joystick Design


Another day, another lawsuit. This one comes from Fenner Investments, a Texas-based corporation, which on Friday Jan. 5 sued Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, alleging the companies were infringing on a patent for a low-voltage joystick port interface.

Fenner claims (download the lawsuit here) that each company is infringing on patent 6,297,751, which describes a low-voltage joystick port interface. The patent was filed in 1998 and awarded in 2001. The abstract for the patent reads:

"The joystick port interface includes an integrated circuit receiving an analog joystick position measurement signal and outputting a digital pulse signal to a processor which signifies a joystick coordinate value. The integrated circuit includes a pulse generator and a bidirectional buffer circuit. The bidirectional buffer circuit receives the analog joystick position measurement signal and selectively discharges an RC network capacitor which provides this analog measurement. This implementation provides a joystick port which uses low-voltage CMOS VLSI structures which can interface a conventional high-voltage joystick with the processor."

So what's the story about Fenner Investments? I don't have any special knowledge, but a quick search on previous lawsuits reveals that the company has been involved in at least one other multiparty lawsuit against major corporations, including against Juniper Networks, Nokia, Cisco, Alcatel and Ericsson for infringement on patent 5,561,706, which is nothing less than "a method and apparatus for managing a communications network for mobile users." The suit against Alcatel was dismissed with prejudice last May, and a motion to compel financial information from Juniper was denied in July.