When the Nintendo Switch launched in March 2017, it was an instant success for Nintendo. Nintendo needed the Switch to succeed after the disappointing sales of its previous Wii U console. With the Switch, Nintendo created a combined handheld and docked gaming console, and consumers fell in love. However, since late 2017, Nintendo battled patent infringement accusations from Gamevice, a California-based company. Last week, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) invalidated Gamevice’s patent during an Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceeding. As such, the PTAB held that the Nintendo Switch does not infringe Gamevice’s patent.
Unique Joy-Cons Key to Non-Infringement
To accomplish the versatility of handheld and docked modes, Nintendo created controllers called Joy-Cons. Joy-Cons can be used either attached to or detached from the console. The Joy-Cons attach to the console via rails on either side of a display screen, and lock into place. When the user wants to play the system like a traditional console, the display screen connects to a docking station, and the Joy-Cons can be detached.
The revolutionary Joy-Con system is not only a unique component of the Nintendo Switch, but it is also a reason why the Switch does not infringe Gamevice’s patent. The Wikipad, the device based on Gamevice’s patent, is a dock for a tablet or phone. The Wikipad includes two opposing controllers which resemble Nintendo’s Joy-Cons. However, the Wikipad’s controllers are connected to each other via a “flexible bridge” behind the tablet, a requirement of Gamevice’s patent. Nintendo’s Joy-Cons do not connect to each other. As such, Nintendo argued that the Switch does not infringe the patent. The International Trade Commission agreed with Nintendo and held that the Switch did not infringe Gamevice’s patent portfolio.
Aggressive Non-Infringement Strategies Pay Off
However, Nintendo went even further to defend the Switch against Gamevice’s allegations, launching an IPR to invalidate Gamesvice’s patent. Nintendo argued that the Gamevice patent is invalid because prior art taught the connection of controllers together in an electronic docking station. The PTAB agreed with Nintendo, finding that Gamevice’s patent represented an obvious modification of two combined prior art references.
Faced with patent infringement allegations over its wildly successful console, Nintendo didn’t stop at arguing non-infringement. Instead, Nintendo decided to go on the offensive and attack the validity of the patent through an IPR. Being proactive and aggressive (when you’re in a good position) can be an efficient way to deal with patent infringement allegations.