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Nintendo snaps up 'patent troll's' patents after court win
Nintendo snaps up 'patent troll's' patents after court win
January 9, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

January 9, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
More: Console/PC

Nintendo purchased the entire patent portfolio of former legal opponent IA Labs during a sheriff's sale in Maryland on Tuesday.

The sale took place after the now-defunct IA Labs failed to pay court-mandated reparations for the costs Nintendo incurred while defending itself against IA Labs in three years of patent litigation.

You may remember IA Labs (also known as Powergrid Fitness) for its work suing Nintendo back in 2010, when it claimed that technology built into the Wii and its assorted accessories infringed on two separate IA Labs patents.

Nintendo defended itself with vigor, publicly asserting that it refused to succumb to patent trolls and successfully defending itself against the lawsuit in 2012. The court compelled IA Labs to pay Nintendo a portion of the costs and fees it racked up defending itself; IA Labs appealed, and then the appeals court sided with Nintendo in 2013, ordering IA Labs to pay Nintendo even more as recompense for the additional legal fees. By that point IA Labs could not afford to pay what it owed, so Nintendo obtained the company's entire patent portfolio as partial repayment for its trouble.

“Nintendo’s track record demonstrates that we vigorously defend patent lawsuits, like the IA Labs lawsuit, when we believe we have not infringed another party’s patent," stated Nintendo of America vice president and deputy general counsel Richard Medway in a press release announcing the sale. "This includes holding those who sue Nintendo responsible for the costs and expenses incurred in patent litigation."

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Mike Murray
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Don't screw with Nintendo. Ever.

Harry Fields
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It's gotta' be Yakuza connections.

John Trauger
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So all the money Nintendo pays for the patents...

...comes back to Nintendo?

Michael Kelley
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Court decides that IA Labs' claims of infringement are without merit. A patent you can't defend is functionally worthless. So the court system THEN decides that the worthless patents are actually worth money (just not in the hands of IA Labs) as repayment and transfers them to Nintendo. Nintendo will then assert the worth of the patents it argued were worthless by assigning them many many yens in its ledgers.

Hapless public cheers. Because "patent trolls!"

Quite a heist!

Simon Prefontaine
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Are the patents vague and useless, or were they just not being infringed by Nintendo?

Merc Hoffner
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Though I'm not sure this applies here (they seem to have previously been a fitness company who made real products in good faith - if they weren't acquired by a troll then quite sad that this is happening really) all good patent trolls don't have one patent, they have a multitude. If they have nothing else of value, reparations with their other patents for a false infringement claim would actually be poetic justice.

Leszek Szczepanski
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Removing a patent troll out of the picture is always a good thing regardless of circumstances.

Also keep in mind that some of the patents own by IA Labs, that Nintendo did not infringe upon might actually be worth something.

Jeff Richey
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I would argue that circumstance does indeed matter when its more of a case of a larger company being able to destroy a smaller company in court. IA labs tried to protect patents that they did indeed hold. If they were wrong in Nintendo infringing those patents then fine but what message does this send? If you are a patent holder you better damn well be sure you are correct in asserting infringment. Or else they'll sell off all your patents that you actually put you're own money and time into developing. Its not like IA labs bought the patents from someone else with the sole intent of suing. Which is the definition of a patent troll!

To catagorize IA Labs as a "patent troll" seems like a gross mischaracterization to me. Perhaps they indeed had no grounds to sue, the court apparently didn't think so, but they did at one point develop he "Kilowatt Sport and Exer-Station controller" which is at the center of the case. Apparently the two companies were even in talks to license IA technology at some point (around 2008?) Despite my research I couldn't find any other cases involving IA labs suing for patent infringment, which would be the definition of a troll. And they actually used the technology in question in one product.

Jonathan Murphy
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Just like copyright, patent laws need overhauls! With 3d printers gaining ground, other countries will leave the less adaptive ones in the dust.