Escapist EditorialsPress Released: The Laughing Of Corporate HyenasEscapist Editorials - RSS 2.0
This inflation of patents is a result of a number of changes over the past two decades that arguably began when the Patent Trademark Office moved to a fee-funded basis, but didn't really hit its stride until the government office redefined the idea of what constitutes a patent. With the liberalization of what defines patents, where methods and ideas can be patented for everything from billing systems to instant messaging, the least scrupulous abusers of the system need only look at existing technology and explore whether the ideas as well as the technology employed have been properly documented. This is among the ways you end up with companies like Interlink Electronics Inc., which in 2006 sued - wait for it - Nintendo for infringing on patents when it created the Wii Remote.
It's hard to think of Hillcrest Labs' claim as particularly legitimate. It is the third small, largely unknown company to take a swing at Nintendo for daring to actually produce a product rather than just writing "INNOVATION" in crayon on a sheet of graph paper, submitting it to the PTO and waiting in the tall grass until a likely target chalked up a billion dollars in a single quarter. Even giving Hillcrest the benefit of the doubt on not noticing that Nintendo has been apparently infringing on their clearly documented genius for years, how can we be sure that it didn't infringe on Anascape or Interlink in creating its own technology?
Apparently all three came up with the idea of the Wii Remote first.
In fact, I'm hoping that these companies eventually turn on each other like the pack of rabid hyenas they seem to be, and file lawsuits and counter-lawsuits against each other in a patent infringement feedback loop orgy. Unfortunately, scavengers don't really work that way. They are hunters of opportunity, working in packs to assail that which is vulnerable before picking the bones clean while snarling at each other with blood-soaked lips. And once the bones lay dry and desiccated on the savannah floor, they return to the tall grass where they lie quiet and still until the next target of opportunity wanders past.
Sean Sands is a writer, co-founder of www.gamerswithjobs.com and most recently the patent holder for being sarcastic in articles about videogames on the internet. Bloggers be warned!