Nintendo Wins Patent Suit (Again)

Nintendo is no stranger to lawsuits, but it is rather rare for them to be sued twice for the same alleged patent infringement in two different court systems. In 2012, three patent-licensing companies took Nintendo to court claiming Nintendo infringed on a patent with its 3DS and Wii U systems. Of particular note is that Nintendo was notified of at least one of these patent infringements back in 2005, and all three infringements center around the Nintendo DSi, which presumably also factored into Wii U and 3DS.

The three patents contested were:

US Patent #5,440,749: High Performance, Low Cost Microprocessor Architecture

Issued on August 8, 1995 – This patent teaches a processor that fetches multiple instructions at a time, and then supplies them to the CPU’s instruction register in parallel during the same memory cycle they are fetched. Since memory is generally slower than the CPU, being bale to fetch and supply more than one instruction at a time increases the number of instructions the CPU can receive in a given time, and thus increases instruction bandwidth.

US Patent #5,530,890: High Performance, Low Cost Microprocessor

Issued on June 25, 1996 – This patent teaches a dual stack architecture and the use of stack pointers that can reference memory in any location to provide more architectural flexibility and faster access to data elements. A stack architecture is sometimes analogized to a spring-loaded stack of plates of the kind used in a restaurant. The last plate placed (or “pushed”) on the top of the stack is the first plate removed (or “popped”) off the stack when needed. Like plates, data elements can be “pushed” onto or “popped” off the stack. However, by using a “stack pointer”, the CPU does not need to be an actual top-to-bottom “spring-loaded” stack. Instead, the stack pointer keeps track of where the “top of stack” item is in the “virtual stack”, so it can be accessed directly as if it were on the “top”. Combining this with other features, such as memory controller and direct memory access, this patent allows the CPU to off-load memory transfer of data to achieve further efficiencies and higher performance.

Us Patent #5,809,336: High Performance Microprocessor Having Variable Speed System Clock

Issued on September 15, 1998 – This patent teaches the use of two independent clocks in a microprocessor system: (1) an on-chip clock to time the CPU; and (2) a second independent clock to time the input/output (I/O) interface. This innovation was widely adopted by the industry and became fundamental to the increased speed and efficiency of modern microprocessors. Decoupling the system clock from the I/O clock allows the clocks to run independently (or “asynchronously”).

For all three patents:

On information and belief, without a license or permission from Plaintiffs, Defendants have infringed and continue to infringe on this patent. The infringing activities in the U.S. include importing, making, using, offering to sell, and/or selling products and devices that embody and/or practice the patented invention, including but not limited to the DSi. Plaintiffs are seeking enhanced damages and attorneys’ fees for the willful and deliberate patent infringement.

In addition, the last patent had additional complaints:

The defendants induce consumers to make and use the claimed inventions and to practice the claimed methods by (1) providing the DSi with a USB input/output interface for connecting the accused device to a peripheral device, the peripheral device having a clock independent of the CPU clock (e.g., ring oscillator) connected to the central processing unit on the microprocessors of the DSi and (2) instructing consumers to connect the accused product to a peripheral device such that the combination includes each element of the asserted apparatus claims of the patent and use of the combination, as intended, practices each of the elements of the patent.


Earlier this year the International Trade Commission found that Nintendo did not infringe on any of the three patents, but despite this ruling the plaintiffs continued a second lawsuit in the California federal court system. On November 13, Nintendo was victorious once again, issuing a statement, “Nintendo will defend its products and its innovations, even if it must do so multiple times in different places and over many years”.

View the case filing here.

Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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