Nintendo is under investigation after mobile hardware developer Gamevice filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission claiming that the design of the videogame giant’s Switch console and Joy-Cons violated two patents for detachable controllers held by Gamevice. The filing requests that all imports of the Switch console be banned due to the alleged infringement.
The two companies aren’t strangers to one another. Last August, Gamevice filed a lawsuit against Nintendo over the design of the Switch, claiming the console’s hardware violated patents for Gamevice’s Wikipad device and detachable controllers. The suit was dropped in October, but that clearly hasn’t stopped Gamevice from exploring avenues to combat what they see as clear infringement.
Forgoing the legal system, Gamevice took their case to the USITC this time, citing the Tariff Act of 1930 as a prohibitive measure against the import of Switch consoles and Joy-Cons. The company also requested a cease and desist order against Nintendo for violations of its patents for “controller systems with parts that attach to two sides of an electronic device.”
While an investigation is never something anyone wants to face, Gamevice’s line of detachable controllers and Nintendo’s Joy-Cons do exhibit some key differences that factored into the failure of Gamevice’s previous legal claim. While Gamevice’s detachable controllers are made for use with an assortment of mobile phones and tablets, Nintendo’s Joy-Con is specifically designed for use with the Switch console, include additional features, such as HD rumble and infrared sensors, and are capable of operating while detached from the console itself. The only real similarity is that both sets of controllers attach by sliding them down from the top on either side of the applicable device.
The USITC also stated in the filing that an investigation doesn’t necessarily mean there is any wrongdoing to be found. The case will next go to a USITC administrative law judge for an evidentiary hearing. If the investigation and rulings do swing Gamevice’s way, U.S. Switch imports would likely be frozen.