In August 2017, a tablet manufacturer named Gamevice made headlines when it sued Nintendo over the Switch controller design. Gamevice had previously filed a patent for a tablet with detachable controllers and it accused the Switch maker of infringing on this. According to court records, Gamevice chose to voluntarily drop its lawsuit against Nintendo in October 2017, but it seems that the issues between the two companies have yet to be fully resolved.
The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has now announced that it will be investigating Nintendo in regards to “certain portable gaming console systems with attachable handheld controllers and components thereof.” The investigation is a direct result of the Gamevice complaint, explains the USITC, which adds that Gamevice has asked for a “limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders” on the Nintendo Switch.
The USITC has not yet made a decision but plans to “make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time,” aiming to complete it within 45 days. If the USITC decides to side with Gamevice and grants those cease and desist orders, this could mean that Nintendo has to stop stelling the Nintendo Switch in the United States. The console is hugely popular in the US – it experienced stock shortages for most of 2017 – so this decision would prove massively disappointing for those yet to get their hands on one.
If Nintendo is found to have infringed on Gamevice’s patent, another outcome is that the Nintendo Switch creator will have to pay Gamevice royalties. The court could force Nintendo to pay Gamevice a certain percentage of the revenue that it makes from the Nintendo Switch, a decision which would allow Nintendo to keep selling the console in the United States. Given that Nintendo expects the Switch to sell 20 million units during this fiscal year alone, Gamevice potentially stands to make a lot of money.
Nintendo has yet to comment on the USITC’s announcement, but the company is no stranger to accusations of patent infringement. The company has had to defend many aspects of its business, ranging from the use of name Donkey Kong, the 3D camera technology used in the Nintendo 3DS, the multiple screens on the Nintendo DS, and it also reached an agreement with Philips after it aimed to ban Wii U sales over patent infringement. So whatever decision the USITC comes up with, fans can expect the company to fight hard to keep selling the Nintendo Switch in the United States.