Nintendo Successfully Defends Patent Infringement Suit in front of ITC, District Court awaits

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Nintendo’s 3DS handheld gaming system, at issue in the patent case.

By: Max Metzler

Nintendo was able to stave off at least part of a patent threat earlier this month, but what did it actually accomplish?  The complaint, filed in 2011, alleges that the certain “high performance microprocessors” used in Nintendo’s 3DS and DSi handheld gaming systems infringed patents held by plaintiffs Technology Properties Limited LLC, Phoenix Digital Solutions LLC, and Patriot Scientific Corporation.

The ITC confirmed an Administrative Law Judge’s ruling that Nintendo did not infringe, bringing the proceedings before the ITC to a close.

Many news outlets have reported, somewhat inaccurately, that Nintendo has “won” the law suit; but the truth of the matter is not quite so simple.  For patent disputes that involve business being done outside the U.S., infringement actions are often instituted, in parallel, in both the International Trade Commission (in what’s called a ‘337 action) and a U.S. District Court (in what could be called a “normal” law suit).  Nintendo has only succeeded in the ITC action.

So the next logical question is what effect, if any, the ITC’s determination of non-infringement might have on the District Court action (which is usually stayed in these situations during the ITC proceedings).  What’s clear is that ITC decisions do not give defendants res judicata as a defense for District Court actions. This means that a District Court could not only re-litigate this issue, but could in fact come to conclusions opposite those reached by the ITC.

So, though Nintendo has avoided the potentially devastating impacts of an ITC ruling against it (which may have included importation restrictions), it may still have to fight on in a federal patent lawsuit. Stay tuned for further updates and sound off predictions in the comments below.


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