Hillcrest Labs Sues Nintendo Over Wii Remote

Hillcrest Labs, the Rockville, Md.-based firm that has been pitching its “Freespace” remote-control technology to cable operators and computer companies, filed a patent-infringement claim against video-game maker Nintendo of America over its popular Wii gaming remote and is seeking to block import of the device into the United States.

Hillcrest filed a complaint for patent infringement with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., and a separate patent-infringement suit in the U.S. District Court in Maryland against Nintendo related to the Wii video-game system.

Hillcrest’s Freespace pointing and motion-control technology allows a wireless device to navigate through an interactive program guide by making computer-mouse-like movements through the air.

In its suit, Hillcrest claimed that Nintendo is infringing its U.S. Patent Nos. 7,158,118, 7,262,760 and 7,414,611, which relate to a handheld three-dimensional pointing device, and U.S. Patent No. 7,139,983, which relates to a navigation interface display system that graphically organizes content for display on a television.

“Leading consumer-electronics companies, not all of whom have been disclosed publicly, have already licensed Hillcrest's technology for use in their products,” Hillcrest said in a statement. “While Hillcrest Labs has a great deal of respect for Nintendo and the Wii, Hillcrest Labs believes Nintendo is in clear violation of its patents and has taken this action to protect its intellectual-property rights. Given the current status of the filings, the company will not disclose any additional details about the matter at this time.”

A Nintendo spokesman said the company has "not been served with any lawsuit or other action by Hillcrest" and, therefore, had no comment on the matter.

Hillcrest was founded in 2001 but has yet to make a big impact on the TV-remote business, although it did license its technology to leading cable-remote manufacturer Universal Electronics in March.

So far, it commercialized its Freespace technology in Logitech’s MX Air wireless computer mouse, but it is still wooing cable set-top and TV manufacturers to adopt its approach.

The company received $25 million in new financial backing in January, picking up a new investor in AllianceBernstein and receiving additional funding from existing investors venture-capital firms New Enterprise Associates, Columbia Capital and Grotech Capital Group.