An alleged violation of the Tariff Act could stop sales of the Switch in the US.
In August last year, Nintendo was hit with a lawsuit filed by accessories company Gamevice over its use of detachable Joy-Con controllers on the Switch. Gamevice accused Nintendo of violating the patent “Combination Computing Device and Game Controller with Flexible Bridge Section,” which relates to Gamevice’s Wikipad Android gaming tablet.
At the time, Gamevice demanded Nintendo stop selling the Switch and pay damages, attorney fees, costs, and expenses. I didn’t expect to hear much more about the lawsuit, but it seems things have progressed and not in Nintendo’s favor.
On March 30, Gamevice filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (USITC) regarding alleged violations by Nintendo of section 337 of the Tariff Act 1930. The complaint specifically references the importation into and sale of devices in the United States that infringe patents. Gamevice once again asks for sales to be halted, but this time it’s asking the USITC to institute the block.
In response, the USITC has launched an investigation of both Nintendo of America and Nintendo Co. in Japan. No decision has been made on the merits of the case, but an administrative law judge will be assigned to determine if the section 337 violation is legitimate. It could take several months before a decision is made.
Gamevice clearly isn’t going to give up on this patent violation and just increased the pressure on Nintendo. However, for now Nintendo is free to continue selling the Switch and the company is very experienced at fighting patent lawsuits. Even if Nintendo lost, the most likely outcome is some royalty deal with Gamevice who wouldn’t want to miss out on a healthy revenue stream from Switch sales for years to come.