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Judge upholds PlayStation controller ruling

Sony's witness not credible, judge says

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Sony Computer Entertainment has lost the latest round in a patent case over a vibrating PlayStation controller, after a Judge refused to accept an argument that Immersion Corporation, the patent owner, had tried to hide crucial information.

According to reports, Judge Claudia Wilken of the US Court for the Northern District of California did not find Sony’s witness, Craig Thorner, to be credible.

The case dates back to 2002 when Immersion, a developer and licensor of what is known as haptic feedback technology, which can be used to make joysticks vibrate in synch with on-screen events, sued Sony, alleging that the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and associated controllers, accessories and software games that include touch feedback, infringed on two of Immersion's patents.

In September 2004 a jury found in favour of the developer and awarded Immersion $82m in damages. In March 2005 the Court increased the award to $90.7m, to take account of interest due, and issued a permanent injunction against the manufacture, use, sale, or import into the US of the infringing systems. The ban was then stayed pending an appeal.

Sony not only appealed that ruling to a Federal Circuit Court of Appeal, but also filed an appeal with the District Court arguing that Immersion had tried to hide discussions the company had held with inventor Craig Thorner. Thorner had previously developed technology similar to that covered by Immersion’s patents, throwing doubt on the validity of those patents.

But, according to reports, Judge Wilken was not happy with Thorner’s performance as a witness, finding that a payment of $150,000 made by Sony to Thorner was suspect, despite Sony’s explanation that it was an advance royalty payment.

She dismissed the appeal.

The appeal to the Federal Circuit is still ongoing.

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