A few days ago, former Midway employee Patrick Goschy released a video he made in 1999 depicting a motion-based controller of his own design, with the intention of highlighting what he believed to be a direct inspiration for the Nintendo Wii remote. The Chicago-based Fox affiliate ran the story* and our sister site Engadget later managed to obtain pictures of the prototype. We had a chance to speak with Goschy over the phone to learn some new details about the creation of not one but two prototypes, as well as the circumstances surrounding the patent ownership.
(* Note: About one third of the way through the Fox news footage, you can glimpse someone's hands playing the Wii. The shirt is unmistakably Joystiq, and the hands ... wow, that's Chris Grant from a CNN video dated December 2006! Congratulations Chris, you've become archived footage! You're immortal!)
In 1999, while working as a Development Systems Technician at Midway, Goschy created his first motion-controlled device. "Quake II was huge," he said, "I wondered why you couldn't pull yourself through the game and shoot on screen like in Time Crisis." Goschy's creation was an accelerometer placed in what is essentially a light gun. As he explained it, a button was used to change the motion controls from character movement to aiming on screen. The next invention was the two-handed motion controls seen in the video demonstration by Goschy playing Ready 2 Rumble on Sega Dreamcast. That video was produced in June of 2000. Both devices listed above were part of patent filings in 1999.
In 2000, according to Goschy, Midway came up with a bonus compensation plan which would reportedly supplement him for royalties on a third patent. "[The document was] written up so they can pay anything and fire anytime," said Goschy. He sought advice from an attorney who advised against signing it. They sent back a modified copy but didn't hear back. Goschy was laid off five months later in March of 2001.
Goschy signed a separation agreement saying that he "will not talk about anything [he and Midway did] and he will not reveal anything" in return for a month's pay. He cited the recent dot-com bubble burst, no job prospects and a lack of college degree as reasons he signed off on it. Goschy became a field service technician and, in summer of 2002, received a package from Midway that included the patent he didn't sign. Still turning down the bonus compensation, he did not sign it.
While having no concrete evidence, Goschy said he suspects Midway and Nintendo have a deal for the patent rights. He said the video demonstration was sent out to lots of people, and likely made its way to Nintendo.
Goschy, who now works as a consultant as well as the director of R&D for Computer Assisted Living, said his intention was to earn recognition for what he feels is a major part of the Wii remote. "Considering how many units have been sold and the fact that this device has changed the way that video games will be played forever, yeah money would be great, but the main reason is that I did it and I wanted people to know it."
So, does he have a case? There are two US patents, both filed in 1999, that cite Goschy as an inventor (6315673, 6545661) - the latter was referenced by Nintendo in a patent filed in April 2003 for a "game device changing sound and an image in accordance with a tilt operation," laying the foundation for the Wii remote. It should be noted that there are a total of 110 U.S. patents and nine foreign patents that are reference by Nintendo. Goschy's patent is also referenced by Apple (7307228) and Nikon (6727885).
As noted in the Fox news video by patent attorney Richard Beem, Goschy made these while at Midway, giving the rights to his work to the company. "Invent for an employer, you invent for a paycheck," he said. "The rights go to the employer." Beem further concluded that, in his opinion, the Wii remote -- which besides an accelerometer also uses IR sensors for motion detection -- is "an advance over and above and beyond what Mr. Goschy came up with." In other words, no deal.
Mark Methenitis, creator of the site Law of the Game and an attorney (though not specializing in patent law), told us that all filed patents must list all prior art, which encompasses all patents prior to the filing that might be relevant to the patent's claim of originality. That means when Nintendo filed the patent, the patent offices were explicitly made aware of Goschy's prior work. "While I won't deny that Goschy's patent certainly seems like the predecessor," he said, "the Wii-mote is clearly a full step beyond any other filed patent. In fact, the Wii patent wouldn't have been issued if it lacked the 'novelty' to be patentable."
Midway declined to comment for this story. Nintendo gave us a statement identical to what Fox news received: "Mr. Goschy did not invent this technology or its use with video games ... it is irresponsible to report or suggest that this invention relates in any way to the Wii system."
Still, Goschy is adamant. "I made the Wii," he told us, later in the interview adding, "It kills me every time I see the video [for it]."
In response to Engadget's suggestion of creating a new video, Goschy said he would have to find a working Dreamcast first. As for a video demonstration of the gun used with Quake II, he said, "I don't even know if I have the gun anymore ... that would be tougher." When asked about his apparent lack of pants in the footage, Goschy explained, "I came up with the idea during the summer, and it gets hot in Chicago during the summer, those are shorts and sandals that I am wearing. Midway was a pretty casual environment."