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Nintendo Patent Could Prove Awkward For Microsoft

Doug Caverly
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-06-09

Nintendo has been granted a patent for a videogame instant messaging system. Originally filed in 2000, this patent could lead to lawsuits against other game console manufacturers.

The patent covers a chat system that involves a remotely stored buddy list, allows for multiple statuses, and could broadcast information about gaming activities. It would also display alerts when new e-mail is received, enable the transmission of player preferences, and allow for communication through either voice or text messages.

Two aging products, the Nintendo64 and the Game Boy Color, are mentioned in the patent, but there is speculation that the system could be implemented in the upcoming Wii. It may also serve as a bartering chip against software giant Microsoft.

It looks as though Microsoft's Xbox Live system may infringe upon Nintendo's new patent. If so, Nintendo could try to reach a cross-licensing deal that would allow it to delve into areas covered by some of Microsoft's patents. Sony is another potential target if Nintendo tries to pursue the matter.

Nintendo has filed other chat-related patents in the past. Earlier this year, the company was granted a patent for a video game voice-to-text chat conversion system that analyzes speech to generate text with particular styles and characteristics.

It's possible that nothing will come of this. It's also possible that we'll see a voice chat-enabled Wii, and a huge court battle between Nintendo and Microsoft. Of course, there are a few likelihoods that fall between those potential outcomes. The matter will probably be decided by the people everyone loves to hate - lawyers.

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