Agere Systems recently sued Sony for patent infringement, claiming that technology in the PSP, PS2 and possibly the PS3 violate Agere's patents. Agere is claiming that Sony knew about the patents and intentionally violated them. Under US law, intentional patent infringement can result in the damages being tripled.
Sony has denied the claims and is arguing that it actually has licences to 7 of the 8 patents. Sony is also challenging the patents, claiming that they should not have been granted.
Sony is no stranger to patent infringement lawsuits. In March 2005, a U.S. District Court ordered Sony to pay Immersion Corp. over US$90 million in damages for patent infringement. Immersion alleged that Sony's 'DualShock"? controllers for PlayStation 2, which produce vibrations and rumblings in response to what is happening in the game, infringed Immersion's patent in a similar technology, and a U.S. District court found that the PS2 console, the DualShock controllers, and the 47 games which offered DualShock features, were an infringement of Immersion's patent. Immersion settled a similar suit with Microsoft in 2003.
The last couple of years have been full of patent litigation in the game industry. Another well-known example is that in 2005, Yahoo! and XFire became embroiled in a patent infringement fight over the use of online messaging technology. Yahoo! had obtained a patent for its GameProwler IM application, which allows gamers to see when their friends are playing online and communicate with them. XFire later developed its own in-game IM application which Yahoo! alleged had been created by an ex-Yahoo! employee now working at XFire. Yahoo! sued XFire for patent infringement and the two companies spent most of 2005 in a protracted legal battle, eventually settling in early February 2006.
This has encouraged game developers and publishers to be a lot more cautious about the technology they incorporate into their games. It's also encouraged many publishers to start increasing their own patent portfolios"?if only for defensive purposes.
Coverage of Agere at http://www.shorl.com/fyhodisegudu (Gamespot).