Everyone who follows the video game scene knows that the Wiimote is the unofficial nickname for Nintendo’s motion-sensitive Wii controller.
But have you ever heard of the Weemote?
As reported by Time, the Weemote (left) is a small TV remote control, specially designed for children by Fobis Technologies of Miami. The Weemote was trademarked in 2000, roughly six years before the launch of the Wii.
From the Time article:
Nintendo doesn’t actually use the term Wiimote in its marketing, but then, it doesn’t have to. The Internet takes care of that. Online retailers, from Amazon.com to used-video-game vendors operating out of their houses, advertise the "Wiimote" on their sites, openly or via more obscure means like customer product tags and posted comments.
As a result, says Fobis president John Stephen, since the Wii was released in 2006, the Weemote trademark has been so "diluted" that the Weemote’s sales, which are mostly online and total fewer than half a million to date, have fallen considerably. In fact, many Wiimote fans believe it’s the Weemote that’s guilty of the trademark infringement. "These days," says Stephen, "the little guy like us is wondering, What’s the point of trademark protection?"
What has been Nintendo’s response? GamePolitics put the question to John Stephen, whose firm manufactures the Weemote:
GP: Is there any legal action pending against Nintendo, or planned?
Stephen: First of all, we are not currently engaged in a legal action with Nintendo or any of their resellers. Our lawyers have mailed approximately 100 letters to sellers of the Wii remote and related accessories who use the wiimote name to market or describe their products. This list includes all the major big box retailers as well as most of the specialty retailers. These requests for cease and desist are required of us by law. If we do not police and enforce our trademark, it could actually be taken from us legally so this is our obligation. This obligation is very costly financially as well as in our time.
GP: Have you had any talks with Nintendo about the issue?
Stephen: Our approach has always been to contact Nintendo on this through our attorneys to see about reaching a business settlement, i.e. they purchase our trademark and we set out to rebrand our company. Our argument is that the damage has been done here (whether intentional or not) and that Nintendo has more to gain now controlling this mark then we do. They asked us to give them an offer which we spent a few months pulling together and after submitting that initial offer, they promptly decided they were not interested anymore and basically closed the door. Though the name weemote is very precious to Fobis Technologies, can you imagine CocaCola with out Coke, or VW without the Beetle or Federal Express with FedEX?
Unfortunately, the reality is we have no leverage and they are already getting a free ride. So I guess their position is why pay for something that is already free!
GP: How has this issue affected you and your business?
We have spent over a year trying to do this in a moral and ethical fashion by talking to them purely from a business standpoint, .i.e. with no threats of any kind. This process eats deeply into our profits and productivity. As a small business owner who has spent the last ten years of my life trying to do the right thing and being passionate about our products, this really unsettles me and makes me seriously question why any innovator in their right mind would want to go down this same road?
When we started our company, we fully believed that our intellectual property would be protected given we did all the proper registrations and due diligence. My wife and I are both entrepreneurs as were our parents. How do we encourage the next generation if this is our legacy?
In my mind, Nintendo may not have done any of this intentionally but it seems one would expect them take some kind of moral high ground in the matter. The fact they have registered for the mark in the European Community, have a re-direct on the www.wiimote.ca domain name in Canada to Nintendo.ca, in combination with freely using metatags on their own site would indicate to me a true slap in the face.
GP: We have a request in to Nintendo for comment.