N.J. Inventor Accuses Sony & Lawyers of Stealing His Controller Feedback Idea, Tricking Him Out of $$$

A New Jersey man filed a federal lawsuit this week against SCEA, SCEI and a number of individual attorneys. The suit, filed by Craig Thorner and his company, Virtual Reality Feedback, makes some very ugly allegations.

GamePolitics has obtained a copy of Thorner’s complaint in which the inventor charges that SCEA, SCEI, PDP/Electro Source and several attorneys colluded to infringe on his controller feedback patents. In a 43-page complaint, Thorner spins a tale of high stakes corporate conniving and reveals a surprising degree of naivete on his part.

As alleged by Thorner, his misadventures with Sony began in 2002 during the famous Immersion vs. Sony patent trial. That case revolved around force feedback controller patents; Sony eventually wound up on the wrong end of an $82 million judgment. Thorner claims that during the lmmersion vs. Sony case he was approached first by Sony and then by Immersion. Acting without an attorney, he eventually licensed his patents to Immersion.

After winning the $82M against Sony, Immersion went after PDP/Electro Source with the same type of force feedback patent infringement claim. At this point, Thorner alleges, Sony was appealing the judgment against itself and PDP faced Immersion’s new complaint. The two companies entered into "a joint defense agreement." 

Ultimately, Thorner blew off his deal with Immersion and licensed his patents to PDP for $150,000. It’s unclear whether Sony and PDP were really interested in Thorner’s tech, or whether he was merely a pawn in their legal defense against Immersion. In either case, Thorner alleges that Sony’s partnership with PDP was hidden from him in order to keep him from demanding a sweeter deal. Once again, Thorner acted without the benefit of legal advice:

Thorner was uncertain about the fairness of the PDP/Electro Source proposal, but could not afford to discuss his concerns with an attorney…  Thorner replied to [PDP’s attorney]… stating that he would accept PDP/Electro Source’s terms if [PDP’s attorney] agreed to assist Thorner with any differences he might have with Immersion and with a trademark cancellation proceeding.

Thorner alleges that, in an effort to conceal its involvement in the deal, SCEA surreptitiously wired PDP the $150,000 payment to pass along to him. A copy of the wire transfer placed into evidence appears to back up Thorner’s version.


Another allegation in Thorner’s complaint concerns his dealings with an attorney who represented Sony:

Thorner, in short, needed counsel but could not afford one. Hence, he asked [Sony’s attorney]: "Who will represent me?"  [Sony’s attorney] responded that he… could represent Thorner… [Sony’s attorney] assured Thorner that he could "wear two hats" and fully represent Thorner’s interests and Sony’s interests at the same time…[Sony’s attorney] promised Thorner that he… would represent him at no cost if Immersion [sued Thorner]…

Eventually, Sony lost its appeal against Immersion. PDP settled with Immersion, which in turn sued Thorner. The inventor alleges Sony reneged on a promise to defend him against Immersion.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of Thorner’s complaint (43 page PDF)

TOMORROW: A federal judge chides Sony’s lawyers for their handling of the Thorner deal.

UPDATE: Law.com has additional coverage.

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  1. 0
    Zerodash says:

    This is also New Jersey- people here will sue you for looking at them funny.  If you pick up a rock in NJ, throw it in a random direction, chances are pretty good you will hit a law firm.

  2. 0
    Murdats says:

    and all of it over a signal activated wobbly motor – really basic technology that shouldn’t hold a patent in the first place.


    its a bunch of patent trolls trolling each other.

  3. 0
    Speeder says:

    How I love this sue fest…

    It shows me how the culture outside my country suck… (here it is the inverse, people get bashed, raped of their rights, and still refuse to sue… :/)



  4. 0
    ZenAndNow says:

    It’s litigation. The odds of this guy’s submission being 100% truthful is somewhere between Buckley’s and none. Heck, if even a quarter of it were actually true and not just artfully formed perversions of reality then it’d be a miracle in this day and age.

  5. 0
    Mad_Scientist says:

    From reading his complaint, I actually feel some sympathy for the guy, assuming what he says is all true. Assuming that’s the case, it seems that both Immersion and Sony-PDP/Electric behaved in a somewhat unethical manner towards the guy, and he unfortunately got involved in complicated legal dealings without the advice of an attorney.


    EDIT: Just read some more of the guy’s complaint, and oh wow, what Sony apparantly did was really sleazy. Call the guy an idiot for agreeing or not getting certain things in writing all you want, but if what he says is true, Sony definitely did some pretty dishonest and unethical things, I believe.

    Also, I’m still a bit unclear regarding some things involving his initial deal with Immersion, but it seems like what they did was pretty unpleasant too, if I am correct in my guess regarding a few of the technical details.

  6. 0
    Father Time says:

    2nd rule of fight club, never repeat yourself.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  7. 0
    DarkSaber says:

    1st rule of Business: Corporations are b*****ds.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  8. 0
    JDKJ says:

    It’s because he was wandering around like a babe in the woods that the wolves saw their opportunity and took it. But I can’t help but wonder if he couldn’t have found a straving attorney who’d have taken his matter on a contingency basis (i.e., when and if the deal closes, you get paid). I’ve seen postings on craigslist all the time from people who are looking for one-shot transactional representation. If you’re an attorney who’s reading the Legal section of craigslist looking for work, you’ll take anything comes your way. And if you take it at 10% of the deal-price, you’re grossing $15,000 (based on the ultimate deal-price). Or more. Because you’re on contingency, you’ve got an incentive to jack the deal-price up to just below the buyer’s walk-away point. Which also inurs to Mr. Thorner’s benefit.

  9. 0
    JDKJ says:

    "Willingly" only means something to the extent you haven’t been lied to or material information witheld from or misrepresented to you. You can’t be the willing victim of fraud.

  10. 0
    Freyar says:

    This is too convoluded to be anything worth pursuing. If he willingly licensed his stuff, he willingly licensed his stuff. As far as sony goes, they already lost the patent case, so I don’t see why they would be how or why they’d be on trial again for the same thing.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians. http://www.goteamretard.com

  11. 0
    DarkSaber says:

    Sure was! Love that episode, it’s clever and hilarious the way the whole mess gets more complicated as they try and undo what they did!


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  12. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    Rule 1: Never take a corporation or a corps lawyer on their ‘word’, always get written confirmation of everything, and always have a third party lawyer check stuff out.

    Rule 2: Never ignore Rule 1.

  13. 0
    ZenAndNow says:

    It seems to be more along the line of: he got free money, then he got sued because he got free money from the losing side, so now he’s sueing Sony for free money because they didn’t defend him from the winning side like they’d "promised".

    Honestly this guy just sounds like an idiot. If it was YOUR patent, why did you license it off to that random-ass corporation so that they could sue Sony when you could watch them fail miserably and THEN sue Sony yourself? Using a real lawyer I might add.

  14. 0
    Saladin says:

    Um, correct me if I’m wrong here… but this guy willingly dealt with a corporation without a lawyer… and when said corp. got a huge settlement AFTER he’d already been given his cut, NOW He wants some free money?

    Am I getting the gist of it here? Or can someone fill in a blank or two for me?

  15. 0
    sirdarkat says:

    Sounds like his own stupidity to me just from the brief summary should never deal with a corp without a lawyer.


    Anyone have the feeling that Shadowrun is becoming more real with each passing year.  (Super Corps etc…)

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