Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by Nintendo's Wiimote

July 23, 2008 -

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.


Comments

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

The only thing I think Nintendo might get hit on would be that they include the term Wiimote in the description tags for their American website.  In all honesty, the existance of the Weemote is probably the reason why Nintendo did not go with the term Wiimote in the first place.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Sorry, I must disagree with all the Ninty defenders on this one.  Why is wiimote a registered domain in Canada, then?  Because in the US they knew they'd have to fight this battle.  Pay up, or put out a press release disavowing the nickname.

It's foolish naivete to believe the Nintendo wasn't aware of this before hand. 

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Foolish naivete to believe Nintendo wasn't aware of this?  Perhaps post E3 '06 yes, but before then most definitely not.

The wiimote.ca domain wasn't registered until 12/1/2006, well after E3 that year during which the internet communities gave the remote the nickname "Wiimote".  Why shouldn't they capitalize on it where it's available to them?  Would you begrudge Coca-Cola for capitalizing on the slang of Coke?  While we're at it, you don't see Coca-Cola decrying the nickname "coke" for cocaine and claiming it's causing lost sales.

The official name is still Wii Remote.  Nintendo never refers to it as Wiimote, and it's use as a redirect outside of the use is just that, a redirect for people that are too stupid to go to Nintendo's url.  Now if they were using "weemote.ca" as a redirect also, then I could say that's a shady move, but they don't.

Nintendo already was polite and was willing to buy the name, but clearly Fobis grossly overestimated the dollar worth of the name.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

You are aware that Coca-Cola included Cocaine as an ingredient when it was first released...

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Many people aren't.  Officially the firm deny it, despite it being a stone cold fact.  Then again this is the company that created Fanta for the Nazi's because there was a shortage of the needed ingredients of Coke in Germany.  Another little fact you won't find on the website of Coca-Cola.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I completely agree. Nintendo is well aware of the rampant use of the term "Wiimote" yet they are doing nothing about it.

Either they should purchase the trademark an make it an official nick name of the product, or write a press release/demand that all websites remove reference to the term and then give up the domains they have using the name.

This claim is perfectly valid.

E. Zachary Knight
http://www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Since when is it Nintendo's job to police someone elses trademarks?

 

Too many people here seem to think Nintendo owes this guy a living for a word they don't even use.

 

Hi, real world called. They think you're silly.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Oh, the weemote is for all those bright young soon-to-be couch potatoes, or the ones who werent born with a remote in their hand, you know, gotta expose em to the media early on otherwise their growth gets stunted /sarcasm

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

My little cousin is 6 and knows what does what on the remote better than I. While I like the idea behind the product, I see a kid figuring a way around the controls on this thing out real quick.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Nintendo cannot be blamed for people calling their Wii remote a wiimote.  I understand what they are saying, but it's ridiculous.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Yeah, much as it pains me to again see a "lil guy" getting stamped, be it intentionaly or unintentionaly, nintedo really is free of blame here. It's not like they planned that nickname, the net generated it on it's own. Blaming intendo for it would just be silly.

brand name vs public recognition

So Nintendo should feel guilty about (and be held financially responsible for) what their customers and retailers call their Wii controller? So Nintendo should enforce speech now, is that what Fobis wants?

Even if Nintendo were to market their controller as a "wiimote", Fobis Tech still would have very very little room to argue on.

Fobis Tech isn't interested in morals or ethics, they just want money for a socially driven coincidence.

Also, if it's really such a problem for them, and they claim lost sales on a product that has sold less than 500 thousand units over eight years, why doesn't Fobis Technologies change the name of THEIR television remote to maintain distinction? It clearly wouldn't harm their brand, plenty of companies change the names of their products.

 

ps: Also, TV remote for babies and todlers? Seriously?

Re: brand name vs public recognition

Actually, Nintendo would be sued if they named it Wiimote offically without paying Forbis for the trademark...

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

One can only imagine how the makers of Spam (the canned meat) must feel.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Actually, if you visit the official spam website ( www.spam.com ) they have a really good breakdown of the whole situation. Basically, they are fine with junk email being called spam as long as it is not capitalized.

E. Zachary Knight
http://www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Not to mention that internet spam is actually named after Spam due to the Monty Python sketch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

What's funny is that Nintendo itself is the only one who does not refer to the controllers as Wiimotes. The only place I ever hear or see the term is on gaming news sites and forum boards. If I were in Nintendo's position, I wouldn't want to pay money because consumers gave my product a nickname either. The official name of the controllers are Wii remotes so I don't see where there is a legal problem.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

One might argue that Nintendo should have named their product the wiimote in the first place. Wii remote is obtuse where as wiimote would make so much more sense. A company with marketing like Nintendo must have at least seen the idea. Perhaps they went to check the copyright laws and it was taken so they just said screw it, called it the wii remote, let everyone else call it the wiimote and avoided the whole issue. They have alot of money, aloooooooooooot of money, even if it's 100% not their fault the least the could do is buy the copyright trademark and rebrand their product with a better name. wii remote is annoying to say and is asking to be made into a portmanteau .

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Nintendo is a business, not a charity.

 

I'd be fighting mad if, as a shareholder, my money was being spent on some longshot trademark deal for a word Nintendo doesn't even use.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I agree.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I agree.  I doesn't quite seem fair to hold Nintendo accountable for a popular, unofficial nick name for their officially named "Wii Remote" product.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

The response would be "they did nothing to stop the misconception". Weak but possible.

Sorry. "Wiik"

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

While an interesting story, it has nothing to do with game politics.

This story is as useless to this website as all the "<insert famous person here> bashes video games" stories of late.

Sorry, i'm quite a loyal reader, but i'm interested in the politics.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I'm sick and tired of people like you going around on sites like GP and Kotaku, telling the writers what content belongs on their site. Go make your own site. Then you can decide what belongs on it.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

IP protection and copyright have nothing to do with government and politics?

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

You could argue that the enforcement of IP and the laws that relate to it (EG: mass piracy, fair use, public domain) are a political issue, but individual cases of infringment (such as this) aren't.

/b

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Considering things like trademarks patents and intellectual property are something inherently political at this time. I'm going to have to disagree.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I feel kind of bad for them but I don't think they have a leg to stand on.

The name wiimote came from the community and not Nintendo and the fact the two devices have completely different functions and are spelled differently.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

A few months to pull together an estimate  an offer for the worth of the company? They're less than 10 years old, and have nothing more than a single product packaged 3 different ways? Then the other parts of Fobis seem to be nothing more than a single guy living in an apartment, that may or may not contain a chicken. (Okay... maybe not that last part, but gotta love Seinfeld). Seriously, "Do you own multiple computers? Imagine the convenience if your computers could talk to each other." Home networking? Mac consulting?

This is nothing more than a guy who made a shitty product, gave it a shitty name, and got outshined by something similarly named, but WAY more popular. This is like the subway station complaining that Subway's naming of sandwiches as 'subs' are driving customers away from public transportation. 99.99% of people aren't mistaking the wii-remote for a weemote. They are 2 completely different products for 2 completely different demographics with 2 names that are completely different, but happen to have a single syllable that is pronounced similarly.

 

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

You may think it is a shitty product, and maybe for you it would be but the guy has obviously sunk a lot of personal time and effort into designing, making, and trademarking it. As an electronic engineer I think I would be pretty peeved if something I had designed and built got obliterated in name almost overnight in this way.

He also seems to have been doing the decent thing in his dealings with Nintendo, why they couldn't just throw a spare barrel of cash at him so everyone could get on with things and he could design something else is anyones guess.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I call bullshit.

 

Your design is still fine, your market is still there, but AS AN ENGINEER you'd be upset that YOUR NAME was used?

 

Maybe the kind of Engineer with a marketing degree and no engineering degree.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Hah, no marketing degree I assure you.

It's not just about the product, this guy has put a whole lot of time, money and effort into his own company and now the signal to noise ratio thanks to the Wii is so high the chance of anyone thinking that he wasn't ripping Nintendo off is quite low. So yeah in that case I guess it is due to marketing, but if you want to bring a design to market you have to deal with that at some point.

The engineering aspect is more that it is his own company here taking the strain and a little 2 person company is going to feel that a lot more that a giant like Nintendo. I do not like the idea of putting a lot of sweat and time into designing/making anything myself and going through the effort of bringing it to market, only to have to change the whole plan drastically due to something like this beyond my control even though I had done everything by the book previously.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Both names suck.

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Have you visited a video game arcade in the last year?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Papa MidnightThe Verge says the sequel to Flappy Bird is nearly impossible. http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/21/6053297/swing-copters-flappy-bird-sequel08/21/2014 - 12:22pm
SleakerPC-Gamer wrote an article on what's going on with the Minecraft stuff: http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/08/21/minecraft-bukkit-team-lead-tries-to-end-development-but-mojang-steps-in/08/21/2014 - 11:55am
SleakerEVE had a high-profile ban today: http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/08/20/eve-online-lottery-site-somer-blink-shutting-down/#continued08/21/2014 - 10:26am
SleakerBut where have all the Ethics gone?08/21/2014 - 9:08am
Sleaker@EZK - one of the bigger things is that since Mojang has owned Bukkit for 2 years now, people contributing to the project have basically been doing work for them pro-bono. On top of never formalizing support. They hid the fact probably to prevent support08/21/2014 - 9:07am
SleakerIf you've played on a server with mods/plugins, you've almost for sure played on a Bukkit-based server.08/21/2014 - 8:56am
SleakerHere's Bukkit's explanation attempt at shutting down due to EULA changes: http://forums.bukkit.org/threads/bukkit-its-time-to-say.305106/08/21/2014 - 8:55am
SleakerEZK - it's the largest server mod for MC, in actuality without it minecraft for sure would not have been as popular (#1 game now).08/21/2014 - 8:54am
SleakerTo the point that it seems they have completely lost what it means to be for-community, and having transparency. Along with dumping restrictive EULA's onto people.08/21/2014 - 8:53am
E. Zachary KnightWhat is Bukkit and why should I care?08/21/2014 - 8:53am
SleakerMinecraft community exploded again today. Apparently Mojang owns all of Bukkit, and never put out a statement saying as such 2 years ago when they acquired them. I have to say, their transition from indie has been rough.08/21/2014 - 8:52am
james_fudgeThere aren't many left in America08/21/2014 - 1:50am
MechaTama31I sure have. Dorky's barcade in Tacoma, WA.08/20/2014 - 5:56pm
Matthew WilsonI have not been to a arcade in years. I know arcades are still big in japan.08/20/2014 - 5:38pm
Sleaker@AE - Ah no it's called GroundKontrol - I was just referring to it as a Bar-Arcade.08/20/2014 - 4:39pm
Andrew EisenStill looking for confirmation that High Moon Studios (dev behind the PS3/360 versions) isn't working on it.08/20/2014 - 4:38pm
ZenGotcha.08/20/2014 - 4:37pm
Andrew EisenI already updated the story with it!08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
Zenhttp://www.gonintendo.com/s/235574-treyarch-isn-t-working-call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-for-wii-u-either08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
ZenLet me send the link for the Tweet as well...they state Treyarch is not working on it. Grabbing it now.08/20/2014 - 4:34pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician