Nintendo is apparently under investigation by the US International Trade Commission (USITC). A press release issued by the commission on Tuesday states that it has voted to launch an investigation into “certain portable gaming console systems with attachable handheld controllers and components thereof.” It lists Nintendo as the respondent, so it is quite evident that they are referring to the Switch.
The inquiry has been instigated due to claims that the Switch’s JoyCons infringe upon existing controller patents. A company called Gamevice seems to think that Nintendo has violated its design of a controller that can be used on smartphones or tablets. The company is requesting the USITC to issue a “limited exclusion order and a cease and desist, which would prevent the Switch from being imported into the US.
Gamevice’s controllers range from $80-$100 and look nothing like Nintendo’s JoyCons. They also cannot be detached and used wirelessly. That is not to say that some internal component designs are not in violation of Gamevice patents. However, CNet reports that the company brought suit against Nintendo last summer for similar reasons and voluntarily dropped the case in October.
The USITC notes that it has not made any decisions on the matter at this point. It is still looking into the merits of the accusations. The commission’s administrative law judges will be considering whether or not Nintendo is in violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.
Section 337 prohibits unfair trade and competition in importation. Its primary purpose is to protect IP rights holders at the US borders.