There’s been some confusion in how this story is being reported, so we thought we’d go over the key points.
Nintendo’s patent applies to emulating ROM-based games consoles, such as the N64 and GBA in other systems. You’ll no doubt have seen this before when you’ve played Mario Kart on the way over to New York from London: obviously there aren’t a hundred SNES consoles behind the cargo hold (if there were, it might explain why they’re so pricey on eBay).
From the patent document: “A software emulator for emulating a handheld video game platform such as GAME BOY.RTM., GAME BOY COLOR.RTM. and/or GAME BOY ADVANCE.RTM. on a low-capability target platform (e.g., a seat-back display for airline or train use, a personal digital assistant, a cell phone).”
The patent can be used to prevent other people making commercial use of a similar system – such as Firestorm gbaZ, and that’s exactly what’s just happened. Nintendo contacted Kyle Poole, responsible for the emulator and demanded that he no longer promote, market, use or distribute the Firestorm gbaZ or pursuse any further emulation of any Nintendo system. Nintendo’s key is that “All of the software for Nintendo’s proprietary video game systems is distributed in a tangible medium, sold through retail outlets. None of the games are distributed in digital versions on the Internet. Any such distribution, or promotion of any such distribution, is illegal.”