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Nintendo loses 3DS tech infringement battle
Nintendo loses 3DS tech infringement battle
March 14, 2013 | By Mike Rose

March 14, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    11 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



A U.S. jury said this week that Nintendo infringed a retired Sony engineer's 3D display technology patent when it created its 3DS handheld.

Inventor Seijiro Tomita originally filed the lawsuit on June 22, 2011 with his company Tomita Technologies, saying that the Japanese publishing giant used his glasses-free 3D tech without his proper licensing.

Tomita claimed that numerous third parties had licensed the tech, but neither the Japanese or U.S. branches of Nintendo were qualified licensees.

A federal jury in New York has now agreed with Tomita according to Reuters, and awarded the inventor $30.2 million in compensatory damages.

Nintendo had stated that the 3DS does not use key aspects of Tomita's patent, but the jury eventually decided that Nintendo has used technology in its 3DS that Tomita developed.


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Comments


David Amador
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So that means Sony will start profiting from Nintendo Handhelds?

A W
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No, it doesn't mean that. It means that Nintendo owes some patent holder a lump sum of money because he proved that their technology held his patented tech. Sony has nothing to do with this other than he once was employed by them at some point in his life.

Merc Hoffner
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A jury determined that he proved they infringed his patent. Very different from it actually being the case, and probably why a Japanese guy sued a Japanese company in a New York court.

Actually looking at the patent it appears to concern actively adjusting the stereoscopic image cross point based on the viewer's position or a stereoscopic camera input or manual control. Pretty much nothing to do with the actual hardware for displaying 3D. So basically (from a lay perspective) I think they're saying a minor point in the patent (the manual control) means that the slider on the 3DS, coupled with its ability to adjust the sterescopic viewpoints in software is infringing (and there's also a potential infringement in Nintendo's adjusting of the horizontal offset of the sterescopic camera feeds in the camera app).

From cursory examination I personally I think it's a weak and obvious minor part of a moderately weak and obvious patent - and the $30 million payout is pretty disproportionate considering the relatively minor capabilities the infringement provides. Again, probably why they sought a jury court rather than determination by experts as is done in other territories. Probably decent grounds for appeal or even for Nintendo to have the infringing elements of the original patent disqualified.

But of course I'm no expert and could be reading the patent wrong. Please do correct me if you see something I'm not understanding.

Eric Pobirs
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No, if he had produced the technology as a Sony employee it would be Sony holding the patents and pressing the suit. This is plainly something he has done in his post-Sony career.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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this is once again an absurd story. patents trolls must end.

Gene L
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How is Tomita a patent troll? The court determined he invented the technology and he's been actively licensing it.

Maurício Gomes
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He is not a troll.

Tomita is a inventor, he invented the thing, and patented his invention, and tried to sell it to Nintendo (and other companies, some bought it actually).

He is nothing like a troll.

E Zachary Knight
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Licensing patented technology does not mean one is not a troll. Most trolls, or more accurately Non-Practicing Entities, license out their tech. Usually that comes after the threat of a lawsuit, but they do license.

However, it does appear that this guy is not a troll as he doesn't meet many of the larger troll indicators. He does not have a shell company based out of a shared empty office space in East Texas. That is the big indicator there. Another is that he does not appear to have his business registered in Delaware. That is another strong indicator. Finally, he has a real and traceable human name.

All that said, the real case is whether his patent was actually used in the 3DS. Since a Jury ruled that it was, it is a possibility, but juries are not often experts in what they are reviewing. So this will go through several appeals before it is finally shut.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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"Nintendo had stated that the 3DS does not use key aspects of Tomita's patent, but the jury eventually decided that Nintendo has used technology in its 3DS that Tomita developed."

A jury? Really? Where they experts or somewhat? Tomiya may have been invented and licensed the tecnology. Nintendo did their own way as fas as we know. They have been dealing with a lot of 3D tecnologies since the 80's.

Merc Hoffner
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@ Mauricio He may not be a troll, but bear in mind;

a) is this really an invention? - invention requires a significant, non-obvious step. I'm not sure I'd agree that the entire patent should properly qualify, let alone the sub-claims that he's won for. But that's why most jurisdictions decide via expert judgment.

b) Just because you've successfully convinced people to license your property doesn't mean that you actually have a right to claim it. The most pertinent example of course is Nintendo vs Universal, where while Universal sued Nintendo because they claimed Donkey Kong infringed King Kong (which it didn't) and that they owned the rights to the King Kong property (which they had no real claim to), they also sent cease and desist orders to Nintendo's Donkey Kong licensees, charging them to put Nintendo's game on their systems. Needless to say, Nintendo won the case, and those who held out from Universal's licensing saved their money, but those fools who paid out weren't allowed to recoup their payments. Buyers beware.

Adam Bishop
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One question that I have is whether or not a jury of lay people can reasonably be expected to be competent judges of patent violation when the patent is in an area that they have no technical expertise in. How could someone without a relevant background know whether Nintendo's implementation was technically different?


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