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Retired Sony Engineer Sues Nintendo Over 3DS Tech
Retired Sony Engineer Sues Nintendo Over 3DS Tech
July 7, 2011 | By Kris Graft

Ever since Nintendo officially unveiled the 3DS handheld in 2010, the two-screened device's main selling-point has been its top screen, which gives a 3D stereoscopic effect to emulate depth, without the need for 3D glasses.

Now, a new lawsuit is accusing Nintendo of patent infringement, saying that the Mario house used that glasses-free 3D tech without proper licensing from the patent holder.

Tomita Technologies, founded by inventor Seijiro Tomita, filed the lawsuit on June 22, according to the complaint obtained by Gamasutra.

The suit said Tomita worked at Sony for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2002 to concentrate on inventing and developing different technologies. The "accomplished scientist and engineer" holds over 100 patent applications worldwide, and is inventor or co-inventor of nearly 70 patents, according to the suit.

One of those inventions was for viewing 3D images with the naked eye, an invention that is filed under U.S. patent number 7,417,664: "Stereoscopic image picking up and display system based upon optical axes cross-point information." Tomita holds the same patent within the Japan Patent Office.

Third parties have licensed the tech, but neither Kyoto-based Nintendo nor its U.S. branch Nintendo of America in Redmond, WA are qualified licensees, according to the complaint.

The claim is asking a court to determine that both Nintendo LTD and Nintendo of America have infringed and continue to infringe on the patent, and to permanently enjoin the defendants from the alleged infringement.

Tomita also is seeking damages caused by the alleged infringement, legal fees, and for the court to determine that the infringement was "deliberate and willful."

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Steven Sei
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"Third parties have licensed the tech, but neither Kyoto-based Nintendo nor its U.S. branch Nintendo of America in Redmond, WA are qualified licensees, according to the complaint."

I wonder why Nintendo hasnt licensed it. Seeing that others have, does that mean that they did more research before starting using the tech?

Yasuhiro Noguchi
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The display in the 3DS is sourced from Sharp, so Nintendo shouldn't have to defend itself from this lawsuit. Sharp would theoretically have to indemnify Nintendo against patent trolls like this. It's also not the first time this display tech has been used in consumer electronics, so it would be interesting to see what the basis of this claim is.

J Calton
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There's some thought that patent trolls are a corrective market force for an imperfect patent system.

In part, the idea is that it's better for consumers since the patent troll will gladly license the patent to all comers, creating more competition (and, thus, better products) opposed to a single license-holder such as Sony or Nintendo, or even a small fish that decides they don't even want to (or can't) implement the patent at all, so no one can take advantage of it for 17 years.

Duong Nguyen
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I don't think this qualifies as a patent troll, he was an engineer for 30 years at Sony, with probably dozens if not hundreds of patents under his name. If this doesn't qualify as legitimate use of the patent system then what is? This isn't a submarine patent created by a patent farm so popular in the US.. Nintendo is free to challenge the patent, but since it was filed by an experienced engineer with solid financials, it's unlikely they would win..

Gene L
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I don't believe Tomita is acting as a patent troll. He actively developed the technology and has been licensing it out. "Patent troll" usually refers to non-practicing entities that are, sometimes, sham companies run exclusively for the purpose of purchasing patents and suing to extract value from possible infringers.

Eric Ruck
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"122 Viewer's Position Detecting Means": The 3DS relies on the viewer to position themselves for the effect, not for the device to detect the position of the viewer, that could mean that the patent does not apply to this device. Also I look at this as a methods patent that should not have been granted, otherwise I should create a bunch of patents for "123 Teleporter" and hope technology catches up in the next 17 years.

Leon T
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I think someone beat you on that. I know my time machine and wormwhole devices were already pending by someone else.

Craig Page
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So why don't you steal their time machine patent, build the machine, go back in time, and file the patent before they do?