News Article

Nintendo's $30.2 Million 3DS Patent Infringement Fine Halved

Posted by Thomas Jones

Claimant told to take it or risk losing it all

A U.S. judge declared on Wednesday that inventor Seijiro Tomita of Tomita Technologies USA should take $15.1 million in damages from Nintendo or risk losing it all in a new damages trial; this was half of what was previously awarded.

In the hearing, Nintendo was accused of infringing on a patent for Glasses-Free 3D technology; Tomita initially sued the company back in 2011 following the release of the 3DS. Federal Judge Rakoff stated, however, that the original award was "intrinsically excessive… and unsupported by the evidence presented at trial."

Rakoff went on to state — based on evidence from the trial — that the Nintendo 3DS appears to not be profitable and the majority of games for the system do not make use of Tomita's patented technology in any way.

Nintendo's requests to overturn the New York federal jury's verdict or be granted a new liability trial were quashed by the Judge.

In a statement following the hearing Charlie Scibetta, a spokesperson for Nintendo, said the following:

Nintendo respects the intellectual property rights of other companies and is confident that none of its products infringes the asserted patent. Nintendo will appeal the jury's verdict and reduced damages award to the court of appeals.

Seijiro Tomita is still reviewing the decision and failed to leave any comment. A decision on whether to accept the sliced reward or pursue further legal action must be reached by Tomita by 23rd August, though it seems Nintendo will take the matter further itself.

Thanks to Ryan Millar for the tip.


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User Comments (39)



Araknie said:

OMG many people do the same thing in the world by totally casual...mmmm i'm gonna sue all let's players in the world because they did the same game i do.

fist in the air like an old man against a punky kiddo

PS: Virtual Boy.



Wigbert said:

We know nothing of the patent technology or the court case. anyone who can take a side so quickly is foolish.



XCWarrior said:

@AltDotNerd Nintendo isn't exactly winning when they are still paying $15.1 million. They are losing less in this case.

I understand why Nintendo is fighting this, but if it gets down to a reasonable amount, just pay it off and be done with it. But I know that is almost admitting stealing, which they don't want to do.



Wigbert said:

If they ARE in the right, then any amount would be stealing, but yea they should probably end it when labor hours are as costly as the suit.

in any case i don't like subpoenas, especially where limitation of research/technology is concerned, but i suppose if the man invented it he should get some compensation.



McHaggis said:

@The_Joker, @Araknie: The Virtual Boy is different technology. It uses two screens, one for each eye. Chances are that the technology was either ubiquitous and not patented or Nintendo licensed the technology. What Tomita is suing for is the parallax method used on the 3DS screen.

Aside from that, I think you're embarrassing yourselves by leaping to Nintendo's defence. If somebody invented and patented the technology before them, then that person is fully justified in seeking compensation for their invention. Nintendo may be entirely convinced that they're not infringing, but it's up to the courts to decide, not us Nintendo fans with little-to-no legal expertise who haven't even looked at all the relevant documents.



Araknie said:

@McHaggis So, don't respond to me next time, because if the post a news i will write what i think of it if i think of it.

Not gonna change my mind on this ever, i always though that technology is, in so many forms, complementary and so can come out from various people even if they don't know shat about the other person.

How do you prove that Nintendo has infringed it's patent? They found the original creators schemes in Nintendo's HQ or something to prove it in the Nintendo schemes, becuase it needs to be 100% the same to be a patent infringment or something similar.

"intrinsically excessive… and unsupported by the evidence presented at trial." does not sound like 100%

Also i didn't hear squat from the 2008 mass market of HDTVs but sure they were copying each other a lot. can you think my post was serious when i didn't even address one of the things you say it's beyond me.

Yes i said Virtual Boy without putting it in any statement, what that proves? Nothing, because i didn't want to make a serious post.

Now you made me do one.



Subie98 said:

@Araknie what? I have absolutely no idea what you're trying to say. Can you edit that? Not trying to be rude. Not sure if english is your first language or not. Post #3



Dogpigfish said:

Nothing is more crooked or corrupt than businesses actively registering patents of ideas without a product so they can later sue. Unfortunately this is an American business. When you have too many lawyers, this is what happens. So much for creativity or entrepreneurship.



rmeyer said:

Just a guy who bought a patent. Don't give him anything Nintendo. Like the case earlier this year Nintendo just needs to prove this guy has no ability to mass market nor did he have the budget to make a handheld device popular.



startropics3 said:

"Rakoff went on to state — based on evidence from the trial — that the Nintendo 3DS appears to not be profitable and the majority of games for the system do not make use of Tomita's patented technology in any way."

I found this statement more insulting than the payoff. Even if Nintendo did infringe on the patent rights of Mr. Tomita, no harm was done due to the lack of success with the 3DS or failure to implement the technology (at that time?). Am I interpreting that correctly?



Veloster said:

Let's all wear 3D glasses and act like we have no idea what they're talking about, lol.



GiSWiG said:

Sometimes there is only one way to do things and both Nintendo and this guy are probably using very similar methods that they could almost be identical. A good explanation can be found by googling 'how 3ds 3d screen works' and look at the crave.cnet one (3rd one down). Basically, you block vertical lines of pixels from being seen by both eyes at the same angle. It comes down to how your eyes give you depth perception but they are doing it on a flat surface. If you think about it, it is the same technology that thoes the 3D stickers use with the ridges (not the foil ones) but Nintendo figured out how to do it with dynamic images (i.e. video). So can manufactures of thoes 3D stickers sue Nintendo?



McHaggis said:

@Araknie: you meant "Virtual Boy" to imply that Nintendo should be somehow protected because they had a 3D device before. Your "serious" reply just confirms that you don't really know how patents work. I'm no expert, either, but I tend to reserve judgement unless the verdict is extremely apparent (and I don't agree with software patents at all).

You don't patent the end result (ie 3D screen), you patent the method used to achieve the result (ie parallax barrier).

"How do you prove that Nintendo has infringed it's patent? They found the original creators schemes in Nintendo's HQ or something to prove it in the Nintendo schemes, becuase it needs to be 100% the same to be a patent infringment or something similar."
Patent infringement does not need to be wilful in order for a lawsuit. Two entities can develop similar technology completely independently without knowing about the other's work. If one obtains a patent before the other's work is made public, then the other party would be infringing by making their similar technology available.

And, no, it doesn't have to be 100% the same technology. For Nintendo to have lost this case twice, it either must not be abundantly clear that their technology is different or they must actually be infringing. All I was saying is that people should have a right to protect their intellectual property, and barely anybody reading this article will be qualified to judge either party.



DarkKirby said:

I hate patent squatters. They can all go to the underwhere as far as I'm concerned. They need to fix the crappy patent system so people can't file patents on ideas they have no intention of actually using for something other then lawsuits.



ejamer said:

Agree with everything in post #8 but wanted to comment on this part: "but it's up to the courts to decide, not us Nintendo fans with little-to-no legal expertise who haven't even looked at all the relevant documents".

Sadly, the people who do decide often don't have all the facts (or a full understanding of all facts) so the decisions can sketchy anyway. Patent law is tough, and sometimes seems broken... but it is what it is. Nintendo seems to have a very convincing legal team though, so they obviously understand how the game works.



Yanchamaru said:

Just think if Nintendo ripped off the American who created the tech for the Wii? Nintendo should of worked with Sejiro Tomita like they did with Tom Quinn



McHaggis said:

@ejamer: you're right, it's a flawed system and the outcome isn't always the right one (though, appeals can help here as they have done for Nintendo in the past). My point was more that we can't really judge either party as commenters like @Tobias95 does in #26, @Justaguest in #27, @DarkKirby in #21. Particularly the latter makes an unfair statement regarding Tomita being a patent squatter, when in fact he actually approached Nintendo with the technology 10 years ago.

We shouldn't be so quick to judge, is all I'm saying.



SCAR said:

I think the reason why Nintendo lost this case, was because the patent was originally designed for a portable game system.

The way the 3DS is built inside is probably pretty similar to his patent. Smartphones can do the same thing, but it's not as streamlined.

This is just my speculation. The 3D screen wasn't why they got sued, it was the combination of a CPU and 3D screen in some way.



Ruthven said:

Two things...
1. Patent Trolls suck
2. Technology evolves in many different ways. Nintendo have been testing/investigating 3D tech for years (Virtual Boy/GCN/GBA to name a few), and have experimented with many different ways to implement 3D Tech.



ramstrong said:

All this talks about patent troll, I'm thinking of becoming one. Like so:
I'm patenting a technique that will eliminate all distracted driving by using the built-in camera in smartphones (and other devices such as N3DS) for face recognition. If face is being recognized while the phone is moving (accellerometer and/or GPS or other enabling tech) then the device, after a pre-determined amount of time, will alert the user to stop looking at it, and start looking at the road (and/or surrounding area).

Imagine that! No more running into a pole (or worse) while playing Mario! I think all concerned parents should want one. And with obvious different implementation, they can, among other things, use the technology to limit children's game playing time. No more staring the screen for hours and hurt their eyes!

Now that this idea has been made public, I have one year to file the patent. Once I do, I will sit on it, since I'm not capable of making my own smartphone, tablets, PC, dedicated gaming device or other devices with camera to the user.

If after one year, I do not file, then the idea will become public domain, and no one can patent this idea.

So, am I a patent-troll for having a good idea that can save lives, even though I can't do anything about it?

NOTE: No, I'm not going to file this. I think this should be public domain.



crobatman said:

if the guy invented the technology fair enough he deserves to be credited and paid (I haven't followed the story so I am not totally sure if he invented it ), I just find it funny how the worst thing about the 3DS is costing Nintendo dearly



Araknie said:

@McHaggis But i never wanted to be competent, i'm not paid to be so it's only common that it will be my opinion and i want to joke out the situation i will do.

If i want to say the thing seriously i will do it.

But i know that i'm just a commoner, i just found stupid that because of this we cannot accept that people in the world can come up with the same idea at the same time.

I think that's one of the reasons slowing down this whole planet, so i will simply never agree on that, law or not.



Araknie said:

@Subie98 I'm Italian and i don't have the money go english class because i have to spend them for life thing and save them for gaming stuff, so really i'm full.



EaZy_T said:

I thought this guys patent had something to do with using the camera to track the eyes... (among other things that the 3DS doesn't do/use)
I could be wrong of course (and am too lazy to look up previous relevant articles); but I swear it worked something like that, to 'tune' the 3D to each eye.



Mortenb said:

No one is giving any details about the actual technology claimed to infringe. I refuse to take any side before I know those details. Too often patent claims are for something that is not for the protection of someones work, but simply when someone had a clever idea, and happened to be the first to go to the patent office. Patents (as I think they should be) are not to protect clever ideas, but to protect actual intellectually demanding research and work. If it is enough with an idea, then anyone could come up with it. I probably had the idea of 3D without glasses 1000 times while growing up, but I never sat down trying to actually make it work. The only thing that should matter (as I see it) is whether or not Nintendo could have made the 3DS without first seeing this guy's solution. If they realistically would have made it anyway, the patent should be invalid as I see it.



WaxxyOne said:

A lot of people commenting here about "patent trolls" need to go back and look up the history of this case. The person suing Nintendo didn't just do so randomly after deciding he might make a quick buck. In fact, he was one of several individuals invited to Nintendo's offices to demonstrate glasses-free 3D technology. Afterwards he was told they had decided not to use his technology in their new system. Now he is alleging that the 3DS makes use of that technology even though Nintendo didn't pay him for its usage.

A similar situation would be a movie studio reviewing a script, turning it down, and then releasing a suspiciously-similar movie a year later. If you had written that script, you would feel slighted and due compensation for your idea. This is the same situation, and from what I know of the case, the plaintiff is not at all a patent troll.

I don't doubt that Nintendo honestly feels that their technology is sufficiently different from his, which is why they didn't think they had to pay him. Nintendo is not in the business of knowingly stealing from people. He however disagrees and is asking the courts to address the issue. Whether he or Nintendo is correct is for the court to decide, not us.



WaxxyOne said:

@ramstrong I think you need to read up on how patent law actually works. You've got some silly ideas. In particular, if you don't file a patent, you have no claim to it, even if you can point to a forum post that proves it's your idea. Secondly, if you don't actually have the means to benefit from the patent, or make any effort to obtain said means, then a company profiting from the idea is in no way taking money out of your pocket (you wouldn't have made any anyway) so they owe you squat.



ramstrong said:

@WaxxyOne My idea about this is to make the idea public domain, which means NOBODY can claim it. It's pre-existing.

As to your second claim, there is such a thing as "finders fee", "consultant", "independent reseacher". So, I think you're wrong on that front. All I have to do is wave my patent file around and say, "Any takers?". That constitute "effort to obtain said means." In the old days, it's hard. Nowadays, all I have to do is put it up on a web page, and send a few e-mails. Easy.

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