In 2008, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Patent No. 7,417,664 to Tomita Technologies, a company founded by former Sony employee Seijiro Tomita. Titled “Stereoscopic Image Picking Up and Display System Based Upon Optical Axes Cross-Point Information,” the patent relates to displaying glasses-free 3D images on a screen.
Glasses-free 3D, of course, is the defining feature of Nintendo’s 3DS handheld, released during February of 2011 in Japan, a month later in North America and Europe. Shortly after the hardware’s launch, Tomita Technologies brought suit against Nintendo, claiming that 3DS infringed upon Tomita’s patent. On March 13, 2013, a federal jury in New York sided with Tomita, awarding the patent-holder $30.2 million dollars in damages.
Potentially, he could have been awarded much, much more. Tomita’s lawyer, Joe Diamante, believed that his client deserved $9.80 for each 3DS sold. With 29.84 million systems sold as of December 31, 2012, that puts Tomita’s figure at a whopping $292,432,000. Suddenly, 30.2 million looks almost like a bargain.
It’s known that Tomita did, in fact, show a prototype of his 3D technology to seven Nintendo officials at a 2003 meeting (four of whom ultimately had a hand in developing the 3DS). However, Nintendo’s lawyer, Scott Lindvall, counters that “Mr. Tomita’s meeting was one of hundreds,” and that before encountering Tomita, Nintendo had already met with Sharp Corp, the company that went on to produce 3DS’s screen. Furthermore, Lindvall contends that 3DS does not use the “Cross-Point Information” that is a key feature of Tomita’s patent.
Following the verdict, Nintendo issued a statement on the matter to Kotaku.
“A jury awarded $30.2 million in damages to Tomita Technologies in a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Tomita against Nintendo. The Tomita patent did not relate to the 3D games playable on the Nintendo 3DS. The trial was held in U.S. District Court in New York before Judge Jed Rakoff.”
“Nintendo is confident that the result will be set aside. The jury’s verdict will not impact Nintendo’s continued sales in the United States of its highly acclaimed line of video game hardware, software and accessories, including the Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo has a long history of developing innovative products while respecting the intellectual property rights of others.”
Game Rant will have more on this story as it develops.
In January of 2013, Nintendo cut its 3DS sales projections for fiscal 2012 (which ends March 31, 2013) from 17.5 million to 15 million. More recently, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter stated his belief that Nintendo is “barely making a profit” on 3DS sales, and suggested that the company would be well served by exiting the hardware business.
Ranters, are you surprised by the jury’s verdict, and/or by the amount of damages Nintendo is being asked to pay? Does the finding affect your opinion of Nintendo? Do you expect the verdict to be “set aside,” as Nintendo does? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Follow me on Twitter @HakenGaken.