back to article Engineer's $30m windfall from Nintendo 3DS patent spat SLASHED by beak

A US judge has halved a $30.2m payout awarded to an inventor by a jury in a patent infringement trial involving Nintendo's 3DS console. The panel of peers in New York handed ex-Sony engineer Seijiro Tomita the multimillion-dollar damages after finding that Ninty had infringed his patented 3D display technology - which allows …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. M Gale

    Uhm... you take the lenticular overlays that have been on posters and DVD/video cases for decades, stick it on a screen, and it's patent-worthy?

    I wish I'd been old enough to file a patent back in the late 80s when I thought of the idea myself.

    1. Combustable Lemon

      Re: Uhm...

      But alas, you didn't and he did.

      Take the money and run I say.

      1. M Gale

        Re: Uhm...

        Still, if a child can think of the idea, there must be somebody else out there who had played with a TV screen and a lenticular poster.

        Just seems to be a really crappy thing to get a patent for. But then, that's patents for you these days I suppose.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Uhm...

          Patents have always been granted for simple ideas. I've got a 19th century folding ironing board and the patent on it is for the hook on the leg that latches over the metal pin below the axle in the legs.

          People talk about prior art, but prior art to the USPTO is that which has been previously filed with the patent office, not that which is extant in the world at large. For real world use to be considered against a filing it has to meet insanely difficult qualifications for commonality: Like a hat or something. When doorknobs came along in the 19th century they were nearly all patented, but people had been using knobs on an axle with a string tied to the catch for ages.

          1. h3

            Re: Uhm...

            The US also basically did exactly what China is doing now to them to the British when it started.

            (Something I find highly amusing).

            Even more so knowing the end result will be the same. (China being the world's biggest superpower for a while).

        2. AV boy in an IT world

          Re: Uhm...

          I disagree - it's actually pretty damn complicated, and it is a lot more than just putting a lenticular mask over a screen...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Uhm...

          There is a patent for having ABC on the 1 key of phones. And to avoid paying that patent fees people simply placed ABC on the 2 key. There are some really silly patents.

    2. Neil 8

      Re: Uhm...

      Yeah that's very clever I'm sure. Except the 3DS doesn't use a Lenticular screen...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uhm...

      " you take the lenticular overlays that have been on posters and DVD/video cases for decades, stick it on a screen, and it's patent-worthy?"

      You might still want to look at that as it's not how the 3DS works: It uses parallax barrier technology invented here in the UK and developed by Sharp. Incidentally, the idea has been around a bit longer than the ex-Sony chap was independent. I was involved briefly back in 2001 and I believe there was a DoCoMo phone with that sort of display and a stereo camera available in the early 2000s.

  2. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Incompetent burglar makes loss at fence

    escapes justice?

    I'm no supporter of fuckwit patents like this but to cut the payout because nintendos accountants can make it look like they're loosing money on it* is plain daft.

    * I take it there are no shareholder dividends this year.

    1. Shrimpling

      Re: I take it there are no shareholder dividends this year.

      Any shareholder dividends will be based on the Amazing sales of the WiiU.

    2. h3

      Re: Incompetent burglar makes loss at fence

      What I don't get is how this works. It is based on the principle that someone could infringe the patent with a game.

      (That would be like suing Microsoft because someone could make a PC Program that infringed a patent).

      Don't think Nintendo are making that much money outside Japan either.

    3. Don Jefe

      Re: Incompetent burglar makes loss at fence

      Jury awards are regularly knocked downwards on appeal, this isn't a special case. Unless reckless death, dismemberment or permanent harm occurres US laws will rework jury awards based on the financial disposition of the at fault party. You generally aren't allowed to sue a company out of business or cause financial ruin or cause financial hardship that results in significant loss of employee jobs unless one of the terrible things above happened or very large numbers of people were harmed.

      The financial impact on the at fault party is why frivolous or iffy suits are generally aimed at super valuable companies or people, the appeals judge is likely to still offer a substantial award where with a poor company or individual the judge may very well toss the case out completely and you end up with nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Incompetent burglar makes loss at fence

        There should be one thing that should be looked at; who asked for a jury trial. if it is Nintendo, then their request for an appeal should be denied for any reason relating to the amount of damages. They wanted a jury, they should be required to live with the monetary damages awarded. if the plaintiff requested a jury, then an appeal for the awarded damages should be allowed.

        1. Don Jefe
          Thumb Up

          Re: Incompetent burglar makes loss at fence

          That's actually a really good idea!

  3. Instinct46

    Better thans Apples

    At least its less silly than Apples, "look it has round edges on that device!"

    1. h3

      Re: Better thans Apples

      The thing is Apple gets to ignore any patent rulings. By the presidents say so.

      (They like to think of Apple as American even when they are Irish).

      The US also ignores the UN or WTO when it suits it. (Antigua).

      Only China and Russia pretty much ignore the US.

      I bet the Occulus Rift gets hammered by patent trolls.

  4. h3

    Nintendo are not really that bad when it comes to patents either.

    (If they had very broadly patented the Analog stick for example and said nobody else could use it. Or the Wiimote was blatently cloned by Sony in a similar manner).

    They have never done any of that type of junk. (But this sort of thing may well make them start becoming like that).

    1. Greg J Preece

      Or the Wiimote was blatently cloned by Sony in a similar manner

      Motion controllers had been around in the PC space long before the Wiimote, and the technology/techniques used by the Move controller are quite different.

    2. Pypes

      Maybe they didn't have patents on the analog stick because they had existed for donkeys years in both home computing and industrial settings. They probably brought the X-Y pot assembly as a stock park.

      Also, nintendo basically invented and pioneered region locking, so any IP brownie points they get for not patenting the shit out of everything are moot as far as I'm concerned.

  5. ShadowedOne

    Wait, what?

    So..every 3DS produced violates the mentioned patent, but since not every game makes use of the patent infringing component the judge reduced the damages awarded. I don't see the logic there, how does the number of games matter when it's the hardware and/or firmware that is in violation?

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Re: Wait, what?

      Okay, I'll bite.

      There are two matters to be decided. One is whether or not the 3DS infringes Tomita's patent. The first court said it does. This hasn't changed, and wasn't changed by the appeal verdict.

      The second ruling is more tricky: "how much, in monetary terms, has Mr Tomita lost in licence fees as a result of this infringement?". The first court said $30 million. This is what was disputed.

      Tomita's lawyers had based their calculations of damages on a claim that without Tomita's 3D system, the 3DS could not have been a success. There are two claims here. 1. "The 3DS isn't viable without 3D", but also the impled second claim: 2. "the 3DS system is a successful product".

      On 1, many of the system's titles don't use 3D so it doesn't hold that without 3D there would be no market for games on the system. But more imprortantly, the second assertion, that 3DS was a successful product, is not true - it's a loss-making system.

      The appeal jude agreed with Nintendo's appeal, but as the original infringement still happened, decided to award a lower amount, rather than overturning the original verdict.

      So, there you go. It's still a violation of the original patent (but Nintendo will be granted a licence once settlement is made), but the compensation due to Tomita for this crime isn't as high as his lawyers made out.

      1. Ronny Cook

        Re: Wait, what?

        > But more imprortantly, the second assertion, that 3DS was a successful product,

        > is not true - it's a loss-making system.

        Nintendo are in the black this year partly due to 3DS sales. They don't make their money on selling the console, but on a licence fee for each game sold. It's the same basic model as is used for inkjet cartridges.

        3DS sales were much lower than anticipated shortly after launch but picked up enormously when the price of the console was dropped.

        When the 3DS was first introduced, the 3D feature was publicised VERY heavily, as a core selling point of the system. It's not pushed anywhere nearly as much now due to the downsides (some people get a headache from the effect, and young children can't handle it very well.)

        I'm not sure if it's reasonable to say "we ripped off your patent, and sold it as a major feature, but we shouldn't have to pay you as much because it turned out it wasn't as big a selling point as we had hoped."

      2. Tom 13

        @ Kristian Walsh

        That's a crap argument and any jurist making it should have their law license summarily suspended for a minimum of 3 years. Any jurist approving it should have their law license summarily suspended for life.

        The correct calculation is: how much per device should it cost? If I license an MS codec for a phone it doesn't matter whether or not every user makes use of that codec or not, I still owe the license fee. If you didn't negotiate the fee up front, you take your chances on how much that's going to hurt your company. That puts a bit more oomph in making sure companies don't ignore patent laws until they are taken to court.

        Yes, yes. I know you're arguing law not what ought to happen. But law always ought to be about what ought to happen without fungible excuses like how profitable a certain division of the company is.

  6. paulc

    numpty lawyers...

    "The beak said the handheld 3DS gadget wasn't profitable and the majority of games for the console weren't using 59-year-old Tomita's patented tech."

    But... and this is a big but, the 3D screen was the primary selling point of the handheld device...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I cannot lie...

      "But... and this is a big but"

      Unfortunately for you, Sir Mixalot already has the patent on big buts.

  7. Matt_payne666

    $7mil? id be tempted to take it... its still an ok existence - mill on a nice pad, some investing and you can have a very nice retirement... true $15,000,000 is much better, but both sums are still fantasy money...

    1. Caltharian

      I think you misread the article, it was originally $30mil reduced to $15mil

      1. GBE

        It's probably safe to assume his lawyers get about 50% of what's awarded.

        1. Great Bu

          50 % ?

          I would think it's probably safer to assume that of the $15.1M award, his lawyers probably get the bit to the left of the decimal point and the inventor gets the 0.1.......

  8. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    $15,000,000 and 2 years prison

    Didn't Sony help create laws in Japan that give jail time to copyright infringers? It seems only fair that some Sony execs go to jail for stealing a patent.

    1. Darren Barratt

      Re: $15,000,000 and 2 years prison

      That'd be a tad unjust since it's Nintendo doing the infringing here

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: $15,000,000 and 2 years prison

        It seems only fair that some Sony execs go to jail for stealing a patent.

        That'd be a tad unjust since it's Nintendo doing the infringing here

        You're right. All of Sony's execs should go to jail for this.

  9. asdf Silver badge

    If 3DS a fail what about the Sony Velveeta?

    >The beak said the handheld 3DS gadget wasn't profitable

    Current Worldwide Sales To Date:

    3DS - 32.9 million

    PS Vita - 5.5M

    Ouch and worst of all it wasn't Sony but one of their ex engineers getting paid on this.

  10. Demosthenese


    A Japanese engineer sues a Japanese company over a Japanese product in an American court. One of these things is not like the others...

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Confused

      The Japanese engineer owns the American patent. The Japanese company sells the game to Americans which is where the patent is held. It logically follows the suit should be in an American court.

      And since both parties are 'dem fereingers, it's going to be the closest thing to an honest decision you can get.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019