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Nintendo 3DS cleared of patent infringement in 3D technology re-trial

Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo 3DS Popjournalism

After nearly five years, Nintendo has emerged victorious over Tomita Technologies in a U.S. patent dispute over the 3D technology used in their portable 3DS console.

Back in 2013, Nintendo initially lost their case to Tomita and was ordered to pay $15.1 million in damages and a 1.82 per cent royalty rate on every 3DS sold.

Nintendo successfully appealed in 2014 and re-tried the case last year.

“We are very pleased with the court’s finding that Nintendo does not infringe,” said Ajay Singh, Nintendo of America’s director of litigation and compliance. “Nintendo has a long history of developing innovative products, and we aggressively defend patent lawsuits when our products do not infringe, even when we must do it over many years and through multiple trials.”

Tomita Technologies was founded by retired Sony engineer Seijiro Tomita. He holds nearly 70 patents and claimed that his U.S. patent no. 7,417,664, which enabled the viewing of 3D images without glasses, was infringed upon by Nintendo.

Federal Judge Jed Rakoff disagreed upon re-trial and ruled on Tuesday that the Nintendo 3DS performs in a significantly different way and does more than was contemplated by the Tomita patent.

Timeline

June 22, 2011: Tomita Technologies USA files a lawsuit against Nintendo, accusing the company of infringing on its U.S. patent no. 7,417,664 and the same patent in Japan. In the complaint, Tomita describes the patent as “technology relating to displaying stereoscopic images on-screen for viewing with the naked eye, i.e., without utilizing glasses or other devices.”

Stereoscopic image picking up and display system based upon optical axes cross-point information
   Stereoscopic image picking up and display system based upon optical axes cross-point information Public domain

February 25, 2013: The case goes to trial in a New York federal court.

March 13, 2013: A federal jury in New York City finds that Nintendo infringed on Tomita’s patent and awards $30.2 million in compensatory damages.

August 14, 2013: Federal judge Jed Rakoff halves the jury’s damages to $15.1 million, deeming the award “‘intrinsically excessive’ and unsupported by the evidence presented at trial.” Nintendo’s request to overturn the verdict or grant a new liability trial is rejected. They announce their plans to appeal.

December 11, 2013: Judge Rakoff declares that Nintendo must pay Tomita 1.82 per cent of the wholesale price of each 3DS sold. A flat-rate amount per device was rejected as it would be an “unearned windfall for Tomita” as prices for the device dropped over time. Nintendo was also ordered to pay $241,231 in supplemental damages and prejudgment interest.

December 8, 2014: Nintendo’s appeal is successful and the case is sent for a re-trial. The U.S. Court of Appeals says the judge misinterpreted a key part of the patent and confused the jury as a result. (Read the decision PDF 220kb)

August 4, 2015: Re-trial begins before Judge Rakoff in New York federal court. During the trial, Nintendo’s counsel describes Tomita’s patent as “almost a primitive way of offsetting” in terms of displaying 3D images without glasses. “There are many ways to offset images… Nintendo has another way.”

April 26, 2016: Judge Rakoff rules that Nintendo did not infringe on Tomita’s patent, and that the 3DS performs in a “significantly different way” that the patent.

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About the Author

Robert Ballantyne

Robert Ballantyne is Popjournalism's Editor-in-Chief. Previously, he was a producer at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star and other media outlets. In addition to leading the Popjournalism team of writers, he built and designed its website.

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