Back in 2011, Nikon filed a lawsuit against Sigma for patent infringement involving lenses with stabilization technology (VR in Nikonspeak and OS in Sigma lingo). The Tokyo district court recently announced its final judgements, and they conclude with Sigma ordered to pay Nikon a total sum of 14.5 million dollars (which is 1.5 billion yen).
The judgement’s reasoning lies with the premise that Nikon first got hold of the patent for the VR technology back in 2002. The specific invention revolved around technology where a “vibration detection device” that calculates how much vibration a camera goes through at angles around subjects, and prevents the effects of that vibration to have more stabilized photos. Sigma argued that the “scope of the patented invention” didn’t include any mechanisms that reduced the effects of the camera shake; Judge in Chief Osuga, however, retaliated by pointing out that Nikon specifies the image blur being reduced as part of the outcome.
One thing Sigma has going for it is that the 14.5 million dollars is nowhere near what Nikon was asking in the beginning ($116 million), and it most likely has the resources to get the payment taken care of. It’s interesting to look at what the company’s next move can be; patent laws both in the US and internationally are heavily flawed, and put companies at a good amount of risk in discouraging competition. For example, many wars we see being fought between Apple and Samsung over patent infringement tend to deal with the most basic forms of touch control on the phones’ screens. This ends up going beyond dealing with a lawsuit where the entire coding of a patent is stolen, and it ends up in grounds where the use of an idea becomes a controversy.
The effect on the Sigma Lens line is critical, they would have to either develop a different technology or ditch the OS like completely, I would not be surprised if they appeal.
Of course, Sigma and Nikon can always come around and reach a settlement to resolve conflicts like this. Terms can be set in place for both to develop off of a patent that may be a relatively broad idea, and competition can increase; otherwise, the increased hostility can only increase the chances of a discouragement in how well both business maintain competition in the market.
[Via Nikon Rumors]