Sigma Ordered to Pay Nikon $14.5 Million As A Two-Year Lawsuit Comes to an End

Nikon v. Sigma

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]

  • http://wilcfry.com/ Wil Fry

    I’m not extremely technical, so I wonder… Why didn’t Nikon sue Canon for “IS” lenses? Don’t they do the same thing? Or are they just pissed that Sigma lenses fit on their cameras and cost so much less?

  • http://daveography.ca/ Dave Sutherland

    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.

    Not true, they could also pay royalties for continued legal use of the patented technology.

  • Fred Smith

    No big deal. Sigma will appeal and probably lose. Then, Sigma will pay Nikon the $ plus a tiny percentage of future sales for use of the technology, at least until Sigma comes up with something better. Nikon will take that deal. Nikon sales are not hitting projections, with DSLRs in decline with most age group buyers (those of us with lots of grey hair are exceptions). Image stabilization in any lens is less optimal that having IS in the camera (like Pentax). Eventually, IS will be in all cameras making IS lenses obsolete.

    Sigma is a PITA for Cannon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, etc. because they offer great products at a price point that compresses the margins for the others who have to compete with them. There are exceptions, of course.. What will it take for Tamron and Sigma to be the preferred products for serious DSLR buyers (those that eschew kit lenses)? I think having the “If you ever change camera manufacturers/models, we will change/swap our lenses for $____ so they will work with that system…” will do the trick.