Nikon is being sued for alledgedly infringing four patents related to digital camera technology

Bloomberg reports that Intellectual Ventures LLC has sued Nikon for patent infringement on four different digital camera technology patents:

"IV said it initially approached Nikon in 2008 about taking a license to the patents. Nikon declined to meet with the technology-licensing company at that time, according to court papers.

In 2011, IV said it made a second approach to Nikon and its “good-faith efforts to negotiate a license” with the camera company failed."

The four patents in question can be found here:

  • 6,181,836: “Method and system for non-destructive image editing” by Delean and assigned to MGI Software Corporation. Prosecuted by Blakely, Sokoloff, Taylor & Zafman. Includes 16 claims (4 indep.). Was application 08/933,798. Filed 9/19/1997 & Granted 1/30/2001.
  • 6,121,960: “Touch screen systems and methods” by Carroll et. al. and assigned to ViA, Inc.. Prosecuted by Patterson, Thuente & Skaar, P.A.. Includes 30 claims (3 indep.). Was application 08/919,527. Filed 8/28/1997 & Granted 9/19/2000.
  • 6,979,587: “Image sensor and method for fabricating the same” by Lee and assigned to Hynix Semiconductor Inc.. Prosecuted by Birch, Stewart, Kolasch & Birch, LLP. Includes 10 claims (4 indep.). Was application 10/330,287. Filed 12/30/2002 & Granted 12/27/2005.
  • 6,221,686: “Method of making a semiconductor image sensor” by Drowley et. al. and assigned to Motorola, Inc.. Prosecuted by Huffman; A. Kate. Includes 34 claims (4 indep.). Was application 09/493,366. Filed 1/28/2000 & Granted 4/24/2001.
  • 7,733,368: “Virtual reality camera” by Teo. Prosecuted by Perkins Coie LLP. Includes 22 claims (4 indep.). Was application 11/935,344. Filed 11/5/2007 & Granted 6/8/2010.
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  • Anonymous

    Um, no comments on the lack of comments.

    • Jan

      IV. That’s a well known Patent troll.

  • OMFG. Really? The U.S. Patent system is in need of serious overhaul. Let’s see… Nikon, a company whose name is synonymous with cameras, is being sued by a nobody, patent holding company, who only exists for the sole purpose of suing other companies. Truth. Justice. And the American way!

    NPR had a great story about patent trolls a few weeks ago.

    • Dan

      Yep. Patent troll. I just hope some idiotic judge will not decree that Nikon should stop selling cameras in US until they clear out the case…

      • chimphappyhour

        Gee, you wouldn’t mean in the same shade as a certain fruit and Samsung would ya? This is indeed getting waaaay out of hand.

        • Not Surprised

          My programming professor (who does own/use an iPhone) told the class that, “If you are interested in programming for Apple, I strongly recommend AGAINST it. The fruit was once nice and shiny — but when it becomes rotten, its time for the industry to move on.”

        • vinman

          No, not the same at all. Patent trolls are people/companies that file patents on all sorts of esoteric ideas in hopes of someone developing something “close enough” to it to try and negotiate (re extort) terms for purchase or lease.

          The Apple/Samsung debacle is just two giants taking swings at each other over similarities in devices that don’t have unlimited room for design changes (like cars in the late ’80s and early ’90s began to look the same). The Samsung legal team being unable to distinguish an iPad from a Galaxy at 15 or so feet was a great comedic punch line, but not really an appropriate way to determine the legal outcome.

    • Anonymus Maximus


      Sounds like patent vultures. I hope NIkon gets prior usage rights.

      • Funduro

        I heard it when it first aired. Shame that the software industry can be extorted so easily by vulture lawyers.

      • standardthread

        great listen, thanks!

    • Cool WHip

      You don’t know the whole story. If anything, big guys are always guilty when it comes to patents because they can afford the lawyers.

      • A.R.

        There’s no direct connection between the two things there. Having money for lawyers doesn’t make you guilty. Having money for lawyers means better defense whether innocent or guilty. But it doesn’t mean they’re “always guilty” because they can hire better lawyers.

  • Joe

    What ever happened to the $150 million suit where Nikon was suing Sigma for VR patent infringement earlier this year?

    • sirin

      good memory. )

      • Not Surprised

        Maybe they sold the patent to Intellectual Ventures. =P

    • Jsa

      Probably swapped for 3 layer sensor tech, three twelves are…….

      • silmasan

        “What number of pixels is 3630 megapixels”
        36.3 MP is 3 x 12.1 MP (D3/D700/D3s)
        Probably nothing to do with Sony sensor at all. I kind of hope it’s Nikon’s in-house design.

        Whatever. See you next year, D800. Can’t wait to lick your F-in mount… 😀

  • Fleeb

    Intellectual Ventures is a patent troll. Too bad it is headed by a really smart guy.

    Remember Lodsys? Same company.

  • j

    You cant get away with anything nowadays…. stupid rules set and enforced by greedy people. I guess money is power.

  • d7000 fan

    Umm. . .there are five patent infringements listed.

  • The Man from Mandrem

    If I understand the model correctly they hire experts in the industries to generate relevant IP ahead of where the industry is (or aquire it when becomes available) and then enforce it (using the teardowns of chip and consumer electronics. I think these are the guys you typically see at conferences wearing suits, unemotional and asking very specific questions of experts after they have given a presentation.

    Always sad to see the patent process deter advancement of technology, buy why shouldn’t third parties paying to buy and maintain IP be excluded when the big companies play this game too.

    No sadder in my mind than DMCA and copyrights…

  • dotson

    You guys don’t get it! The big companies are always stealing the ideas from the smaller companies OR individuals all the time. They have tanks of legal defense and can get away most of the time–and they know it. They have the power. Don’t rebuttal to me–let this whole thing settle first and we shall see, at least for the issues at hand.

    • King of Swaziland

      These patents weren’t “stolen” from some little guy. They were “invented” by megacorps, and then sold to a patent troll who only generates revenue through the legal system and extortion.

  • Been there guy

    Maybe that’s way Nikon delayed the D800. It must have touch screen features that is in question. They try to void paying licensing on that.

    • I hope not. I can’t see how touch screen could be a good thing with a DSLR. I can just foresee a TON of problems while actually taking the photos, not in LV. And I can’t really see why it would be a good thing for any aspect. Maybe touch the screen to select a focus point while in live mode or video, but it would subsequently shake the camera while shooting video, making it useless.

      • My iPod doesn’t shake when iTouch it.

        • silmasan

          iSee 🙂

        • Funduro


      • silmasan

        In that case, all we need is a wired/wireless LiveView display/monitor that won’t affect the image stability at all when touched. Anyway, manual focus pulling is even more likely to introduce shake than touching the back LCD, so it’s more of an operator-skill issue.

        Selecting AF point with D-pad is cumbersome, you can’t jump from one to another quickly and conveniently. Touch focus is(/should be) much quicker and more convenient. For those who don’t want to get out of optical viewfinder while shooting, maybe a thumb touchpad for quick AF selection will be a a good compromise?

        Of course purist view camera shooters should not read this and just GTH 😛

        • Anonymous

          How about a view camera with a touch screen? Swipe for tilt. Two fingers for swing. I like it. A touch screen could be innovative, if done well. I wonder how well would it work in the cold?

        • I’ve long said that’s exactly what we should have, a separate monitor that is touch screen to tell the camera exactly where to focus, and when, just by touch. As for moving the camera pulling focus manually, follow focuses help tremendously. Try attaching a 180mm Macro lens (shooting at 2:1 or closer) to your camera, putting it on a tripod and touching the back of the camera to select a focus point. The FOV changes tremendously. Unless the touch screen is incredibly sensitive, which it should be.

        • john

          Don’t need that much trouble, Just god dam put WiFi in the camera and create app for smart phone/tablet to remote view/control the phone and everyone will be happy.

          • john

            wrong word above, sorry

            Don’t need that much trouble, Just god dam put WiFi in the camera and create app for smart phone/tablet to remote view/control the camera and everyone will be happy.

    • HGP

      You could be proven correct, in time, but it might be worthwhile you reading earlier NR posts about the Nikon and Sony factories flooding in Malaysia…and remembering the Sendai plant in Japan being hit by the Tsunami and power outages…no rumours there…cold hard reality.
      As to the legal issues only time will tell. Nikon’s own patents vs those in question will be scrutinised and a level headed descision should be made, otherwise you and I will indirectly pay for the legal costs and settlements awarded if they go against Nikon.

      On the surface, the first four patents appear to be nothing new at all.
      eg: Non-Destructive editing? That can be done with software that’s not even Nikon’s!
      Touch Screen Methods, Systems? Tell me your iPhone’s camera doesn’t operate with a touch screen but ONLY with a shutter release button?

      Bah! Greed has destroyed America.

  • Damn. Nikon just can’t catch a break this year! Hopefully they don’t get granted anything. Man. I’m beginning to think I’m a sociopath. -_-

    • The patent trolls, that is.

  • Wow

    Wow, Nikon is patent-infringing? Switching to Canon for sure now…

    • inginerul

      Yeah, I can’t believe it either, I’m switching to Canon as well.

      • Cool WHip

        You can’t switch to Canon now. You’re infringing on Wow’s switch patent.

        • ROFL! That is a good one!


    • Dave

      Pssst. Canon was sued by the same company earlier this year(?) over some of the same patents as noted by Thom Hogan.

      • silmasan

        Switch to pinhole then. No patent-infringing, 100% guaranteed.

        • HGP

          Aristotle and Euclid’s families will sue you…lol

  • The plaintiff is a known patent troll…

  • King of Swaziland

    The entire patent office should be sent to Amundsen-Scott station and made to clean the toilets there for the rest of their careers.

    Congress should be forced to eat (physically) every garbage software and derivative patent issued under their laws (high fiber!).

    The patent system has gone insane, and the only winners left are the lawyers (funny that the laws are all made by lawyers now, eh).

    • BartyL

      How dare you! Suggest polluting the beautiful continent of Antarctica with patent lawyers, that is.

      I would suggest shooting them into the sun so that at least their combustion would provide some warmth for us all, but you have to get them there first so that involves a net loss of energy.

      Probably best if they are simply minced and composted and I can’t see why we need bother with prior stunning or sedation. Only small stunted things would grow in the resultant compost, but this could still be useful for those miniature gardens you see outside businesses sometimes. Or bonsai gardens for Nikon executives…

  • marokero

    Patent trolls like IV should occupy the same space and time as a bullet. Sick and tired of these mofos trolling on companies that actually make something out of ideas. What products does IV make? Troll dolls? I truly hope a righteous judge sets precedense and throws this case out.

    • Troll Boy

      It is impossible for any type of matter to occupy the same space and time, not even a patent troll and a bullet.

    • Anonymous

      Good one! Troll dolls, I think I had a few of those in my youth. Green hair, before it was popular. Should have put a patent on that!

  • Been there guy

    What would you guys said if it was Nikon’s patent and S. Korean stool it on their toy camera?

    • silmasan

      “Nikon don’t be a troll”

  • The Man from Mandrem

    Companies and individuals are pooping IP filings all the time. It’s kind of impossible for a company who actually tries to advance the state of the art and deliver a better product not to step on someone or the others filed IP. The fact that each company has their own portfolio allows the big players in each industry (or government protected industries in specific other countries) to maintain a detent of sorts except where aggregious market share gains or violations of filings(or just a fun volley of suit and countersuit) are concerned. The problem with the troll is they cannot be counter-sued since all they own is the IP itself, no implementation so they will insist on top dollar. Without a reform of the IP and copyright systems none of this will get redressed. I doubt my pot smoking Alinsky-reading French social organizer friends would cheer on either Nikon or the Patent Trolls as both would be viewed as symptoms of a corrupt system.

  • Dave

    Intellectual Ventures and their ilk are scum who exploit the patent system to extort money from the companies that do the actual inventing. Makes me sick.

    • Been there guy

      @ Dave

      There will always be fly get inside of the screen doors. Certainly there will always be scums out there exploit the patent system. That is because our patent system is not perfectly designed.

      But, that does NOT mean we should give the big corporation a free pass to steel others patent, after all, it was that other guy, not the corporation came up with the invention.

      Corporations can use their money to influence the media, so the news came out slanted. Often times, they would have bunch of corporate lawyers using legal maneuvers to bully the little inventors.

      Please remember, the corporate lawyers are a bunch of leaches, they are just as bad as any ambulance chasers in the real world. at least, the ambulance chasers has to sweat it out , and actually fight the big bad insurance company for a living. The corporate lawyers are a bunch of well paid, well fed blood suckers that work the legal system from their nice Park Avenue Corporate Offices.

      The big, publicly traded corporations are actually the real problem for our society. Their top level officers are over paid jack asses like Bernie Ebbers, the Enron bunch and many more. They are live a life that is absolutely above the law. What makes them special than the rest of work stiffs? They don’t have two brains or three eyes, all they got is a rich family and the classmates were in the same asshole class. that’s all!

      • Dave

        It’s not really anything to do with stealing patents, you can patent making toast and claim all the toaster makers are stealing your idea from a legal stand point. It’s not actually theft in any what’s right or wrong, moral sense, it’s extortion plain and simple. Doesn’t matter if it’s mega corps or some random guy off the street doing it, it’s still wrong and bad for society and innovation.

  • Banksie

    IV’s business plan is a mafia business plan: pay us protection money or we’ll shut you down. They buy patents (which aren’t really patents in the old sense of real inventions) and if you are even remotely using the same technology they either take you to court or demand a licensing fee. Going to court can cost millions. So most start ups just pay the licensing (or ‘extortion’) fee instead.

    And even big companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc., are now buying patents that they will never use. They own them only to protect themselves from companies like IV. And we consumers end up paying. When XYZ company buys patents to use only as protection for their products (protection from companies like IV), then they add that cost to their own goods.

    These companies are just as bad as people who design complex derivatives on Wall Street and get rich while costing the rest of the world tons of capital, and they never actually produce any real goods and services. IV borrowed tons of money off investors who want a huge return, and this is the way they are generating that return. It’s capitalism run amok.

    • Been there guy

      Did Apple pay any dividend yet?

  • Been there guy

    Just have a rough draft how the big corporation CEOs are above the law.

    For example, a big corporation maintains corporate suits all over the world, staffed with maids, chefs, chauffeurs and security details.
    The corporation has over 20 private jets in different sizes, including many GolfStream Vs. The CEO went to Switzerland for a sky weekend, house guests would be supplied by Heidi Fleiss. One of the house guest “accidentally” O.D. and died. The body would be transported to private jet by the security details within an hour, that person would never even be on any one’s missing list.
    All of the costs are paid by Corporation, the real owners/stock holders gets paid pennies a year as dividend.
    Do you really believe any private owner would let their managers run a muck on their money?

    • Andy

      Yes, a very rough draft.

      suites, not suits,
      Gulfstream, not Golfstream
      ski weekend, not sky weekend
      run amok, not a muck.

      If you can’t be bothered to even proofread your posts, why would you think your statement could be interpreted as anything other the illiterate ramblings of a tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorist?

      End of the day, Nikon will either fight the case or settle out of court. I highly doubt this has anything to do with the D400/800 not appearing yet.

      • Andy

        I am also well aware of the irony of not including a ‘than’ in the post above.

        • Anonymous

          It happens every time. Typos in the comments on typos . Makes me wonder on Karma. Could it be that simple, routine?

    • Toecutter

      A ridiculous post,even by recent standards.

  • TaoTeJared

    Nothing like taking something you don’t know anything about and making it political just so you have something to say.

    There are 1,000’s of patent suits all over the world dealing with some sort of imaging design – software, hardware, optical, transistors, etc. Nothing new. Once filed, they have something like 7-8 years to settle or go to court. Many times 2 companies both come to the same design and they have to find who came first.

    Kodak has been surviving by enforcing it’s designs and suing people for very valid reasons. If companies or people are given patents they have the right to enforce them.

    • silmasan

      IV is no Kodak, but companies like IV would eat Kodak’s IPs if they went bankrupt.

  • Patent trolls, they own rights to patents acquired from defunct companies and don’t use them themselves.

  • Strange story

    I just read the intro of 6,121,960: “Touch screen systems and methods” it seems that they can sue any company that sells a device with a camera and a touch screen.

  • The invisible man

    I won’t make any comment, just in case someone in the univers have a patent on comments…

  • joker

    What a Joke. Those patents are really silly. For those same techniques are used in many different applications and if some one is paying money for those? . U.S patent system should flush to toilet and say “Bye Bye”….

  • HGP

    How would IV know what technology is in the next unreleased Nikon DSLR???

  • AnoNemo

    Who let the dogs out?

  • Rob

    It looks like only the first one (“non-destructive image editing”) could apply to their upcoming pro cameras. Two have to do with sensor production, and they probably outsource that for new pro cameras. The other (touch-screen) I really hope has nothing to do with any pro camera.

  • venancio

    it’s like an “occupy nikon” scenario, but in a more twisted approach involving nature and now the law… anyway, the key men of nikon are shogun oriented, they employ the tactics of war to maintain a way of life and they will survive… also the november 3 to november 28 window is just around the corner so let the shoguns peddle nikon 1 first, the flickr footprint of nikon 1 is way below iphone 4S, NEX 5N or even Fuji X10… surely the next one will come when the dust settles…

    • Sylvesterii

      If you think the Nikon 1 will ever surpass the iPhone for flickr you are crazy, and I am a huge fan of the Nikon 1 system concept.

      • venancio

        bless you… i asked the wife to choose: Nikon J1 to replace her Canon SD4000 or iphone 4S to replace the 3GS… iphone won… it was one way of letting her say yes to the D800… but i’m worried about these vultures who like fresh meat…

  • Keith

    Love it.

    When Nikon is the “victim”, the plaintiff is a patent troll: when Nikon is the plaintiff, Sigma is the bad guy for stealing their image stabilisation technology, despite Nikon not being remotely first out of the gate with stabilisation.

    • John M

      Spoken like someone who has no idea who Intellectual Ventures really is or what they do. Do a Google search for “intellectual ventures patent troll” for a quick lesson.

    • Tiger1050-rider

      Nikon might not have been the first to sell cameras/lenses with some form of stabilisation HOWEVER what Nikon are claiming is that the form used by Sigma has been copied from them.
      As a Control Engineer, I can testify that there are several very different methods for stabilising a platform in motion. Using gyro’s for this is copying tech that has been used in Aviation for decades.

      IV is a well known Patent Troll. If you doubt me then go look on for details of the Lodsys case. Lodsys is a subsidiary of IV.

  • make a quick buck sue someone the lawyers must be salivating

  • Scott

    More IP assholery (RIP, Minolta)

    This sort of stuff makes me feel stabby…

  • Ofer Sivan

    IV is a ‘patent troll’ they make their money off suing people on flimsy patent violations:

  • photoSmart42

    Yup, patent vultures. Sad, really, but the system allows it. Companies that acquire patents for the sole purpose of suing others. There should be a law that only allows patent infringement lawsuits if the infringed party can prove the existence of a like-device.

  • ivo


  • Sylvesterii

    Patent Trolls be Trollin’

  • soap

    Patent troll trolls.

    In other news the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.


    I don’t understand the Fact in this case.

    But we know the US Patent System is just changing at US Congress,now.
    So…May be this is the Last-minute sue?

  • MB

    Have you seen patents in question?
    For example touch screen patent is roughly stating that system should react somehow when something touches the screen … and that’s it … well how invetive and new that is … unless thay are claming the right for a strap on a touchscreen device that is also in a patent application.
    Thing is this is just greed and extortion, money for someone elses work.

  • Ric

    Roh-oh, Non distructive editing! No wonder there is no NX3

  • D700guy

    I suppose they’ll use this law suit as another excuse to tack 6 more months onto the FX announcement date.

    • jonm

      duh ever think this may also be why it’s been delayed.
      you do know that they talk amongst themselves before making these things public.

      grow up d700kid

    • Tiger1050-rider

      These Patent cases take YEARS to settle especialy if the case is heard in East Texas which just happens to be IV’s preferred venue.

  • broxibear

    I posted this video a few days ago but I think it got lost amongst all the posts and articles, the fact that you get different posts everytime you refresh doesn’t help ( I’m sure Peter’s working on fixing it).
    It’s a video that was posted on youtube a few weeks ago, a cad rendering of a D800. I’ve no idea if it’s real or fake, I’m posting it for you to have a look at if you haven’t seen it already. Sometimes these odd little videos and pictures turn out to be based on reality ?

    • Is this happening every time you visit the site? I’ve seen this issue only once or twice. Sometimes the sync between the two databases is not happening in real time.

      I will use the video in the next D800 related post, thanks.

      • broxibear

        Hi Peter how are things,
        Yeah it seems to happen every time I come to the site, especially if I post a comment. If I post a comment I can see it, but if I then click on another part of the site and come back to see if there are any replies to my comment, my comment is no longer visable…I have to refresh to see it, and then I’m not 100% sure I’m seeing every other posted comments ?
        You end up commenting or answering something that’s already been done, but you can’t see it ?
        It’s just a little bit annoying that’s all.

        • Ric

          That is exactly my experience.

        • broxibear

          P.S. I don’t know if it’s browser related, I’m using Firefox 7.0.1 and Win 7 pro 64bit.
          As I said it’s not a massive issue, just annoying.

    • silmasan

      Looks just like D700. I’d say it’s just another student’s work/fan art. 🙂

  • motion

    what!! being sued for 4 not 5 thats it im switching to cannon

  • @Admin: Maybe you should change the title to “Nikon is being sued for alledgedly infringing on four patents related to digital camera technology”, given the context of who is on the litigating end?

    It’s ironic that “IV” in this particular instance actually represent an infusion of poison into our societital blood, rather than the more commonly referred-to acronym in medicine.

  • onodera

    They need the money to fight malaria, tropical storms and global warming.

  • Sem

    Intellectual Vultures LLC 😉

  • WePayForIt

    Nathan Myhrvold’s patent troll company, Intellectual Ventures, abuses our archaic patent laws to extort money from the companies we buy products from. Where does that money come from? It comes from us, in the form of higher prices. The only way to rid ourselves of amoral leeches like Nathan Myhrvold is to reform our patent laws.

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