Nikon sues Polaroid/Sakar for mirrorless camera design patent and trade dress infringement

Do you remember the Android based Polaroid IM1836 interchangeable lens camera that looked very much like the Nikon 1 J1/J2 models? Even the 30-110mm lens looked identical to the Nikkor 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6. Nikon also thinks that Sakar/Polaroid ripped their Nikon 1 camera design and filed today a lawsuit in the U.S. for design patent and trade dress infringement. Here is the full text of the Nikon's news release:

Nikon filed a lawsuit in the U.S. for design patent and trade dress infringement

October 15, 2013

On October 11, 2013 (US Eastern Time), Nikon Corporation (having its principal place of business in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, President: Makoto Kimura) and Nikon Inc. (having its principal place of business in New York, President & CEO: Nobuyoshi Gokyu) (collectively, hereafter referred to as "Nikon") filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Sakar International, Inc. (having its principal place of business in New Jersey) (hereafter referred to as "Sakar") for the alleged infringement of the design patent and trade dress right owned by Nikon. Nikon seeks injunctive relief against Sakar in the lawsuit to prevent them from manufacturing and selling their Polaroid brand digital still camera, "Polaroid iM1836".

Nikon makes a great effort to create designs that can be differentiated from other companies' products, as well as to strongly deter the imitation of its designs. Although Nikon has negotiated with Sakar to amicably solve this problem, we could not reach an agreement. Consequently, Nikon decided to initiate the lawsuit by necessity.

The abovementioned design patent and trade dress right are related to the Advanced Camera with Interchangeable Lenses "Nikon 1".

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  • Marc W.

    And I thought that they were working together because it was so obvious a copy.

    • koenshaku

      lol yeah that is pretty extreme.

    • Andrew

      They (Poloroid /Sakar) must have been thinking (correction: dreaming) of working together with Nikon but someone must not have told the designers (when they awoke from their sleep) that the final documents had not been signed (in the real world).

  • zoetmb

    I think Polaroid is going to make the case that there’s only so many ways to design a camera of that form factor and that Nikon doesn’t have a monopoly on rectangles and circles. Remember that even though Samsung ripped off Apple’s iPad and their own lawyers could not even tell the difference between them at a distance, the court ruled in favor of Samsung.
    Polaroid will find someone else’s camera that’s very similar and argue that since Nikon didn’t sue that other company, they shouldn’t be suing them.
    Does Nikon manufacture these cameras themselves or are they manufactured in some OEM Chinese factory? Because if it’s the latter, the Chinese factory probably makes pretty much the same camera for everyone.
    Nikon will have to prove that either there’s confusion in the marketplace or that they lost sales because of the Polaroid. That’s going to be hard to prove. In any case, this will go on for years.

    • Bart Willems

      A tablet is basically a 2 dimensional object as it’s made as flat as possible. Add a screen that takes up the entire front and there is very little leeway in the design. You can put a bunch of designers who’ve never seen an iPad in a room, tell them “design a tablet that shows as much screen as possible” and they’ll come up with a similar design.
      Cameras have a three dimensional shape. There’s many options to pick from yet Polaroid decided to clone the Nikon model to an extend that it’s very easily “confused” for the Nikon product. It’s unlikely when you put designers in a room, don’t show them the Nikon One, and let them design a mirrorless camera that they’ll come up with an *exact* clone of the Nikon model the way Polaroid did.

      As a car manufacturer you can’t sue others for using wheels the same shape you have. They’re round; there’s not a lot of options there. But you can sue another manufacturer for cloning the entire design of the car. You have something similar here and I think that Nikon does have a compelling argument.

      As to who will win: this is the US. It will depend on who can afford the best lawyers, not on who’s in the right or not.

      • The key is whether the Polaroid camera is deemed “confusingly similar” to the Nikon and therefore infringes on Nikon’s design patent/s or other types of Nikon’s intellectual property.

      • Michael Sloan

        I agree about your lawyers point, but disagree on the rest. If you told engineers to make the cheapest to manufacture mirrorless system they could, you would have very similar designs. Square body with rounded edges for strength, LCD back panel, sensor mount out front, off center to the left for easy gripping on the right. Add index shutter release on top right edge, along with on off button. Use cheapest abs plastic you can find. Locate a manufacturer who produces eyelets for camera neck strap, call it a day. This same design, in countless colors and materials has been dominating retail stores like Walmart, for years. Even my old Olympus ZX-1 looks similar. So if Nikon wins this BS lawsuit, I wonder how long it will take before someone else says they stole our design first. Nikon just needs to start making products that inspire and stop exerting energy and resources to chase frivolous lawsuits. Maybe the Nikon 1 was such a failure, they are looking at other possibilities to make revenue from it, even if includes not selling the product at all!

    • lobsterhat

      True, you can’t patent a rectangle and a circle, but just about every other design / style choice Polaroid could make including color scheme, buttons, control placement, strap fastener, materials, proportions, was nearly identical.

      • Michael Sloan

        Just like every other point and shoot camera made in the last 10 years. Lenses are round, cameras are square. The big Nikon lettering tells me it’s a Nikon. Besides, Nikon didn’t only make white Nikon 1 series bodies. If Polaroid copied all of Nikon’s available colors, then maybe they have a case.

  • anonymous

    Nikon plot to ‘lawyer buy’ Polaroid

  • 103David

    I’m so glad that I don’t give a rat’s ass about stuff like this.

  • Mansgame

    It’s a rectangle and circle.

  • Thumpr455

    Looks like an open and shut case in favor of Nikon. Shouldn’t take more than five or ten years and a few million dollars to win it in the US Courts.

    • Thom Hogan

      What are Nikon’s damages? The Sakar/Polaroid camera hasn’t been sold yet. On the other hand, Sakar’s damages could be considerable if this keeps them from selling the camera but they end up winning the suit.

      • Global

        Thom — brand and product dilution (damages) due to marketing activities. It won’t matter if the product was sold yet.

        As for sales, they’ll just get an injunction to stop sales. Nikon is being generous — a more shark-infested company (like Apple, which is 50% lawyers these days, 10% gurus, and only 40% engineers, it seems), would have waited for sales to mass up over 1 year and then tried to sue for the shut down of the entire company.

        I hope this teaches Nikon that their “1” product looks like a toy and is being copied by basically toy companies.

        Your chart about mirrorless cameras was quite helpful. I hope that Nikon products a Pro- version of a mirrorless some day with all the controls of a OMD EM-1. A Nikon EM-1 would be much appreciated, instead of their Polaroid toy-like lower end start.

        • Michael Sloan

          I see the similarities, but if you were to take two engineering teams, separate them, and tell them to design the simplest camera that meets the objective of cheapest to manufacture, they would come up with nearly identical simplistic designs. Also, how many cameras in this segment have a similar look? My Olympus XZ-1 looks a lot like the Nikon 1 too!

          • Andrew

            Sorry to disagree but the Olympus XZ-1 looks nothing like the Nikon 1, not even close! The Olympus looks rectangular with square edges, not oval edges like the Nikon 1.

            • NoMeJodas

              This reminds me of the Apple-vs-Samsung trial which seemed to be mainly concentrated on rectangular vs. square edges on the iPhone and Samsung Phone hard- and software design 🙂 . Both products had and still have so minimalistic design that it must have been very tough for the courts involved around the globe to make any reasonable decision in the matter).

              This just demonstrates how WRONG this whole patents stuff became in some countries. To me this lawsuit is also a sign of how desperate Nikon is nowadays 🙁

        • Thom Hogan

          Right, but it’s not brand tarnishing, it’s only brand blurring, and the standard is that you have to show “likely dilution due to blurring.” To be likely, I think Nikon has to show that the thing being copied is “well known,” right? If I take the Nikon and 1 and all other identifying marks off the J1 body and show it to a broad group of people, who will they say the maker is? ;~)

  • NikonFanBoy

    Hi Admin,

    Any news for oct 17th press meet?

    • I am not sure – it could be the D5300, a new lens or even the D3300. I am getting conflicting information.

      • NikonFanBoy

        Hi Admikn

        Thanks. Looks like a lower end model. Atleast they should release a good lens like 300mm F/4 VR ..

        • Mato34

          I’m starting to miss a 35/1.8 for FF for low-medium budget (say 300 €-$)… Sigma 35/1.4 is a win, but a more affordable and equally good lens will be nice to me.

  • joe

    Apple = Nikon

  • Cesar

    Have you seen the camera’s from the 80’s? They’re all the same!!!

  • Alwyn

    Wonder if it will also have the same piss poor quality control

    • Mato34

      I won’t discuss that regarding the reputation Nikon got lately, but must say that 1 system seems to be quite reliable now.

  • Spy Black

    I think Nikon’s pissed because Polaroid priced their camera at the level the 1 should have been…

    • Spy Black

      …and has a PASM dial like a real camera…

      • kassim

        That’s depressing indeed.

      • NoMeJodas

        IMHO a REAL camera should have a shutter speed dial instead of this silly PASM dial and an ISO dial instead of the redundant (to the shutter speed dial) exposure compensation dial. And of course lenses with precise manual focus ring (which ALL Nikon G lenses, gold ring or not, unfortunately do not have) and an aperture dial. I almost agree with all design decisions of this study:

        but I think that the addition of an ISO dial on top right of a camera body instead of and in the same place of the exposure compensation dial (e.g. on an X-E1 ) is the only thing that camera manufacturers should have added to a digital camera body to adopt to the changes digital photography brings with it. Unfortunately no single digital camera I know of has those features ( with Leica M being almost there).

        • NoMeJodas

          I meant of course an aperture ring on the lens a la Leica, CV, Zeiss etc and not a stupid dial for this important function in photography

          • Spy Black

            Kinda pushing it for a point & shoot, no?…

            • NoMeJodas

              What I am talking about is that the whole industry has “misused” the digital advantages to produce cheap and trying to invent “features” that are not necessarily supporting the photography, just for the sake of generating sales instead of thinking of the real needs of photography. There shouldn’t be “Point & Shoot” cameras in the first place, but instead easy to use cameras for beginners that supports and encourages them to learn photography basics and allow them to upgrade to more advanced camera bodies if they wish so without having to start learning from the beginning just because they choose to switch from one of the million Nikon Coolpix-whatever models to a Nikon DSLR for example. IMO that’s the real problem and not that mobile phone cameras are getting better.

  • MB

    First Sigma, now Polaroid. Nikon should be investing in making better cameras instead of paying greedy lawyers for lost court cases …

    • Ronan

      Better cameras???

      Nikon D600/D610, Nikon D700, Nikon D3, Nikon D3s, Nikon D3x, Nikon D800/E, Nikon D300, Nikon D300s, Nikon D90.

      Ever heard of those???

      I couldn’t care less if it say’s Nikon or Canon on it… but jesus dude don’t be such a moron… Nikon have some of the best DSLR’s on the market. HUGE choice of prices too.

      • MB

        I actually own couple of those, but never the less I would love to see and maybe buy even better ones from Nikon.
        But trowing away money on lost cases is really moronic thing to do …

  • Global

    You have to WONDER what Polaroid was thinking?? — Although, I’m just guessing this was a “Sakar” product with Polaroid’s name on it (or is Polaroid so far gone that it is “Sakar” now?).

    Very stupid of Sakar. Of all the mirrorless cameras, this is probably one of the least interesting to copy/worst ergonomics and one of the most differentiated in appearance.

  • FredBear

    The warning is clear:
    Next time you’re in a pub/bar and place your whiskey glass on top of your box of cigarettes be very careful – Nikon might sue you for imitating their ‘thoughtful’ Nikon 1 design.

  • n11

    It does look pretty similar.

  • kassim

    Now where’s D400 news?

  • Jana

    Patents are incredibly stupid. “Intellectual property” laws are retarded. Nikon is regressive for doing this.

    There’s nothing distinct about the V1. I’d even go so far as to say that the Polaroid model is easily distinguishable from the V1. I have an old music player that freakishly resembles the design of the V1 (minus the lens). I also have an audio interface that freakishly resembles the design of the V1. Heck I even have an old point-and-shoot camera that REALLY freakishly resembles the design of the V1. Should all these companies band together and sue Nikon for the design of the V1?

    Designs and creativity evolves though the re-use of ideas. Nikon are being monopolists and butthurt that the Polaroid has the potential to be a better market success than Nikon’s offering.

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