Nikon awarded $14.5 million from Sigma in VR patent infringement lawsuit

The Tokyo district court ordered Sigma to pay 1.5 billion JPY (around 14.5 million dollars) compensation to Nikon as a result of the patent infringement case for lenses with VR technology that was filed back in 2011. The lawsuit was based on six Sigma lenses with image stabilization technology. Initially Nikon was looking for a compensations of 12 billion yen (around 116 million dollars).

Here is the summary of the judgment:

"Nikon obtained the patent related to VR technology in 2002. The content of the patented invention relates to technology wherein a vibration detection device, which detects the amount of camera vibration at angles around photographic objects, prevents the influence of vibration of a motor for lens and thereby allows more accurate photo shots. Sigma affirms that the scope of the patented invention does not include any functions which reduce the influence of camera shake. However, Mr. Osuga, the Judge in Chief, states that the effects of the invention in Nikon’s specification is described as “it allows image blur to be reduced” and that the specification clears that it includes camera shake. Thus, Mr. Osuga stands for Nikon’s assertion. In addition, Mr. Osuga points out that image blur prevention system requires various control functions, and he states that this patented invention of Nikon’s should be rewarded based on the contribution of the patent to the defendant’s products, that is 15%. Therefore, the Tokyo District Court calculated profits earned by Sigma to be a maximum of 10.1 billion JPY, and found compensation of damages to be 15% of the profits of the accused products earned by Sigma."

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  • lorenzo

    They’ve got some money, we don’t have to buy any more rebated junk glass to help them 🙂

    • econ

      Win some, lose some.
      Got 14 mill from Sigma, give 5 mill to D600 repair.

      So, the other 9 mill should go to us… i.e. discount Nikkor lens, because we did not buy Sigma.

      Just saying.

      • Jay

        And this is is the part of economic theory which very rarely manifests. It’s wishful thinking.

      • Sick

        Just saying what?

        what a retarded thing to put at the end of your sentence.
        You sound like a greedy little kid who has no clue how the world works.

    • theodoros Fotometria

      If Sigma will pay Nikon with some 35.000 35mm f1.4 Art lenses, should Nikon prefer that instead of money?

      • AM

        Do you mean Sigma fArt lenses?

      • Mike

        As per admin’s rumour about a Nikon response to Sigma’s 18-35 1.8….. maybe Sigma rebrands the 18-35 in Nikon clothing for Nikon. 🙂

  • Joseph Li

    that sounds like a very little gain, just 14.5M just 12% of what they are hoping to get. I suspect a good portion of it goes to lawyers

    • lorenzo

      You bet.
      Several years ago my car was rear ended and totalled,
      I got $5K, my lawyer $10K 🙁

      • Jeff Hunter

        Yep, the lawyers ALWAYS win!

        • Financially maybe, but generally speaking, according to surveys, they are not a happy bunch.

      • Aldo

        kinda same here… got 8k settlement… I only got 1.5k

        • g16

          Well, what if you are a pro photographer and someone saying he could take a picture just like you by giving it a nice lighting and composition.

          I’m not saying the lawyer fee is at what it should to be, but still there is no law about how much they should earn their living from your trouble.

          • Mike

            There is no law that you need a lawyer either. A lawyer is “just” an expert at interpreting the… law. In most places you have the right to represent yourself. But if the judge sees you doing a disservice to yourself he/she may insist on representation.

          • Aldo

            I see your point. I guess the main issue is that there isn’t a law saying how much they should charge, which gives them a license to rob people. I had a positive experience with another lawyer dealing a disability case of a relative. His service was exceptional and he was clear about how much he was gonna charge. No tricks. In California, lawyers pair up with clinics to get the most out of traffic accident claims. The fees are not legitimate, mainly from the clinic (should you require attention). These fees are exaggerated to impress the judge and get more moolah on the settlement. The lawyer then “magically” reduces the fees from the clinic so he can take a bigger bite out of your settlement. This is fraud, yet it is legal.

            • Freehander

              So glad my

      • fixit

        so you’ve been “rear ended” by your lawyer, too!

    • Sick

      I was hoping to win $10billion on the lottery but only got $5million. Does that sound like a little gain?

      At the end of the day, Sigma used existing technology, why shouldn’t they be allowed to?
      Patents stink, the law stinks and morally companies should not be allowed to sue each other for such things. Sigma had to reverse engineer the Nikon system to understand it before copying it. They did their own work and they bring us the same technology cheaper than Nikon do. By suing them, the consumer is losing out and you continue to allow yourself to be ripped off.

      • umeshrw

        Please read your post again with your brains added to the process and then post your reply to this. Or alternately try to use your brains to find out something new all by yourself and think about your reaction if somebody else takes credit for it.

      • zoetmb

        You’ve got the law wrong. Sigma is entitled to reverse engineer. But they have to implement differently so as not to violate the patent. If they implemented differently, Nikon would have lost the lawsuit.

        There’s nothing wrong with patents. There is plenty wrong with current patent administration where tons of patents are issued when they shouldn’t be. Too many concepts are getting patented – you were never supposed to be able to patent a concept, only an implementation of that concept. And the whole business of patent trolling should be stopped.

        The consumer does not lose out by the patent system – quite the opposite. Without patents, companies will not invest in R&D because there’s no guarantee of a ROI. They would just wait for someone else to implement and then copy it. The proof of this is to look at literary works that have fallen into the public domain. Aside from the “big 50” public domain titles – some Shakespeare, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dumas, Victor Hugo, Frankenstein, Dracula, etc., there are almost no public domain book titles in print. Why? Because if a publisher invests in marketing a title and is successful, a competitor can release their version at $1 less and compete with them. So as a result, relatively few public domain works are in print.

  • Vicente

    What should happen if sigma let to produce nikon mount lens? As consumer. I would prefer canon if there were the possibility to buy lens of great quality for a low price. Right?

    • g16


  • Rameses the 2nd

    I always thought Sigma was just a mediocre third party vendor, but then I bought Sigma 15mm fisheye lens and mind = blown. What a sharp lens and images look awesome. I still prefer Nikkor lenses over third party lenses, but I won’t hesitate to buy Sigma or Tokina lenses, if they fit my needs better.

    • AM

      Did you always think that Sigma was just a mediocre third party vendor?
      Let me tell you that you were right all that time.

      • Rameses the 2nd

        Not sure if trolling or serious.

        Based on comments like yours, I wouldn’t buy a Sigma lens, but as I just wanted to play with fisheye and didn’t see it as a serious lens, I opted for Sigma. Most reviewers found it better than Nikon and it was cheaper, so I decided to give it a go. I was blown away by the IQ of this lens. It is as sharp, if not more, as my premium Nikon lenses. Bokeh is pleasant and it renders beautiful colors. I am glad I took my prejudice aside and gave Sigma a go. It is the cheapest lens in my camera bag and I enjoy it more than my 16-35 f/4 for ultra wide shots.

        • Jon Ingram

          Yes, the sigma 15mm fishey is fantastic, and has had a strong following especially in the under-water photography realm. When will people learn to judge lenses individually instead of by the name of the company. I’ve had some Nikon duds in my lifetime as well…

      • rt-photography

        I mostly agree with you that the vast lens lineup they sell is mediocre. there are some nice lenses in there, but there are just a few really great lenses. the rest is just meh. more than that, the biggest issue I have is not the IQ, but focus accuracy on these lenses.

        but the fisheye is a great lens. I think its sharper than the nikon by a bit. I like the colors the nikon renders though.

        • Neopulse

          Damn true on focus accuracy, used to own a 18-250mm, was terrible.

  • cocca


  • Lee

    So Nikon is behaving like Apple.

    • lorenzo

      Are they going to put Nikon on Ferrari too?

    • PB PM

      And ever other major tech firm in the world…

    • Ian Dangerzone

      Nonsense. As long as I can take files off my Nikon without using Nikon software, and do whatever I want with them, they will always be superior to Apple.

      • nwcs

        Their respective balance sheets speak otherwise.

        • Me

          There are many ways to measure superiority; financial success is only one of them.

    • nwcs

      Apple gets sued even more than they sue others for patent infringement. I bet you wish Nikon were as successful as Apple, though.

  • Mansgame

    Sigma makes decent DX lenses and at those prices you can take a hit on resell value and be ok with it, but my high end glass is all Nikon.

  • Spy Black

    I wonder if Sigma actually infringed on the patent, and if so was it on purpose? That would seem odd to me.

    • Aldo

      I thought it was pretty obvious that most third party brands based their products on some form of reverse engineering with some tweaks as to not get in trouble. Seems sigma needs more tweaks.

  • Morris

    anything left for the SharenonHolders ?

  • MB

    This is no good to nobody …
    Nikon will spend all this and more on lawyers, Sigma is a relatively small company and this will strike them … and we consumers will eventually be paying for all this …

    • It may seem that way, especially in the short run, but the purpose of patents is to encourage innovation. If patents don’t have any teeth then companies won’t be inclined to invest in innovation. Who would win then?

      • MB

        Cute … and I have nothing against patents that are real innovations but Nikon failed to prove that at first trial, and now they’ve hired some more expensive lawyers that were able to do it.
        It seams to me that the only thing protected by such a vague patent rulings is lawyers profits and they are the only winning party. It does nothing good for innovations because it is always possible to prove that idea is not yours, it just depends on how much one pays for …

        • Well, I have some experience with patents,, and infringement issues as well and it can get complicated. I would be very reluctant to judge this case based solely on the info in this Nikon Rumors article.

          • What do you mean? This is the court decision from the court in Tokyo, I did not make this up.

            • I’m not doubting the accuracy of your article, not at all. I simply think it is difficult to tell whether the verdict was justified or not without knowing more about the case.

            • ok, I see

      • Canon70D

        Wrong. Patents are about protecting the rights of the patent holder.

        • Mike

          More accurately, patents are about protecting the rights of the inventor; the intellectual property.

        • KnightPhoto

          It’s been pretty well correlated that patent protection leads to an economy that innovates and creates value (e.g. USA) vs. one that doesn’t as much (e.g. China). I realize this is a gross generalization but the pattern is there.

          • true

            @KnightPhoto:disqus value for whom though? The chinese companies can create the same kind of stuff for cheaper price, I see that as value for “consumers”. The patent system of US creates value for shareholders only, and I’d argue that’s not very good value in the long run.

  • AnotherView

    Patent infringement is never a good thing, but in this case I applaud Sigma for actually “listening” to the market and be willing to take risks to create products that they think Nikon customers want. Nikon could learn something here.

    • g16

      That has nothing to do here. The case is about Sigma OIS is came from Nikon VR tech.

      But if you were saying that Sigma did right by the customer by release low price primes. That I would agree.

      • Eric Duminil

        I really don’t understand. Does Nikon claim to have invented image stabilization?

        • Naval Gunfire


        • g16

          They claim the way Sigma OIS works is similar to Nikon VR. Well, this kind of lawsuit is very complex anyway. Both side could be right but at the end of the day it has profit us very little….

  • nukunukoo

    So what happens next for Sigma? Does that mean no 24-70mm f2 since it has OIS?

    • Charlie

      Sigma will in all likely hood appeal the ruling which will take several years to go thru the appeals process. If ‘m not mistaken, it as more to do with the fact that Sigma doesn’t have any licensing rights with Nikon

    • rt-photography

      I couldnt give a rats ass is it has OIS, as long as the lens is sharp as fuck like the 18-35 1.8, im very interested. if it razor sharp from f2.8-4 im happy.

      all I can say is every single 24/28-70 they made sucked ass and had no contrast at all. I had the 28-70 2.8 EX, then the 24-70DG and it sucked as well. im also interested in the tokina 24-70. hope both these guys can deliver. that will put the heat back on nikon.

  • ntotrr

    This site reported that the case was dismissed over a year ago.
    Now there is a judgment? What gives?

    • Maybe a higher court overturned the previous verdict?

      • ntotrr

        Both the new and older articles indicate it’s the Tokyo District Court making the decision, one to dismiss and now another to award damages. It’s confusing.

    • Guest

      Both articles indicate it’s the Tokyo District Court making the decision, one to dismiss and now another to award damages. It’s confusing.

      • Something probably got lost in translation.

        • ntotrr

          Or the Japanese system is different than the system in USA (where I live). It seems the case was tossed and then Nikon appealed. The same court heard the appeal and awarded damages. If I’m not mistaken, in the USA an appeal is heard by a higher court, not the same court that gave the decision that is being appealed.

          • This probably explains it and yes, in the US a higher court takes the appeal.

  • neonspark

    ok nikon, it is this easy, take the money, and develop an FX mirror-less body already.

  • rt-photography

    at least they now have money to pay ashton kutcher. id be detrimental if we lost him as a spokesperson.

  • Rafa R

    That will teach Sigma to play fair.


    They wanted to kill Sigma, I know why.

  • Marcelo

    Just read some discussions about Sigma lens quality below.
    I own a 35mm 1.4 Art and use it everyday on the field and studio for a year. Took it on a trip, got some rain over it, splashes from the sea, and so on. Build quality is great, much better then old Sigma equipment that I would not dare put my hands on before this. It’s my first third party lens, and for the money and build quality I get better results for sharpening, distortions, aberrations then Nikon 35mm 1.4 and even better the Zeiss. I’m looking very forward for their 50mm 1.4 that already look better than Zess Otus freaking 4.000,00 USD 1.4 lens!!!
    I have a D800, and a D700…for the D800 that extra sharpening is very much noticiable and helpfull.
    Way to go Sigma, pushing up the quality here!

    • Gino Bio

      I agree, I have a D800 also and I love it as camera body, after switching from Canon. I am buying the Sigma 50mm F1.4 and it looks fantastic on reports. Check:

      it surely beats performance on most Nikon Lenses, and Zeiss too. For the price, it is amazing!
      I will buy Sigma’s 24mm 1.4 and the 85mm 1.4. for me, the best lenses set.


    In Nikon’s future guidance on it’s earnings warned of serious competition ahead and reduced profits. I guess if you can’t innovate, sue your competition in a Apple vs. Samsung style legal battle. Stupid. Patents are stupid, they hurt consumers. We should do away with them and let the chips fall where they may.

    BTW: I use 90% Sigma lenses, I find them higher quality, faster, and quieter than Nikon lens for less money.

  • smartypants

    I’ve been buying lenses for various formats and mounts since
    1969, first as a slave in the family studio then on my own and 99% of those
    years I almost never considered third-party optics ( I do remember buy a
    Vivitar lens for my Minolta 101). But recently that has changed with the recent
    sigma 35f1.4 Art and several Zeiss lens like the 100/2 and the 135/2 and most
    likely the new Sigma 50/f1.4 third-party lens that now often not only cheaper
    but a sharper and more consistent over the frame that Nikon’s.

    This is a big change in the industry that can’t be

    Nikon, Canon and Sony have been playing hardball with the
    likes of Sigma, Tammy and the others for years now. Tammy now has a 70-200/f2.8
    that many reviews say is almost as good as Nikon’s and a $1,000.00 cheaper. The
    big three need to start dealing with that and start making lenses that compete
    in both quality and price and stop trying to win in the marketplace through legal

  • Jack S

    Ahhh patents. Protecting the pockets of bigwigs and monopolies, then pooping on the little guy shamelessly before robbing him.

  • Bengt Nyman

    This is a big mistake by Nikon. Sigma and Tamron both are contributing to the success of Nikon and others. If anything Nikon should buy Sigma’s best lenses under private label. With top of the line image sensors from Sony and a few top of the line lenses from Sigma and Tamron, Nikon could then concentrate on bringing out the next generation of top of the line, professional, FF, mirrorless cameras.

  • Bengt Nyman

    Big mistake Nikon! Sell Sigma a VR license instead. Private label some of Sigmas best lenses and focus on developing a professional, FF, mirrorless camera.

    • Gino Bio

      Best option …!

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