Jury Rules Nintendo Infringed On Patent With Nintendo 3DS Technology

By Ishaan . March 13, 2013 . 4:30pm

A New York federal jury has ruled that Nintendo infringed on the patent of an inventor, Seijiro Tomita, pertaining to 3D display technology without the use of 3D glasses. Tomita sued Nintendo in 2011 for patent infringement because of their Nintendo 3DS system.


The jury, according to a Reuters report, has awarded the inventor Tomita $30.2 million in compensatory damages. Following the report, Kotaku reached out to Nintendo of America and received the following response:


A jury awarded $30.2 million in damages to Tomita Technologies in a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Tomita against Nintendo. The Tomita patent did not relate to the 3D games playable on the Nintendo 3DS. The trial was held in U.S. District Court in New York before Judge Jed Rakoff.


Nintendo is confident that the result will be set aside. The jury’s verdict will not impact Nintendo’s continued sales in the United States of its highly acclaimed line of video game hardware, software and accessories, including the Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo has a long history of developing innovative products while respecting the intellectual property rights of others.


So, the 3DS is safe, but Nintendo might have to fork $30 million over. Ouch.


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  • The Watcher

    $30 Mill? Nintendo will can cover that cost with Mario Kart and Smash Bros

    • You underestimate Mario Kart and Smash Bros. profits. Fire Emblem retail sales in Japan alone made them $30.6 million. :P

      • They should pump out another Fire Emblem then. :D
        (^ simple-thinking)

        • The Watcher

          not too soon though. people gonna think it’s rushed.

          • Shinji Kazuya

            I wouldn’t.

            Especially if it’s for Wii U!

        • benhofb

          Well, there is SMTxFire Emblem coming out…

          • I am so excited over that game. It is going to be epic as hell!

        • I don’t think anyone would complain. :P

      • MikeTxn

        They also have Animal Crossing. :D

  • Eh, it could worse. Honestly, $30 million almost sounds like a slap on the wrist considering this technology is used in every 3DS.

  • Nightmesh

    Someone suing the big N feels like someone suing santa. =/

    • benhofb

      Tomita technologies = Grinch.

      • NimbusStev

        No, they’re just inventors trying to get compensation for their technology that Nintendo stole from them. If a big company was making millions off an invention that you patented, I guarantee you’d want to take legal action as well.

        • Nicholas Perry

          REALLY? Stole from them? Nintendo probably didn’t even know the patent existed. Where is this so called Patent? Where are products using said technology?

          Nintendo was VERY forthcoming with the tech behind the 3D from the beginning. So where was this guy 2 years ago? Owait that’s right he was waiting until they sold so many units so he could cry in court “BUT JUDGE! They’ve made X amount of money on MY Idea! Give me some of that!”

          • NimbusStev


            Where was he 2 years ago? Apparently filing this lawsuit that this judge decided to drag out for 2 years. According to the article this “so called patent” is US patent #7,417,664 which he has indeed licensed out to 3rd parties. But it seems Nintendo didn’t feel it needed to play by the rules and go through the proper licensing procedure. Maybe they didn’t realize the patent existed, but considering they have a pretty beefy legal team, that’s really no excuse. Like they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse for not following the law.

            I just find it interesting how many people are quick to defend Nintendo when they are clearly in the wrong here. If this was EA instead, it would quickly become a story about a big evil corporation trying to screw over the little guy. Instead it is a story about the little guy trying to destroy Christmas.

    • psycho_bandaid

      If santa were stealing from him I suppose it would be appropriate.

    • Raltrios

      Watch – Tomita Technologies goes bankrupt because outraged Nintendo fans refuse to buy their products.

    • Kyle Silva

      This was taken from the movie “Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer”

    • CirnoTheStrongest

      Santa’s a giant corporation that makes tons of money off of Parents/kids and normal people? I really do not see the correlation here. You can make Nintendo out to be some sort of saint if you want, but they’re still a business, and they still care the most about making money. Santa only wanted to bring smiles to others, and didn’t really profit anything out of it, except maybe a treat to help him continue his way through the night.

      • Nightmesh

        Santa isn’t really a saint ether. The breaking and entering part has always weird me out in his lore. The comparison is that both are part of my childhood that, while the later being a little creepy, were things that always brought immense joy to it. So hearing about Nintendo being sued feels like Miracle on 34th street but with a bad ending.

        • Tylor Boreas Makimoto

          Santa is Satan who forgot how to spell his name.

      • Follower_of_Pram

        Agreed, it is foolish to compare them to Santa of all things. It kinda bothered me seeing such a line.

        • Adriaan den Ouden

          To paraphrase Tim Allen in The Santa Clause, “I work for a toy company, making toys for children all over the world. So in a way, I’m LIKE Santa Claus.”

          Comparison isn’t really that off. Nintendo products make millions of kids (and adults) happy.

    • Guest

      Y’know Pixar once sued Nintendo for their game “Uniracers”/”Unirally” for having a red Unicycle.

    • Bakuryukun

      People WOULD sue Santa…he would hurt christmas sales of toys quite a bit, considering his elves build everything.

      • Testsubject909

        You’d think the elves would sue Santa.

        The elves work day in and day out every year for toys for the entire world population, probably without sick day or benefit and do they get any appreciation? Nay, all the kids go “Thank you Santa!” and no one gives a damn about the poor elf.

        The glorified mail-man gets all the glory while the hard workers get shafted.

    • Istillduno

      Not really, when you grow up you realise that Santa is your dad and you realise that Nintendo is just another company that sells entertainment goods.

      A bit of a difference there.

  • benhofb

    Oooh. Ouch. $30.2 Million…. I really hope this doesn’t affect Nintendo’s productivity too much. Well, then again, they are making a killing off of selling the system and games.

    • The Watcher

      it wont, 1 Nintendo game is enough to get their profits back :D

  • Metalsnakezero

    Damn, well they can easily pay that off. Still not cool to lose money.

  • Bloodios

    30 mil isn’t even enough to make them flinch…

    • Surely it is not such a big deal for Nintendo, but even a mere scratch can leave behind a scar.

      • Bloodios

        All scars are well-hidden behind those fancy business suits.

        • And heal over time, Nintendo’s still making profits. ;D

          • デ オオカミ

            Last I heard, Nintendo made an annual loss of $460 million in 2012.

          • Testsubject909

            *whistles* that’s a nasty one.

            Every little loss piles up, 30 million is substantial enough still to be felt by just about anyone, except multi billionaires…

          • They have billions of dollars in cash reserves, given that they stop making profits right now, it would take until approximately 2050 for them to go bankrupt.

          • デ オオカミ

            apparently they do – and I’m glad for that because I wouldn’t want to see them go bankrupt – but losing money is not making money. If they made a substantial loss like last year’s every year, I severely doubt Nintendo would still exist by 2050, even with a reserve of a few billion dollars.

          • P 627

            when nintendo quits. all hell breaks loose. america be the fighting themselves while japan just laughs at their backs lol japan rooted its technology into america jsut to see the day they rip each others throat for a system they could not comprehend lol

      • AuraGuyChris

        They know how to treat their scars flawlessly, though!

    • James Todd

      its like a fly on a windshield

  • Suicunesol

    But thirty million dollars is still thirty million dollars.

    Someone is getting fired for letting this happen.

    • mirumu

      It’s possible that this was what they call a “submarine patent” that no one even knew existed until the lawsuit. If that was the case there was little anyone at Nintendo could have done about it. Unfortunately today dealing with patent lawsuits like this is just another requirement of doing business.

      Edit: It seems Tomita was issued this patent in 2008. He filed back in 2003. It looks like Nintendo may have simply believed it didn’t apply to the 3DS, or just decided to take the chance anyway.

      • PoweredByHentai

        No, it isn’t a submarine patent. According to Engadget, Nintendo was in talks with Tomito himself back in 2003 when the patent was being filed.


        The house that Mario built unsuccessfully argued that it didn’t rely on key parts of the patent, and that Tomita was just one of several folks it met with when it was looking into 3D tech in 2003.

        • J_Joestar

          And they were also in talks with Sharp since 02.

          • PoweredByHentai

            Yes, and guess what? The patent was very specific in how glasses-free 3D works as opposed to being something that is technically broad. The judge disagreed with Nintendo’s assertions that it was “overly broad”. The other reason the court ruled against Nintendo basically came down to the fact that Tomita filed his patent before Sharp filed for their own patent on stereoscopic 3D. The final step necessary for Tomita to win was for Tomita to prove that certain techniques required for 3D were the same between his patent and what was used to create Nintendo’s glasses-free 3D effect.

            While the specific steps needed to generate glasses-free 3D may vary, all it takes is for a few steps to be roughly identical in detail for the court to rule in favor of the patent-holder. In this case, the way parallax barriers were manipulated for Sharp’s 3D technology worked in much the same way as Tomita’s cross-point optical axes system.

      • Testsubject909

        Never knew the term submarine patent.

        Learn something new every day.

  • onilink888

    This one’s got me confused. Doesn’t the autostereoscopic 3D tech belong to Sharp?

    • mirumu

      If Sharp doesn’t hold the necessary patents to implement it then no, it doesn’t belong to them. I’ve no idea if this specific patent does relate to Sharp’s tech, but it looks like this jury was convinced that it did. If Sharp had held their own patent I’m sure Tomita’s one would have been invalidated.

      • onilink888


        Is this not Sharp’s patent and the very same technology that’s incorporated in the 3DS?

        • mirumu

          Looks like it. Here’s Tomita’s. Turns out it was filed a few months earlier than sharp’s.


          P.S. Even if Sharp’s patent is valid, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t other relevant patents. The implementation of any non-trivial product usually relies on multiple, possibly even dozens of patents.

          • onilink888

            Yup, that’s it. I don’t know if the methods for conveying 3D imagery is the same (unless I’m mistaken, it seems they’re both using parallax barriers, at least), but assuming they are, should Tomita not have filled the suit against Sharp?

            *Forgive me for my lack of understanding; I’m not well-versed in patent laws. :P*

          • mirumu

            I think you have to actually violate a patent before you can be sued. This is always how these lawsuits seem to work. It’s like how Microsoft doesn’t sue Google for any patents they claim Android violates. Instead they go after the companies actually selling Android phones.

            I’m no patent expert either, but from a bit of a skim of the two patents they do look a bit different. Sharp’s looks to be very focused on the screen alone while Tomita’s patent looks a bit wider going into details of even the electronics driving the screen. In that sense Nintendo could feasibly be in violation of Tomita’s patent even if Sharp’s patent was valid and does apply.

            One thing I’ve learned following previous patent lawsuits is that the language in patents is extremely important and you can’t violate one by just implementing a few pieces of what the patent covers. You have to violate the majority of what the patent is about. I expect this is why Nintendo argued in court that it’s implementation in the 3DS avoided key aspects of Tomita’s patent, but I can only assume the jury was not convinced.

  • riceisnice

    Why can’t they sue like Microsoft. They have money coming out of their gutters.

    • Testsubject909

      Hmm.. you’re making me wonder if Microsoft is currently being sued or not.

      Not every legal cases gets coverage and I think you can legally ask not to have any journalistic coverage of your case. I think…

  • Yuriangels

    wait why is this guys just now doing this!?!

    • xzeldax3

      Court sessions don’t always come to a conclusion in one day.
      If you read the article, you would learn that Nintendo was initially sued in 2011.

    • Exkaiser

      The suit was opened way back in 2011.

  • Spirit Macardi

    I know nothing of the patent in question or what it entailed, but I’m still leaning toward the “this is BS” side. I’m curious to know when this case was filed, since I recall stuff like this being directed against the Wii’s motion controls despite the console having been out for years at the time the charges were made. After all, legitimate infringement is typically noticed right away due to how many lawsuit-hungry lawyers are on company legal teams. Especially with such a high-profile product.

    • Exkaiser

      This case has been in court since 2011, when the 3DS came out. If it were really BS, it would have been smacked down outside of court a -long- time ago. The fact that it actually was settled in court is a pretty major indicator that it was a legitimate claim.

      • Spirit Macardi

        Except that lots of BS goes to court, and lots of it wins too.

        • Exkaiser

          Hardly. BS is almost always paid away outside of court. Companies get sued by nobodies with flimsy cases and would rather pay them out-of-pocket than deal with all the legal fees.

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    I am quite confused here. Isn’t Nintendo side already mentioned that they are using Sharp tech here? And they are having lots of meeting with companies other than his to see which 3D glasses is better?
    So this whole patent thing should not be problematic right? Considering Tomita also just get the patent rights after 3DS is released?

    • Testsubject909

      There is no such thing as simple patent problems.

      There are only complicated patent problems.

  • TheDarkEmpress

    > Steal patent
    > Make hundreds of millions, maybe billions on hardware and software
    > Pay-off patent holder for $30 million

    Hm….so basically it was just an investment on Nintendo’s part. Well played Nintendo, well played.

    • PoweredByHentai

      Not just patent-holder, the inventor himself.

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    Where was Kirby?! When we needed him?

    • John Kirby? That would’ve been the bombest thing ever!

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        lol yes!!! Someone got the joke!, Kirby is a great attorney.

    • Haha, yes! Nice. If only!

  • Shane Guidaboni

    Seriously? This is ridiculous. What a greedy jerk.

    • CirnoTheStrongest

      Greedy? Considering the amount of money he could have demanded? I mean, Nintenodo’s likely making billions off of the 3DS and its software. The guy asked for like 1% of that profit. Profit that will continue rising.

  • Tatsuya1221

    Considering nintendo was a big backer of SOPA, i can’t say that a claim of copyright infringement against them isn’t somewhat ironic.

    • CirnoTheStrongest

      The more you know…

    • Arrei

      Actually, Nintendo, along with Sony and several others, were never backers of SOPA itself. They signed on to a letter voicing support for anti-piracy legislation before SOPA ever existed, but had never supported SOPA in the form it took. The Entertainment Software Association, which they were part of, supported it, but they never signed on for it themselves.

      • Tatsuya1221

        Doesn’t really matter to me, nintendo is as heavy handed (read:arguably breaking laws themselves by trying to bribe lawmakers, claiming infringement without direct proof) as the mpaa riaa in it’s anti-piracy measures, i just find it ironic every time nintendo, apple, the riaa and mpaa, companies and groups that are so against copywrite infringement, are some of the most common infringers.

        And no, sony and MS aren’t excluded in this either, neither is valve for that matter, i wish they would all play by their own rules.

        I know i’m gonna anger some people, but that’s how i feel.

  • Go2hell66

    Pretty sure nintendos making way more than $30 mil selling these things, also he should have asked for more money

    • Testsubject909

      30 million. You can already live a leisurely comfortable lifetime with less then half of that.

  • Detrimont

    But the technology has been used in japanese cellphones before the 3ds even came out

    • mirumu

      To be considered prior art they’d have to have existed before Tomita’s patent was filed in 2003. Otherwise he could probably sue those companies too.

      • malek86

        Not unless those companies paid for the use of the technology. Perhaps Nintendo just didn’t, or thought their own technology was different enough (while it wasn’t).

      • Detrimont

        that’s my point, why is he only suing Nintendo when other companies have also used the tech

        • mirumu

          I see what you mean. When it comes to patents it is fairly common to focus on big infringers rather than smaller ones, but there’s a few other possibilities as well. It could be the way those phones implemented 3D was somehow slightly different and did not violate Tomita’s patent. It’s also quite likely as malek86 said that they actually paid to use the patent.

  • Göran Isacson

    Kinda interested in finding out just what happened. The way uneducated me thinks patents work, is that someone invents a technology and then seeks a patent for it. If no one else has ever done this sort of technology and they can foot the bills, congratulations: you have a patent now. Now, if this guys tech is used without his permission, he’s in the right to take legal action.

    Sooo… DID Nintendo rip off his technology when making their 3DS? It kinda sounds like Nintendo invented their own technology, or at least I HOPE they did, and if so how can this guy have a case? Did they steal his thunder, or what happened here?

    • Testsubject909

      Bit of a problem here with originality.

      As many of my art class teachers have told me. It’s impossible to be original. Whatever you do, someone out there has probably done it before. Perhaps not as well as you have but someone’s done it, maybe even hundreds of years ago. Not in the exact same way, but with a general similarity that in the simplest of terms, your original idea is a copy.

      Even if they were making it on their own, let’s say one of the breakthrough they made was already patented by someone who made said breakthrough years ago… Well… Gets complicated then. Sure the people at Nintendo figured it out all on their own but… Someone already called dibs on the rights to being called the original and first inventor of said technology.

      Hell, we still pass down false historical information as if it were fact in our popular culture, so… I’m stopping here, mind’s going somewhere too deep. (edit: Rather, too deep off the deep end)

      • Göran Isacson

        I see. One would think they would already study up on existing patents and technologies, but I guess that sometimes it isn’t as easy as just doing a quick wikipedia check.

        • Testsubject909

          On the matter of rather touchy historical information passed down.

          Everyone knows Thomas Edison, right? Well, it’s only recently that Nikola Tesla has been going up in the awareness of the general population. Or in classes too I’d imagine… maybe not, I know back in my science classes and history classes, we talked about Edison but not Tesla. Then later in life when I did my own research on the matter out of boredom, I discovered Tesla and his incredible genius…

          It begs the question though if there was also someone before Tesla.

          Edit: Oh and, if I remember correctly, there’s also a disagreement on who first invented the modern day printer.

          • Göran Isacson

            Oh yes, I’ve seen a bunch of articles and writings on how Edison was kind of a fame-stealing (and other things-stealing) douchebag who was almost in a personal war with Tesla. History is a funny thing like that… and yeah, maybe Tesla drew his inspiration from someone else as wel.

    • puchinri

      There’s also the fact to consider, even the people working in patent offices get icky. My boyfriend’s family (his father mainly) have an idea that they’re basing their business on that’s very big and new for the industry they’re in. Of course, when researching how patent filing works, it just sounds like a mess. But that’s for here at least (the US), and I don’t know how it works on a larger scale or anything.

      I can’t imagine how ridiculous things get when trying to get things through and how ridiculous some of the terminology is (and how hard it is to file for something that is a unique idea for you in your own right, but is close enough to something that existed before, prior knowledge or no).

  • LittleMofreaky

    Nintendo has been trying to get 3D gaming to work for years behind the scenes. I’m sure they talked to a lot of different people in that time and this asshole probably thinks he can cash in on playing some ultra minor role during said research. Ya just plain shouldn’t sue a company headed by a guy like Iwata, man! :(

    • Testsubject909

      I’d do some research before blindly tossing out accusations.

      For all we know, and from the results considering he won means that he was in the right to sue.

      It’s not that he thought he could cash in… It’s that he did cash in… Because he won… Which means legally he was right…

      • LittleMofreaky

        “legally” has nothing to do with the truth or whats right. Do I DESERVE 30 million if I burn myself with some McDonalds coffee even if I earn that money legally?

        • DawnWolf

          If you could manage to convince a court to pay you for that you’d deserve a lot more than 30 million…

        • Testsubject909

          Those kind of cases comes with a drawback.

          Infamy. Very bad infamy.

          You know there’s an amusing list of extremely dumb legal cases, so sueing for those sorts of things ends up having your name attached to such lovely words like stupidity and ludicrously idiotic.

          Also, just because you can pull out some extremely well known odd exceptions doesn’t mean they form the norm.

          It’s just that those kind of extremely weird cases tend to pop out and be told about far more often then the dozens or hundreds of cases that go by since, well, prim proper fair cases don’t make for entertaining gossip and story does it?

  • fireemblembeast

    Why would this even be a case held in NY? And that’s also a bit late; its been out for two years now. When I got here, I seriously expected Apple to be involved. Thank god they aren’t, but they’re bound to be eventually…

    • Testsubject909

      *points to the article*

      The lawsuit began in 2011…

      Some lawsuits take many many years to get resolved…

      • fireemblembeast

        >_< whoopsie poopsie

        • Testsubject909

          Happens, no worries.

          • fireemblembeast


  • Jesse Torres

    I should sue as well, i came up with the idea of touch screen interfaces, and you dont see me bitching about it.

    • Testsubject909

      Did you file an actual patent for it, paid money to hold the rights for said patent, created said patent quite a long while back (from what I’ve read in the comments, apparently his patent is from 2003) and pride yourself as an inventor or engineer?

      Also to note. He won where many other such people who tried to sue on patent lost. That says something important there…

  • Testsubject909

    The sales aren’t going to be hurt because, quite honestly, only a small fraction of us are going to know this exists. And an even smaller fragment among this already small fragment are going to care about this. And among them, there are those who probably already purchased a 3DS.

  • $29082171

    I smell an appeal.

  • gamerdude

    It’s basically the budget of a triple A title.
    I wonder if they really “stole” it or just didn’t know it had that patent.

  • malek86

    I smell appeal, but at this point, I guess an out-of-court settlement is out of the question? Looks like the guy has a strong enough case that he won’t give up so easily.

    • Testsubject909

      That he didn’t. It really should all be past tense since he won.

      • malek86

        Isn’t it possible for another court to actually reverse the case during appeal?

        • Locklear93

          Yeah, it could, and it looks like Nintendo plans to. From the first sentence of the second paragraph of Nintendo’s statement: “Nintendo is confident that the result will be set aside.” They’re not done yet, though they may have to set aside the necessary funds to pay in the event of further loss.

          • malek86

            It’s not really a matter of plan here though. If the guy won the first case, an appeal ‘could’ turn things around, but it’s more likely to just be a repeat of the first decision. That’s usually how things go, I think.

          • Locklear93

            Patent cases are dicey. I suspect you’re right that appeals fail more often than not, but I’ve read about more than a few patent cases where a patent troll (and I’m not saying this guy is one; I’ve read literally nothing of this case other than this article) won the first round, but lost on appeal, simply due to the judge and jury being ill-informed about the technology involved.

  • grevlinghore

    Jed Rakoff, huh… Try switching the initials around ><

    • Syn

      lol, awww man, I bet he had an interesting time in high school

      • Testsubject909

        I wouldn’t mess with him.

        He IS a judge.

    • Lol, how did you even see that?

      • grevlinghore

        I just like to fuck around with words a lot, so this was a simple one :p

  • komiko12

    At least it’s more reasonable than Level 5’s case against them about touchscreen mechanics.

  • AdachiTohru

    So they stole the innovation… THeyre not so clean after all…

    This news sound a bit(lot) subjective.

  • Guest

    I wonder what happened to the Level-5 vs SEGA patent infringement story?

    • Testsubject909

      There’s a few lawsuit stories that pops up when they get started but soon lose any coverage.

      Google it? If you see no info, perhaps it got settled out of court or it’s still ongoing in court, which means it’s costing both Level 5 and Sega money down the road just to keep going in court.

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