Nintendo Ordered to Pay $30 Million in 3-D Patent Suit

Nintendo Co. was ordered to pay $30.2 million to a former Sony Corp. employee after a jury in New York found the company’s 3DS machine infringed his patent.

The handheld 3DS game and video player infringed a 3-D technology patent held by Seijiro Tomita, the Manhattan jury found yesterday, according to the office of U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who tried the case.

Tomita, who worked for Sony for almost 30 years before quitting in 2002, sued Nintendo in June 2011. That year Nintendo, the world’s biggest video-game console maker, introduced the 3DS, which allows users to see 3-D images without special glasses. Nintendo said it will appeal.

“We believe we can win a ruling that our 3DS doesn’t infringe the patent,” Yasuhiro Minagawa, a spokesman for Nintendo, said by phone.

Tomita applied for the patent in March 2003, and it was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August 2008, according to the complaint. It was licensed in the U.S. to Tomita Technologies USA LLC, a plaintiff in the suit.

“Mr. Tomita’s distinguished career, both with Sony and his own company, is a testament to his innovative and pioneering character,” Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, the law firm representing Tomita in the trial, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are thankful to the jury for their diligence in this case.”

‘Unpersuasive’ Defenses

In April 2012 Rakoff denied Nintendo’s motions for judgment without a trial on the grounds that Tomita couldn’t prove either that Nintendo infringed the patent or that it had willfully infringed it.

“A reasonable jury could find, based on clear and convincing evidence, that Nintendo’s defenses are so unpersuasive that an objectively high likelihood of infringement in fact exists,” Rakoff said in a memo explaining his ruling.

Tomita said he met representatives of Nintendo in August 2003 to demonstrate his technology, according to court papers. A month later, he was asked to create a sample for the company, the filings state. Tomita said he requested payment or a licensing agreement and received no response. He said he had no “direct communications” with Nintendo from September 2003 until the suit was filed in 2011.

Forecast Lowered

“The same employees who attended the demonstration helped to develop the 3DS, and a reasonable jury could find that they would have understood the similarities between the 3DS and the prototype Mr. Tomita had shown them,” Rakoff wrote.

Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo in January lowered its full-year sales forecast for the 3DS to 15 million units from 17.5 million while predicting an operating loss of 20 billion yen ($208 million) for the year ending in March. Nintendo, the creator of Super Mario and Zelda, is struggling to compete with tablet computers made by Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

Nintendo released its latest home console, the Wii U, last year.

Tomita Technologies Ltd. is based in Yokohama, Japan.

The case is Tomita Technologies USA v. Nintendo Co., 1:11-cv-04256, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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