Nikon is the latest camera company sued by DigiMedia Tech over alleged patent infringement: Digital Photography Review
DigiMedia Tech, LLC, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against yet another camera company, this time going after Nikon over its alleged infringement of three different US patents. This lawsuit follows similar infringement cases brought against Olympus, Fujifilm and JK Imaging, all of them also over the alleged infringement of digital camera technology patents.
DigiMedia Tech is a non-practicing entity (NPE) of IPInvestments Group, which received many US patents from Intellectual Ventures LLC in November 2019. Following the patent acquisition, DigiMedia Tech has filed lawsuits against several companies over their alleged infringement of these patents — in the latest one involving Nikon, the company claims infringement of US patents No. 6,914,635, No. 7,715,476 and No. 6,545,706.
The ‘635 patent was first filed in 2001 by Nokia Mobile Phones; it involves a microminiature zoom system designed for digital cameras. The ‘476 patent was first filed in 1999 and then again in 2005; it covers a ‘system, method and article of manufacture’ related to a digital camera’s ability to track a subject’s head. The third and final patent in the lawsuit, ‘706, was filed in 1999 and likewise covers head-tracking camera technology.
The infringement lawsuit specifically names Nikon’s Coolpix A1000 as a model that allegedly infringes the ‘635 patent and the Nikon P900RM ‘and similar products’ as allegedly infringing the ‘706 and ‘476 patents. Among other things, the DigiMedia Tech lawsuit wants Nikon to pay ‘damages in an amount to be determined at trial for Defendants’ infringement, which amount cannot be less than a reasonable royalty.’
It’s unclear how much this could amount to, financially speaking. Likewise, Nikon hasn’t yet commented on the infringement lawsuit.
DigiMedia Tech’s decision to sue Nikon isn’t surprising in light of its recent activity. On May 29, the NPE filed patent infringement lawsuits against Fujifilm and Olympus, alleging that both have used digital camera technologies in select camera models that infringe on its US patents. Following that, DigiMedia Tech filed the Nikon lawsuit referenced above, then a similar complaint against JK Imaging, the company behind Kodak PIXPRO cameras, on June 24 in California Central District Court.
A full list of DigiMedia Tech’s lawsuits, including related documents, can be found through the Unified Patents portal.
|A summary of each of the lawsuits DigiMedia Tech, LLC currently has against a number of camera manufacturers.|
The NPE practice of exploiting acquired patents has been heavily criticized for years. These companies oftentimes don’t actually practice the invention detailed by the patent and usually don’t sell processes or products related to them. These non-practicing entities instead enforce the patent rights against companies allegedly infringing them, doing so to obtain licensing payments or some other type of revenue, such as royalties or damages, on the acquired patents.
Though not all NPEs exploit acquired patents, there are those that do. Ones that operate aggressively and file large numbers of lawsuits in order to cast a wide net to see what they catch are colloquially referred to as ‘patent trolls.’
In 2011, the Hastings Science and Technology Law Journal published a large PDF document titled ‘Indirect Exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights by Corporations and Investors’ that details NPEs and the ways they may be used. The discussion is extensive and ideal for understanding the reasoning behind these lawsuits, stating in part that patent infringement lawsuits from NPEs may be, among other things, used by:
…a sponsoring entity against a competitor to achieve a corporate goal of the sponsor. A corporation or investor, by serving as the sponsor for an IP privateering engagement, can employ third-party IPRs as competitive tools. The privateer, a specialized form of non-practicing entity (NPE), asserts the IPRs against target companies selected by the sponsor. The sponsor’s benefits do not typically arise directly from the third party’s case against a target, but arise consequentially from the changed competitive environment brought about by the third party’s IPR assertion.
Of course, DigiMedia Tech’s own reasons for filing suits against these camera companies are unclear and it’s impossible to say whether there would be an indirect benefit for a competing company as a result of these allegations. As these cases are only days and weeks old, the outcome of each lawsuit is yet to be seen.