Nikon sues Sigma

Started May 25, 2011 | Discussions thread
Lance B
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Re: Did Sigma decide to use the Nikon VR in their own design for the SD1?
In reply to amdme127, May 28, 2011

amdme127 wrote:

Jim Keye wrote:

Ummm....no. It's nikon's mount. They can do whatever they want to it.

Nikon controls the mount and its specifications, they do not own it, two completely different things. Otherwise, if Nikon actually owned the mount then Sigma could never of a made a lens for it in the first place without licensing the technology from Nikon. Nikon makes it easier when it allows other companies to use their interface to the camera through the mount with tools and their own technologies, but they do not have ownership of that interface, any lens maker or person who wanted to could make a lens for the Nikon mount without licensing tools from Nikon, it is just much more difficult without the tools that Nikon provides to make that process much easier.

Basically licensing that Nikon provides is tools and technologies that allow the lens maker to more easily interface with the camera body with a lens.

They would only be legally responsible to those that have licensed the mount and whatever those licensing agreements entail. They have zero obligation to those that reverse engineer it. In fact going around Nikon's licensing makes Sigma vulnerable to legal action, not the other way around.

Yes they have zero obligation to Sigma, but at the same time they cannot specifically prevent Sigma lenses working with the Nikon bodies with a firmware update as others have suggested. Purposely limiting or preventing another brand from working is anti-competitive behavior and can lead to very steep fines (in the excess of one billion dollars) and from more then one country fining you that amount.

This would be a difficult one to prove even if Nikon did manage to prevent Sigma lenses to work, or work with limited ability, on Nikon mount. Nikon could claim that the fact that Sigma lenses stopped working was an incidental result of firmware or whatever.

To highlight this point is the recent fining of Intel by the EU. Intel had shown anti-competitive behavior, but the nail in the coffin was that the Intel x86 compiler that Intel gave out for x86 complication specifically had code in it that preventing any other processor but an Intel processor to fully be able to utilize the features of the instruction set even if they supported the specific instruction set (SSE, SSE2, SSE3, etc). Point being that code to prevent something else from working was enough for the EU to fine Intel $1.45 billion. That is now a precedence and other countries also reviewing the case now and that could make the total that Intel is fined to skyrocket much higher.

Nikon has a lot more to lose by specifically updating firmware with code that specifically prevent Sigma lenses from functioning with Nikon bodies. That is why the only thing Nikon can do is to challenge Sigma on patent infringement, which is what they are doing.

But more to it, what indication is there that this lawsuit has anything to do with the lens mounts? Nikon's lawsuit is about VR, which exists inside the lens, not the mount.

My comments originally are more to the ones that were saying that Nikon could easily hurt Sigma by going after Sigma for Nikon mount lenses or that Nikon could stop Sigma lenses from working with their bodies because they are Sigma lenses opposed to any other companies that do license the technology/tools. You are correct this lawsuit is about stabilization/vibration systems and not the mount (which Nikon cannot legally prevent anyone from developing lens for).

Nikon hopes Sigma will settle this out of court, otherwise if this does go to court, Nikon's patent will be scrutinized and they have the possibility of having the patent being invalidated, thus they can lose the ability to license that portion of the VR technology or even control it. This is why companies settle out of court and for much cheaper then if they go to court, an invalidated patent can cost the company an innumerable amount of money. Imagine that it does get invalidated and Canon can use that technology to make a vibration/stabilization system that is got 8-10 stops (completely pulling a number out of the airz) of stabilization with adding it to their stabilization system and wouldn't have to do the research and there is no way for Nikon to any longer compete because Canon's patents on the technology still hold since they haven't been scrutinized or invalidated.

Also another time that companies take another company to court is a strategy to put pressure on the other company to get access to the other companies' patents. Sigma may very well have a patent that Nikon want access to and Sigma has denied them, so Nikon is trying to get the upper hand and a better bargaining chip with the lawsuit and a patent exchange would become possible (Nikon's VR patented Technology for a Sigma patented Technology). It is a possible that this could be it, but I wouldn't count onto it until it happens, we just don't have enough information about what is going on and probably won't really know until everything is over and done unless the case becomes a sealed court case.
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Matt

"Knowledge, absolutely sure of its infallability is faith" -Yevgeny Zamyatin

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Lance B
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