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Aptina signs patent cross-license agreement with Sony

By dpreview staff on Feb 28, 2013 at 23:00 GMT

Sensor maker Aptina has announced it has signed a patent cross-license agreement with Sony, that provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio. This agreement gives two prominent sensor makers access to some of each other's technologies for future development of cameras and other imaging products.

Press Release:

Aptina Enters into Patent License Agreement with Sony

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Aptina today announced that it has signed a patent cross-license agreement with Sony, which provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio.

Aptina and Sony have built industry leading patent portfolios that include seminal image sensor patents covering image capture and processing methods. These technologies are fundamental to the world’s growing image sensor industry, with sales of over two billion units annually, and found in almost every consumer electronics device including smart phones, automobiles, tablets, televisions, gaming platforms, medical equipment and digital cameras.

This cross-license agreement enables these two innovation leaders to operate freely and use each other's patented inventions to advance the pace of development for cameras and other imaging applications. The cooperation fostered by the cross-license reinforces the ability of both companies to provide compelling imaging solutions to their customers.

"Patents and innovation are a critical component of Aptina’s strategy, and Aptina’s patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the image sensor industry," said Bob Gove, President and CTO of Aptina. "We believe that this powerful blend will advance technology to realize our goal of enabling consumers to capture beautiful images and visual information."

Aptina, the foundational CMOS imaging company, began within Micron Technology in 2001 with acquisitions of early CMOS imaging companies Photobit and then Avago Technologies’ image sensor business. Aptina became an independent company in 2009. Aptina delivers advanced CMOS imaging solutions to all major imaging markets and is the leading supplier in many markets including the rapidly growing automotive market.


Total comments: 30
By Weyskipper (Mar 2, 2013)

This is clearly a game-changer. The combined technologies currently have no equal. There is however no reason to believe Canon is doomed, I am sure Sony / Aptiva would love to have them as a customer, unless there is some exclusivity deal with Nikon.

Mike Fewster
By Mike Fewster (Mar 2, 2013)

I agree that this is really significant news. Add Aptina high speed Af technology to Sony DR leadership and you can see what is in it for both companies. I agree that Canon is falling off the sensor development pace.

By rhlpetrus (Mar 1, 2013)

This is very relevant, imagine the Sony's excellent designs with Aptina-Nikon tech for off-sensor technology.

By bobn2 (Mar 3, 2013)

Sony has it's own image sensor PDAF technology, and from reading the patents, I think it's got more potential than Nikons. So far as I know, the 1 series PDAF is entirely covered by Nikon's patents, so would not be part of this deal in any case. I suspect what is behind this is that Sony is infringing on some of the Aptina patent portfolio (they have most of Eric Fossum's team's patents, which cover a lot of the basics of CMOS imaging tech) while Aptina would like access to some of Sony's, such as the digital CDS which is in Exmor. So, a trade has been done rather than have a litigation battle, which would suit neither party.

1 upvote
By naththo (Apr 18, 2013)

Canon sensor is still the best and far superior for video especially at high iso compare to Nikon video mode is up to no good with high iso noise and purplish cast when using high iso in video mode. Thats the problem. Canon has done lots of work putting toward for the best video quality they can produce. Lots of tv show here are using Canon since. I have seen video of Canon at high iso compared to Nikon. Canon killed all over Nikon big time. Even throw Sony out of windows. But for photography thats totally opposite. Sony, Pentax and Nikon has since been ahead of Canon for photography quality. But at higher iso Canon still winning and Pentax comes 2nd. So you gotta think carefully about what you have pro and con for those sensor quality.

By topstuff (Mar 1, 2013)

Canny move by Sony. They are sucking up as much sensor IP and tech as they can. This only makes them stronger.

Wouldn't be surprised to see Aptiva sell up to them in time.

1 upvote
Jonathan F/2
By Jonathan F/2 (Mar 1, 2013)

My take...Sony was actually infringing on Aptina's patent portfolio, but since Aptina's a smaller company and any legal wrangling would be financially draining against Sony, it was just easier to make a cross-license agreement.

If it was the other way around, I'm sure Sony would sue Aptina into oblivion!

Comment edited 54 seconds after posting
By Combatmedic870 (Mar 2, 2013)


Sony would crush aptina in just the lawsuit nd they would never recover.

1 upvote
By futile32 (Mar 1, 2013)

Good to see companies sharing the knowledge a little. Means only good things for the consumers.

By Abaregi (Mar 1, 2013)

Happy to hear this. Great News!

1 upvote
By Shamael (Mar 1, 2013)

u better say that Canon will canonize them ;)

By papparazzi (Mar 1, 2013)

Canon will CRUSH them. Just wait and see. ;)

Just a Photographer
By Just a Photographer (Mar 1, 2013)

For long Canon can not keep up with Sony and Aptina, which is actually quite sad. Canon sensors still suffer from poor Digital Range and just suck in the shadows where they produce this nasty square pattern that is full of noise.

Canon should get to work on this issue instead of being arrogant.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
By RussellInCincinnati (Mar 1, 2013)

Let's see your photos that support your fact-free criticisms, one taken with a Canon sensor and the other with a Sony sensor of the same size, from similarly priced and similar-generation cameras and similar workflow, that show the Canon with terrible shadow noise compared to the Sony at reasonable image size. Otherwise, spare us your concern troll bloviation.

1 upvote
By TrojMacReady (Mar 1, 2013)

Here you go -->

Same exposure, same spot, same conditions. Notice the big difference in shadow noise and banding.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
By MadManAce (Mar 1, 2013)


By rhlpetrus (Mar 2, 2013)

I liked Crush when I was a kid ;-). Is Canon making it now?

By Lucas_ (11 months ago)

IMHO we may be seeing Canon cameras with Sony sensors in the future...!

By MarkInSF (Mar 1, 2013)

I hope something good comes from this. The Aptina sensor in my Nikon V1 has great pdaf autofocus and global shutter, it just needs less noise. Now maybe they can start working on it.

By CollBaxter (Mar 1, 2013)

And so the lawyers line up. It is cheaper for 2 companies to sue and spread the law suits costs .

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

By zaurus (Mar 1, 2013)

Prepare for more such atrocities to come.
Just remember who started it all -- IBM, Microsoft and Apple.
Not that it matters eventually, repeat atrocities tend to become the norm as soon as they can translate to $.

Tonio Loewald
By Tonio Loewald (Mar 1, 2013)

Patent litigation is as old as patent law, much older than IBM, let alone Apple or Microsoft.

1 upvote
By zaurus (Mar 3, 2013)

Software-related patent litigation is not older than IBM.
Sorry to point out the topic of the article, but you seem to enjoy the obvious being stated.

By xlynx9 (Mar 1, 2013)

It sounds like they just agree not to sue each other, rather than any real cooperation such as a technical disclosure.

1 upvote
By dosdan (Mar 1, 2013)

Aptiva + Sony = An even tougher time for Canon sensor innovation.


By AmaturFotografer (Mar 1, 2013)

Just buy Sony sensor then, hehehehe.

zos xavius
By zos xavius (Mar 1, 2013)

Or toshiba....

By tkbslc (Mar 1, 2013)

Maybe they know something is coming from Canon?

By caterpillar (Mar 1, 2013)


It does not matter how many alliances are formed. If Canon has something really groundbreaking to come out this year, they can't touch that product till they can come out with their own. But I don't think Canon has anything that Sony or Aptiva is to be worried about. If any, it is the other way around.

The fruits of this alliance takes time to bear fruit. I don't expect to see anything this year. Maybe 1.5 year from now, we'll see something come out. It takes time to digest and do R&D to integrate that into one's own product line.

Comment edited 26 seconds after posting
By Myari (Mar 1, 2013)

"Maybe they know something is coming from Canon?"

Canon is not a big player in sensor technology. There are other far far bigger (for example, Samsung) players here.

Plus Canon doesn't even sell sensor, so Canon would be dead last worry for Aptina. Canon is not even relevant here ..

Total comments: 30