A federal jury in New York has found Nintendo guilty of infringing on a key patent in the creation of its 3DS handheld system and has ordered the game maker to pay over $30 million in damages.
Seijiro Tomita will be the recipient of that check. He came up with the technology that allows 3D images to appear on screen without the need for 3D glasses, a feature that was the chief selling point of the 3DS during its launch in 2011. (Tomita, somewhat ironically, is a former Sony employee.)
"We are thankful to the jurors for their diligence and hard work," Tomita's attorney, Joe Diamante, said in a post-verdict e-mail. "It has been a honor to represent Mr. Tomita and to protect his invention."
Nintendo plans to appeal the decision, claiming it did not use any of the key aspects of Tomita's patent. The company does concede it met with him at one point during the development of the 3DS, but notes that was just one of several meetings with 3D vendors.
"Nintendo is confident that the result will be set aside," the company said in a statement. "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."
The 3DS has been something of a mixed bag for Nintendo. After an initial burst of consumer interest, demand for the product tumbled precipitously soon after its launch. The company was forced to slash the retail cost of the system by $80 within just four months of its introduction, an unprecedented move at the time.
That gave sales a boost, but came at a cost as Nintendo became an unprofitable company for the first time in its history, in part because of the 3DS price reductions. The system began to match the sales pace of the Nintendo DS for a time, but it has since fallen behind it once again.
In January, the company reduced sales expectations for the 3DS this fiscal year from 17.5 million to 15 million. That's especially disappointing as the original estimate was 18.5 million.
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