14
Jul
fujifilm

When you try to think of companies that have a motivation to sue over smartphone patents involving Android, Fujifilm may very well be close to the bottom of the list, but you'd be wrong. The company has recently filed a lawsuit against Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility for infringing four of its patents.

The brouhaha began back in April 2011 (for those counting, that's a solid four months before Google even announced its acquisition of the company). Fujifilm claims that several Motorola phones infringe on one or all of the following patents which include, in dramatically oversimplified terms for the layman:

  • U.S. Patent 6,144,763 -- A method for converting color images to monochromatic images.
  • U.S. Patent 6,915,119 -- A "patent [that] is generally directed to a telephone that can communicate with other devices (e.g., a computer) over a path other than the telephone network." So, a method for a phone communicating via WiFi or Bluetooth, we'd imagine.
  • U.S. Patent 7,327,886 -- A patent that "generally concerns face detection in digital photography." So, closer to facial tagging than face unlock.
  • U.S. Patent 5,734,427 -- A patent that "generally concerns image processing that allows a high-resolution image captured by an image sensor to be displayed on a lower resolution viewfinder." That one is pretty self-explanatory.

While some of these seem overly broad (in particular, the "phones that communicate via anything but a cell network"), it's still left to be seen if the claims become more specific and if, indeed, Motorola infringes these patents. Fujifilm may be able to make a strong case, particularly in the photography related areas where its IP portfolio is strongest, or it may find some of its patents invalidated. Fujifilm's filing is not overly specific on the details of these patents, so we'll have to wait and see.

The devices the company claims infringe its patents include the Motorola DEFY, CLIQ 2, Droid X2, Droid X, and Droid 2 Global phones. So, it's unlikely that we'll see any injunctions or bans like we've seen in other, more high-profile cases. Once again, this is all about the money.

The two companies have met in the preceding year to work out an arrangement for licensing deals that, obviously, has not panned out. Hence why we're in this situation in the first place. It's also worth noting that the landscape has changed dramatically since Fujifilm first began dealing with Moto. Now, the OEM is owned by Google and a dramatic changing of the guard has happened since the initial meetings took place. There's no telling how this will go down.

What is clear is that the lawsuit-happy companies in the tech industry are showing no signs of slowing down. Mobile patents has become million (if not billion) dollar industry. Anyone who thinks they might have a shot to get in on this action will likely take a shot at it.

Source: FOSS Patents, Fujifilm Complaint

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Deeek

    This is just ridiculous.

  • Ahhk

    Well, when you aren't making any money selling cameras, or film, you might as well drink the apple juice......right?

    Just sayin'

    • Jeremy Cope

      This

      • Michael

        That

        • http://twitter.com/oOBlueOo Haunter

          The other

    • SebaKL

      That SIR, is a good comment! +1

    • StriderWhite

      Yep!

    • New_Guy

      Drink the apple juice, huh? Damn, that's a good one!

  • Ahhk

    A patent that "generally concerns image processing that allows a
    high-resolution image captured by an image sensor to be displayed on a
    lower resolution viewfinder."

    Hey, doesn't this basically apply to almost EVERY digital camera, and photo-capable device, on the market during the last 15+ years?

    • @dongiuj

      That's exactly what i was thinking.

    • Cheeseball

      Yes, and Fujifilm has owned that patent for 14+/17+ years.
      http://www.google.com/patents/US5734427

    • New_Guy

      Yes it does. It will definitely be invalidated very soon.

  • DROID DOES

    Are these patents serious?

  • Morris Buel

    I can't believe the first one even got patented. Every digital camera has had that since the first digital cameras.

    The second is equally insane. There had to have been prior art up the wazoo. Certainly the eyefi sd card violates this claim.

    Face detection is also all over the digital camera scene. Has been for years.

    This fourth patent is also insane. Have they heard of tv? Regardless of prior art this specifically states low resolution view finder. There is no viewfinder on phones.

    • Adam a

      On a phone the screen is the 'lower resolution viewfinder'. Unless your phone has a 5mp+ screen.

      Also most patents are more specific than one sentence can describe. The black and white one is probably about a particular method of converting color to b&w, not about *any* method of doing it.

      • Name

        theres only one way i know of to convert a digital color picture to b&w, and that's to add the value of all color channels, divide by the number of channels (3 for rgb) to get an average value and fill all channels with that value. and it's pretty stupid to have a patent on that. it's like patenting wheels that spin to move a vehicle. what else are you supposed to do?

        • Anothername

          If you read the patent, the method described isn't really anything like what you described.

          So just because *you* only know one way doesn't mean that is the only way.

    • Cheeseball

      Well, the first one would be patented by Fujifilm because they technically made the DS-1P, which is the first consumer digicam in the late 1980s.

  • cooldoods

    Fujifilm is going to get beat down so bad.

  • Bariman43

    *AHEM*

    defendinnovation.org

    signsignsignsignsignsignsignsignsign

  • Michael

    They chose some pretty old ass phones haha

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    To everybody complaining that these patents describe things that digital cameras have been doing for years, it's largely because Fujifilm put this stuff into digital cameras years ago and got legitimate (ok, a couple of those patents aren't legit) patents on those things. Sure, other companies are doing the same thing in their digital cameras, and all of those companies are probably paying Fujifilm for those patents already, or they've cut deals to cross-license their own patents with Fujifilm. I think people have started to forget that patents have historically resulted in perfectly fair licensing deals that worked pretty smoothly for a very long time. Just because a company owns a patent, it doesn't mean there aren't several other companies using what's patented, those other companies have just been paying license fees all of these years and weren't complaining about it. The real problems with patents didn't start until microprocessors came along, largely because technology that can be rapidly changed by software allows for innovation at rates far exceeding anything mankind could have imagined. One of the biggest problems is that some patents just shouldn't be valid for the term that they often are. The other problems, most often abused by Apple, is that some patents are ridiculously vague and never should have been granted, and then they adamantly demand their patents be exclusive and not licensable.

    • Ahhk

      Sorry, but I disagree. Sure, if you come up with a special algorithm for converting color to B&W, then yes...you should be able to patent it. You should NOT, however, be able to patent the entire process of converting a color image to B&W - it's too vague/generic. As such, a patent to "display a photo on a lower resolution screen" is BS. Video cameras were doing the exact same thing 30 years earlier. But, oh...since we're so innovative that we show a still image instead of a moving image.....we should get a patent! Yeah!

      Please. The patent system in this country is SCREWED.

      Hey...maybe I should go patent "a moving picture on a portable device". Wow. I could make billions! Which me luck...

    • Ahhk

      Sorry, but I disagree. Sure, if you come up with a special algorithm for converting color to B&W, then yes...you should be able to patent it. You should NOT, however, be able to patent the entire process of converting a color image to B&W - it's too vague/generic. As such, a patent to "display a photo on a lower resolution screen" is BS. Video cameras were doing the exact same thing 30 years earlier. But, oh...since we're so innovative that we show a still image instead of a moving image.....we should get a patent! Yeah!

      Please. The patent system in this country is SCREWED.

      Hey...maybe I should go patent "a moving picture on a portable device". Wow. I could make billions! Which me luck...

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        I wrote a MUCH longer response and decided it was far too long and specific, where even you're not likely to read it or understand some of it (that's not an insult, you'd have to know specifics of the patent system for some of it to make sense). I read the patents, and suffice it to say, they are pretty valid (though the B&W one is a bit too vague on a couple dangerous points). The B&W one is easy enough to design around, as it makes assumptions that the camera application on our phones don't necessarily have to follow (even if it means some slightly stupid workarounds).

        The down-converting for low-res screens patent, is very legit, but it will definitely fall into the category of FRAND (just google it). Your point about video cameras is, to put it bluntly, too wrong to even know where to start. First, video cameras weren't digital then, and this patent was very specific to digital and how it functions within digital cameras. Second, I'm pretty confident that video cameras 30 years ago weren't even designed to give a live-streamed image even over analog. Third, and most importantly, the point of the patent is in regards to having a screen attached to the camera which displays a representation of the picture you're about to take without having to stare through the peep-hole, something that was a brand new feature when they added it to their digital cameras. While it was technically non-obvious in the photography field when the patent is created, I'm not sure how things work when a technology would be deemed obvious to another field when later "violated".

        It's worth noting, the two patents you're complaining about are expiring (one just did, the other is about to). The other two patents, which are the more appropriate ones, still have a few years left. I suspect Fujifilm realized they needed to 'use em or lose em', and Motorola Mobility is just a very good target right now, especially given that they really have earned a rep for violating patents.

        I don't think you really got the points I was making. The patent system isn't horribly deformed or "screwed", but it does have problems. Remember, the US Patent System was created in the 1790's. While adjustments have been made, the existing system could never have foreseen the speed of innovation that would occur 200 years later. Most of the problems with the patent system today are based on how long patents are valid and how poorly defined many of them are (which is often a result of innovation and a factor of time). It's common for good systems to be abused; look at welfare, our political system and the legal system (seriously, OJ got away with murder, what's that tell you). In this case, the patents Fujifilm is using were legitimate when granted, but they are antiquated in concept and should have gone away before the full term of the patent, if for no other reason than they were based on such a completely different generation of technology and understanding of how technology was to work in devices like these. They deserved to hold these patents for about 4-7 years, not the 14 years they are getting.

        Since this is Android Police, not Hyperbole Police, I'm going to *which* you luck on your quest to get a patent and sue people over animated GIFs (see what I did there, you wanted to sue Hollywood and I've now told you to sue AOL instead).

        • Ahhk

          I understand what you are saying, but I guess I wasn't clear in what I was saying.

          Sure, it might not have been obvious at the time, but it was still way too generic.

          Digital image/video scaling as a whole had been around long beforehand. Displaying a scaled down image on a viewfinder "in real time" equals VIDEO....and hardly seems like a mind-blowing innovation vs anticipated progress/preexisting technology .

          Also, by definition, we're talking about "smart phones" and not "electronic still cameras". They dropped the ball there by not stating "electronic image capturing device". Whoops!

          And....speaking of vague/generic, "high resolution" in 1995 was nothing in comparison to what we have today and is way to open-ended.

          Even if it wasnt realized at the time, yes, it should have only been a very short term patent.

          I still dont see it as being any different than if Motorola had patented the "pocket-sized cell phone" back in 1988 (or whenever it would have been appropriate).

          Plus, as I'm sure you well know, the (original) patent holders are often not the innovators. They're just the first one's to file. Take AG Bell for example.

          Sorry, but the current patent system is screwed up IMHO.

          Hey now, Hollywood has much more money :)

  • Tyler Chappell

    Just another poorly managed company that I can add to the list of products I won't be buying, as well as specifically recommending other customers in stores not to buy.

    • Cheeseball

      It's more like Motorola not paying for these patents. If Sony, Canon, Samsung, Sharp, NEC, Nikon and other companies have been legally licensing these for years, then why does Motorola think it's exempt from paying?

      • Tyler Chappell

        Do you have the proof that each of those companies you listed is in fact paying licensing to fujifilm? If motorola is the only company that hasn't paid Fujifilm, then why are they only now suing for the viewfinder feature? The original Razr from 2006 has a 1.3MP camera with a significantly smaller screen resolution of 176x220, yet they don't mention all the phones prior to the Android phones nor did they make a fuss about it before Android came out in 2008.
        This is just a feeble attempt by a greedy company that wants to capitalize on Android's success. It must suck to know that more people these days are willing to use smartphones to take pictures than your crappy cameras.

        • Cheeseball

          Nope, no proof here, but like I said, if the other companies aren't being sued for these patents, yet Motorola is, it looks like Moto may be in the wrong. They don't exactly have the best track record in regards to "borrowing" patents.

          People are using smartphones to take pictures because it's a lot easier and convenient to bring just one device instead of both a phone and camera, however at the cost of overall image quality.

  • nsnsmj

    Over those old-ass phones? This is hilariously sad.

  • http://twitter.com/DFW_AlertsJS Jamie Schatten

    QUESTION: If you owned a patient on something, wouldn't you expect to be paid if someone was using it? And, wouldn't you sue if you found that someone was using it without paying you?

  • Andrew

    Who keeps giving these companies these absurdly broad patents? It's completely ridiculous they way they just sue people with these things that never should have been granted in the first place.

  • topgun966

    All of these will get thrown out in a heartbeat. A first year law student could argue that Moto and Fuji are not in the same market and do not make like products. Case dismissed.

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