Nikon Sues Sigma Over Lens Stabilization Patent

In what could be a pretty nasty situation for Sigma, Nikon has filed a patent infringement suit in Japan against the competing lens maker. The number of products which use the alleged infringing technology was not disclosed in Nikon’s public statement; however, the dispute centers an unknown number of Sigma lenses using vibration reduction technology.

Nikon is seeking monetary damages for past infringement (said to be in the neighborhood of $150 million), as well as an injunction against Sigma to prevent further infringement.  And, it’s that second part that should be very scary for Sigma.  An injunction is a court order that either requires a party to the lawsuit to either “do” or “refrain from doing” a certain activity.

If Nikon prevails in this lawsuit, Sigma could be forced to stop producing lenses with Optical Stabilization (i.e., Vibration Reduction in Nikon-speak), which, in turn, could be a death knell for the third-party lens maker.

Of course, Sigma has a lot of lenses that don’t feature Optical Stabilization; however, whether it could survive the a damage award of $150 million (and growing) and the loss of sales of Optical Stabilization lenses remains to be seen.

We’ll be watching closely over the next several months to see what happens in this case.



  1. ash amliwala says

    This is a case of one of the big boys playing the bully tactics to get rid of the competition.
    Sigma make excellent lenses and help sell Nikon bodies as a lot of people can not afford Nikon lenses. Here is hoping Sigma comes through this and survive to keep making very good lenses.

  2. Sangam Gesha says

    Sigma is one of the best third party lens manufacturers and they should be able to survive this , it would be sad to see sigma suffer as their lenses are good and affordable compared to the stock lenses.

  3. Lloyd A. LeZotte says

    The ultimate solution would be for Sigma to make a legal arrangement with NIKON and continue production with a royalty payment .. or so such an agreement.

  4. chuck w says

    Nikon must feel really threatened by Sigma. This would be Nikon’s attempt at keeping their inflated/ overpriced lenses at the top of the heap. Let’s admit that Nikon has some really great lenses. However, if they (Nikon) would lower their prices they wouldn’t have too many competitive lens makers on their heels.

  5. James Faison says

    Nikon is indeed a great manufacture of a great lens however, their attitude sucks, they sure act as it is Nikon, you take it or leave it and that just is not a good way to earn customer loyalty. The one thing their customer has to be loyal to is the lens itself. However, can a customer be loyal to a company whose only true concern is of their self? Nikon’s pholosophy is satisfaction is for Nikon and if you do not like that then you go where it is you came from. Truly sad for the product speaks well but the manufacture kind of stinks.

  6. says

    Most of us have very little understanding of the legal ramifications of such a situation like this, and although I’m no more well-educated, I bet that this isn’t just as simple as “Nikon is playing bully because they’re scared of the competition…”

    Legally speaking, if a patent is BLATANTLY infringed upon by another party, you can’t just ignore it. Of course part of the reason involves the analogy “if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” …but also, it’s just not smart business. Chances are, if a patent is seriously infringed upon, Nikon *is* going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

    What would you do in that case, if you were a large corporation? Would you just say “Ehh, we’re a large corporation, we can afford to let other makers steal a secret every now and then, and cut out a small chunk out of our profits…”

    Just my un-educated, but hopefully logical opinon of both sides of the argument. I LOVE Sigma lenses, by the way, and I was thrilled when they announced stabilized versions of the 150 2.8 macro as well as their 50-150 DC. Two lens ranges that Nikon doesn’t even bother to worry about. I just hope that I don’t have to buy those lenses on some kind of black market soon. I also REALLY hope that Sigma has a chance to make a new 35 f/1.4 EX HSM, judging by the quality of their 50 and 85 primes. (and comparing those lenses to their Nikon counterparts…)