Red Digital Camera LLC is suing yet another manufacturer and seeking damages and / or royalties for alleged infringements. Having previously filed lawsuits against Kinefinity, Sony and Nokia over similar squabbles, Red is again flexing its claim to features of compressed internal RAW recording.
This time Nikon is the one in the hot seat, accused by Red of illegally copying its data compression technology from using intoPIX’s TicoRAW format, which was implemented by Nikon in the latest firmware 2.0 update for the Nikon Z9.
The suit was filed on 25 May 2022 and Red is seeking damages or royalties as well as an injunction to ban Nikon from further infringing. The claim asserts that Nikon infringed on its Video Compression Patent through capabilities recently introduced to its new flagship camera.
Filed in a Southern California federal court, the issued lawsuit suggests that the Japanese camera manufacturer, as well as its United States subsidiaries, have illegally infringed on seven patents that specifically deal with a “video camera that can be configured to highly compress video data in a visually lossless manner.”
With the 2.0 firmware update, the Nikon Z9 can now capture 8.3K RAW video footage at up to 60 frames per second in a new format from Nikon titled called N-RAW. The Z9 can now in addition record up to 4.1K at 60 frames per second using ProRes RAW HQ. With not one, but two internal RAW codecs, this compression technology stems from Nikon's integration of TicoRAW – a high-efficiency RAW recording codec that was developed by intoPIX and was announced last December.
The lawsuit states several allegations of the use of Red's patents, also referred to as inventions, with the main concerns being "Nikon’s Products That Practice and / or Embody Those Inventions" as cited below:
"29. Red is informed and believes and thereupon alleges that Nikon makes, uses, imports, offers to sell, and/or sells in the United States, and in this judicial district, cameras under the Nikon brand that infringe each of the asserted patents.
30. Red is informed and believes and thereupon alleges that Nikon’s infringing video cameras (the “accused products”) include, but are not limited to, 'Z Series Mirrorless Cameras' such as 'Nikon Z 9 with Firmware 2.0.'"
The company is also accusing Nikon with knowingly committing the infringements, stating that it would surely be aware of Red's prior lawsuits and the fact that its patent notice that is listed on its products, packaging and website. The lawsuit additionally states:
"33. Nikon instructs, teaches, aids, and / or encourages others to use, test, assemble, distribute, repair, or otherwise handle the accused products. For example, it directs users of its Z9 cameras to download Z9-related manuals from Nikon’s Download Center, then teaches them how to record a motion video in the N-RAW Recording Mode."
The lawsuit also implies that, with both Nikon and Red being direct competitors in the video camera market, that the company has suffered injury in at least the following areas – loss of sales and profits, reduced business, and injury to its general reputation and industry standing.
Speculation surrounding the lawsuit suggests that this may have been a cleverly-timed approach on Red's behalf, as the TicoRAW feature had been in the news for months, with Red potentially waiting for the codec to be implemented into a competitor’s flagship camera before filing a lawsuit.
It also doesn’t appear that Red is going after intoPIX, who manufactured the TicoRAW format, as this codec is also supposedly patented – but it seems more bothered that the Z9 is recording internal RAW using a similar scheme to that of which Red has patented.
Nikon has options here that include fighting the lawsuit in a costly court battle or to bow down and remove the new recording compression feature from the firmware update. Though, having already been downloaded and installed by likely thousands of users, the removal process could be virtually impossible. Is anyone safe from Red? We'll update the article when we know more.