Sony counter-sues RED in California court

In February, RED Digital Cinema company sued Sony for “willful and wanton” infringement of patents for its cinema video cameras. Now Sony has counter-sued, charging RED infringed on seven of its own patents. The case is shaping up to be an epic battle between two iconic camera companies.

RED wants Sony to stop the sale of and destroy existing models of its F65, F55 and F5 cinema cameras. Sony’s counter claim is that the RED ONE, EPIC and SCARLET cameras, various digital still and motion camera modules and accessories such as the REDMOTE, infringe on its own patents.

Sony seeks both monetary damages and an injunction to stop the continued sale of RED’s infringing products.

“Sony makes significant investments into the research and development of technology related to the cinema camera industry and intends to protect those investments against companies that infringe our patents,” the Sony suit said.

Sony’s lawsuit was filed in a Central District court in California. Sony’s announcement of the suit does not mention which Sony patents are alleged to be infringed by RED. The full lawsuit was not yet available for scrutiny. RED’s lawsuit claims Sony infringes on two RED patents with three cameras — the F65, F5 and F55 models.

After Sony’s filing, RED CEO Jim Jannard wrote on the RED forums, “Seems like someone is nervous ... it just ain’t me.” He added that RED pays “many companies royalties to use patented technology.”

The lawsuits between a major conventional manufacturer and upstart RED have significant stakes in the battle for customer loyalty and the spending dollars of filmmakers switching from film technology to digital cameras.

Although Sony has been making video cameras for several decades, RED was the first to produce a camera with an image that essentially matched the quality of 35mm film.

In filing the original suit, Jannard said that patents exist for a reason.

“They protect IP. Receiving a patent now means that you have an obligation to protect it … or they have absolutely no value whatsoever,” he told RED customers.

Jannard and his companies are no strangers to patent infringement suits. In addition to its case against Sony, RED has been in court 10 times in other cases.

Colin Baden, now CEO of Oakley, Jannard’s former optics company, told Forbes the Jannard was always aggressive in defense of his company’s intellectual property.

“We’re very skilled at putting four walls around that IP,” Baden said. “In Oakley’s history, we’ve filed hundreds of lawsuits, and we’ve never lost one. It doesn’t matter how big the guy is. We have conviction over our work. It doesn’t matter who is doing the copying. It’s really, really not cool in our world, so we protect it.”