Aptina, Sony agree to cross-license patent portfolios


posted Friday, March 1, 2013 at 1:19 PM EST

San Jose, CA-based Aptina Imaging -- one of the bigger names in CMOS image sensor production -- yesterday announced a deal with its biggest rival and the dominant force in image sensors, Japan's Sony Corp.

It's been a little while since we've seen a reliable indication of either company's respective market shares, but as of a little over a year ago, Aptina was believed to be the fifth-largest producer of CMOS image sensors, with a revenue share of 7.3%. The same data from market research firm Techno Systems Research, revealed in an ITC filing by the California Institute of Technology, showed Sony holding 33.6% of image sensor production by revenue. To give an idea of how dominant the company is, note that this is more than double that of the next-largest producer, imaging giant Canon.

The announcement sees Aptina and Sony agreeing to cross-license their patent portfolios, and both companies will now be able to use the others' technologies in their own products. That's good news for their customers, because it allows both Aptina and Sony to make better sensors, without fear of an expensive lawsuit if they should tread too close to their rivals' own patented technology.

Given its smaller market share, the deal is likely to be especially welcome for Aptina and its customers, though. (And for fans of photography, one name in particular stands out among Aptina's clients: Nikon, which uses Aptina's speedy sensors in its 1-series mirrorless cameras.)