Along with blockchain and the Internet of Things, virtual reality is in the top three technologies changing our world. While we’re still seeing advancements for all of these, VR seems to have the fastest growth in various industries. With VR being used in everything from retail to sports, it’s not unnoticed the technology behind this needs as much protection as possible.
With a saturated VR market, though, it’s becoming more challenging to patent virtual technology tech. Some of the biggest tech companies have already gone after patents to fully advance VR in numerous capacities.
It’s not to say those companies and smaller ones won’t face some challenges obtaining patents. You’ll find a lot of areas in VR that could face scrutiny by the USPTO, including many areas needing patenting.
Let’s look at what’s going on with VR patents, who dominates, and what features to patent for thorough protection.
VR COMPANIES LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
One interesting thing about many VR companies is they’re patenting concepts still in development and not necessarily going mainstream immediately. Many patent analysts in this field facetiously look at some of these patents as mad genius, while noting there’s a mad dash to file first.
Some ideas sound feasible like being able to shop in a store via virtual reality and feel like you’re actually there. Others like a person jumping into the shoes of a robot to do complex tasks probably needs more refining.
The point here is many of these ideas could happen, and protecting them solidifies the future before someone else runs with the idea. There isn’t anything that says you can’t patent a novel VR idea, as long as there’s potential for it existing based on current technology.
What’s important here is to write a description describing these innovations for complete clarity. Without a clear patent description, it can mean the idea being open to anyone else.
WHO ARE THE BIGGEST PLAYERS IN VR PATENTS?
As of now, Oculus Rift has the most power in VR patents. Most of this comes in protecting the technology behind their headsets. It’s not to say they have patents for everything. Many patents they’ve filed are still pending, mainly for improving the display in their headsets.
Reports are, they may have yet to receive a patent for the above, showing how much time it takes to receive protection for new technologies.
Outside of other major companies nipping at the heels of Oculus, there’s still many issues involved in protecting features. Numerous scenarios exist where VR could lead to complication in obtaining a patent because of similarity to what’s already in development.
TechRepublic posted a compilation a couple of years ago showing how far back patents for VR go, some more than 25 years ago. It’s worth looking at these and other VR details to see what legal complexities still remain.
VR PATENTS YET TO EXPLORE
One feature of VR still in constant evolution and up for patents is user interface. You may remember when smartphone companies battled with one another over UI, with Apple vs. Samsung being at the helm. The same may happen with UI in virtual reality once this technology becomes more mainstream.
Character creation is another VR feature that’s already run into some legal conflicts. We shouldn’t forget virtual reality is still a major factor in gaming and not just used to represent real reality.
You may even see patent challenges to intellectual property in virtual reality worlds. This has potential to become quite complicated in deciding who really owns what.