It’s been a week when virtual reality news reigns supreme, with the technology shown off in medicine, film and entertainment, and as part of Apple’s future plans. The FCC has even suggested a spectrum designation for it. Oh, and did you hear about the Google AI’s defeat of a Go pro?
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) regulates U.S. trade and oversees Section 337 investigations that address unfair competition based on alleged infringement of intellectual property rights. The ITC has been a popular alternative to litigation in district courts because of the relatively swift resolution it provides. (Final phases of the investigations typically occur 12 to 18 months from initiation.) However, a 2015 Federal Circuit decision has limited the ITC’s authority to regulate “articles that infringe” U.S. intellectual property rights and that are imported into the U.S. In ClearCorrect v. ITC, 2014-1527, the appeals court held that the “articles that infringe” are limited to “material things” and thus do not include “electronic transmission of digital data.”
In 2016, Niantic will blur the lines between our world and the world of Pokémon with the release of Pokémon GO, its upcoming augmented reality game for mobile phones, which will allow fans to see and interact with Pokémon in the real world. Similar to its AR game Ingress, Niantic’s new venture will utilize location information and augmented reality to entice fans to search far and wide to discover Pokémon in our own world. As an added experience, a Bluetooth wearable device developed by Nintendo (called the Pokémon Go Plus) will notify players of nearby Pokémon and other related game events via vibration and LED lights, enabling players to remain active in the game even when not looking at their phone. With these and other exciting features, there is no doubt that Pokémon fans everywhere—including some Pillsbury attorneys—are eagerly awaiting the game’s release. As that release nears, though, it’s a good time to consider the potential legal implications of such AR-reliant games.
With still about a week left to go, Hudway’s Kickstarter campaign, which began last Wednesday for its augmented reality vehicle accessory, already has over 6,500 backers pledging more than $450,000—several times its initial $100,000 goal. According to its Kickstarter page, Hudway made the vehicle accessory, which turns your smartphone into a head-up display (HUD) for any car, “because we’re tired of waiting for others,” likely alluding to future endeavors by other automotive or tech companies like AR Driving Goggles from Mini, an AR system from Facebook, or an AR eyeglass-like device from the Google-backed startup MagicLeap. The success of the campaign suggests consumers are excited for this particular application of augmented reality. But even though the arrival of this once futuristic technology may be right around the corner, the necessary changes to the legal landscape that will allow and integrate the technology look a bit farther back in the rearview mirror.