Google Inc. (GOOG), the technology giant that has led efforts to scale back patent owner rights, acquired a patent rich startup that specializes in augmented reality and virtual reality technology called Eyefluence Inc.
The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Eyefluence has raised $21.6 million in funding from investors including Intel Capital, Jazz Venture Partners, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital and NHN Investments, according to Tech Crunch and other media reports.
Eyefluence, founded in 2013 by Chairman and CEO Jim Marggraff and head of business development David Stiehr, has been focused on advancing eye-interaction technology and creating strong partnerships that have lead to the development of a completely new language for eye-interaction.
The company’s technology combines eye biomechanics, a deep understanding of the eye-brain connection, and superior technology to deliver the fastest and easiest interface ever created for head-mounted displays (HMDs). "Working with our team gives augmented, virtual, and mixed reality device manufacturers a competitive edge," the company says on its website.
Eyefuence’s head of IP Nelson Publicover is listed as a named inventor on a number of patents issued to Eyefluence.
The company’s patents include US Patent No. 9,405,365, entitled systems and method for identifying gaze tracking scene reference locations. The other named inventors are William Torch, Gholamreza Amayeh and David LeBlanc.
The company also owns US Patent No. 9,390,326, entitled systems and methods for high-resolution gaze tracking, invented by Publicover, Torch and Christopher Spitler.
It also owns US Patent No. 8,929,589, entitled systems and methods for high-resolution gaze tracking; the named inventors are Publicover, Torch and Spitler.
In addition, it owns US Patent No. 8,911,087 entitled Systems and methods for measuring reactions of head, eyes, eyelids and pupils, was invented by Publicover and Torch.
Another Eyefluence patent, US Patent No. 8890946, is entitled Systems and methods for spatially controlled scene illumination and was invented by Publicover and Jason Heffernan.
Officials for Eyefluence deferred to Google, which declined to comment.
Some venture capital investors and inventors have criticized Google and other so-called patent bullies of seeking to damage patent rights through patent reform so that they can acquire startups on the cheap.
Indeed, Google was instrumental in persuading a Republican Congress and President Obama in enacting the America Invents Act, which created the intwer partes review and covered business method review process under the auspices of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board as a less expensive and more efficient way to challenge weak patents than through the district courts.
Google and other large companies also have lobbied for a loser pays system to make plaintiffs cover a defendants legal costs if they don't win. These reformers also pushed for joinder, which would allow for the corporate veil to be pierced and leave investors responsible for legal fees after such a loss.
The reformers still want venue reform, customer stays and other items that they've been unable to get over the last few years.
Robert Pavey, a former venture capitalist with Morganthaler Ventures who now runs his own angel fund Pavey Investments, has previously told The Patent Investor that big companies have used patent reform to weaken patent rights to allow big companies to acquire startups for less.
“They end up buying our companies and they want to pay less. They don’t think clearly. It’s not patent trolls that are bugging them, it’s our companies that are bugging them.”
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