It appears that Google Glass, perhaps the most anticipated tech product of 2013, may become the victim of a patent troll. I know what you’re thinking, despite some clear usage of rounded corners glass isn’t about to sued by apple. The challenger is Masayoshi Son billionaire CEO of Softbank, a mobile technologies company making headlines with its upcoming merger with sprint.
Masayoshi made a two-hour long speech detailing his vision of technology in the next thirty years to his shareholders. About three-quarters of the way in Masayoshi began describing glasses capable of projecting real-time translations onto the lenses. This wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy had he not specifically mentioned that he already owned a patent pertaining to the technology.
Patent interpretations have had seemingly endless broadness recently, so it would be naive to assume that Son’s claim is groundless. His vast fortune would grant him access to the best patent lawyers money (lots and lots of money) can buy. However it does appear that there are a few differences between the technology shown off by Son, and the bits and pieces Google has recently begun to reveal about glass. Masayoshi’s glasses are shown translating words spoken by someone other than the glasses wearer. So far Google has only shown glass being used to translate the wearer’s words. However, I would be very surprised if Google didn’t include a version of Google translate that allowed you to see translations in real-time from another speaker. Masayoshi’s Patent could potentially cause issues if they do release that feature.
Luckily for Google the technologies that go into creating something as complex as augmented reality are very difficult to patent. Virtual reality is a field where many different methods can be used to arrive at a similar result. Even if this challenge manages to hold its weight in court the brilliant team working on developing glass should be able to implement a software workaround that will render the patent dispute invalid.
It seems impossible to release any new product without having your work challenged by patent infringement laws. Somehow Google has managed to keep most of its products free from the patent wars plaguing the likes of Apple and Samsung. Google glass has the potential to be the most significant new product since the smartphone, it would painful to see its release displayed by something as trivial as a patent dispute.