**Updated on Dec. 10, 2011 with patent numbers, hyperlinks, and more excerpts.**
For one thing, the United States recently changed its approach to determining patent priority. It used to be that even if someone else beat you to the punch in applying to register an invention, you could undo their patent by proving that you invented it first. No longer, thanks to the America Invents Act that President Obama signed into law on September 16, 2011. Starting in 2013, it will be the “first to file,” not the “first to invent,” who wins.
That, of course, is the system that Europe and virtually the entire rest of the world already uses.
For another thing, others are already patenting their augmented reality inventions.
The AR industry stood up and took notice a few months ago when Apple filed these AR-related patent applications for the iPad:
But AR has been in the process of “emerging” for years now–plenty long enough for all sorts of companies and inventors to get their ideas registered. Here are just a few examples culled from the public patent records:
WO 2009/018139 A1 (Feb. 5, 2009)
These are just a few of the more visually interesting registrations and applications on file. As of Dec. 10, 2011, a search for “augmented reality” in the Google Patents search engine on returned “about 11,100 hits.”
There is, of course, still plenty of room for innovation in the augmented reality field. Just not quite as much room as some might assume.
And as anyone reading the tech headlines lately knows, patent litigation is all the rage nowadays. Anyone and everyone with a patent, it seems, is suing or being sued by a competitor with a similar patent or product. Especially with respect to smartphones and tablets–precisely the platforms on which consumer AR is just starting to take off.
If you’re serious about succeeding with your AR business plan–and especially if you hope to attract investors–it would be well worth your time to research the existing patent landscape in your field, and get your patent application on file as soon as reasonably possible. You owe it to yourself to at least consult a patent attorney.