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Top Patent Categories Relating to Mixed Reality

graphic render of a woman wearing VR goggles
November 24, 2017

Most people are probably unaware that applications relating to mixed reality (virtual reality, augmented reality, etc.) have been around since the beginning of the 20th century.1,2 But the technology at the time was pretty much still at concept or proof-of-concept stage than anything else. Nothing of note came out of it until the last few years.

It took Niantic’s collaboration with Nintendo to raise augmented reality’s global public awareness via Pokemon Go.  The augmented reality game has since been downloaded more than 500 million times and has generated $600 million mobile AR revenues in its first 3 months. As of 2016, VR has generated $2.7 billion and AR $1.2 billion in revenues for a total $3.9 billion MR market.3A market research study estimated that the entire VR device market will reach $11 billion in about four years.

Mixed Reality Patent and Patent Application Categories

To identify the various categories of utility patents and patent applications (P/PA) directed to virtual reality, augmented reality, etc. (collectively referred to here as “mixed reality” or “MR”), we analyzed more than 4,000 mixed reality-related P/PA we obtained from a preliminary patent search. Fig. 1 shows the different categories ranked according to the number of P/PA assigned to each of them.

Fig. 1. Ranking of the various MR-related categories in terms of the number of P/PA assigned to each of them having filing dates covering 2002-2016.

Mixed Reality Patents Top Categories

As can be seen from the figure, the top 5 categories in terms of total number of P/PA with filing dates over the 2002-2016 period are:

It is not surprising that these categories are in the top 5 because all these categories cover basic components or features of a MR system. But Healthcare, with 292 P/PA, unexpectedly ranked higher (8th, 292 P/PA) than Gaming (13th, 134 P/PA). Also, with industrial MR applications now said to be finding success, the relatively low number of P/PA under Industrial Applications with 82 P/PA is rather surprising (as is the case with Gaming versus Healthcare). Security Systems, which is expected to be critical in MR systems, only ranked 16th with 109 P/PA. For Security Systems, the relatively low number of P/PA may have to do with whether MR has unique security requirements such that security systems specifically designed for MR are necessary. It is likely that at least some of the already existing computer security systems can be adapted for MR.

The following five categories have the lowest P/PA over the period 2002-2016:

These least active categories would be logical areas for possible development for those seeking to explore uncrowded investment sectors (at least basing only on the number of P/PA). But this may be misleading because MR applications involving search systems, machine intelligence, virtual assistant systems, robotics, and automation are expected to assume greater importance as AI becomes more deeply embedded in already multiplying market segments and application areas.

Top Market Segment Categories

Among P/PA with claims that either expressly recited or clearly suggested the market segment they are directed to, Gaming garnered the highest number of P/PA. The top three categories Gaming, Healthcare, and Commerce have significantly more P/PA than other categories. Some of these categories are expected to overlap in terms of applications, e.g., Gaming and Collaborative Systems. Somewhat unexpected is Design and Transportation’s being ranked 4th and 5th, respectively, ahead of market segments in which MR is expected to be widely-used, e.g., Entertainment, Social Network, and Industrial Applications.

Table 1. Number of P/PA for the top 10 market segment categories (2002-2016).

Patent NumberAssigneeNumber of Forward CitationCited ByEffective Filing DateNumber of Claims
1. US8547401
(“Portable augmented reality device and method”)
Sony320 Xerox, Nintendo, Ford, Dassault, Intel, AT&T, Microsoft, Sharp, Nokia, Lockheed Martin, Ebay, IBM, Disney, Google, Qualcomm, Samsung, Magic Leap, Activision, etc.8/19/0413 claims
(3 independent)
2. US9384594 (“Anchoring virtual images to real world surfaces in augmented reality systems”)Qualcomm260 Samsung, Apple, Intel, AT&T, Microsoft, LG, Google, Sony, IBM, Xerox, etc.3/29/11108 claims
(4 independent)
3. US8576276 (“Head-mounted display device which provides surround video”) Microsoft187 Google, Toshiba, Osterhout, Dell, Siemens, Magic Leap, Apple, Qualcomm, IBM, Nokia, Samsung, etc.11/18/1020 claims
(3 independent)
4. US8012023 (“Virtual entertainment”)Microsoft173 Disney, Google, Nokia, Magic Leap, Sun Microsystems, Matsushita, Compaq, Fujitsu, Nintendo, Nvidia, Lucent, IBM, Sony, NEC, etc.9/28/0620 claims
(3 independent)
5. US8814691 (“System and method for social networking gaming with an augmented reality”)Microsoft141 Philips, Sony, Apple, Nintendo, Lockheed Martin, Google, Magic Leap, Nokia, Amazon, Samsung, Motorola, Intel, Qualcomm, Nvidia, LG, Johnson & Johnson, Philips, Toyota, Toshiba, etc.2/28/1032 claims
(3 independent)
6. US7991220 (“Augmented reality game system using identification information to display a virtual object in association with a position of a real object”)Sony139 Samsung, Canon, Amazon, Blackberry, Disney, Microsoft, Nintendo, etc. 9/1/0426 claims
(4 independent)
7. US8644842 (“Personal augmented reality advertising”)Nokia130 Sony, LG, Samsung, Microsoft, Qualcomm, HP, etc.9/4/0720 claims
(4 independent)
8. US9292973 (“Automatic variable virtual focus for augmented reality displays”)Microsoft126 Sony, Magic Leap, Qualcomm, Panasonic, Osterhout, Motorola, Google, Intel, etc.11/8/1017 claims
(3 independent)
9. US8094928 (“Stereo video for gaming”)Microsoft125 LG, Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, Sony, Apple, Amazon, HTC, etc.11/14/0527 claims
(3 independent)
10. US9342610 (“Portals: registered objects as virtualized, personalized displays”)Microsoft122 Sony, Qualcomm, Google, Nokia, Honda, Disney, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Audi, AT&T, Universal City Studios, Oculus VR, etc.8/25/1120 claims
(3 independent)
11. US8998414 (“Integrated eye tracking and display system”)Microsoft121 Sony, Oculus VR, Google, Osterhout, IBM, etc.9/26/1112 claims
(2 independent)
12. US8933889 (“Method and device for augmented reality message hiding and revealing”)Nokia117 Fujitsu, AT&T, Apple, Motorola, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Qualcomm, IBM, Google, etc.7/29/0517 claims
(3 independent)
13. US8611015 (“User Interface”)Google115 Osterhout, Microsoft, Oculus VR, Magic Leap, Sony, LG, Samsung, etc.11/22/1125 claims
(4 independent)
14. US9348141 (“Low-latency fusing of virtual and real content”)Microsoft111 Siemens, Qualcomm, Amazon, Google, Boeing, Motorola, Magic Leap, Nokia, Lockheed Martin, Audi, Sony, Lucasfilm, HTC, Samsung, etc.10/27/1013 claims
(2 independent)
15. US8847988 (“Exercising applications for personal audio/visual system”)Microsoft107 Cisco, Magic Leap, Sony, Google, Osterhout, etc. 9/30/1120 claims
(3 independent)
16. US8427508 (“Method and apparatus for an augmented reality user interface”)Nokia105 Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Magic Leap, AT&T, IBM, etc.6/25/0920 claims
(3 independent)
17. US8264505 (“Augmented reality and filtering”)Microsoft104 Sony, LG, Qualcomm, Honda, IBM, Cisco, Disney, Samsung, Nokia, Snapchat, Facebook, Warner Bros., etc.12/28/0717 claims
(3 independent)
18. US8767014 (“Automatic text scrolling on a display device”)Microsoft 104 Fujitsu, Amazon, Panasonic, Nokia, Sony, Google, Qualcomm, HP, Siemens, Oculus VR, Magic Leap, etc. 7/22/1117 claims
(3 independent)
19. US9213405 (“Comprehension and intent-based content for augmented reality displays”)Microsoft103 LG, Sony, Magic Leap, Panasonic, Google, Qualcomm, HP, etc.12/16/1020 claims
(3 independent)
20. US8487838 (“Gaze detection in a see-through, near-eye, mixed reality display”)Microsoft98Google, Sony, Qualcomm, Intel, Nokia, Motorola, Oculus VR, Audi, Osterhout, Volkswagen, Lockheed Martin, etc.8/29/1119 claims
(3 independent)

Another thing to note is the average percentage of patents relative to the total number of combined patents and patent applications was 31% over 2002-2016, if we exclude Healthcare (20%) and Industrial Applications (22%). This suggests that about 1/3 of the mixed reality-related utility patent applications were granted during the 2002-2016 period. This percentage is significantly lower than the 43% average over 2002-2015 for all US utility patent applications from US filers that eventually issued into patents.4

Disclaimer: Data used for the preparation of this article was based on a preliminary search only. Parola Analytics, Inc. does not make any representation regarding the accuracy or validity of the data, analyses, and conclusions presented in this article.


1  Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 8, pp. 1-15, Mar. 2014.

2  “A New IEEE Initiative Focuses on Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Human Augmentation Technologies,” Dec. 2016, https://theinstitute.ieee.org/technology-topics/consumer-electronics/a-new-ieee-initiative-focuses-on-augmented-reality-virtual-reality-and-human-augmentation-technologies.

3  “After mixed year, mobile AR to drive $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021,” Jan. 2017, https://www.digi-capital.com/news/2017/01/after-mixed-year-mobile-ar-to-drive-108-billion-vrar-market-by-2021/#.WfMOAteWYoMa.

4   U.S. Patent Statistics Chart Calendar Years 1963 – 2015, USPTO, https://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/us_stat.htm

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