On May 19 the USPTO published a new patent from Samsung Electronics, directed to a virtual reality headset, as Patently Mobile recently reported. Although claimed in very broad terms, the invention appears to relate principally to the combination of an eye-tracking headset and omnidirectional cameras, for use in VR-casting of sports and musical events.
The US patent application, titled “DISPLAY METHOD AND ELECTRONIC DEVICE”, has application number 20160142703. It claims priority to Korean patent application 10-2014-0161711, “전자 장치의 디스플레이 방법 및 장치” (“device and display method for electronic device”).
Amusingly, although Korean patent applications are published without examination, and the Korean application was filed a year earlier, the Korean application was not published until 8 days after the US one. I guess the USPTO really has been making progress with its backlog.
The technology described in the patent is of course fascinating. But as a patent translator, I am always most fascinated by the linguistic and legal aspects of the patent application.
The US patent application is classified under IPC subclasses H04N (pictorial communication by electrical means), G06F (electric digital data processing), and G06T (image data processing or generation).
I ran a comparison of the Korean patent application against a small ad-hoc corpus of ~800 other Korean patents in these categories.
Using TF-IDF, the most distinctive words were: 촬영 (“recording”), 착용형 (“wearable”), 전자 (“electronic”), 머리 (“head”), 전방향 (“forward direction”), and 대상물 (“object” — in the specific sense of being an object of something).
One of the most distinctive two-word phrases in the application was “머리 착용형,” which appears throughout the claims and specification and would be straightforwardly glossed as “wearable on the head” (or more exactingly “of such a type as to be worn on the head”). In most places in the US patent application, and consistently in the claims, this phase is translated as “head-mounted.”
In this increasingly crowded technical field, future litigation of this and related patents is probably inevitable. It will be interesting to see whether any enterprising patent attorney can make a winning argument that a headset might be wearable on the head without being necessarily mounted on the head (or vice versa). Since “head-mounted display” is now pretty standard terminology in the VR field, probably such an argument will have a hard slog. But it is peculiar to think of “wearable” and “mounted” as synonyms.
Interestingly, the one bigram with a higher TF-IDF score was the simple phrase “전자 장치” (“electronic device” or “electronic apparatus”). At first glance, it seems strange that this would be a distinctive term, since almost all Korean patents in these subclasses will be directed to electronic devices of one kind or another. But this term’s distinctive prevalence in this application reflects the drafting strategy that Samsung has adopted here, which is apparent in both the US and Korean patents. Most other patents in the field are considerably more specific about the kind of device they are claiming. Samsung has evidently made a tactical choice to claim this particular invention in very broad terms.