Patents and Patent Histories…

I’ve had the joy in the past of teaching “IT & Innovation” at UOW. I always enjoy the first moments of introducing students to the world of “patents”. One of the most interesting cases I have taught on is the Diamond v. Chakrabarty case. Should we or shouldn’t we be granting patents for live organisms? Well, it’s already happened in the US and possibly this case has opened the floodgates with respect to patenting even aspects of ourselves that are unique in the future! But that’s for another blogpost.

I would like to bring your attention to the Google Patent recorded on 21 February 2013. The date of this patent is very important in my eyes. The patent was filed in the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and can be found here.

The patent ID is 20130044042 and the invention was by Olsson; Maj Isabelle; (San Francisco, CA) ; Heinrich; Mitchell Joseph; (San Francisco, CA) ; Kelly; Daniel; (San Jose, CA) ; Lapetina; John; (San Francisco, CA).

The patent title is: WEARABLE DEVICE WITH INPUT AND OUTPUT STRUCTURES and th patent abstract reads as follows:

“An electronic device including a frame configured to be worn on the head of a user is disclosed. The frame can include a bridge configured to be supported on the nose of the user and a brow portion coupled to and extending away from the bridge and configured to be positioned over a side of a brow of the user. The frame can further include an arm coupled to the brow portion and extending to a free end. The first arm can be positionable over a temple of the user with the free end disposed near an ear of the user. The device can also include a transparent display affixed to the frame adjacent the brow portion and an input affixed to the frame and configured for receiving from the user an input associated with a function. Information related to the function can be presentable on the display.”

Now compare this patent with that of Steve Mann’s which was filed on 29 October 1998 in the Canadian Intellectual Property Office made open to the public on 29 December 1998 and issued on 25 July 2000. Here it is.

The Patent ID is CA 224847 and the invention is by Steve Mann.


“Providing a camera view approximately collinear with an eye of the wearer of the eyeglasses is described. Some embodiments look just like ordinary unifocal eyeglasses, while others have the appearance of bifocal eyeglasses. Because of the wearer’s ability to constantly see the world through the apparatus, the apparatus behaves as a true extension of the wearer’s mind and body, giving rise to a new awareness of photographic composition at all times, whether shooting or simply imagining the process of shooting. Moreover, the apparatus allows the wearer to alter his or her visual perception of reality, or to allow others to do so and thus establish a new form of communications or shared visual space.”

It is important to note that Mann’s work received IPC (international patent classification) in January 2006 as follows:

  • G03B 29/00 (2006.01)
  • G02C 7/02 (2006.01)
  • G02C 9/00 (2006.01)
  • G03B 13/04 (2006.01)
  • G09G 3/00 (2006.01)
  • G09G 3/32 (2006.01)
  • H04N 7/18 (2006.01)

Courtesy: Steve Mann (1998)

Mann wrote an article about his eyetap invention in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. The whole article can be found here freely available for download. It would be of interest to some to compare the form factors of both inventions on pages 10 and 11.


In studying inventions in the past (especially in the area of automatic identification) I have always marvelled at the jurisdictional emphasis placed on innovations and how people are recompensed for their inventions.

Looking through the Google patent I see no acknowledgement of Steve Mann, not even a reference to one of his 80+ patents in the field of wearables.

Courtesy: Steve Mann (incorporates image courtesy of Google)

It is merely a point to ponder on how backward our patent systems have become.

Just a few days ago Glass was “released” to “explorers” who had to apply to purchase the product in the US. Alexander Hayes and I wish we could apply today! I was informed by Sarah Price of Google yesterday via Google+ that applicants had to wear Glass just in the US for now, for regulatory reasons. Hmm… I thought… As far as I am concerned this just adds to the mystique of Glass…