Haptic feedback – making digital more physical

Published in Global IP Matrix

Last month, Immersion Corp, a US based technology company that develops touch feedback technology for mobile, virtual reality, wearable and gaming applications entered into a multi-year license agreement with Robert Bosch GmbH. The license agreement provides Bosch with access to its patented haptic and touch feedback technology for automotive applications. Anyone who follows Bosch’s R&D would understand their interest in haptic interfaces, i.e. interfaces with a haptic (pressure or touch) feedback for touch screens. In the last few years, Bosch has used this technology in their product ‘neoSense’. They have also showcased their new developments at various trade events stating that this is their vision of how touch screen interfaces should be in cars. They are also stating how important it is to make the touch screen experience as unobtrusive for drivers as possible.

A few years back, there were many different visions for how the automobile of the future would be. Slowly but steadily, these visions seem to be converging to autonomous and electric, with some variations in electric such as hybrid, fuel cell, still being pursued. Overall it seems that the common agreement is that the cars of the future will be autonomous. One other vision that has quickly become visible in many cars now is a digital control system interface. Cars have already begun to be built with control interfaces similar to tablets and smartphones rather than an interface of analog controls.

However, a shortcoming of the traditional touch screens is the lack of touch confirmation that humans are used to. For example, with an analog control, your fingers get a sensory confirmation of a button being pressed or a dial being turned, whereas with traditional touch screens work quite differently. However, Haptic touch screens have been built to give the user a physical confirmation of an action being performed on the touch screen. This is a feature that Bosch has been focussing on for sometime.

Coming back to the licensing agreement between Immersion Corp and Bosch, the origins of their  licensing deal can be seen through the citation connections between Bosch’s and Immersion Corp’s patents. Using Citation Eagle, in 2015-16 we can see three patent applications from Bosch citing four patents assigned to Immersion Corp. These three patent applications were for ‘Control and Regulation Device’, ‘Layer Arrangement and Input / Output Device’, and ‘Touch screen with a haptic detectable orientation element and the method of manufacturing the same’.

i – Citation connections between Immersion Corp and Bosch. Source: Citation Eagle

It appears, though, that Bosch is not the only automotive player interested in Immersion Corp’s technology. The citation connections between Immersion Corp’s patents and patents from other automotive players sheds light on which other automotive players are interested in Immersion Corp’s patents.

ii – Forward Citations for Immersion Corp’s patents for past 3 years. Source: Citation Eagle

These automotive companies include Audi, Honda Motor, Harman International and Continental Automotive, all of whom have patents citing Immersion Corp’s patents. Harman International though, have the highest amount of citation connections that cover all Haptic related technologies e.g Haptic notification systems, Haptic audio delivery mechanism etc.

Given that the technology can be used in so many other areas – ideally any application with a touch interface – the citing companies for Immersion Corp’s patents are also varied in terms of industries.

1.     Smartphone & Mobile Devices – Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Koninklijke Philips, Samsung, Motorola, Panasonic, and LG Electronics

2.     Medical and Healthcare Devices – Ethicon, Alliqua Biomedical, and Intuitive Surgical Operations

3.     Appliances – BOE Technology and Electrolux

4.     Virtual Reality and Gaming (Display & Audio) – Oculus, SonicSensory, and SubPac

5.     Semiconductors – Intel

6.     Retail – Walmart Stores

With Immersion Corp’s many citations and the interest from other companies, you can be sure that the company is actively filing and monetizing patents (Immersion Corp has been in the news for quite a few times because of their infringement lawsuits against Apple, Fitbit, and others). Immersion Corp is a great example of a company that a law firm would want to work with due to their patent activities.

Given the application potential of their innovation and its future demand, this should bring with it the opportunity to upsell licensing deals and increase the monetization of their patents.

To target a company like Immersion Corp, it is important to know which law firms you would be competing against and where you might have lesser competition.

As a first step, it’s interesting to see how the case flows for a company are being handled. You can also see in which jurisdictions a company is more likely to work with new law firms, and in which jurisdictions a specific law firm is doing the majority of their patent work.

For example in Filing Analytics, we can see that the EP representation for Immersion Corp is mostly done by a German law firm, but that they also use a few other law firms.

iii – EP patent application representation for Immersion Corp. Source: Filing Analytics

Their US representation is comparatively much more competitive with three firms fighting for the top spot, while their Korean representation shows than more than 96% of their work is handled by a single law firm.

Filing Analytics shows that ‘Law Firm B’ handles the most of Immersion Corp’s EP work. When we drill down to see the US case flow exchange ‘Law Firm B’, we see that there are three US Law firms working mostly with ‘Law Firm B’.

iv – International exchange for ‘Law Firm B’ (EP-US). Source: Filing Analytics

From these three US law firms, ‘Law Firm 2’ and ‘Law Firm 3’ are the top two law firms that are representing Immersion Corp in the US.

It is quite probable that Law Firm B is the end clients ‘Immersion Corp‘, preferred choice for their EP representation.

This is an example shows that a detailed analysis of the case flow exchange, such dependencies and preferences can be clearly seen when doing a thorough competitive analysis for a company like Immersion Corp.

To start your competitive or citation analysis, visit filinganalytics.io or citationeagle.com