IP in an Augmented Reality

My latest article, “IP in an Augmented Reality,” was just published in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Landslide, the magazine of the American Bar Association’s IP Section.  It summarizes how copyright, patent, trademark, and publicity rights law will apply to AR technologies.

An excerpt is below.  Click here to read the full article on the ABA’s website:

As amazing as digital technology has become, it has always suffered from one fundamental limitation: it can only be experienced within the four corners of a computer screen. Suppose, however, that—just like the Kryptonian criminals in 1980’s Superman II—these flat images and data were suddenly liberated from their two-dimensional confinement and were given the ability to move in three dimensions, interacting with other physical objects and people as they pleased.

That is the promise of augmented reality (AR). It creates at least the illusion of digital data having physical substance and interacting with the three-dimensional world. The result is that we experience, and can take advantage of, digital content in entirely new ways. When fully realized, this technology could shape society as radically as the Internet itself has done. Any development that so significantly changes the way we behave and interact cannot help but also affect the laws governing our rights and our behavior—especially, in this case, the intellectual property laws.



Patent infringement litigation is already so commonplace in the mobile device industry that it has become an inevitable cost of doing business. It should be no surprise, therefore, that we have already seen a number of patent infringement lawsuits related to AR technology.

Perhaps the first AR-related patent lawsuit was Tomita Technologies USA, LLC v. Nintendo Co. ….


Because so much of what makes AR compelling is its ability to display creative text and images in new ways, the potential for copyright issues is obvious. …


We can be certain that, as digital content gets published in augmented media, trademark-laden commercial content will follow. Perhaps the most extreme (and disturbingly plausible) depiction of “sponsored” AR can be found in ….

Publicity Rights

Just as trademarked objects can easily serve as triggers for digital content, so too could the physical characteristics of individual people. The simmering debate over facial recognition technology and privacy is a preview of the concerns we will face when a large segment of the population is wearing eyewear capable of recognizing the faces of others….

Read “IP in an Augmented Reality.”