Microvision Makes a Strategic Move to Acquire Motorola's Projection IP Portfolio

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In an SEC filing made on November 4th 2010, Microvision revealed that it had acquired 195 patents from Motorola.  Specifically, the filing states:

 

12. SUBSEQUENT EVENTOn October 29, 2010, we entered into an agreement to purchase a patent portfolio containing 195 patents and patents pendingfrom Motorola, Inc. to complement our current portfolio of pico projection and display patents. Under terms of the agreement weissued approximately 830,000 shares of Microvision common stock and are obligated to make cash payments of $220,000 in June2011 and $330,000 in June 2012.

 

In addition, on November 5th, Microvision issued this press release:

 

REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Microvision, Inc. (NASDAQ:MVIS - News), a leader in innovative ultra-miniature projection display technology, today announced it has purchased a significant patent portfolio from Motorola, Inc. that will extend the company’s intellectual property leadership in pico projection and display technology.The portfolio purchased from Motorola’s subsidiary, Symbol Technologies, Inc., is the largest, broadest and earliest filed laser pico projection and display portfolio outside of Microvision’s. Motorola’s Symbol portfolio includes applications such as automotive head up display, 3D projection, range finding, portable media devices, image capture and laptop applications. The portfolio complements Microvision’s already extensive and highly-rated patent assets and brings Microvision’s total patent count to more than 500 patents, patents pending and licensed patents worldwide.“Our fundamental mission as a company is to continuously innovate and anticipate the market's needs before others do,” said Alexander Tokman, President and CEO. “We firmly believe in the significant market opportunity for pico projectors, automotive displays, gaming devices and eyewear and the Motorola/Symbol patent portfolio presents a unique opportunity to enhance our key asset and substantially extend our leadership position in this space.”Microvision has been recognized for the innovation, impact and breadth of its intellectual property by two prestigious industry organizations. In 2010, the company’s IP portfolio was ranked thirteenth among all global electronics companies by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), achieving the highest ranking of a U.S. company. The company has ranked in IEEE’s top 20 for the last three years, each year showing an improved rating. In 2009, Microvision was recognized by the Patent Board, in association with theWall Street Journal, for the second year in a row as a top 50 IP portfolio holder with its ranking of thirty-eighth among all global industrial companies.

 

I’d like to echo something that was stated in the press release.  Microvision has built an outstanding and highly-regarded patent portfolio.  This set of patents bolsters an already strong competitive advantage.  Essentially, for $550k and a small amount of dilution, Microvision acquired patents that enhance their barcode scanning business and their emerging portable projection and heads-up display (HUD) technologies.  In addition, they’ve secured IP related to 3D projection.  With all the turmoil and uncertainty present within Motorola, it comes as no surprise that they are pursuing methods to streamline their mobile business and monetize some assets as they prepare for the company breakup.  Here are just a few interesting documents that come to mind:

 

US6802451 - Scanning Actuator Assembly for Image Projection Modules, Especially in Portable Instruments In the inventors’ words, this scope of this patent is:

 

“Accordingly, it is a general object of this invention to provide a laser scanning module, especially of miniature size, for scanning a beam and projecting an image on at least two different viewing surfaces.

 

More particularly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a projection module for use in a compact unit as a display alternative to liquid crystal display devices, especially for use in hand-held instruments.

 

It is yet another object of the present invention to display human-readable information, especially alphanumerical characters, selectably on or remotely from a portable instrument.

 

A concomitant object of the present invention is to provide an image projector that consumes little electrical power.”

 

One embodiment of this concept is to utilize a laser scanner to produce the equivalent of a backlit display.  Claim 1 states:

 

1. An arrangement for displaying an image for viewing by a human eye, comprising: a) a housing having a screen which has a rear surface; b) an energizable laser supported by the housing for projecting a laser beam toward the rear surface of the screen when energized; c) a scanner supported by the housing for sweeping the laser beam along a plurality of light paths either over the rear surface of the screen, or to a remote surface; and d) a controller supported by the housing and operatively connected to, and operative for energizing, the laser at selected positions of the laser beam in at least one of the light paths to generate individual light pixels at the selected positions, and at a refresh rate at which the pixels persist to enable the eye to steadily view the image comprised of a light pattern of the pixels on the screen or the remote surface.

 

Additionally, this patent covers the scanning component assembly as a standalone feature in Claim 5:

 

5.   A scanning component for scanning a light beam, comprising: a) a movable scan mirror for reflecting the light beam; b) a magnetizable member mounted to the scan mirror for joint movement therewith; c) a magnetic structure adjacent the magnetizable member for inducing a static magnetic field in, and for magnetizing, the magnetizable member; and d) an actuatable electromagnetic drive for creating a variable magnetic field that interacts with the static field for exerting a force upon the member and for moving the member and the scan mirror so as to scan the light beam across a target.

 

US7449667 – Illumination Method and Apparatus Having a Plurality of Feedback Control Circuits for Controlling Intensities of Multiple Light Sources

 

This patent covers methods for independently controlling the intensity of the light sources in an RGB display, including lasers, for microprojection applications. Claim 1 states:

 

1. An illumination system comprising: a first light source operable to respond to a first feedback control circuit and generate light at a first wavelength; a second light source operable to respond to a second feedback control circuit and generate light at a second wavelength; a beam combiner operable to combine light from the first and second light sources and produce a substantially co-linear and collimated beam; a first photo-sensor operable to provide a signal to the first feedback control circuit in response to light from the first light source; and a second photo-sensor operable to provide a signal to the second feedback control circuit in response to light from the second light source; wherein the sensitivity of the first photo-sensor to light at the first wavelength is greater than the sensitivity of the first photo-sensor to light at the second wavelength.

 

Additionally, the patent covers methods for controlling the intensity of each light source after the beams are combined.  Claim 15 states:

 

15. A method for generating light from a plurality of light sources of different wavelengths, the method comprising: combining light from the plurality of light sources to form a substantially collimated beam having a plurality of wavelength; for each light source: sensing light in the fringe of the substantially collimated beam to produce a monitor signal dependent upon the intensity of light at the wavelength produced by the light source; and controlling the intensity of the light source dependent upon the monitor signal.

 

US7665853 - Arrangement for, and Method of, Enhancing Image Projection by Holding Scan Mirror Steady During Part of Mirror Drive Cycle

 

This patent covers methods for reducing distortion in scanned image projection. This is accomplished by managing the scan operation in order to maintain a steady frame rate and compensate for changes in scan performance of the mirrors over time.  Claim 1 states:

 

1. An arrangement for enhancing image projection, comprising: a light source for generating a light beam; a mirror assembly, including a scan mirror, for reflecting the light beam as a pattern of scan lines on a projection surface, each scan line having a number of pixels; a controller for causing selected pixels in the scan lines to be illuminated, and rendered visible, by the light beam to form an image on the projection surface during a forward scan of the pattern, and for non-illuminating the pixels in the scan lines during a return scan of the pattern; and a drive for moving the scan mirror during the forward scan, for holding the scan mirror stationary during a holding period interval intermediate the forward scan and the return scan, and for driving the scan mirror during the return scan with a first drive pulse of one polarity during a first return interval of the return scan, and with a second drive pulse of opposite polarity during a subsequent, second return interval of the return scan.

 

These are but three patents that cover various improvements to light beam scanning, where Microvision holds the vast majority of core IP.  Collectively, these patents now give Microvision – without a doubt – the dominant position in scanned light projection for mobile applications.  And, for quite a small fee.

 

Some people argue that this transaction somehow indicates that Motorola is no longer interested in mobile projection.  However, if you put yourself in Motorola’s position, they would have to license Microvision’s IP to practice many of these concepts.  Many of the acquired patents are improvements on Microvision’s core PicoP® technology.  However, for Microvision, this portfolio gives them many additional years of leverage for their initial core IP, which dates back around 10 years ago.  In addition, this deal allows Microvision to pursue these concepts with whomever they wish.  Having the ability to leverage the technology to any mobile phone maker is very positive news.  And, not being locked to one potential customer who is in the midst of a company shakeup is a smart business move.

 

So, to all those who gripe about mismanagement of the company, take a moment and be objective here.  This is a wonderful, strategic move by Microvision’s management. They have now given themselves full control of the technology.

 

All the best!

 

Paul

 

Disclosure:  as of this writing, the author was long shares of Microvision

Archived Comments....

Paul, do you think MVIS's decision to buy these patents had anything to do with the story recently that Sony was visiting BTendo looking at their technolog for picoprojections?...>>> 'Sony to use laser pico-projectors in mobile phones? LaserProjector phone Sony Executives visited several start-ups in Israel last week, one of them was bTendo - makers of laser-beam-steering projector modules. Sony does not plan to invest in those startups, but they might use products from those companies. In any case it seems that Sony are starting to get interested in pico-projectors. We have visited bTendo in May 2009, they have given us a nice demonstration and information on their projection modules." http://www.picoprojector-info.com/sony-use-laser-pico-projectors-mobile-phones?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+picoprojector-info+%28PicoProjector-Info+-+Information+and+news+about+pico+and+pocket+projectors%29&utm_content=Yahoo%21+Mail

I doubt very much that their acquisition of the Motorola patents is directly as a result of the bTendo story.  My correspondence with IR confirms my initial thoughts that it is a move to bolster their existing wall of protection around mobile projection.

 

Paul

Paul Marganski

Co-founder and Contributor

Email: paul@picopros.com

Twitter @pmarganski

www.picopros.com

 

Paul, you missed my point. It' not BTendo.....it's the REPORT that SONY might be looking around for picoprojection technology or companies with that technology. MVIS might have thought the patents MOT has were worth keeping from SONY or ANYONE who might want them. Sort of a preemtive strike to keep a competitor from them.

Unless Sony works with Microvision, it will be exceedingly difficult to pursue scanned light projection, including laser light sources.  For accessory applications, I believe many technologies can compete reasonably well.  However, for embedded projection, no one has PicoP's combination of resolution, small size, low power, brightness, contrast, throw ratio, infinite focus, etc.  Of course, this isn't really possible until direct-emitting green lasers are available.  Just a matter of time now.

 

Paul

 

Paul Marganski

Co-founder and Contributor

Email: paul@picopros.com

Twitter @pmarganski

www.picopros.com

 

BTendo's patents....They might be tough to find but I've found a few (with a quick search)...>>> http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?WO=2... http://www.wipo.int/patentscope/search/e... http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?WO=2... http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?WO=2... There could be more listed by an inventor who licensed them to BTendo. We simply don't know.

These are PCT filings that haven't even been filed direct to specific countries (for the most part).  People can claim whatver they wish.  Once they file direct to specific countries, then we may get an idea of what they might get claims on (when an examiner has a chance to look at them).  The most interesting one is that which describes interlacing the images.  But, again, we have no idea what will ultimately get accepted (if anything).

 

Paul

Paul Marganski

Co-founder and Contributor

Email: paul@picopros.com

Twitter @pmarganski

www.picopros.com

 

"However, if you put yourself in Motorola’s position, they would have to license Microvision’s IP to practice many of these concepts" How do you figure that as Motorola's Patents covered a dual scanning system? One question I have regarding this "great news", as some have called it, is why didn't Alik mention this when he was asked about any news regarding Motorola during the CC's Q&A session, especially since MVIS could have used some "great news" after Corning reported....>>> " First, we have decided to discontinue our synthetic green laser program. This was a difficult decision for us to make, but one that we felt was necessary. We believe the market opportunity for synthetic green lasers is closing. There has been accelerated advancement on what is known as native green lasers over the past year. While synthetic green lasers may be a viable industry choice over the short term, we believe its lifespan will be limited by native green. As a result, we felt it was not prudent for us to put more R&D dollars into our synthetic green laser program"? On another subject I also have to wonder what Corning knows that Alik didn't when MVIS said the synthetic green laser would be competitive with the DGL for the first 4-5 years?...>>> "The fundamental message Mr. Tokman was communicating during the conference call and the one we want to stress is this: We firmly believe that the second generation synthetic green lasers, if done properly, could become a part of an embedded solution and effectively compete with direct green lasers (at their onset) for the first 4-5 years, but would likely not be competitive against direct green lasers 10 years from now. Why Synthetic Green Lasers Could Be Viable For Embedded Applications We have already begun to see availability of the first generation synthetic lasers increase. The next generation synthetic green lasers are expected to be more efficient and less expensive than their first generation cousins. We also anticipate that the direct green lasers targeted for introduction in the second half of next year may not reach desired performance and cost targets immediately. For these reasons, we believe that synthetic lasers could continue to remain a competitive alternative to direct green lasers for at least the first 4-5 years after diodes are introduced." http://www.microvision.com/displayground/?paged=3 Was it Alik's comments during the August CC that gave Corning the push to discontinue the synthetic pesky green laser, or did they know more about DGLs than Alik did? MVIS made a point to post a clarification on their blog regarding what Alik really meant. Either way it certainly isn't good news about our CEO who seems to be out of touch when it comes to those PESKY GREEN LASERS.
Martin Hillerby said, in part: "...why didn't Alik mention this when he was asked about any news regarding Motorola during the CC's Q&A session, especially since MVIS could have used some "great news" after Corning reported....>>> " From Microvision's blog: "...the transaction did not close until after our November 1st conference call and we were not able to discuss this transaction then..." http://www.microvision.com/displayground/

Thanks for the follow up.  Microvision has core IP related to light scanning projection, regardless of whether it is one or two mirrors. 

 

As for the company's communications regarding the possibility that synthetic green lasers could be competitive for a few years with direct-emitting green lasers, perhaps they were trying what they could to keep Corning on board or send them a message that they need to have it "done properly".  I don't think we will ever know.  What we do know is Corning states that they have abandoned the synthetic green laser due to the rapid advancements in the direct green laser. 

 

Speculation and conjecture are not going to get us anywhere.  I am going by the facts.  Corning quit because they knew they had a limited opportunity with a limited technology.  Osram is still on board as it is a natural extension for their direct green laser program.  It's as simple as that.

 

 

Thanks again,

 

Paul

 

 

Paul Marganski

Co-founder and Contributor

Email: paul@picopros.com

Twitter @pmarganski

www.picopros.com

 

"Microvision has core IP related to light scanning projection, regardless of whether it is one or two mirrors" Are you sure patents covering one mirror apply to a two mirror system? Not being a patent attorney I'm certainly not sure. "As for the company's communications regarding the possibility that synthetic green lasers could be competitive for a few years with direct-emitting green lasers, perhaps they were trying what they could to keep Corning on board or send them a message that they need to have it "done properly". My guess is Alik's original statement got Corning worried, hence the "official" MVIS reply explaining what Alik really meant. The wording "done properly" might have pissed off Corning as well as it inferred a flawed product. I'd have to guess too, that Corning knew about MVIS's work with integrating the DGL. Sometimes Alik and MVIS reports things that affect OEMs decisions to buy the present technology, and hence possible revenue from 1st gen (HD ready news) and his statement that required an official explaination possibly triggering Corning's decision to discontinue the pesky green SGL. I find it troubling Alik mentioned during the CC that he didn't have a plan for dealing with losing a green laser supplier. Learning on the job is not the type of CEO I'd like to have. His constant nervious clearing his throat is so annoying he really needs to take some speech therapy or get someone else to speak for MVIS.

Some of Microvision's IP refers to scanning light to produce an image - period.  It doesn't distinguish between 1 or 2 or any number of mirrors.  It simply covers scanning light to produce the image.

 

 

Paul

Paul Marganski

Co-founder and Contributor

Email: paul@picopros.com

Twitter @pmarganski

www.picopros.com

 

I neglected to mention that this could be a great move toward Microvision monetizing their barcode business better either by selling it off or licensing the (now bolstered) technology and IP portfolio. 

 

 

Paul

Paul Marganski

Co-founder and Contributor

Email: paul@picopros.com

Twitter @pmarganski

www.picopros.com

 

I said the ROV wouldn't sell due to the crowded field (too much competition) and any cash used to try to increase revenues 100% (the target Alik mentioned)would be wasted in a time when cash preserving was paramount. They've been trying to sell or license the barcode business for a year. I don't think this will help them sell it. They'll write it off soon, if they can. IMHO