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