The virtual reality revolution is literally changing the way we see the world.

The incredible advances in technology make it possible for people to explore foreign environments from the comfort of their own home. The virtual reality revolution, despite being launched over seven years ago, remains one of the more exciting and talked about movements around the world as innovation continues.

The term “virtual reality” (or “VR”) is a term that describes a computer-generated environment within which people can immerse themselves through interaction and exploration. Once a concept found only in science fiction, a 2012 Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset quickly gained attention when it raised $2.4 million (nearly ten times more than it was seeking).

Since 2012, technology giants, like Google, Sony, and Nintendo, all entered into the VR space after realizing its potential. While VR is commonly associated with the entertainment industry, we are now seeing that virtual reality has nearly endless applications, limited only by the human imagination, including uses in education, defense, and manufacturing. The healthcare world has integrated VR technology in the form of surgical simulators, rehabilitation tools, and even as a way to visualize complex medical data. Virtual reality provides a platform to recreate complete sensory experiences that cultivate both perspective and wisdom, and VR’s broad appeal has resulted in a wave of innovation and worldwide patent filings.

Worldwide Virtual Reality Patent Filings

Virtual reality patents and patent filings have erupted in the past decade. Using the LexisNexis TotalPatent One® patent search tool, users can now access over fifteen thousand patent documents from over 100 patent authorities that use the term “virtual reality” in their titles (as well as nearly three thousand VR patent documents from the USPTO alone). Moreover, when a patent search is conducted for “virtual reality” in patent document claim language, TotalPatent One™ reveals nearly thirty thousand patent records to its users.

After broadening our search to uncover patent documents that use “virtual reality” in either the patent title, abstract, or claims, we utilized a few of TotalPatent One’s visual tools to assess which companies have been assigned the most VR patents, and where those filings took place. Many familiar company names appear on the list of top patent assignees, including Google (651 VR patent documents), Samsung (646 VR patent documents), and Magic Leap (591 VR patent documents). Currently, with nearly fourteen thousand accessible patent documents, there has been more virtual reality patent activity in the Chinese Patent Office than any other patent authority. The USPTO is not far behind having processed over eight thousand patent documents, and nearly four thousand patent documents are accessible from the Russian patent office.

The VR Perspective and Patent Prosecution

Often, when a new technology leads to an abundance of patent filings, patent prosecution grows in difficulty as the “novelty” and “non-obviousness” requirements become tougher to meet. The LexisNexis PathWays™ tool, available on the LexisNexis PatentAdvisor® patent prosecution platform, is able to use patent language keywords to provide both the likelihood of being assigned to a specific USPTO art unit, as well as key patent statistics that help make predictions about patent prosecution difficulty. Currently, a “virtual reality” PathWays™ search shows that USPTO allowance rates are still generally favorable for patent applications. However, patent statistics vary greatly across the technology center groups that are most likely to evaluate a VR patent (shown below).

The virtual reality revolution continues to boom, and advanced patent search and prosecution tools help companies and patent practitioners keep up with the times. Whether assessing a patent landscape with a TotalPatent One patent search or utilizing PatentAdvisor to develop successful patent prosecution strategies, LexisNexis® IP offers a comprehensive suite of patent tools for those looking forward to the future.

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