IP and Magic Leap's acquisition of Dacuda
Magic Leap, the Florida-based augmented reality startup which has filled thousands of tech blog column inches and raised nearly $1.4 billion (£1.2 billion) in funding despite not yet having launched a single product, has acquired the 3D branch of Swiss scanning company, Dacuda.
The deal gives Magic Leap its first European regional office, with Dacuda’s complete 3D team joining Magic Leap and founder Alexander Ilic heading up the new Swiss HQ.
“The office in Zurich allows Magic Leap to further extend its leadership role in computer vision and deep learning technologies” Dacuda statement
From a product perspective, it seems clear that Magic Leap are looking to add to or augment their 3D scanning capabilities, however, intellectual property analysis of the acquisition also tells an interesting story and helps us to understand why Magic Leap decided to snap up Dacuda.
Magic Leap was founded in 2011, and it didn’t take long before the company started to file patents to protect its innovative augmented reality technologies. As the graph below shows, the company’s innovation rate peaked sharply in 2015 before falling away. Publicly available information shows Magic Leap received substantial funding, so it’s unlikely the decline in patent filings is related to financial considerations.
Rather, it could suggest an innovation bottleneck which the acquisition of Dacuda’s 3D team is an attempt to remedy. Dacuda’s innovation rate shows a slow but steady level of new patent publications through to 2016.
Magic Leap and Dacuda patent landscape
If Magic Leap’s acquisition of Dacuda was indeed intended to remedy an innovation bottleneck, how does the acquisition for Dacuda’s IP complement Magic Leap’s existing patents? Reviewing both companies’ intellectual property grouped by subject matter and patent density can help us visualize how their portfolios fit together.
In the patent landscape below, Magic Leap’s patent portfolio is highlighted in red, while Dacuda’s patent portfolio is in blue. As you can see from the topography of the landscape, Magic Leap’s patents are dispersed across the technology landscape, with a low patent density outside of its core technology represented here as the mountain in the bottom right-hand corner.
While a handful of patents lie side by side in Magic Leap’s core technology area of virtual and augmented reality, by exploring the landscape we can immediately identify two areas where Dacuda’s patents fall into innovation whitespaces in Magic Leap’s portfolio.
The first area is Dacuda’s handheld scanner technology – the PocketScan – which the company is best known for. What little specific info there is surrounding the acquisition suggests that the hardware element of Dacuda’s business is not included in the deal. However, even if the intellectual property does not change hands, Ilic’s team at Dacuda will bring their hardware knowhow to the table when tackling augmented reality challenges at Magic Leap.
It’s the second whitespace area that is of interest in this analysis; the blue “island” of patents highlighted in the middle of the image below all relate to using real-time feedback to improve the quality of scanned images (e.g. US20160360119A1 – “A smartphone may be freely moved in three dimensions as it captures a stream of images of an object.”)
While it’s not explicitly clear whether all of these patents are owned by the 3D team at Dacuda and will form part of the acquisition by Magic Leap, several of these patents do specifically describe the capturing of 3D images and name Alexander Ilic as an inventor (often the sole inventor), it seems a relatively safe assumption.
In fact, Alexander Ilic is named as an inventor on so many of Dacuda’s patents, that it’s easy to understand why Magic Leap value his strategic importance enough to make him the head of their European outpost. Ilic isn’t just a business leader – he’s an inventor – and Magic Leap must believe that he holds a missing piece in their technology puzzle.