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Queen’s University sues Samsung over alleged patent theft

Queen’s University sues Samsung over alleged patent theft - image
THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Lee Jin-man

TORONTO – Queen’s University and not-for-profit patent organization PARTEQ Innovations have filed a lawsuit against Samsung Electronics for allegedly using technology developed by a Queen’s professor in the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3 smartphones.

The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 31, concerns patents on “Attentive User Interface” (AUI) technologies, which the university filed for patent protection for in March 2003. The technology would track the eyes of a user and allow for the device to respond with an action – like pausing a video – when the user looked away.

The technology was developed by Professor Roel Vertegaal and a group of graduate students at the Human Media Laboratory in the Queen’s School of Computing.

According to court documents released by the university, PARTEQ and Queen’s were in negotiations with Samsung about using the technology in the company’s devices between October 2003 and January 2004 – but the tech maker eventually backed out.

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In 2013, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S4 smartphone with “Smart Pause” technology, which uses eye-tracking technology to pause video when the user looks away. The feature is also included on the Note 3 smartphone.

A screenshot from the Samsung website shows the “Smart Pause” functionality. Screenshot/Samsung.com

“Despite its indisputable knowledge of Plaintiffs’ patents and the technology described therein, Samsung has not purchased or licensed any rights to the intellectual property protected by the Patents-in-Suit,” read the court documents.

Global News contacted both Queen’s and Samsung regarding the lawsuit, however both parties refused to comment as the matter is before the courts.

It is unclear how much the university is seeking in damages.

“Queen’s is protecting the rights of its faculty and students and the groundbreaking discoveries that result from their research,” read a statement on the Queen’s University’s Patent Litigation website.

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“While Queen’s supports the open source community, and publishes much of its research as publications and software for anyone to use, it is common for universities to receive patents to protect key inventions.”

A court date for the case has not yet been set.

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