Consumer display technology company RealD Spark LLC accused Microsoft Corporation of stealing its proprietary video conferencing innovation in a breach of contract, theft of trade secrets, and patent infringement suit filed on Wednesday. The complaint says that though Microsoft approached RealD to collaborate, it ended up hiring several former employees, usurping RealD’s proprietary “eye contact correction feature,” and applying to patent technology infringing claims of RealD’s intellectual property.
At the heart of the lawsuit is a RealD technology called “SocialEyes,” a play on words of “Socialize.” According to the complaint, the imaging technology “adjusts the gaze of video conference participants so that it appears the participants are looking directly into the camera instead of at the device screen.”
The filing contends that in late 2016 RealD began demonstrating SocialEyes to Microsoft with the protection of a non-disclosure agreement and the hope that Microsoft would ultimately license or acquire the technology. Microsoft’s interest continued alongside the sharing of confidential information until March 2019, Microsoft cut off talks with RealD.
RealD eventually became aware that Microsoft hired several of its employees that worked on SocialEyes, including its former Vice President of Software & Computer Vision, the complaint says. Around October 2019, Microsoft allegedly misappropriated RealD’s confidential information by incorporating SocialEyes into several products including the Surface Pro X, a product closely related to the Surface Pro 4, which RealD used to demonstrate the SocialEyes software months earlier.
At about the same time, Microsoft was said to have filed a patent application purportedly directed to SocialEyes technology that listed two ex-RealD employees as inventors.
RealD says Microsoft’s actions harmed its business and ability to win new customers, as well as deprived it of the licensing fees. The Seattle, Wash.-filed complaint seeks injunctive relief and damages including treble damages for willful infringement.