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California IP litigation: former engineer stole AR tech

A startup that wants to jump ahead of the augmented-reality competition says that a former employee has unfairly assisted a Chinese firm. Magic Leap Inc. said in an intellectual property lawsuit recently filed in California that a former engineer stole its technology for a headset that projects digital objects.

Magic Leap alleges that the former engineer, who left the company in 2016, took confidential information with him to “quickly develop a prototype of lightweight, ergonomically designed, mixed reality glasses for use with smart phones and other devices that are strikingly similar” to the startup’s designs.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of IP-theft accusations by American companies against Chinese firms.

While Magic Leap is not a household name, the startup is a robust one, with more than $2 billion in financing behind its efforts to develop augmented or mixed reality, the tech that gives users the illusion that digital objects exist in the real world.

The former Magic Leap engineer founded a Beijing-based company known as Nreal. According to a news report, the company unveiled its AR (augmented reality) glasses a few months ago, boasting that they’re lighter than Magic Leap’s product.

Though Magic Leap is well-heeled, its financing pales next to the tech giants who are also heavily investing in AR development: Google, Microsoft and Facebook. All are betting that they can turn the technology into a money-maker.

Magic Leap alleges in its IP-theft suit that the former engineer “neglected his work duties” during his 13 months with the firm, plotting the launch of his own competition in China, and acquiring proprietary Magic Leap information.

He is accused in the lawsuit of breach of contract, unfair competition and fraud.

Those firms that need to protect themselves, their products or both can do so with the help of a qualified attorney experienced in IP litigation.