Steve Perlman came to ESC Boston 2009 with two obectives: to speak about Mova CONTOUR facial imaging and to rail against changes in patent law
Medical doctors call it a "hidden agenda." It's what happens when a patient makes an appointment because of a cold, but he's really more interested in talking with his doctor about the chest pains he's experiencing. Doctors are trained to be on guard for this type patient and it's the reason your M.D. turns into a D.A. and starts to ask state-of-your-body questions unrelated to the health problem at hand.
At ESC Boston 2009 Steve Perlman, the founder and CEO of Rearden-incubated companies OnLive and Mova, was tasked with presenting a talk entitled "Innovation and IP in Today's Business Environment."
But he came onstage with more than one objective.
About half of Perlman's talk focused on the creative process behind Mova CONTOUR's unique facial imaging technology.
As for the other half, you should first know that apart from his 20 years of start-up experience and track record of bringing media-rich products and services to market, Perlman is also an inventor. He holds 90 U.S. patents and more than 100 additional patents are pending. So the rest of Perlman's slides—and the section he presented with emotion and emphasis—was a warning to ESC attendees that companies Perlman referred to as "Big High Tech" aim to weaken the U.S. patent system under the guise of patent reform.
We'll address these two topics one at a time. First up, the CGI technology. Mova CONTOUR provided the Oscar-winning technology that allowed a film production team to digitally create the older versions of Brad Pitt's face for the 2008 film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
To create these life-like facial images Mova technicians sponge the face of an actor with a mixture of phosphorescent and flesh-toned makeup, with the actor facing a bank of fast-strobing LEDs or fluorescent lights. When the lights are turned off the phosphorescent makeup continues to glow and an array of high resolution cameras capture exactly what the subject's face is doing at the moment.
Mova computers then analyze the glowing patterns, and create a digital representation of the subject's face, including all movements and expression, in three dimensions. Afterward, animators can take the motion data and use it to create a realistic computer-generated image.
Now for the patent process dust-up.
In a step toward what has been described by some as "international harmonization," Congress is in the final stages of changing the U.S. patent system from a first-to-invent standard to a first- to-file standard. The United States stands alone among nations that grant patents in giving priority for a patent to the first inventor as opposed to the first to file a patent application for a given invention.
Most other countries consider the first person to file an application as the rightful inventor and "patentee," to use a legal term. These countries also require a patent application to be filed before you can publicly divulge the existence of the invention.
The legislation also requires that courts, in calculating damage, take into account just the fair share of the patent's contribution to the value of a product and not the value of a whole product that has many other components in it.
Perlman sees both of these changes as unnecessary and, worse, causing potential harm to individual inventors and small, start-up companies. "Innovation in America is under attack" he told his ESC audience, adding that "big technology houses want to pull up the patent ladder that got them where they are today so that none of us can climb up and join in."