Judge to Gunnar Optiks: Your Demands are Unreasonable & Coercive

By Published January 13, 2016 at 12:00 pm

The world of liquid cooling has recently been set ablaze with ceaseless legal conflict between major CLC providers, a battle for which we've become Ground Zero of statements and reports. These C&Ds and lawsuits all trace back to a shared root: Patent infringement allegations. This concept, of course, isn't relegated to liquid cooling and radiators.

Gaming eyewear manufacturer Gunnar Optiks recently suffered a venue loss against newcomer NoScope Glasses, who've become the target of Gunnar Optiks' ongoing patent infringement lawsuits against competing glasses manufacturers. In the lawsuit, Gunnar Optiks alleges that upstart competitor NoScope Glasses infringes upon its patent #8,342,681 ('681), awarded on January 1, 2013. This patent '681 has been cited in previous lawsuits and actions levied by Gunnar Optiks against gaming glasses manufacturers, including the now-defunct Gamer's Edge line, Allure Eyewear, and Marchon Eyewear. At a top-level, it appears the patent infringement allegations stem from the application of yellow lenses as a means to filter blue light from the wearer's vision, something which theoretically decreases eye strain from prolonged monitor use.

The concept of “gaming glasses” (see also: “computer glasses”) effectively revolves around the idea that blue light emission from displays cause some users to report headaches or eye strain from prolonged exposure. This is a phenomenon that the two legally-entwined companies – Gunnar Optiks and NoScope Glasses – both claim to resolve by deploying yellow filters (lenses) to negate the wavelength responsible for producing blue light. The concept is the very same which GamersNexus uses in its video studio, where filters are used to change the camera's responsiveness to various colors of light. Cyclists will also make use of glasses with yellow lenses to change the contrast of trail elements or increase contrast in cloudy conditions. The concept of light filtration is long-standing and fairly simple at its core.


(Above: Gunnar Optiks patent '681 demonstrates the composition of its product)

Gunnar Optiks' patent '681 states the following within its abstract (read the full patent here):

“Computer eyewear for reducing the effects of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). In one embodiment, the eyewear comprises a frame and two lenses. In some embodiments, the frame and lenses have a wrap-around design to reduce air flow in the vicinity of the eyes.

The lenses can have optical power in the range of approximately +0.5 to +2.5 diopters for reducing accommodation demands on a user's eyes when using a computer. The lenses can also include prismatic power for reducing convergence demand on a user's eyes when sitting at a computer. The lenses can also include a partially transmissive mirror coating, tinting, and anti-reflective coatings. In one embodiment, a partially transmissive mirror coating or tinting spectrally filters light to remove spectral peaks in fluorescent or incandescent lighting.”

Demystifying some of the overwrought language, "a frame and two lenses" translates through round-about patent wording to "glasses." The next part, “prismatic power for reducing convergence,” as we understand it, would more or less boil-down to the word “lens.” Converging sources of EM radiation – or light – hit a curved piece of glass or plastic, then bounce as they're traced toward the focal point of that concave surface.

“Spectrally filters light to remove spectral peaks in fluorescent or incandescent lighting” too can be simplified, strictly for ease of understanding, to the lens' yellow tint. The tint is used to negate the wavelength that produces “blue.” This makes the blues less harsh (“remove[s] spectral peaks in fluorescent […] lighting”) and, for the customers of these products, reportedly easier to withstand.

There's more to the patent, but that should provide a baseline understanding as to what's being argued here.


(Above: Gunnar Optiks' patent references elementary EM wavelengths that create colors)

As for the development of Gunnar Optiks' patent lawsuits, it appears that the company began its pursuit of competing computer & gaming glasses manufacturers in 2013, the same year that patent '681 was awarded to Gunnar Optiks. From our read-through of the legal documents, it looks as if competitors MEI 3D, Allure Eyewear, and glasses giant Marchon Eyewear engaged in legal battle with Gunnar Optiks over the company's '681 and '157 patents. The companies eventually reached a private settlement and dismissed the two lawsuits – one against Gunnar Optiks, one against Allure, Marchon, et al.

In October, 2014, following a Cease & Desist, Gunnar Optiks reached an agreement with VC Eyewear (“Gamer's Edge”) over a patent infringement allegation. VC Eyewear, or Gamer's Edge, transferred trademarks (incl. “Stop frying your eyes”), an undisclosed sum of money, and undisclosed royalties to Gunnar Optiks. VC Eyewear additionally agreed to cease sales of its gaming-related glasses, leaving Gunnar Optiks effectively unchallenged in the niche market. VC Eyewear no longer sells gaming glasses.

On August 6, 2014, active gaming glasses manufacturer NoScope Glasses received a Cease & Desist from Gunnar Optiks, demanding the cessation of sale of all gaming glasses-related products. NoScope Glasses responded by filing a request for Declaratory Judgment in the State of North Carolina on August 18, 2014. The Declaratory Judgment filing was more-or-less NoScope's request for a North Carolina judge to look into the matter, specifically Gunnar's allegation that its name had been used in comparative advertising and allegations of patent infringement. This action made NoScope Glasses the First to File, allowing for establishment of the case in territory local to its headquarters. Immediately following this action, Gunnar Optiks responded with a lawsuit against NoScope Glasses, filed on August 19, 2014. A California Judge tossed Gunnar's suit out of the state, declaring that:

“The record suggests that [NoScope] brought its declaratory action in good faith [...] Gunnar's argument that filing a declaratory action upon receipt of a patent-holder's intent-to-sue letter warrants disregard of the first-to-file rule for equity reasons [and] distorts the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act."

Now forced to continue its action in North Carolina, Gunnar Optiks' faced NC Judge James C. Fox. Judge Fox supported California Judge Moskowitz's harsh words against Gunnar Optiks, stating:

“Gunnar's demands for settlement were unreasonable and coercive, unlike the precedent on which Gunnar relies, where there was a good faith effort to negotiate. Gunnar's laundry list of demands and threats regarding past and potential future litigation falls far short of a good faith attempt at negotiation.”

That laundry list, according to the official motion, was that NoScope Glasses “take eight specific steps 'in hopes of resolving' the matter, including, inter alia, ceasing all sales of the NoScope eyewear, delivering its remaining stock to Gunnar for destruction, abandoning its pending trademark application in connection with the potentially infringing product, providing an accounting of sales to Gunnar, and compensating Gunnar for the sales.”

Judge Fox's statement continues:

“[…] Moreover, there was an ongoing risk of continued liability to [NoScope Glasses] if it took no action. This is the factual situation for which declaratory judgment was designed. Gunnar's coercive letter put [NoScope] in a position where it had to choose one of two unacceptable options: Risk ongoing liability or give up its business enterprise. Where Gunnar may be the natural plaintiff in the infringement suit, it was also the antagonist here […] Gunnar's motion to dismiss is DENIED."

GamersNexus reached-out to defendant NoScope Glasses for comment, who provided the below statement:

"The lawsuit is ongoing and NoScope will continue to defend itself in court. NoScope will persist in the manufacturing and sale of gaming glasses, despite Gunnar's attempt to bully us out of the marketplace. We are confident in our defense and we believe Gunnar's claims are without merit. We are here to stay; NoScope will continue to provide its fans and customers with the highest-quality merchandise at the lowest price in the market."

For now, it appears that NoScope Glasses holds a venue victory over its patent-swinging, larger competitor. The battle will continue outside of Gunnar Optiks' headquartered state of California, as we currently understand the complex matter. Our present understanding is that Gunnar Optiks stands behind its allegations that NoScope Glasses infringes upon patent '681 by making glasses targeted at gamers.

The case is an interesting one to follow. Gunnar Optiks has long enjoyed dominance over a small market niche for “gaming eyewear” – part style for MLG-like events and part function – and competitors springing-up legitimize the space. Whether or not Gunnar Optiks' competitors can break into the space and survive its patent infringement claims is worth watching.

We have reached-out to Gunnar Optiks for comment.

- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.

Last modified on January 13, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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