Experts Say Uncertainties In Virtual Reality Legal Issues Pose Significant Risk To Future Growth

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Despite recent technological breakthroughs by hardware and software companies, the virtual reality industry is rife with unique IP, liability, and safety concerns.

On October 21, Greenlight VR held the first in a series of webinars designed to address industry topics. An international panel of legal experts from Harbottle & Lewis (London, UK), YouVisit (New York, USA), and Robison, Curphey & O’Connell (Columbus, Ohio) discussed potential pitfalls executives and lawyers will face with the emergence of new virtual reality products.

Referencing virtual reality's unique IP concerns, the panel concluded that the next 12-24 months will determine what legal issues will remain truly unique to VR. Citing legal challenges for other wearables, including Nintendo’s Wii Remotes, Robert Tucker of Robison, Curphey & O’Connell explained that the degree of immersion achievable with today's VR headsets presents real-world safety concerns. Daniel Tozer, Partner at Harbottle & Lewis, agreed. Tozer explained that manufacturers could be liable if consumers harm themselves, or someone else, using the technology and are not properly warned. 

Robert explored how lawyers could also benefit from the advancements being forged in VR/AR technology. "The practicalities of immersing a jury in an augmented or virtual reality courtroom are clear," says Tucker. "Instead of a defense attorney reading a written testimony of their defendant, the defendant could be projected into AR/VR space where they could present their testimony exactly as it happened, with the essential inclusion of being able to witness body-language -- a key indicator for certain emotional cues." Virtual evidence would also be beneficial, as oftentimes trial lawyers present only photographs of key pieces of evidence. The idea is that juries will be more engaged with the evidence in question and make clearer interpretations when projected into a virtual space. Robert cautioned, however, that this application for VR is at least 10-20 years out and will require extensive judicial and legislative vetting before it enters courtrooms.

For more on this topic, join us for the 2016 New York Virtual Reality Summit at Javits Convention Center April 11-12, 2016 in New York City.

Note: Any and all insights in this webconference should not be considered legal advice. Always consult independent counsel for legal advice.

Sean Whitmore
Research Analyst