Meta, the company behind the Meta 2 tethered AR headset, has suffered its fair share of growing pains since its founding in 2012, although a lack of outside investment and a recent patent infringement lawsuit seem to have proven fatal. Now, Meta founder Meron Gribetz confirms he’s stepped down as owner of the company after its assets were auctioned off to a new, unnamed buyer, presumably stripping the company down to its bare assets.

Update (January 22nd, 2019): Meta founder Meron Gribetz spoke with Variety recently, confirming that he is “no longer the owner of the company,” and that Meta’s assets “changed hands to (a) new owner.” Gribetz hasn’t specified the identity of the new owner, but maintains that support for their existing products will continue. “The Meta assets have a future,” he said. “That future was not so clear a few months ago.”

Whether that future actually includes the Meta Company itself, we just can’t say. Gribetz hasn’t revealed anything substantial, although he told The Verge that he was “somewhat encouraged” by the sale. “I feel like it’s a good home for the Meta assets, and that it could provide a future for them,” he said. No mention has been made about the future of Meta talent however.

So while Meta hasn’t publicly admitted defeat, it’s hard to imagine the company resurfacing after investor interest failed to keep it afloat in the first place. In the interim, Meta’s online shop portal has magically returned to the website after it was taken down sometime late last year, although without any visual indication that the company has switched hands, this could be the mystery owner’s bid to keep the lights on and quietly flush out whatever remaining Meta 2 stock exists at this point. We can’t say for sure, but because Meta is essentially a ghost ship currently, anything is possible.

Update (January 11th, 2019): Following evidence of court correspondence where the company admits insolvency and inability to settle litigation in the patent infringement case, Meta says it isn’t shutting down. We reached out to the company, although Meta responded to greater claims of its shutdown via a short press release saying that Meta “remains in full operation and continues to develop, sell and support its products working with a team of engineers and product specialists.” Meta hasn’t denied its insolvency, or the veracity of the claims made in the court correspondence.

The company says further information is yet to follow in a statement slated for next week which will “address details of the recent restructuring and subsequent progress.”

Original Article (January 10th, 2019): Back in September, Meta lost out on a fresh round of funding lead by a Chinese investor which forced the company to furlough around 2/3 of their staff, leaving Meta’s existence in doubt as it looked for additional investment.

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Making matters worse, the suspension of operations came shortly before Meta faced a patent infringement lawsuit from Genedics, LLC, which claims Meta infringed on “user interface methods for image manipulation and user input in a three-dimensional space where projectors display images and sensors identify user input,” Next Reality reports.

Next Reality obtained a statement from Meta CFO John Sines to Judge Christopher J. Burke, the Delaware-based presiding district court judge in the case, which details the company’s asset liquidation to a third-party after settlement negotiations failed.

Dear Judge Burke:
I am replying to your Court order that Meta Company retain counsel or reach a settlement with Genedics LLC.

I regret to inform you that settlement negotiations were unsuccessful. Further, Meta Company’s lender exercised its remedies as first priority secured lender and foreclosed and sold all assets to a third party in a UCC foreclosure sale at a value below the outstanding loan amount, and Meta Company is insolvent. Meta does not have the resources to retain legal counsel or to provide a settlement offer.

Respectfully,
John Sines
Chief Financial Officer
Meta Company

Another fold in the foreclosure: both the Meta 2 headset and its list of executives have been removed from the company’s website, leaving only tutorials and info on their software (see update).

Founded in 2012, the company ran a successful Kickstarter in 2013 for an early AR development headset. Meta then went on to raise $73 million between its Series A and Series B investments. In 2016, Meta went on to unveil the Meta 2, a tethered AR headset development kit with a wide field of view, which the company sold for $1,500.

SEE ALSO
Meta Forced to Furlough After Chinese Lead Backs Out of New Investment

We’ve reached out to Meta for additional comments on the shutdown, and will update when we hear back. (see update)

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  • Adrian Meredith

    If you needed any more evidence that patents restrict innovation…

    • brandon9271

      Innovation is driven by the desire to turn a PROFIT. If you dump money into something and then someone steals your idea guess what? Not only do you not make profit but you’re also in the red for R&D money. That sounds like a failed business model

      • FireAndTheVoid

        Except that Genedics LLC is a patent troll. Google them. They don’t make or design *anything*. They purchased a patent portfolio and then pursue litigation against companies that are actually trying to produce a product.

        For those unfamiliar with patent trolls, have a read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_troll

        It could also be that there are only a few effective ways for humans to interact with virtual 3D objects. Two companies could have arrived at the same idea independently, as I would guess is the case in this scenario. See convergent evolution https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergent_evolution

        • brandon9271

          And how do you solve the patent troll problem without making everyone else’s IP worthless? The fact that two people could come up with the same idea doesn’t change the fact that someone else thought of it first. I do agree that people shouldn’t be able to patent trival things and troll people later but i dont know of a simple solution. I’d like to see an end to all frivolous lawsuits. In general i think lawyers (and politicians) are scum ;)

          • FireAndTheVoid

            Maybe a company needs to have an actual product in the works in order to claim patent infringment. Not sure how best to enforce that.

          • brandon9271

            I think you should have to create a working prototype before filing a patent. At least then people could patent a vague, theoretical idea they drew on a napkin and then sue somebody later who actually makes it work.

          • Hivemind9000

            I’ve filed several patents and the process is already complex and expensive (to get beyond a simple application filing). Having to prove you have built a prototype would put it out of the reach of smaller inventors who often need a patent filing to get funding for their invention.
            Perhaps there should be limits/laws around how patents can be settled. i.e. must be a % of sales, and the % is worked out based on how much the patent contributes to the overall product and takes into account production costs etc? It would mean the infringer only pays when they make a profit on sales.
            I think the big problem is that the patent lawsuits themselves can put companies into liquidation. God bless the American litigation system.

          • brandon9271

            Yeah, that sounds reasonable. If a company isn’t making money off the patent then you shouldn’t be entitled to any money. Also, the court should differentiate between something that’s blatantly stolen and something that was “invented” a 2nd time and settle things accordingly. It seems fairness is a foreign concert in the judicial system these days

          • Kev

            A while back the company I work for was sued by a patent troll who bought the patent rights to a spring that was never produced for a hypothetical vending machine. The patent was about 1yr at the time from expiring. It was a very basic spring, nothing special and didn’t even resemble the spring in the patent. It’s like someone suing you over the shape of your own nose. They wanted millions and threatened to derail genuine new products we were releasing. We are not a large company and were forced to spend massive money to defend this ridiculous stuff. This mess sucks the life out of small innovative companies.

          • Henry Yopp

            It is easy to solve, you just revert patent law back to it’s previous state before 2011.

            In 2011, the (AIA) enacted the most significant change to the U.S. patent system since 1952. After decades of debate in the U.S. comparing and contrasting the pros and cons of,”first-to-invent” versus “first-to-file” systems, the AIA switched the U.S. patent system from “first to invent” to “first inventor to file”.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Praise Jesus Christ God’s Son mankinds only hope and Savior of the world.

    • Alexisms

      He’s dead. Try to keep up.

    • Hivemind9000

      Oh dear. Been on a Jesus juice again have we?

      • Proof XR Lab

        It’s that Holy Water…fearsome stuff

        • Hivemind9000

          I was guessing it was the Sacramental Wine.

    • Ian Shook

      Not even Jesus could save Meta

      • Jorge Gustavo

        Meta should have prayed. They did not, so they perished

  • Hivemind9000

    I preordered the Meta 2 way back, then canceled my order a little before they went into production due to obvious image stabilization problems that they never addressed. Not sure why their investors pulled out, but something more than the patent dispute must have been a problem (patent disputes are a fact of life in modern tech hardware businesses – unfortunately).

  • I am really confused after the update

  • Had a quick read of their patents. I don’t think it should have been allowed, its not a novel idea. The one for wind energy collection from the roadside. That is a novel idea. But the interaction of a 3d projection with sensors (“Method and apparatus for user interface of input devices”). Filed 2012. How many films and tv shows have we all seen where they manipulate a 3D projected image with their hands. Minority Report in 2002 specifically but I’m thinking CSI, Star trek etc. We’ve seen this lots of times before 2012. Its not a novel idea so shouldn’t have been granted a patent.

    • Kev

      The problem is even people with ridiculous patents can pound a small company into the ground over things that aren’t even close to your product. In effect these trolls are legal paper factories who shower the courts in “bulk” knowing that most of their victims have to hire real attorneys for big $ to defend.

  • sfmike

    As more and more investors see that AR and VR won’t be bringing in billions of revenue in the next couple years funding is drying up. Corporate America would be happy to drop AR and VR as fast as they dropped 3DTV. Hard times are ahead for our niche market.

  • Jorge Gustavo

    I think that if your company is being sued by a patent troll, you should hire a professional hitman and get rid of the lawyers and the scum that is suing you. Kill them all. I mean it.