Rafael LTD. filed Israel Patent Application Number 138831 for a “Gaze Actuated Information System” in 2000 which was allowed in July 2007 and Elbit filed an opposition within the prescribed three months.
Asaf Ashkenazi, a director and VP MOP of Elbit and Mr Naftali Maimon, a marketing development worker at Rafael filed sworn statements. Mr Asaf Ashkenazi attempted to file an additional statement in response to that of Mr Naftali Maimon, but Adjudicator of IP, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi threw out statements regarding the lack of utility and lack of industrial applicability that were considered as beyond the original Statement of Case.
In 2010, then Deputy Commissioner Noah Shalev-Smylovits heard the witnesses and their cross-examinations. The Commissioner Assa Kling decided to rule on the evidence submitted and the transcripts of the hearing.
Apparently the system provides audible warnings to the pilot, follows the pilot’s eye movements and simplifies the visual display. The system results in lighter helmets and simpler heads-up displays than those previously known.
The patent was sought on tracking the pilot’s eyes rather than in directing the pilot’s gaze. The claim set included three independent claims for the system and method and 15 dependent ones.
Claims 1 and 14 are as follows:
1. A method for providing a pilot with information associated with at least one region of a field of view visible to the pilot from within a cockpit without requiring a visual display, the method comprising steps of:
(i) determining an eye gaze direction relative to a given frame of reference for at least one eye of the pilot by:
(a) employing a helmet-mounted system to derive direction information related to a relative eye gaze direction for at least one eye of the pilot relative to a helmet worn by the pilot,
(b) deriving position information related to a position of said helmet within a cockpit, and
(c) processing said direction information and said position information to derive said eye gaze direction relative to a frame of reference associate with said cockpit;
(ii) determining a reference direction relative to said given frame of reference;
(iii) comparing said eye gaze direction with said reference direction; and
(iv) if said eye gaze direction and said reference direction are equal to within a given degree of accuracy, generating audio output audible to the pilot and indicative of information associated with said reference direction.
14. A method for providing to a pilot confirmation that a weapon system is locked-on to a visible target without use of a visual display, the method comprising the steps of:
(i) determining an eye gaze direction relative to a given frame of reference for at least one eye of the pilot;
(ii) determining a target direction representing the direction relative to said given frame of reference from the weapon system to the target to which the weapon system is locked on;
(iii) comparing said eye gaze direction with said target direction; and
(iv) if said eye gaze direction and said target direction are equal to within a given degree of accuracy, generating a predefined audible signal to confirm that the weapon system is locked-on to a target at which the pilot is currently gazing.
Elbit claimed lack of novelty / inventive step and opposed the patent under Sections 4 and 5 of the Israel Patent Law. They cited the following prior art:
U.S. Patent No. 5,583,795 “Apparatus for measuring eye gaze and fixation duration, and method therefor”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,196,474 “Information Display for air traffic Control”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,935,885 “Method and apparatus for determining weight and center of gravity of a vehicle“.
 U.S. Patent No. 5,602,543 “Detection system for use in an aircraft”.
 U.S. Patent No. 5,978,715 “Apparatus and method for aircraft display and control”.
 U.S. Patent No. 5,647,016 “Man-machine interface in aerospace craft that produces a localized sound in response to the direction of a target relative to the facial direction of a crew “.
 U.S. Patent No. 3,617,015 מיום 2.11.1971, שכותרתו: “Head-coupled missile-aiming device”.
 U.S. Patent No. 5,790,085 “Portable interactive heads-up weapons terminal”.
 U.S. Patent No. 5,296,854 “Helicopter virtual image display system incorporating structural outlines”.
 U.S. Patent No. 5,931,874 “Universal electrical interface between an aircraft and an associated store providing an n-screen command menu”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,288,049 “Remote targeting system for guided missiles”.
 U.S. Patent No. 6,455,828 “Method for remote-controlled combat of near-surface targets”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,449,787 “Night vision imaging system adapted for helmet mounting”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,287,410 “Double purkinje eye tracker”.
 U.S. Patent No. 5,726,671 “Helmet/head mounted projector system”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,852,988 “Visor and camera providing a parallax-free field-of-view image for a head-mounted eye movement measuring system”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,634,348 “Head and/or eye tracked optically blended display system”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,028,725 “High resolution vision system”.
 U.S. Patent No. 4,034,401 “observer identification of a target or other point of interest in a viewing field”.
 : “Rash et al, Design issues for Helmet-Mounted Display Systems for Rotary-Wing Aviation, USAARL Report No. 98-32 Fort Rucker, AL: U.S. Army Aerodynamical Research Laboratory, July, 1998”.
 Kopp, Helmet Mounted Sights & Displays, Air Power International, Vol. 3 No.1, July 1998, pp. 54-57.
 “Wenzel and Foster, Virtual Reality: Principles and Applications, Piscataway, NJ: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 1993.
 “Begault et al, Augmented TCAS Advisories Using a 3-D Audio Guidance System, Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium on Aviation Psychology the Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1997.”
The claims for lack of inventive step were based on single publications or their combination with any one of several others. In other words, Elbit was claiming lack of inventive step n the basis of 1 or 2 publications, but Rafael would have to relate to various combinations and permutations to overcome the objection.
In oppositions, the onus is on the patentee to prove patentability.
The issues raised included whether tracking a head position and tracking eye movement were identical, and whether improvements could be considered engineering improvements or inventive ones. The main citations were examined in length. Eventually claim 1 was upheld, claim 14 and its dependencies were rejected, and applicant was ordered to correct a typo in claim 6 which related to 50° instead of 5°.