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Samsung, LG may battle over eye-tracking technology

Both companies have outfitted their latest flagship phones with eye-recognition software. Is a fight over patent violations inevitable?

Samsung Galaxy S4 eye-tracking
The new Galaxy S4 can translate eye movements into action to control the phone's interface, or to play or pause a video when you look away and back.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung and LG Electronics could find themselves in another patent squabble, this time over eye-tracking technology.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 and LG's Optimus G Pro both will offer an eye-recognition feature that automatically reacts to the movement of the user's eyes.

The Galaxy S4 already comes built with Smart Scroll, which lets people scroll through the screen and trigger certain actions by moving their eyes up and down. The phone also includes Smart Pause, which pauses a video when a person looks away from the screen.

LG will add a Smart Video eye-recognition feature to its Optimus G Pro, courtesy of a "value pack" software update due out next month. LG's Smart Video will allow users to pause and restart a video by moving their heads back and forth.

Given the feature similarities of the two phones, it seems almost inevitable that the companies will square off in another patent skirmish. Samsung and LG already seem to be prepping for battle, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

LG said it applied for a patent in August 2009 and has applied for related patents, while Samsung said it already owns the technology.

An LG representative told Yonhap that the company plans to review potential patent violations when the Galaxy S4 goes on sale. But Samsung countered by denying any patent infringements, saying it uses its unique methods to create the eye-recognition feature.

A Samsung spokesperson also told CNET that "the recognition technologies, such as Smart Pause and Smart Scroll, embedded in our smartphone products are our unique proprietary technologies that we have developed internally at Samsung."

A spokesman for LG sent CNET the following statement: "We are in the process of discussing next steps internally. Legal action is an option but nothing has been confirmed yet. We will have further statements once a decision has been made."

(Via The Next Web)

Updated 3/21 10:45 a.m. PT with comment from LG.