Fact Check: 31 Patent Citations Do NOT Prove Actor Terrence Howard Invented Virtual Reality

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: 31 Patent Citations Do NOT Prove Actor Terrence Howard Invented Virtual Reality Not VR Creator

Do 31 patent citations prove actor Terrence Howard invented virtual reality? No, that's not true: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says that Howard's idea was never patented in the United States, while the European Patent Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization websites show the patent process was never completed internationally. Additionally, there is no direct correlation between the number of times a patent or patent application is cited and the viability of an idea.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook by Lorne Cook on May 22, 2024. The post's caption said:

Terrence Howard, The IRON MAN Actor, invented Augmented and Virtual Reality Technology. He owned the patent cited by 31 companies that develop AR/VR technologies such as Microsoft, Amazon, HP, IBM, Sony, and GoPro, among others...

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed May 29 12:27:31 2024 UTC)

The post provided no attribution or other evidence to substantiate the claim. However, Howard did make the claim during an appearance on "The Joe Rogan Experience," Episode #2152, from May 18, 2024. As quoted in an article on bet.com about his appearance on the Rogan program, Howard said:

The entire AR VR [augmented reality virtual reality] world was built off of my first patent that was abandoned because I paid $260,000 for the worldwide patent, but then my lawyers kept sending me these maintenance fees and annuities and I'm like, these folks are just tryna shake me down. I'm not gonna pay this,

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says Howard's U.S. patent application was filed on April 22, 2010, and was then "Abandoned" some three years later on May 6, 2013, meaning a patent wasn't issued.

Regarding the part of the claim that notes 31 companies cited his "patent," the USPTO notes that citations are a common practice for applications and refer to "prior art consisting of patents or printed publications which the person making the submission believes to have a bearing on the patentability of any claim of the patent."

It suggests that aspects of Howard's patent application were considered relevant enough by other applicants to cite in their applications but it doesn't prove he created or invented virtual reality.

European Patent Office and World Intellectual Property Organization

The European Patent Office website shows that on May 30, 2012, Howard's application took too long to complete "the acts" necessary for it to move forward into the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) National Phase. So, again, no patent was issued.

On the World Intellectual Property Organization website, an International Application Status Report, dated May 29, 2024, shows no updates since 2010, the same year the application was filed.

Patent law expert

Matthew Sag, a professor of law, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science at Emory University Law School in Atlanta, cast doubt on the social media post. He said:

This seems like a hoax story. The patent application was never granted.

Read more

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims involving Terrence Howard can be found here.

Lead Stories has debunked other science-related claims, which can be read here.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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