According to an augmented reality location startup Drop Messages, Snapchat acquired all of its intellectual property, including the “Location-based messaging” patent, in 2015. With Snapchat’s recent launch of Snap Map feature, it is possible that the company will use the acquired IP to augment users’ offline reality in Snapchat.
Founded in 2013 and with $1.25 million in seed funding, Drop was designed to let users post photos and comments on a certain location (a shop, point of interest or else) and notify their followers when they appeared to be nearby the tagged location. With Drop’s IP, Snapchat could implement a similar feature in Snap Map to help users discover friends’ content posted to businesses and other locations on the map and add AR elements to photos and videos taken on Snapchat in these locations.
Drop’s IP acquisition details. Or was it Firefly’s IP that Snapchat acquired?
“Snapchat reached out to buy the IP portfolio. We went back and forth on terms and price, but ended up selling them our whole portfolio of IP. The patent included a very detailed section on the line by line technology implementation so the owner of the patent would be able to replicate the code consistently with our original technology specifications,” Drop co-founder Zachary DeWitt told TechCrunch. The publication has also reported that after patent was reassigned in December, Drop pivoted to launch Firefly, a real-time location sharing app that helped users see which friends were nearby and where they were with automatic location sharing and a local feed of status updates.
Firefly surfaced in February 2016 and was built around the similar concept of connecting with your nearby friends:
Zachary DeWitt last posted about it on Twitter in August 2016 and he also shared Firefly’s interface snap on Instagram around the same time.
And while TechCrunch reported that Snapchat acquired Drop’s IP and the team is focusing entirely on Firefly, according to the founder of the both apps, Firefly closed in December 2016 and sold its IP to Snapchat.
The price to pay
It is not clear what price Snapchat paid to acquire the IP: while Drop founder mentioned to TechCrunch that the transaction was “under $1 million”, another source believes that Snapchat closed the deal paying $100,000 which is not a huge amount of money for Snap Inc that acquired over 12 companies so far.
According to Drop’s founder, the company was “one of the first to have a patent in the space. Our patent was very expansive and covered a lot of use cases. We definitely think it’s a linchpin patent to what they’re trying to achieve” – DeWitt commented on the acquisition to TechCrunch.
The recent acquisition comes at a time when AR space is heating up. Both Facebook and Instagram are working on incorporating AR in the user experience: Facebook announced its augmented reality Camera Effects Platform that will let users make AR posts in specific places at F8 conference in April, and Instagram launched Location and Hashtag Stories with stories submitted by users with a specific hashtag or location.