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View Full Version : Lens Design Patents - Petzvals, et al?



goamules
24-Dec-2014, 09:29
On the internet, and especially Facebook, people occasionally ask why a particular lens isn't remanufactured. I'm not going to even address the extremely limited demand in LF, but I know Fuji and others continually release "new" lenses for small digital cameras. Many are very fast, and well corrected.

I've often read here and elsewhere that "all lens design patents are long expired." I've even read recently someone stated "you cannot patent a lens design" or some such, which I don't believe. I'm sure if Fuji is doing anything slightly novel, they'll be protecting it.

Today I stumbled on this patent (https://www.google.com/patents/US8169717), for a: "Large aperture optical systems that are extremely well corrected over a large flat field and over a large spectral range are disclosed. Breathing and aberration variation during focusing are optionally controlled by moving at least two groups of lens elements independently. Aberration correction in general is aided by allowing the working distance to become short relative to the format diagonal. Field curvature is largely corrected by a steeply curved concave surface relatively close to the image plane. This allows the main collective elements to be made of low-index anomalous dispersion materials in order to correct secondary spectrum."

It is the longest patent I've ever read, with more drawings. He seems to be "covering" everything in lens design, down to soft focus, "It is also desirable for cinematographic and general photographic objectives to have a variable soft focus feature so that a wide variety of special effects can be achieved. This is especially true of cinematographic objectives with a focal length of about 50 mm and longer, which are frequently used for close-up headshots and the like. The best method of introducing a soft focus is to vary the amount of spherical aberration in a controlled manner by an axial adjustment of one or more lens elements. " (A la Dallmeyer, Cooke, Wollensak, et al).

What, exactly is this guy patenting?! And why did the Patent Office give it to him? I didn't think you could patent unless it was a novel, new invention. He seems to be writing a lens history, then saying, "Mine!" He talks about "the invention..." numerous times, without saying WHAT the invention is! Just references all the lens design patents going back to 1933, and gives pages of history on each design. He started with a provisional patent in 2008, then now keeps "updating" it or something. I'm no Patent expert. But I think I'll go give the history of the reciprocating engine, and then patent every car motor ever made!

Bob Salomon
24-Dec-2014, 09:40
Why did they give it to him?

An example:

Back when you were in school you probably had a locker that had a lock but the custodians had a key that would let them open your locker at any time.

Now fast forward to the beginning of TSA. They had a mandate to open luggage to inspect it. To do so they had a series of very large rings with every possible luggage key on it. If the inspector couldn't find the correct key in a reasonable time they broke the lock open.

Along came a consultant who figured out a better way would be to have locks made that could be opened with one of just a few keys that were only in the hands of the TSA inspectors and to further simplify the problem each lock on a suitcase would have a symbol and a number on it. The symbol identifying the lock as using one of those keys and the number telling TSA which key would open the lock. Same as your old gym locker.

Now another fellow comes along, after the TSA approved this system, and filed a patent - actually 2 patents, on this very system. And he received those two patents! Even though his patent was for nothing essentially different then that old school locker.

Once he was issued those patents he then sued virtually every luggage and lock manufacturer for violating his patents. And this case has been in litigation for the past 6 years or so.

goamules
24-Dec-2014, 09:44
That's what I was afraid of. Lawyer fodder....

BrianShaw
24-Dec-2014, 09:50
I'm no patent scholar either but I read lots of them. Patents can be "utility" or "design". So not just new invention (technology) but novel usage too. Design patents are especially easy to get around - change the design slightly and -- "viola" -- it is something different from the patent. Patent does not necessarily equate to a product, though... or anything especially useful either.

What this guy is up to is a great question, though. It could be like the folks who take over old/un-used domain names.

Sevo
24-Dec-2014, 10:09
Brian Caldwell is all over the net, and a nice guy. Ask him...

Bernice Loui
24-Dec-2014, 11:23
Patents...

Requires to reveal much about how it actually works. Once this has been done, the world knows what you're up to and how it is done. More than a few items of significant intellectual property are never Patented and that is one of many ways to protect intellectual property.

Beyond ownership and issuance of a Patent, the Patent holder is required to defend it. One might own the Patent, unless one has the legal and lawyer might to protect it, big money will use your invention regardless and tie up the patent holder in the legal system with the lawyers (parasites really) sucking on both sides all they can.


As for why many of these older optics designs not being currently produced, the market for them is simply not there for a significant optical company to make a profit and cover their cost. Simple case of supply -vs- demand.



Bernice

hoffner
24-Dec-2014, 11:47
That's what I was afraid of. Lawyer fodder....


Brian Caldwell is all over the net, and a nice guy. Ask him...

goamules,
if you don't understand someone's patent, be very careful to call it publicly "lawyer fodder". For just the simplest human respect for the other's work and know how.
I think Sevo gave you the best answer.

Jac@stafford.net
24-Dec-2014, 12:46
Patents...

Requires to reveal much about how it actually works. Once this has been done, the world knows what you're up to and how it is done.

Not necessarily how it is done in enough detail to use the patent as a blueprint.

My favorite patent that serves as an example of invention vs. some raw, bitter envy: after over fifty years of his research and development an uncle invented something detailed in his patent (http://www.google.com/patents/US3285546) to the extent that anyone competent in the craft could replicate it. He worked the patent process well with his attorney.

Some people were so startled by the design that they complained that it was so obvious that it should not be patentable. His reply (largely to family) was, "If is so obvious why had it not been developed when humankind had the need for it and had the material technology for thousands of years?", and, "When the answer is found, it will be simple."

Oh, I second Sevo's suggestion to contact Brian Caldwell.

goamules
24-Dec-2014, 13:02
I guess if I was going to build a lens, I would call him and ask him if it was breaking his patent. But I'm not. The patent reads very confusing, but looking at the copious diagrams, it seems it is a defined design, with lots of elements. My mistake was reading the preamble, before looking at the actual diagrams. It was confusing me that he was mentioning a ton of old, tried and true designs.

I think what his design is doing is addressing the need for a sharp, flat, fast lens. "...virtually all high-speed photographic lenses designed to date are compromised by the need to balance large aberrations against each other. Most often these designs are notably soft in the outer sub-group of the image field, and must be stopped far down to achieve good performance. "

Randy Moe
24-Dec-2014, 13:10
I read 90% of it and found it confirmed my distrust of patents, lawyers and our laws.

Tim Deming
25-Dec-2014, 16:32
I guess if I was going to build a lens, I would call him and ask him if it was breaking his patent. But I'm not. The patent reads very confusing, but looking at the copious diagrams, it seems it is a defined design, with lots of elements. My mistake was reading the preamble, before looking at the actual diagrams. It was confusing me that he was mentioning a ton of old, tried and true designs.

I think what his design is doing is addressing the need for a sharp, flat, fast lens. "...virtually all high-speed photographic lenses designed to date are compromised by the need to balance large aberrations against each other. Most often these designs are notably soft in the outer sub-group of the image field, and must be stopped far down to achieve good performance. "

The easiest way to see what is protected, or covered, by a patent is to look at the claims, specifically the independent claims (1 and 10 in this case) the other, dependent, claims are just refinements of these two. The independent claims specifically describe the parameters of the invention, in this case, specific design parameters and properties of lenses, which look to be narrowly enough described to be distinguished from what has been done before. As Garrett surmised, the problem solved by this invention (which is actually a continuation of prior inventions), is a design for high speed lenses with sharpness across the field within specified focal lengths.

I'm not a patent lawyer, but my work forces me to spend a considerable amount of my time working with them, as well as examiners at the US PTO

Cheers

Tim