Canon files a surprising number of patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, making them a great choice for IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. Today, we’ve done an exhaustive search of the dozens of patent applications and recently issued patents coming out of the UPSTO’s headquarters. We may not be seeing many revolutionary new optical imaging or printing technologies, but the improvements to existing systems pose many benefits for business and residential applications alike.
We begin our profile today with a look at our featured application, a mobile cart system for providing X-ray imaging techniques on patients at medical facilities. Further patent applications show Canon’s interest in developing medical technologies, including one invention regarding better methods of displaying retinal images. We also discuss a trio of printing innovations that caught our eye, including one system for reducing printer downtime when upgrading firmware.
Our review of patents recently issued to Canon focuses almost exclusively on printing inventions, related to physical printing apparatus improvements as well as better printer networking systems. Our readers may be interested in one patent protecting a system that reduces printer error when printing files from cloud servers. A couple of patents protect methods of applying color correction techniques in printers and scanners. We also noticed one optical imaging technology patented by Canon that provides better partial facial recognition in images.
Mobile X-Ray Image Capturing Apparatus
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140112455
X-ray machines are just one imaging apparatus of the many used in medical facilities to aid in the diagnoses of health issues. Conventional X-ray systems are fairly stationary, however, making it difficult to perform imaging techniques quickly on a patient. As well, X-ray systems require a large amount of voltage to operate properly, making them dependent on a large energy supply.
Canon has been involved with developing X-ray technologies in the recent past, as we’ve profiled in our past coverage of this company’s intellectual property portfolio. Previous improvements to X-ray imaging devices that we profiled included improvements to durability, like better resilience to shocks from physical impacts as well as devices with a better capacity for withstanding heat from electrical energy generation.
This patent application was filed by Canon with the USPTO in October 2013 to protect a mobile apparatus capable of performing X-ray imaging techniques on a patient. The apparatus is comprised of an X-ray tube contained within an arm that is supported over a cart through the use of a vertical pillar. The bottom portion of the mobile cart includes a wheel and caster system for moving the imaging device from room to room.
To provide power for the X-ray device, the cart also includes a battery device on the cart that energizes the X-ray tube through the use of an alternating high-voltage cable. An operator would direct the cart by handling the grasp portion which, along with the wheels and casters, allows for fairly free movement of the X-ray cart. The arm and the support pillar are both extendable and rotatable, allowing for a wide range of arbitrary positions from which X-ray images may be taken.
Claim 1 of this Canon patent application would provide the company the right to protect:
“A mobile X-ray-capturing apparatus comprising: an X-ray tube for irradiating an object with X-rays; an arm for holding the X-ray tube; a support pillar for holding the arm; a first electrical conductor comprising an electrode incorporated in the arm for supplying power or a signal to the X-ray tube; and a second electrical conductor comprising an electrode incorporated in the support pillar for supplying power or the signal to the arm.”
Other Patent Applications
Our featured application was only one of a few recent patent applications from Canon that were filed to protect medical imaging technologies. Improvements to systems for retinal imaging are described in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140111514, simply titled Medical System. This innovation enables better opacity functions in optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging systems, essentially allowing physicians to more accurately view heavy clusters of blood vessels or other tissues within the eye.
As many business professionals know, Canon is heavily involved in the development of printers, copiers and other image forming devices used in corporate applications. An improved design for a sheet-fed printer would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140110897, filed under the title Image Forming Apparatus and Control Method for the Same. This printing system allows for more complex methods of printing business documents so that one type of printing sheet paper may be given a higher priority than lower-quality paper for index pages, for example. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140115572, titled Image Forming Apparatus, Control Method for Image Forming Apparatus, and Storage Medium, discusses improvements to firmware updates for Canon printers. This system enables access of certain printing options even while firmware updates are being downloaded to a printing apparatus, reducing the amount of printer downtime caused by software updates. Canon is also involved in developing better substances for printing words and features on paper, as we can see in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140106272, which is titled Toner. This toner is composed of particles which enable a high stability of charging as well as a quicker rapidity of charging, enabling a printer using environmentally friendly resins to complete a printing job in a reduced amount of time.
Issued Patents of Note
As a major developer of printing and imaging technologies, Canon is one of the world’s greatest applicants for intellectual property protections. Although we typically think of corporations like Google and Apple as being at the forefront of technological innovation, Canon was issued the third-most U.S. patents in 2013 among all companies, domestic and global combined. Our search of Canon’s recently assigned patents found plenty of innovations regarding improved systems of digital imaging for a variety of purposes, as well as some interesting mechanical improvements to printing apparati.
Technological methods for color correction in printers are protected in U.S. Patent No. 8705122, entitled Image Processing Apparatus, Image Processing Method, and Program for Executing the Image Processing Method. This method enables for the correction of color in a electrophotographic printing apparatus within a three-dimensional cyan-magenta-yellow (CMY) color space. This method improves on previous multi-dimensional tone-correcting look up tables by providing much more efficient information storage. U.S. Patent No. 8705153, issued under the title Original Reading Apparatus Reading Image from Original, also discusses color correction technology. This technology, however, is used in image reading devices like computers, scanners or fax machines. Although image reading devices tend to perform color correction in a red-green-blue (RGB) color space by using red as a reference for correcting other color levels, for example, this technology uses a light source to more accurately determine color levels in an image. An inkjet head apparatus for a printer is the focus of the technology outlined in U.S. Patent No. 8702215, which is titled Inkjet Head Unit and Inkjet Apparatus. This patent protects a method of producing an inkjet printing head that provides a consistent pressure for inkjet printing to reduce any deviation of inkjet sprays that deviate from the intended image.
We wanted to wrap up our discussion of Canon’s issued patents with a quick look at a few interesting computing technologies for image recognition as well as printing from the cloud. U.S. Patent No. 8705099, entitled Information Processing Apparatus Connectable to a Server and a Printer, protects a method for reducing printer errors when processing a print job over a cloud network. Instead of arresting a print job because of connectivity issues with a cloud server, this invention prevents the generation of a printer error through the use of a transfer control unit that transmits printer data. Finally, we were intrigued by the image recognition technology expressed in U.S. Patent No. 8705806, titled Object Identification Apparatus and Control Method Thereof. This invention of an apparatus for object identification improves current methods of recognizing facial features, which can perform poorly if the sequential learning of a target’s facial features essentially leads to over-learning. This technology contains a number of analytical units capable of suppressing poor image detection caused by over-learning.