J&J Innovation: From Electronic Contact Lenses to Hernia Repair

By Steve Brachmann
October 27, 2014

Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) of New Brunswick, NJ, is an American multinational company focused on the sale of medical devices, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals. The invitation of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, to IBM’s board of directors in June of this year may signal a growing partnership with the data services giant to develop more pharmaceutical drugs. The company’s recent announcement of its $1.75 billion purchase of private biotechnology firm Alios BioPharma is further evidence of a growing corporate focus on pharmaceuticals for J&J. The company is involved in many vision care programs and initiatives, and its Sight for Kids partnership with the Lions Clubs International Foundation announced that it had administered its 20-millionth free vision screen for children in need.

J&J is pretty active in terms of patenting, and our recent survey of patent applications filed with the USPTO showed us that the company is looking to usher in the next age of contact lenses. In a time when many people are talking about Google Glass and other wearable technologies, we were intrigued to find a large number of patent applications filed by J&J to protect methods of incorporating semiconductor components into contact lenses for digitizing vision care and correction. A surgical implant for hernia repair and cosmetic compositions which cause less skin irritation are also discussed below.

The New Jersey-based company and its various subsidiaries were the recipients of a large number of patent grants in the past few months, and we’re sharing some of our favorites below. Even more contact lens innovation is reflected in these recently issued patents, including contact lenses for stopping myopia progression or for providing more stability when worn on the eye. Anti-tumor topical compositions and disposable assay devices for the simpler completion of biochemical tests have also recently entered the intellectual property portfolio of this firm.



Johnson & Johnson’s Patent Applications: From Electronic Contact Lenses to Hernia Repair 

The research and development activities of Johnson & Johnson are incredibly important to the corporation’s sales of personal care and medical products. The company estimates that 25 percent of its sales come from products which have been created by J&J within the past five years. The corporation maintains a couple of innovation centers, including one each in Boston, London and Menlo Park, CA. Research activities at these innovation centers span a wide array of healthcare issues and goals, including personalized immunotherapies for cancer treatment and treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140268026, which is titled “Ophthalmic Devices with Organic Semiconductor Transistors.”

In our previous coverage of J&J in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we noted an intriguing patent issued to the company protecting a method of installing electronic interconnects onto contact lenses to improve eye care. If we were lucky to find a single patent in this intriguing new field during our last survey of J&J’s patent applications, we were met with a deluge of patent applications regarding the use of electronic components in contact lenses during this most recent foray into the company’s recent innovations. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140268026, which is titled Ophthalmic Devices with Organic Semiconductor Transistors, would protect a lens device with a three dimensionally-formed ophthalmic insert attached to an energization element that powers a thin film transistor which is also attached to the lens. The preferred lenses for use with this invention are soft contact lenses made from hydrogels or silicone elastomers. Active semiconductor devices in contact lens could achieve operations for vision correction, cosmetic enhancements or other functions. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140268014, filed under the title Ophthalmic Devices Incorporating Photonic Elements, discusses some functions of contact lenses with semiconductor components that certainly establishes these J&J lenses as “wearable technology.” The patent application would protect an ophthalmic device with a photonic emitter, a light source and an electronic component for supplying energy to the light source. The photonic emitter and light source work as part of a projector system to project text, video and images over the retina of a wearer’s eye. More innovation for using digitized contact lenses to superimpose images over a contact lens wearer’s sight is discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140268029, which is titled Method and Ophthalmic Device for Providing Visual Representations to a User. The energized ophthalmic device that would be protected by this patent application also contains photonic emitters and light sources as well as a processor for receiving instructions to display an image from a sensor. This invention is designed to improve the safety with which active elements can be introduced to a contact lens and used to project images and text over the sight of a lens wearer.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140268027, entitled “Hydrogel Lens Including a Removable Media Insert.”

Incorporating active electronics into contact lenses could open a new world of innovation in vision and eye care, but it could greatly increase the cost of disposable lenses. Fortunately, the issue of keeping electronics costs down when used with contact lenses is addressed by the technology disclosed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140268027, entitled Hydrogel Lens Including a Removable Media Insert. This filing would protect a hydrogel lens with a removable media insert; it should be noted that the claims written for this patent application are very concise, more so than many other filings we see here at IPWatchdog, which could result in a more valuable patent. The removable media insert of this invention can include semiconductor and energization devices, and the insert is installed onto the optical zone of the hydrogel lens.

Skin care was another area where we noted a lot of research and development activities, which we also saw in our recent survey of Procter & Gamble’s patents and patent applications. Formulations for cosmetic applications which are mild enough to be left on the skin for long periods of time are the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140256833, filed under the title Mild Leave-On Skin Care Compositions. The patent application would protect a buffered leave-on skin care composition comprised of cosmetically acceptable oil, water and emulsifier as well as benzoic acid as a preservative to create a composition with a pH level below five and a high skin mildness score. This composition reduces skin irritation and redness by adjusting to the pH of the skin. Cosmetic products intended to hide blemishes while retaining the look of natural skin are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140271741, which is titled Pigmented Skin-Care Compositions. The patent application would protect a skin-care composition with a plurality of interference pigments that make up about four percent of the composition by weight. The interference pigments of this invention are designed to better minimize the appearance of redness on the wearer’s skin.

We were also intrigued by a surgically implantable device developed by a J&J subsidiary to treat inguinal or ventral/incisional hernias. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140257517, simply titled Surgical Implant, would protect an implant with a resorbable film on a first face and a plurality of solid protrusions extending away from the film which create a mushroom-like shape. The invention that would be protected is designed to reduce post-surgical pain felt by hernia patients caused by nerve damage. According to the description of the invention, there are about 3.1 million hernia procedures completed every year in which flat mesh implants are used.



Issued Patents of Note: Skin Care and Many More Contact Lens Innovations

Johnson & Johnson is a very innovative developer of consumer goods and healthcare products; in 2013, the company earned 1,107 U.S. patent grants, the 29th-largest total issued to an entity that year. The company’s pharmaceutical division had lost a few key patent protections in recent years, and although it’s pharmaceutical development has led to surprising financial successes in the past year, other key drugs like Remicade will lose their patent protections by 2018, leading some to wonder if that growth will falter in the near future.

Topical preparations applied to the skin for both medical and cosmetic benefits were some of the products that recently gained patent-protected status for Johnson & Johnson. U.S. Patent No. 8808671, which is titled Non-Tumorigenic Ointment/Cream Base for Topical Application, protects a topical composition comprised of water, glycerine, propylene glycol, stearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, polysorbate 20, isopropyl myristate, benzoic acid and C12-15 alkyl benzoate. The non-toxic ointment is used as a composition applied to the skin to deliver anti-aging agents, chemopreventative agents, chemotherapeutic agents and other beneficial substances. Rutgers University is listed as a co-assignee on that patent. Compositions designed to fight against the signs of aging, such as wrinkle formation, are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8834943, issued under the title Compositions Containing Amines and Use Thereof. The patent protects a method of treating non-acne skin inflammations by applying a composition including diethylenetriamine and feverfew to the skin. The patent reflects the unexpected discovery of the activity of amines in some cosmetic products are topically effective for treating the signs of aging.

From U.S. Patent No. 8821812, which is titled “Method and Means for Creating Fluid Transport.”

Technologies for enhancing the ease with which physicians and nurses can perform biochemical tests are another developmental area of focus for Johnson & Johnson. It’s Swedish subsidiary, Johnson & Johnson AB, recently secured some intellectual property rights with U.S. Patent No. 8821812, which is titled Method and Means for Creating Fluid Transport. The patent protects a device for handling fluids to be assayed comprised of an open fluid passage within a non-porous substrate which is capable of generating and supporting capillary flow. The invention achieves easier production and cost savings over conventional technologies involving disposable assay devices.

A trio of patents involving more contact lens technologies will close our look at recent innovations from Johnson & Johnson. Contact lens formulations that support the extended wear of contacts by users is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8796353, entitled Biomedical Devices Containing Internal Wetting Agents. The patent protects a biomedical device formed from a reaction mixture of a hydrophilic polymer and a silicone-containing monomer. This formulation provides internal wetting agents that can be incorporated into contact lenses while reducing the time and cost of producing those agents. U.S. Patent No. 8801176, which is titled Contact Lenses with Improved Movement, discusses a technological advancement to silicone hydrogel contact lenses to improve their movement in response to a blinking eye. The patent protects a contact lens with a plurality of equally spaced dimples included on the back surface of the contact lens. Finally, we were greatly intrigued to learn of a contact lens designed to actually stop the progression of shortsightedness. U.S. Patent No. 8789947, entitled Myopia Control Ophthalmic Lenses, protects a method of designing and forming contact lenses for slowing the progression of myopia that involves the collection of ocular wavefront map data from a patient’s eyes. The technology is designed to be a more complete approach to slowing or stopping myopia progression.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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