Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Canon Inc. is a multinational corporation focused on developing a variety of optical and imaging products for consumers and businesses, including printers, photocopiers, camcorders, cameras and even medical devices. In September, Canon released a line of inkjet printers under the brand name Maxify, a low-end printing solution for small businesses; most models cost between $150 and $400 per printer. On the higher end of the quality spectrum, Canon also recently unveiled a new CINE-SERVO Ultra-Telephoto Zoom lens, being marketed as the world’s longest 4K telephoto zoom lens, which comes with a price tag of $78,000 per unit. Canon is also making forays into information technology development across the world, having acquired Australian firm Harbour IT in September for $35 million, the corporation’s largest acquisition deal in the Oceania region.
This edition of IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow takes us back to the innovations most recently developed by this major purveyor of intellectual properties. In the patent applications filed by this company, we found an interesting trio of printing technologies, including one filing which would protect an improved system for printing and binding booklets. Medical innovations, including an endoscopic tool which can be selectively made transparent and visible depending on endoscopic operation needs, are discussed below. We also noted an innovation for reducing erroneous operations in an electronic device with multiple touchscreen panels.
There have been many recent additions to Canon’s already globally renowned patent portfolio that we profile today. We discuss a few patents issued to protect improvements to robotics technologies for manufacturing facilities. A couple of patents show Canon’s interest in improving nanofabrication techniques for creating semiconductors. We also explore inventions related to printing copy-forgery-inhibited patterns and high precision scanning technologies.
Canon’s Patent Applications: Bookbinding Technologies, Devices with Multiple Touchscreens and Medical Innovations
Currently, Canon pursues a globalized diversification goal for its innovation activities, which the company hopes will result in an expanded scope of research and development activities in Europe and the United States as well as Japan. The company has been in the top five global entities in terms of U.S. patent grants earned each year over the course of the past 20 years, according to the website of Canon U.S.A. Recent patent applications filed by Canon cover a wide range of innovation in electronic devices, printing and imaging systems as well as intriguing medical which we felt were worth sharing with our readers.
A trio of patent applications that piqued our interest during our latest survey of Canon’s innovations feature improvements to various printing technologies developed by the company. An invention for reducing errors from occurring in multifunction printing devices which offer scanning and other functions is discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140293316, which is titled Image Forming Apparatus for Detecting an Abnormality. There is an issue with multifunction printers which offer a power-saving sleep mode in which printer preparation when returning to normal operating mode from sleep mode may exacerbate a device failure that causes an error. The patent application would protect an image forming apparatus which can selectively execute a plurality of functions with an abnormality detection unit to detect an abnormality and a function restriction unit for restricting a function related to an abnormality. The use of magnetic toners in printers and copiers is desirable for energy efficiency and device downsizing, and improvements to the use of these substances would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140302433, filed under the title Magnetic Toner. The magnetic toner of this invention is comprised of magnetic toner particles and inorganic metal oxide fine particles which are included in a specific ratio so as to achieve certain dielectric characteristics. These dielectric characteristics create a greater image density, preventing the formation of fogging or streaks in completed printing jobs. Another intriguing printing technology was outlined in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140255124, entitled Sheet Processing Apparatus, Booklet Binding Method, and Booklet. This patent application would protect an apparatus configured to process a sheet bundle and a cover sheet covering the bundle, the apparatus including a scoring portion for scoring lines into a cover sheet. The technology is designed to incorporate the use of a cover sheet to hide bookbinding staples while improving the adhesion of the cover page to the bookblock of a booklet.
A few of the patent applications which we noticed today featured some electronics innovations which took us by surprise, coming from a company which is more closely associated with cameras, printers and medical systems. An electronic device offering two touchscreens, one on either face of the device, is described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140292697, entitled Portable Terminal Having Double-Sided Touch Screens, and Control Method and Storage Medium Therefor. The filing would protect a portable terminal with two touchscreens having a detection unit which detects whether the terminal is being held vertically or horizontally by a user. The invention is intended to improve the use of electronic devices incorporating both a front-facing and a rear-facing touchscreen by suppressing erroneous operations caused by a user’s hand coming into contact with a screen while holding the device. A technology for enhancing the immersive nature of a mixed reality (MR) or virtual reality (VR) system while protecting devices used to implement MR and VR systems is discussed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140285518, titled Mixed Reality Presenting System, Virtual Reality Presenting System, Display Apparatus, Information Processing Apparatus, Control Method, and Program. The patent application would protect a mixed reality presenting system with an information processing apparatus which can process real space data and virtual space data for sending an image to a display, and a display control unit for controlling display operation relative to user interaction with a confirmation image. The system of this invention is intended to prevent screen burn-in on head-mounted displays without disrupting the mixed reality or virtual reality experience.
There were also a few medical innovations which we felt were worth featuring in today’s coverage of Canon. Improvements to medical devices used for endoscopic procedures are detailed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140288366, filed under the title Endoscopic System. The endoscopic system that would be protected by this patent application includes an emission unit which can affect the visibility of a treatment tool based on the wavelength of light being emitted. The resulting endoscopic system is capable of selectively rendering a treatment tool transparent so that the tool doesn’t obstruct in vivo observation, while enabling the tool to become visible again to prevent unintended organ or tissue damage caused by an inadvertent movement with a transparent tool. We were also interested in an invention for disseminating medical documentation among members of a team of medical professionals which would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140298206, which is titled Conference Support System, Conference Support Method, and Storage Medium. The medical conference support system that would be protected includes a selection unit for selecting a conference and an obtaining unit for collecting medical information based on a search condition. The innovative system is designed to reduce the amount of labor endured by physicians in order to collect medical records on treatments and other conditions for a medical conference.
Issued Patents of Note: From Robotics to Fabricating Semiconductors
Canon’s patent portfolio is among the most robust that we feature here on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. The corporation earned 3,918 U.S. patent grants during 2013, the 3rd-highest total for a single entity that year, according to statistics published by the Intellectual Property Owners Association. Over the past few months, the company has made some important strategic partnerships which may be evidence of Canon attempting to exert more influence in the world of intellectual property. Canon and Google have teamed up to form the License on Transfer Network, a consortium of six companies holding a total of 300,000 patents that pledge to offer royalty-free licenses to other members of the consortium if any of their patents are sold, protecting them from patent infringement claims. Canon also signed a patent sharing agreement with Microsoft in July of this year, which some have speculated could lead to a greater presence of Canon digital camera components in Microsoft electronic devices.
We’re always intrigued to learn about robotic technologies developed by the Companies We Follow, and Canon was recently issued a few patents to improve this equipment, often utilized in manufacturing settings. U.S. Patent No. 8855824, issued under the title Dual Arm Robot, protects a robot that has two arms which operate cooperatively, with visual sensors on either arm to detect workpieces manipulated by the dual arm robot during fabrication processes. This technology improves upon conventional dual arm robots which only utilize one visual sensor, which can become obscured during manufacture processes or may not be able to detect a flexible object. The completion of more complex tasks by robotic equipments is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8862267, which is titled Gripping Apparatus and Gripping Apparatus Control Method. The invention addresses an issue with robotic gripping devices where it is very difficult to automate delicate work, such as gripping a flexible cable. The apparatus protected by this patent includes a first obtaining unit which obtains image information of an object secured by a holding unit, and a second obtaining unit which obtains information on the relative position of the object with an interface unit.
Of course Canon is well-known for its printing technologies and we’re sharing a few patents issued to the company in printing, but in the area of semiconductor fabrication. Nanoprint and nanoembossing procedures for transferring a fine pattern onto a semiconductor are at the center of U.S. Patent No. 8845318, entitled Imprint Apparatus, Imprint Method, and Mold for Imprint. The imprint apparatus protected by this patent includes a light source for irradiating a mold surface, a spectroscope for measuring the distance between the mold and a substrate, and a plurality of fibers attached to the spectroscope. This technology supports fine processing of semiconductors by improving methods of measuring the distance between the mold and substrate. Nanofabrication of semiconductors is also the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8850980, issued under the title Tessellated Patterns in Imprint Lithography. This patent protects an imprint lithography method in which a plurality of patterned field layouts are imprinted onto a substrate so that there are no open areas between fields. The technology is designed to reduce the presence of undesirable open areas in semiconductor wafers which could lead to problems with etching or chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) techniques implemented at the edge of the patterned fields. The patent is assigned to subsidiary Canon Nanotechnologies, Inc. of Austin, TX, the former Molecular Imprints semiconductor lithography systems firm which was acquired by Canon in April of this year.
We’ll close our coverage of Canon’s patents today with a look at a couple of technologies which are more closely related to the company’s core optical and imaging businesses. A novel technology that enhances the use of copy-forgery-inhibited pattern images in four-color CMYK printing systems is disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8861031, which is titled Printing Using a Selected Color Material. The printing apparatus protected by this patent has a selector which is configured to select colors for an additional image to be printed on a document image. The technology achieves cost savings in CMYK printing systems by utilizing more black coloring for copy-forgery-inhibited pattern images. Finally, digital scanners offering more precise image reading capabilities are the focal point of U.S. Patent No. 8848270, entitled Image Reading Lens and Image Reading Apparatus Using Image Reading Lens. The patent protects an optical imaging system for reading image information of an original image with a reading unit comprised of a multitude of pixels and an anamorphic lens. The optical imaging system of this invention can read image information while achieving high contrast and high precision while reading image information.