Toshiba seeks patents on medical imaging, radioactive waste disposal

By Steve Brachmann
February 3, 2015

ToshibaThe Toshiba Corporation of Tokyo, Japan, is a multinational conglomerate with business activities in electronic components, power systems, information technology and household appliances. One of the company’s most recent product unveilings was the near field communication (NFC)-enabled SDHC memory card, the world’s first, which enables a mobile electronic device to quickly scan the contents of the memory card without inserting the SD card into a proper slot on a computer or digital camera. Toshiba is looking to extend its reach outside of its home country of Japan, likely by constructing facilities for memory chip and nuclear power plant manufacturing in other regions. A partnership between Toshiba and United Technologies to develop air condition equipment will also likely increase the corporation’s manufacturing profile outside of Japan.

The strong IP holdings of Toshiba are based upon a robust scene of innovation occurring throughout that corporation. Toshiba has been experimenting with glasses-free high-definition 3D displays and may even be developing applications for this technology on mobile devices that can switch from 2D display to 3D display. Other intriguing user interface innovations pioneered by Toshiba for their portable electronic devices include high-precision pen input for 2-in-1 detachable PC products. Toshiba’s investment in promoting innovation extends beyond the reach of its own research and development initiatives. Educational science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs developed in part with input from Toshiba, such as the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision K-12 technology program, which was recently praised by renowned American science educator Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” as one of very few examples of much-needed corporate investment in STEM education.

There are very few patent portfolios covered here in the Companies We Follow series that can top the recent totals posted by Toshiba. During 2014, Toshiba was issued 2,608 total patent grants from the USPTO, the 6th-highest total of patents issued by that agency to any entity that year. In September of last year, a Delaware federal judge dismissed patent infringement claims filed against Toshiba by American patent holding company Intellectual Ventures which alleged willful infringement of 10 patents, including one that covers methods for improving block transfers of memory. Much more recently, in December, the Federal Circuit vacated a verdict of about $10 million awarded to Ericsson against Toshiba and other defendants after finding that lower courts had improperly instructed a jury on royalty rates and other information.

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Toshiba’s Patent Applications: Medical Tech, Public Transportation Management and Detecting Mining Impacts on Biodiversity3d

Medical technologies were featured in a number of the patent applications we explored today. A technology designed to take some of the manual labor away from medical professionals who are generating medical reports for diagnoses is discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150015612, which is titled Medical Report Generating Apparatus and Medical Image Diagnosis Apparatus. The report generation apparatus claimed here includes a designation reception unit for receiving a desired medical image designation from a plurality of images acquired by a medical imaging unit, an arrangement processor that determines an arrangement position of the desired medical image in an image arrangement region and a medical report generator that uses the predetermined image arrangement position. With this innovation, medical professionals would no longer need to manually paste images onto desired regions of a medical report. Improvements to medical imaging apparatuses themselves are also featured within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150018681, entitled Ultrasound Diagnosis Apparatus, Medical Image-Processing Apparatus, and Method of Processing Medical Images. The patent application claims an ultrasound diagnosis apparatus that includes an image generator generating a plurality of sets of image data representing a common area, multiple structural information acquirers that acquire tissue-structure information and common structural information indicative of a common tissue structure and a synthesizer that generations composition image data based on image data sets by applying image-synthesis methods. The invention improves the viewability of medical images captured by an ultrasound apparatus, especially where contours in tissue structure are concerned.

motorWe were interested to find out about a couple of vehicular and transportation technologies being developed by Toshiba. Improvements to motor technologies for railway vehicles are at the center of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150000549, which is titled Motor for Vehicle and Railway Vehicle. The motor innovation is intended to reduce noise generated by fan impellers through the use of an improved guide mechanism. The patent application claims a vehicle motor with a rotor shaft attached to a rotor iron core, around which is disposed a stator iron core, a casing accommodating the rotatable shaft, an air inlet port, a fan for introducing outside air to the air inlet port; a guide wall is included on the first housing of the casing and extends in a radial direction. Greater transportation management systems for buses, light rail and other public transportation vehicles are explained by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150006002, which is titled Transportation Management System for Battery Powered Vehicles. The method for managing a transportation service along a plurality of routes with a plurality of vehicles claimed here involves allocating a vehicle to a first route, calculating the power used by a vehicle while providing transportation along the first route, determining a range of power to be stored in a vehicle’s battery and reallocating the vehicle to a second route based on the calculated amount and range of battery power. This invention enables the assignment of plural battery-powered vehicles to service routes while taking into consideration the amount of deterioration of the battery.

A couple of technologies for environmental remediation where among the Toshiba patent applications that we were able to take a closer look at today. Methods of cleaning radioactive waste pollution generated by extreme weather events like tsunamis or earthquakes, which of course calls to mind the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, has been the focus of Toshiba innovations that we saw evidenced within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150011816, which is titled Solidification Method of Radioactive Waste. The solidification method claimed here includes kneading a binder and an inorganic adsorbent containing radionuclides to obtain a kneaded object, extruding the kneaded object, cutting the extruded object to obtain an extruded material block and firing the block to solidify it. The method is designed to reduce levels of radioactive cesium from contaminated biodiversitywater which has rushed into a reactor pressure vessel. We were also intrigued to note a system for determining the environmental impacts of metal mining operations which was discussed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150012316, filed under the title Biodiversity Evaluation Index Calculation. The patent application would protect a biodiversity evaluation index calculation apparatus that includes multiple calculation units for calculating vegetation/living-animal coefficients and biodiversity values and a biodiversity evaluation index, which represents a range of impact of mining on a peripheral environment, for each of a plurality of regions. As the background section states, this would be the first system created to uniformly estimate the impact of metal mines on biodiversity.

Toshiba is also still focused on the development of video electronics products and we noticed one classroom technology within that field which is described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150020090, which is titled Video Display Apparatus and Television System. This invention enables television receivers to be set with viewing restrictions on the receiver side so that educational content, and not entertainment shows, are displayed. The video display apparatus claimed includes multiple setting units that sets keyword and category criteria for either permitting or blocking the viewing of a program and a control unit that compares criteria sets for blocking and permitting programs against multiplexed program information.

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Issued Patents of Note: More Medical Tech and Efficient Resource Management, Especially Electricity

A trio of patents that caught our eyes recently protected various systems designed to improve efficiency in energy use, whether throughout the home or over an entire electrical grid. U.S Patent No. 8924324, entitled Behavior Estimation Apparatus, Threshold Calculation Apparatus, Behavior Estimation Method and Non-Transitory Computer Readable Medium Thereof, claims an apparatus for estimating behavior status includes a storage unit that stores data on power values consumed by a consumer, multiple calculation units for determining multiple power values and an estimation unit that estimates a consumer’s behavior during a period. This system is capable of collecting data on power usage behaviors to determine if a consumer is home, away from home or engaged in other activities. Effective energy management systems for group of buildings are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8938320, titled Regional Energy Management System, Regional Energy Integrated Management Device and Regional Energy Integrated Management Method Used in Regional Energy Management System. The regional energy management system claimed here is comprised of a plurality of devices that individually manage energy used, generated and stored in a corresponding building, and a regional energy integrated management device connected to the plurality of devices through a network which is configured to perform integrated management of the energy in the plurality of buildings. We were also intrigued by the energy efficient innovation for magnetic refrigeratingrefrigerators that we saw laid out within U.S. Patent No. 8935927, which is titled Magnetic Refrigerating Device and Magnetic Refrigerating System. The patent claims a magnetic refrigerating device that includes a fixed container with a refrigerant which also has a container holding magnetic material, as well as a permanent magnet provided outside of the fixed container which is configured to move in the direction of the magnetic material container. The magnetic refrigerating technique established by this technology achieves a higher refrigerating by utilizing magnetic material for bearing a thermal storage effect.

The effective use of other resources is featured within at least one patent that caught our eyes in our most recent survey. Methods of purifying water from industrial sources are described within U.S. Patent No. 8911631, issued under the title Fluorine Recovering Apparatus and Method for Recovering Fluorine. The method for recovering fluorine protected by this patent involves setting two threshold levels of a fluoride ion concentration of water to be treated, measuring the fluoride ion concentration in the water to be treated, introducing that water to a precipitating device if the fluoride ion concentration exceeds a threshold and creating a precipitate from the fluoride containing water by reacting it with calcium and polyaluminum chloride. This invention is intended to address shortcomings in previous fluorine recovery treatment processes for industrial water which include many steps and includes substances which are difficult to separate from water.

We’ll wrap up our Toshiba patent analysis with a couple of additional technologies that may make some waves in medical fields. Improved imaging techniques for inspecting cardiac tissues are at the center of U.S. Patent No. 8928318, titled MRI Apparatus and Method for Generating Automatically Positioned 2D Slice Images of Heart Tissue From Acquired 3D Heart Image Data. The MRI apparatus protected here includes an MRI gantry having MR image data acquisition and processing units which are operable to acquire 3D first image data of a subject’s heart, detect a first axis related to the heart, generate an image on a plane containing the first axis and detect a second axis based on the generated image. This system reduces the amount of images that must be taken to capture MRI images of desired areas of the heart, which in turn reduces the amount of times that a patient must stop breathing during imaging cerebrospinal fluidtechniques. Other magnetic resonance imaging techniques designed to observe dynamics of bodily fluids are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8903470, which is titled Determining Velocity of Cerebrospinal Fluid by Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The invention was pursued to overcome issues in faithfully imaging non-cyclical variations of a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) when using phase shift methods to observe CSF dynamics. This MRI apparatus is comprised of static and gradient magnetic field generators, at least one radio frequency (RF) coil, at least one RF transmitter, at least one RF receiver and at least one control computer which can control the system components to effect repeated acquisition of MR image data using a phase-shift imaging process that involves the application of an excitation pulse to an imaging region containing a CSF. This particular patent includes Tokai University Educational Systems of Tokyo, Japan, as a joint assignee for the invention.

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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