Patent on Stack Focus Rail System

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mjkzz
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Patent on Stack Focus Rail System

Post by mjkzz »

I just received a letter from a law firm representing Cognisys Inc regarding a Patent (No 8287195) issued in US. Although, I do not believe I have violated anything in the patent, different rail construction (I use linear rail module vs their two rods rail), different communication method (our SERIAL and Bluetooth vs their USB), different sequence of operation, all electronics are different, I do not want to get into legal battle because patent dispute can be really costly and messy.

So I choose to respect their patent and cease to market the system for MACRO PHOTOGRPHY usage as COMPLETE system for USA users

But the controller can be used as timelapse controller, ie, taking a picture and move the camera which is outside the scope of the Patent. The rail will be sold as a standard sliding rail (vs specifically a stack focus rail) that can be used in timelapse and other general usage for all users worldwide. But the two items will be sold SEPARATELY.

elf
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Post by elf »

You could easily claim prior art. I posted this in October of 2009: http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/v ... 48&start=0

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the first.

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

Oh thanks. I worked on a focus stacking software back in late 2008 and I knew automation is key to success, I just did not publish it back then to make it public domain. Now your work is an example of prior art (on automated focus stacking). And is it really patentable for auto focus stacking at all?

Some of the claims outlined in patent seem dubious, like the only part I have in common with their is operation mode -- set starting and ending point, then take N pictures. Is this "mode" thing patentable at all? I mean an skilled person in trade can do this and must do this, it is like if you want to build a car, the wheel must be round. A lot of claims are not detailed, are very vague and general, I am not sure if some of the claims are defendable in court at all

For example, they might be able to argue and make a claim that their rod rail system is better for stability, hence novel, useful, and non-obvious (doubt it), but I am using industrial linear guide rail for stability, as shown below.

Image

In any event, I will make them happy by marketing the system separately as the iPhone/Android phone controlled controller will be used for time lapse and the rail will be used as motion control system

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

Found a prior art of "motorized focus stacking" in Journal of Microscopy, Volume 233, Issue 1 January 2009 Pages 178–191. This is a reputable magazine and this is even before the provisional patent was filed and it is NOT mentioned in any of the references.

This shows the concept of motorized focus stacking is NOT a novelty in trade. I will keep digging . . . it is so educational :-)

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Post by mawyatt »

Having a few patents myself (>25) I have been involved in patent litigation and an expert witness on a couple occasions on both sides.

Generally the "defense" will try and find prior art to invalidate the entire patent or portions. Also, they'll look for inclusions or exclusions to invalidate the entire patent. I worked for a company some time ago and found out that department managers or program managers would include themselves on patent applications to improve their "employee portfolio". This worked against the patent because of their inclusion they had pretty much made the subject patent worthless without amendment.

IMO a patent isn't considered totally worthy until it's been tried in court, then you know that there's no prior art.

Anyway, looks like you have uncovered some significant "prior" art with the Journal, which anyone can validate the published date and authors. This seems like a major oversight, intentional or not, on the patent that should have been "uncovered" prior to the patent issue.

All in all, this concept seems such a logic step that anyone "skilled in the art" could have done and anticipated this anytime, I'm surprised there is a patent at all. We'll I'll take that back, as it seems Apple has a patent on a rectangle or such on a iPhone!! What do you expect a circular phone...whoa maybe we should patent this, could be used as a beverage coster too!! Put a pressure sensor on it and it will tell you when you need a new brew!! I think I hear my iPhone, wait it's the coster ringing for another brew, or is it my boss calling!!

Cheers,

Mike

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

This seems like a major oversight, intentional or not, on the patent that should have been "uncovered" prior to the patent issue.
I doubt it is an intentional oversight given highly respected reputation of all patent holders/owners. It is probably none of them subscribed/read the magazine, I mean, the journal is reputable, but I have never heard of it given that I did some work on focus stacking algorithm around late 2008 and I read some related papers on algorithm. Or maybe I am just being ignorant of that magazine.

However, the idea of motorized focus stacking in that publication can be argued as generic idea and any other implementation would be OBVIOUS, a natural extension of this idea, thus a skilled person in trade can derive from it.

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

Found another paper that a motorized focus stacking was mentioned. I think I have actually read this paper when I did some work on focus stacking back in late 2008.

The paper is dated Nov 13th, 2008 and is titled: Estimating the 3D orientation of a microgripper by processing the focus data from the images delivered by a videomicroscope.

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Post by mjkzz »

I have also dug out some more dated back in July 2008, there were discussion of synchronizing a motorized setup and camera scripting to change focus plane on a forum of PanoHeadTools. The discussion of such makes the idea of "automates the process of taking focus-stacked pictures" a non-novel idea.

Changing focus plane by moving camera instead of camera scripting is OBVIOUS to a skilled person in trade (might not be to general public)

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

In terms of actual implementation, I have implemented a small multi-tasking kernel in my motion controller, all parameters are defined as events and are executed in parallel vs a sequential flow chart outlined in the patent. There is NO flow chart whatsoever in my design and system. In my system, if an event, hence a parameter, is signaled, another signal might be raised or an action executed.

For example, when camera shutter is tripped, with my system, I can still move the camera to achieve certain photographical effects, this is because all events are executed in parallel.

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Post by mjkzz »

I think I will keep digging :-) Maybe in other languages like German, Chinese as well. While searching (googling), I found a book abstract in German and it seems the word automated focus stacking was mentioned . . . did not take the link down, however. Well more work to do

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

A colleague just reminded me that the (consulting) work I did back in 2008 was actually demonstrated in an academic conference, so the work I did is NOT a trade secret (non-disclosed) anymore. That work I did was a fully automatic setup, from automatic image acquisitions to final focus stacked image.

I think I will stop here to dig further, too tiresome :-)

g4lab
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Post by g4lab »

I did not know that mjkzz was building and selling focusing rails. (is it the same one from China which was mentioned in a recent thread?)

In any case, now that I have a camera that is worthwhile for stacking I have been considering a focusing rail. After reading this thread I shall NOT be considering any products from Cognisys, under any circumstances.

As mawyatt points out a patent is not worth anything until defended in court.
I don't believe there are enough stacking rails sold to fund such a court action, were anyone was foolish enough to start one.
Last edited by g4lab on Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

johan
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Post by johan »

g4lab wrote:I did not know that mjkzz was building and selling focusing rails. (is it the same one from China which was mentioned in a recent thread?)
No, that's the wemacro rail, looked at in detail here. Mjkzz' is another rail entirely and from my (to date, limited) exploration of it and the associated stacking software and controller, it is an absolutely outstanding piece of work which I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It was great to see his kickstarter succeed, what a nice thing for such a niche field. I'm aware of one other stacking setup "macrorail" but I havn't used it, so can't talk about it.
My extreme-macro.co.uk site, a learning site. Your comments and input there would be gratefully appreciated.

g4lab
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Post by g4lab »

Thank you Johan. After the above post I took a quick look and did not run across it. Competition is always good.

Gene

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Post by mawyatt »

I'm not trying bash Cognisys, I've had their rail and controller for a few years now and it's OK and works well with Zerene. However I do find it awkward that they would claim by patent to "own" the automated stacking system concept, since mjkzz has uncovered a number of apparent "prior art" works.

I would be interested in Cognisys's response if they were made aware of this "prior art".

Best,

Mike

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