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US patent 2010/0091396 “Afocal Optical Concentrator”, filed 2009-10-08, claims:

An optical concentration and collimation system, comprising:

  • A. a concave parabolic trough as a primary reflector,
    the primary reflector having a perimeter and a surface with a center,
    the primary reflector having a longitudinal axis and two ends and longitudinal tips at each end wherein the longitudinal axis passes through the longitudinal tips,
    the primary reflector having a length LP as measured along the longitudinal axis between the two tips wherein the longitudinal axis has a center point and the primary reflector has a vertex OP, being the center of the surface of the primary reflector,
    the primary reflector having an optical axis perpendicular to the longitudinal axis and passing through the vertex OP,
    the primary reflector having a transverse axis perpendicular to the longitudinal axis and passing through the vertex point OP,
    the primary reflector having a focal line, being the line toward which rays parallel to the optical axis incident on the primary reflector, following reflection from the primary reflector, converge, which focal line is perpendicular to the optical axis and the longitudinal axis but parallel to the transverse axis,
    the primary reflector having a focal length, the focal length being a distance along the optical axis from the primary reflector transverse axis to the primary reflector focal line,
    the primary reflector's optical axis extending through the vertex OP and the longitudinal axis center point and perpendicular to both the longitudinal axis and the transverse axis,
    the primary reflector having a plane of symmetry that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis and that extends through the vertex OP and the longitudinal axis center point,
    the primary reflector having a profile being a projection of the perimeter onto a plane perpendicular to the optical axis forming the shape of an ellipse with a semi-minor axis,
    and the primary reflector having a width WP that is twice the semi-minor axis of the ellipse of its profile and the primary reflector's length LP is twice the semi-major axis of its profile ellipse;

  • B. a convex parabolic trough as a secondary reflector,
    the secondary reflector having a surface with a center,
    the secondary reflector having a perimeter and a profile,
    the secondary reflector having a transverse axis perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the primary reflector and contained within the surface of the secondary reflector,
    the secondary reflector having a width WS as measured perpendicular to the primary reflectors longitudinal axis and having a center point or vertex OS, the secondary reflector having a focal length and an optical axis, the latter being an extension of the optical axis of the primary reflector through the vertex OS of the secondary reflector,
    the secondary vertex being the intersection of the secondary reflectors optical axis with the secondary reflectors surface,
    the secondary reflector profile being a projection of the perimeter parallel to the optical axis onto a plane perpendicular to the optical axis,
    the secondary reflector having a focal line, being the line from which parallel rays parallel to the optical axis incident on the secondary reflector, following reflection, diverge, which focal line is perpendicular to the optical axis but parallel to the transverse axis,
    the secondary reflector having a focal length, the focal length being a distance along the optical axis from the secondary reflector vertex OS to the secondary reflector focal line,
    the secondary vertex being spaced from the primary vertex so as to place the focal lines of the primary and secondary reflectors into coincidence, the secondary reflector having a plane of symmetry perpendicular to the longitudinal axis and containing both the optical axis and the transverse axis, the secondary reflector profile being circular and having a diameter with a radius approximately equal to half the width of the primary reflector, wherein the longitudinal length of the primary reflector is at least greater than the diameter of the profile of the secondary reflector; and

  • C. said primary and secondary reflectors arranged in a Cassegrainian configuration,
    the primary reflector having a hole centered on the reflectors vertex OP, the hole having a perimeter, a projection of that hole's perimeter onto a plane perpendicular to the optical axis being circular with a diameter equal to or larger than the secondary reflectors profile, to allow a beam reflected from the secondary mirror to pass through it.

I am trying to file a patent in a related way to this patent. I just can't understand where it is not trivial to adapt the Mersenne afocal telescope from a parabolic dish to a through, for a person skilled in the art. Surely even people not skilled in the art would find it trivial to go from 3D parabolic revolution solid to a 2D parabolic through.

What existing material could be clear prior art for this patent?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As you see with this application, one unfortunate aspect of the US patent law system is that patent applicants have an incentive to file applications that lack clarity. In particular, it is seen as bad practice by most patent attorneys to particularly identify the improvement because that creates a particular target that has been used in the past to narrow and invalidate patent rights.

Here are some ideas for how to deal with this particular application.

First, what you have linked to is a pending patent application that has not yet issued as a patent. In my studies, I have found that more than 80% of patent applications make some narrowing amendments to their claims during the patent prosecution process. Thus, even without any outside influence, odds are that the claims that you list here will not be identical tothe ones that eventually issue as patented.

Second, I looked up the application and found that the USPTO has not yet issued a rejection in the case, but that it is likely to do so any day. This means that your timeline for submitting prior art for the examiner to consider is quite short and we don't know the exact deadline. (The Prior Art must be submitted by the time that the Examiner issues the rejection).

Third, the patent applicant identified four relevant pieces of prior art. Those could be good starting points: U.S. Patent Nos. 6,667,381; 5,729,387; 4,429,952; and 3,511,559. It would probably help the examiner if you were able to identify an old reference that shows the 3D parabolic revolution solid that you discussed above and explain how that reference links to the invention as claimed. It appears to me that the application is focused on using the focal process for lighting rather than for telescopic applications. Thus, you might be really helping the examiner by identifying the link between these two approaches. You should note that at this point only claims 1-4 and 40-44 are still pending. For what its worth, the application appears to be owned by the lighting company Sun Dolier.

Last point: You mentioned that you are considering filing a patent application. The patentability of your invention will not depend in any way upon whether this Sun Dolier gets their patent. Now, their eventual patent might block you from actually practicing your invention, but it wouldn't block you from getting your own patent. As Bob mentions in his Answer, the Sun Dolier published patent application will serve as prior art against your patent application.

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Dennis -- you are not helping aiwarrior at all.

First, your statement that "The patentability of your invention will not depend in any way upon whether this Son (sic) Dolier gets their patent" misses the point. Any part of the Sun Dolier disclosure, including the pending claims, can be prior art the USPTO uses against aiwarrior's application.

Second, any applicant who admits that "I just can't understand where it is not trivial to adapt the Mersenne afocal telescope from a parabolic dish to a through, for a person skilled in the art. Surely even people not skilled in the art would find it trivial to go from 3D parabolic revolution solid to a 2D parabolic through" needs to be told to shut up.

Aiwarrior -- dude, if you think you have an invention, speak to someone who can help you in private. Don't air your thoughts in public. Dennis lives on the prosecution side - his type is paid per application. I live on the litigation side, and if you came to me with a patent and the attached admission, I'd be scared of you.

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Generally speaking, if you have a better answer than someone else, then it's best to just answer the question. The Q&A style of stackExchange doesn't make for discussion except in coments –  New Alexandria Oct 14 '12 at 5:16
    
Thanks for that suggestion. –  Bob Oct 16 '12 at 0:57

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