I have made a product and another company got a patent on a similar idea. Problem is that their first independent claim looks meaningfully different(in my opinion) from mine but there is the same idea among the dependent claims of the independent claim that might be critical and unavoidable.
I would like to hear your advice before I bring it to a patent attorney around my place.
A method for orienting an optical device to view a first subject, the method comprising:
coupling a coupling device to the optical device, wherein the coupling device comprises a mirrored surface;
coupling an image capture device to the coupling device in a manner that enables adjustment of an orientation of the image capture device relative to the coupling device, wherein the image capture device comprises a front-facing display screen and a rear-facing camera, and wherein the mirrored surface of the coupling device is positioned to reflect light entering the optical device onto the rear-facing camera of the image capture device;
adjusting the orientation of the image capture device relative to the coupling device;
using the image capture device to generate image data of a reference subject;
at a processor, comparing the image data with stored information regarding celestial objects to identify one or more celestial objects appearing in the image data and to ascertain a first orientation of the optical device;
at the processor, ascertaining a second orientation of the optical device, at which the first subject is viewable using the optical device
at the processor, determining a rotation of the optical device needed to reorient the optical device from the first orientation to the second orientation;
and at the processor, using the determined rotation to guide motion of the optical device from the first orientation to the second orientation.
their patent uses a smartphone(image capture device) to recognize dark sky and let the users move their manual telescope to the target object(stars, nebular..). Thus, you can see the system described in this claim includes a phone holder(a coupling device). My product does the same function but instead of the phone, it uses an independent camera and processing unit so that any device can be connected to it.
The point is that my device can be seen as an image capture device too. In that case, the only differences are the following two descriptions
"wherein the coupling device comprises a mirrored surface;" as mine does not include any mirror,
"wherein the image capture device comprises a front-facing display screen and a rear-facing camera, and wherein the mirrored surface of the coupling device is positioned to reflect light entering the optical device onto the rear-facing camera of the image capture device;"
as mine does not have any front-facing display.
Q: As far as I know, this simple difference(existence of mirror) is enough to avoid patent infringement. Will you consider it as a patent infringement or not?
The following claim is also a problem.
- The method of claim 1, wherein: the method further comprises, at the processor,obtaining an angular offset between fields-of-view of the optical device and the image capture device; and using the image data to ascertain the first orientation comprises using the obtained angular offset.
As the phone camera and telescope view are slightly looking at different locations, there should be a method to estimate the difference and account for the difference when it guides the user to the target object.
Q: I have the exact same component in my system. Will it be a problem?
Here is the link to the original patent: https://patents.google.com/patent/US11181606B1/en?q=Celestron&before=priority:20210101&after=priority:20170101