Ocuco Asks Patent Office to Re-examine Seiko Epson Progressive Lens Patent

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MANCHESTER, Conn.— Ocuco, Inc., the developer and provider of Innovations lab management software, has filed a request with the U.S. Patent Office, seeking re-examination of Seiko Epson Corp.’s Patent 6,019,470, which covers the invention of back-surface progressive lenses. The patent, titled “Progressive multifocal lens and manufacturing method of eyeglass lens and progressive multifocal lens,” was issued to Seiko Epson on Feb. 1, 2000. Ocuco filed the request, which asks that the patent’s key claims be “re-examined and cancelled” on May 21 this year.

A “re-examination” is an administrative procedure established in the patent regulations that allows any person to request that the Patent Office reconsider its grant of a patent, based on “substantial new questions of patentability,” which the requester must clearly set out.

“I began this inquiry because I was familiar with engineering projects back in the early 1990s at both Gerber Optical and Coburn Optical, which had as their objective the production of back-surface progressives,” said Robert Shanbaum, president of Ocuco, Inc. “Digging into it, we found that both back-side and dual-sided progressive lenses were anticipated in prior patents, going back to the 1930s. We have enumerated this prior art in our re-examination request,” Shanbaum said.

“A patent is valid until it’s not—no one should think that our action in any way invalidates the patent at this point,” Shanbaum noted. “We hope that our request is sufficiently persuasive that the PTO will grant our request, and then cancel the patent.”

Responding to the re-examination request, a Seiko Epson Corp. spokesperson told VMail, “Seiko Epson is confident in the validity of this patent. Seiko Epson is the pioneer of backside PAL lens technology, and Seiko Epson’s backside PAL was the world's first commercial product. Seiko Epson has started to manufacture the product in 1997 and has been selling them through Seiko Optical Products Co., Ltd. since then. Seiko Epson’s products based on this technology won an Innovation Award from the Japanese government in 2007. In addition to the '470 patent, in 2007 the USPTO awarded another patent 7,175,277 to Seiko Epson. This patent broadly covers the calculation and transmission of freeform lens surface data over software platforms and networks.”

In addition to supplying software to optical retailers and lens manufacturers, Ocuco, Inc. operates Innovations Digital, a business that sells free-form lens designs, lab management software and lab management support services.

Ocuco, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ocuco Ltd. based Dublin, Ireland.