U.S. Patent No. 8,041,162, issued on October 18, 2011 to Tomophase Corp. of Burlington, MA, discloses a method of using a polarization-maintaining fiber to deliver light at two different trajectories.
According to the ’162 patent, certain medical procedures (e.g., imaging, tomography, spectroscopic measurements, and photodynamic therapy) utilize light delivered to tissue within the patient via an optical fiber of an endoscope or catheter. However, in configurations in which scanning of the light is desirable, it “can be technically difficult because of various limitations … imposed by locations, conditions, geometries, dimensions, or a combination of two or more of these and other factors associated with the target tissue.” The ’162 patent discloses a method of using a polarization-maintaining (PM) fiber to deliver light of two different polarizations to the target tissue in two separate deflection angles and rotating the optics to scan the two polarizations in two different cones. In certain configurations, using a variable angle-of-view scanner that incorporates this invention can be used to “mimic a distal camera, resulting in three-dimensional images of lumenal interiors.”
According to its website, Tomophase “has developed and patented technology in the field of optical coherence tomography (OCT) which is capable of delivering high quality, high resolution cross-sectional tissue images in real time” and “tissue structures can be observed up to 2-3 mm below the surface with remarkable clarity and without biopsy or the use of radiation, UV light or image contrast agents.” This time last year, the company’s OCTIS™ system received its FDA 510(k) clearance to market as an imaging tool to evaluate “human tissue microstructure by providing two-dimensional, cross-sectional, real-time depth visualization.” Tomophase’s successful submission to the FDA cited the OCT Imaging System of Imalux as a previously legally marketed predicate device.
Under U.S. patent law, a patent can include claims directed only to a single invention. If the USPTO reviews a patent application and determines that there are actually multiple inventions being claimed, the USPTO will issue a “Restriction Requirement,” which requires that the applicant identify which of the multiple inventions they wish to pursue in the application. The other inventions can be pursued in one or more “divisional” applications, which are filed afterward but have the same priority date as the originally-filed patent application.
Tomophase’s originally-filed patent application received a “Restriction Requirement” in which the USPTO deemed the claims to include two patentably distinct inventions: the light-delivering device and the method of delivering light. Tomophase elected to pursue the device claims in the originally-filed application, resulting in U.S. Pat. No. 7,706,646, issued in April 2010 (after a first action allowance). On the day before the ’646 patent issued, Tomophase filed a divisional application that resulted in the ’162 patent (again, after a first action allowance). The company appears to be seeking even more patent protection, since it filed a third application as a continuation from the ’162 patent on the same day that the ’162 patent issued.
According to the USPTO database, Tomophase has eleven U.S. patents, three of which have issued in 2011.