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University of Strathclyde wins US appeal for light technology patent



The University of Strathclyde has won an appeal to preserve a key patent protecting its High Intensity Narrow Spectrum (HINS) light technology.

Following a three-year legal battle, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) reversed a decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), ruling that a Strathclyde patent on using light as a disinfectant was wrongly invalidated.

The decision strengthens the enforceability of this patent in the US lighting market.

The technology was developed in the university’s Robertson Trust Laboratory for Electronic Sterilisation Technologies (ROLEST) by professor Scott MacGregor, professor John G Anderson, professor Gerry Woolsey and doctor Michelle Maclean.

The HINS technology can inactivate harmful bacteria, such as MRSA, in the air and on surfaces using a narrow spectrum of visible light. The method operates at a wavelength where it can be run safely in the presence of humans and provides greater reductions of bacterial pathogens in the environment than can be achieved by conventional cleaning techniques.

The discovery signalled a step forward in hospitals’ ability to prevent the spread of infection and it was developed for commercialisation around 15 years ago.

Lighting manufacturers worldwide license the technology from Strathclyde, including Kenall and Hubbell, which are both headquartered in the US.

In the university’s appeal case, the CAFC overturned a prior ruling by the PTAB that the university’s patent claims for the method of photoinactivating antibiotic-resistant bacteria without using a photosensitizer were un-patentable.

In a precedential opinion, the CAFC ruled that earlier prior art publications – cited by US-based Clear-Vu Lighting to the PTAB -did not render the University’s technology un-patentable.

The CAFC ruled that “the prior art evidence only failures to achieve that at which the inventors succeeded,” leaving the PTAB’s findings unsupported by substantial evidence, thereby reversing the PTAB’s decision, preserving the university’s patent rights.

Professor MacGregor, vice-principal of the University of Strathclyde and leader of the HINS-light research team, said: “The patented HINS-light technology has proven to be a valuable resource in the fight against harmful bacteria and in preventing the spread of infection.

“We now look forward to continued innovation and licensing in this area.”

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