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1. (WO1991007909) INFRARED MEDICAL THERMOMETER
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WE CLAIM :

1. Infrared thermometer apparatus comprising:
a housing adapted to be held in a user's hand;
an elongated probe adapted to be inserted into a patient ' s ear canal to receive infrared radiation and provide a signal indicating the patient's body temperature; and
extension/retraction means for selectively extending the elongated probe to an operative position outside the housing when a patient's temperature is to be measured and for selectively retracting the elongated probe to an inoperative position fully within the housing when the measurement has been completed.

2. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 1, and further including probe cover means for positioning a protective cover in alignment with the elongated probe while the probe is retracted within the housing such that, when the extension/retraction means selectively extends the probe to its operative position, the protective cover automatically covers the probe.

3. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 2, wherein:
the protective cover includes a substantially flat base with a central aperture and further includes a stretchable plastic film extending across the aperture;
the extension/retraction means is operable, while it extends the elongated probe to its operative position, to move the probe through the central aperture of the protective cover, to stretch the plastic film over the probe; and
the extension/retraction means is further operable, while it retracts the elongated probe to its inoperative position, to automatically remove the protective cover from the probe.

4. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 2, wherein:
the apparatus further includes a container carrying a plurality of substantially identical protective covers connected together end-to-end; and
the probe cover means includes a pawl for engaging the end-most protective cover and advancing it into alignment with the elongated probe while the probe is retracted within the housing.

5. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 4, wherein:
each adjacent pair of protective covers is connected together by a narrow strip aligned with the centers of the covers; and
the pawl includes a U-shaped end adapted to engage the rearward edge of the end-most protective cover, on opposite sides of the narrow strip connecting the end-most cover with the adjacent cover, and thereby to urge the end-most cover into alignment with the elongated probe.

6. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 1, and further including a calibration reference located within the housing and positioned directly in front of the elongated probe when the probe is retracted to its inoperative position fully within the housing.

7. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein:
the elongated probe has a longitudinal axis;
the extension/retraction means extends and retracts the elongated probe along its longitudinal axis;
the apparatus further includes a calibration reference located within the housing and movable between an operative position directly in front of the elongated probe, when the probe is retracted to its inoperative position fully within the housing, and an inoperative position alongside the elongated probe, when the probe is extended to its operative position outside the housing; and
the extension/retraction means includes means for selectively moving the calibration reference between its operative and inoperative positions.

8. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 7, wherein the calibration reference includes:
a plate adapted to be selectively positioned directly in front of the elongated probe;
an arm secured to the plate; and
a pin and cooperating slot carried by the arm and the housing, for guiding the plate and arm between the calibration reference's operative and inoperative positions.

9. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 7, and further including:
probe cover means for positioning a protective cover in alignment with the elongated probe while the probe is retracted within the housing such that, when the extension/retraction means selectively extends the probe to its operative position, the protective cover automatically covers the probe; and
selectable actuator means for substantially simultaneously conditioning the calibration reference to move to its inoperative position, conditioning the probe cover means to position a protective cover in alignment with the elongated probe, and conditioning the extension/retraction means to extend the elongated probe to its operative position.

10. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 9, wherein the selectable actuator means further includes means for substantially simultaneously conditioning the extension/retraction means to retract the - elongated probe to its inoperative position, conditioning the probe cover means to engage a further protective cover, and conditioning the calibration reference to move to its operative position directly in front of the elongated probe.

11. Infrared thermometer apparatus comprising:
a housing adapted to be held in a user's hand;
an elongated probe adapted to be inserted into a patient's ear canal to receive infrared radiation and provide a signal indicating the patient's body temperature;
extension/retraction means for selectively extending the elongated probe to an operative position outside the housing when a patient's temperature is to be measured and for selectively retracting the elongated probe to an inoperative position fully within the housing when the measurement has been completed; and
a calibration reference located within the housing and movable between an operative position directly in front of the probe, while the probe is retracted to its inoperative position fully within the housing, and an inoperative position alongside the probe, while the probe is extended to its operative position outside the housing.

12. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 11, and further including probe cover means for positioning a protective cover in alignment with the elongated prove while the probe is retracted within the housing such that, when the extension/retraction means selectively extends the probe to its operative position, the protective cover is automatically placed over the probe.

13. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 12, wherein:
the protective cover includes a substantially flat base with a central aperture and further includes a stretchable plastic film extending across the aperture;
the extension/retraction means is operable, while it extends the elongated probe to its operative position, to move the probe through the central aperture of the protective cover and stretch the plastic film over the probe; and
the extension/retraction means is further operable, while it retracts the elongated probe to its inoperative position, to automatically remove the protective cover from the probe.

14. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 12, wherein:
the apparatus further includes a container carrying a plurality of substantially identical protective covers connected together end-to-end; and
the probe cover means includes a pawl for engaging the end-most protective cover and advancing it into alignment with the elongated probe while the probe is retracted within the housing.

15. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 14, wherein:
each adjacent pair of protective covers in the elongated chain of covers is connected together by a narrow strip aligned with the centers of the covers; and the pawl includes a U-shaped end adapted to engage the rearward edge of the end-most protective cover, on opposite sides of the narrow strip connecting the end-most cover with the adjacent cover, and thereby to urge the end-most cover into alignment with the elongated probe.

16. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 11, wherein:
the elongated probe has a longitudinal axis;
the extension/retraction means extends and retracts the elongated probe along its longitudinal axis; and
the extension/retraction means includes means for selectively moving the calibration reference between its operative and inoperative positions.

17. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 16, wherein the calibration reference includes:
a plate adapted to be selectively positioned directly in front of the elongated probe;
an arm secured to the plate; and
a pin and cooperating slot carried by the arm and the housing, for guiding the plate and arm between the calibration reference's operative and inoperative positions.

18. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 16, and further including:
probe cover means for positioning a protective cover in alignment with the elongated probe while the probe is retracted within the housing such that, when the extension/retraction means selectively extends the probe to its operative position, the protective cover is automatically placed over the probe; and
selectable actuator means for substantially simultaneously conditioning the calibration reference to move to its inoperative position, conditioning the probe cover means to position a protective cover in alignment with the elongated probe, and conditioning the extension/retraction means to extend the elongated probe to its operative position.

19. Infrared thermometer apparatus as defined in claim 18, wherein the selectable actuator means further includes means for substantially simultaneously conditioning the extension/retraction means to retract the elongated probe to its inoperative position, conditioning the probe cover means to engage a further protective cover, and conditioning the calibration reference to move to its operative position directly in front of the elongated probe.