Innovative MDs with a penchant for making gadgets have long been a source of new (patented) medical devices. According to Tresa Baldas at The National Law Journal, the new thing amongst you doctor types (says the engineer) is collecting patents for techniques, rather than just devices…
A spokesman for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had no exact figures for medical-method patents, confirming only that “because we are seeing an increase in medical/surgical method applications,” more hires are being sought.
“My business is booming,” said patent lawyer Glen Belvis of Chicago’s Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, who credits technological advances for driving the medical-patent boom. “As a patent lawyer, I have a ton of great, innovative things that I can now protect.”
Currently, Belvis is helping secure a patent for a new laser eye surgery technique. “The way the system works right now appears to be very effective. It has never prevented anyone from practicing a surgical technique, and I don’t believe a patient has ever been deprived of a surgical technique because of patents,” he said. “They allow for innovation to advance and force people to play by the rules.”
Patent attorney Eric Raciti of the Cambridge, Mass., office of Washington’s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, said that method patents have become “the bread and butter of patent-getting” in the medical community for a good reason. He said that with most advances, it’s the procedure that’s novel, not the material that goes into it. For example, he said, a doctor may want to fix a certain type of incision in an organ. It might just be a piece of gauze that does the trick, but the way you apply it is what’s truly innovative.
Raciti recently helped secure a patent for a method to seal a hole in a spinal disc. He’s now seeking additional patent coverage for the actual patch that seals the hole. Raciti views such patents as essential to both inventors and the medical community.
“What it does is it provides something for other companies to work around. The patent is out there. It’s wide open. The whole world looks at it and thinks, ‘How do I get around it?’ That inspires more creativity and more development,” Raciti said.
The medical community is weary. “It’s not clear that providing a monopoly over a certain process promotes innovation in the field of patient care delivery,” said Aaron Kesselheim, a patent attorney and doctor who conducts health policy research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Rather than overtly point out our opinion on the issue, we’d like to note that the method of wiping one’s posterior “front to back” is patent-pending…you’ll soon have to pay royalties or “get creative.”
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