Medical Patent Stories of the Week

Time's Up for Patents on Drugs

Pharmaceutical companies are facing a wave of patent expirations starting this year through 2014. Exacerbating the problem is new competition from generic drugs...and...shrinking new drug approvals from the FDA.

Full story here - Pharmaceutical Company Patents Expiring

Patenting Issues to Blame?

Angiotech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announces execution of settlement and license termination agreement with Rex Medical, LP. Further reading exposes failure to protect discoveries with patents, loss of patent protection and liability for patent claims may be to blame.

Full story here - Rex Med and Lax Patent 

Stem Cells vs. Patents

Could pharma patents be holding back stem cell research? Scientists at John Hopkins seem to think so.

Full story here - Bioethicists on Patents

Jellyfish Patent?

A Japanese company has applied for a patent that improves immunity in fish against certain diseases. Surprisingly, this comes from a fish predator...jellyfish.

Full story here - Collagen Patent

Patent helps Patients Breathe Easier

"This particular patent is key to our company's entry into an emerging new field of patient positioning, namely Safe Anatomic Positioning™, or the ability to raise, lower, and adjust selected parts of the body while the patient is on an operating table or in another hospital unit — without requiring nurses to manually lift patients and use towels or linens to prop them up," said Robert Weedling, founder and chairman of AirPal Patient Transfer Systems.

Full story here - Patent for Bariatric Patients

Going Toe To Toe With Medical Device Giants

Here's an inspirational story (or a warning) for anyone holding a medical device patent.

A privately held maker of blood-testing equipment for diabetics, has fended off attacks from behemoths Abbott Laboratories ( ABT - news -people ), Roche ( RHHBY.PK - news - people ) andMedtronic ( MDT - news - people ) for 8 years at a cost of $31 million!

Full Story Here - Little Guy Goes Head to Head with Medical Device Giants


When Simple Is Better...A "Medical Device" that Prevents a Certain Type of Asthma?

If you think you need to patent a wildly complex invention to make boat loads of money in the "medical" field, think again. Sometimes simple is better.

Take for example a story I came across while thumbing through the recent issue of Popular Mechanics.

A Medical Device for Prevention

The Popular Mechanics article says...

"Tile-setter Joel Beaton spent 17 years inhaling dust from powdered grout and mortar, which often leads to "potter's rot," or silicosis, an occupational lung disease marked by asthmatic symptoms. Now Beaton has invented (and patented) an attachment that snaps onto a mixing bucket and keeps dust from escaping. The tool evenly distributes the vacuum's suction so it draws in the maximum amount of debris. It's a simple idea, with brilliant results."

After reading the article I visited Beaton's website,, and found two pictures that beautifully illustrate how this simple "medical device" sucks grout and mortar dust out of the air, preventing lung problems for tile setters.

Before and After Wale Tale

Three Rules to Keep in Mind for a Simple Medical Device

If you're not a Nobel Prize level doctor or have a Phd in biology, anatomy, or an area of medical science  – but still want to profit in the world of medical device patents – here are three things to keep in mind.

Medical Device Patent Rule #1: Common Situations that Lead to Health Problem

Many new patents grew from a need to protect workers who are exposed to health risks on a recurring basis.

A few common examples are:

  • Gloves for lawn and garden workers so they don't cut their hands
  • Helmets for construction workers so they don't get knocked out by falling debris
  • Surgical masks for doctors and nurses so they don't breath in germs
  • And on and on...

Joel Beaton identified a frequent situation that caused a long term health problem. Look around the type of work you do day in and day out an ask yourself: Who is exposed to constant health risks?

Medical Device Patent Rule #2: Simple Solution

After you've identified the problem, here are a few questions you can ask yourself that will help you come up with a simple solution.

Is there something that already exists – that you can tweak a little bit – to fix the problem?  In Beaton's case, he designed a simple attachment for a common worksite tool, the shop vac. Can I make it simple so anyone can use it?

Medical Device Patent Rule #3: Cheap to Produce

If this is your first attempt at patenting an invention, you probably don't want to bet the bank on it. So design something with as few moving parts as possible (and preferably out of a cheap material like plastic). That way if you get the patent, it will be much less expensive to manufacture and sell.

Medical Patent News of the Week

As a medical device patent attorney, I take a special interest in news and commentary relating to medical patents, dental patents, and related technology.  In this regard, below is a recap of medical patent news for the week:

Five Medical Patent Applications for Lymphoma

MMRGlobal filed five patent applications to treat lymphoma. They include protection for anti-CD20 antibodies, methods of treating B-cell lymphomas using anti-CD20 antibodies, manufacturing methods for idiotype vaccines to treat B-cell pathologies, methods for treating B-cell malignancies with vaccines, and methods for using the vaccines as combinational therapies with chemotherapeutic agents. They’ve also been issued a patent for methods of treating B-cell mediated malignancies.

Read the full story here – Patent Applications

Medical Patent Spat Resolved

patent lawsuitMicroAire Surgical Instruments LLC settled a patent infringement and breach of contract lawsuit with Arthrex Inc. involving minimally invasive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Charlottesville, Va.-based MicroAire sued Naples, Fla.-based Arthrex over claims related to the technology, an alternative to open-hand surgery.

Read the full story here – Patent Dispute

Bovie Medical Patents Push Share Price Up

Shares of Bovie Medical Corporation, shot up more than 53% after the manufacturer and marketer of electrosurgical products announced new patents. They also recently submitted an application with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market a new handpiece with retractable cutting features to be used in both laparoscopic and open procedures. On November 8, 2010 Bovie filed additional patents for its new J-Plasma handpiece.

Read the full story here – Medical Patent

Doctor Patents Medical Device to Curb Hospital Infections

Richard H. Ma, M.D has received a patent for a lightweight plastic cover for stethoscopes that will dramatically reduce hospital-acquired infections. Stethguard is a V-shaped clear plastic cover that protects the head of the stethoscope up to its neck, where most of the germs and bacteria are located.

Read the full story here – Medical Device Patent

U.S. Supreme Court to decide Stanford University patent case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider Stanford University's quest to assert the patent rights of its medical researchers, setting up a legal showdown between the nation's federally funded academic research arms and one of the world's pharmaceutical giants.

Read the full story here – Medical Patent Case

Judge Nixes Medical Patent

wake forest patentA Texas judge has struck down the patent protection behind a key medical device technology that has been worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Wake Forest University through the years. Called “Vacuum-Assisted Closure”, it helps to close off a wound promoting faster healing.

Read the full story here - Medical Device Patent Struck Down

Medicine, drugs, genes and the death of a patent niche?

Inventors pursuing medical patents involving genes should listen to this...

On October 29th, the federal government reversed a longstanding policy by saying that humanpatent dna genes are part of nature and therefore cannot be patented. While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is not changing its rules for the time being, this decision may reverse the nearly 30 year old legal precedent of patenting parts of nature.

It all started with a March 29th decision by a Judge Robert W. Sweet that invalidated seven patents related to the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, whose mutations have been associated with cancer.

The patents were held by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, who charged $3,000 to perform tests on women to determine whether or not BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes would lead to mutations which could lead to breast and ovarian cancers. 

You Can't Patent "Natural"

 The main argument in this medical patent case is what is natural and what is not. The government claims that since genes are natural, you can patent them any more than you could patent an apple. A government brief from this case states:

"the chemical structure of native human genes is a product of nature, and it is no less a product of nature when that structure is ‘isolated' from its natural environment than are cotton fibers that have been separated from cotton seeds or coal that has been extracted from the earth."

Government critics are singing a different tune...

Long Term Innovation Hampered by No Patent Ruling?

dna patent research

 Critics claim the government's anti-patent view of genes will put people in danger. Denying patents – they say – will hamper experimentation and development of diagnostic tests and drugs to treat specific genes. The long term implications being less treatment options for people with rare diseases.

The government insists prohibiting patents on parts of nature would not adversely affect the medical or biotechnology industry. And patents for man-made manipulations to DNA could still be approved.

Who is right? Only time will tell.

Sources for this article:

NPR - Feds Surprise Biotech Industry With Gene Patent Rule

NY Times - Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent

NY Times - U.S. Says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patents