Medical technology is one of the fastest growing, and most competitive, industries in the world.
With a thriving ecosystem of over 3,700 companies, 115,000 skilled workers, and a turnover of over £21 billon, the UK’s medical device market is now the third largest in Europe.However, with innovation comes inevitable competitiveness with the country’s top scientific minds battling to produce the latest life-changing technology.So, in a sector both dependant on, and limited by, vast innovation, how can inventors continue to create cutting-edge technology?Jim Robertson, patent attorney and partner at leading intellectual property firm Wynne- Jones IP, said: “Due to the highly competitive nature of medtech, those in the field are not only tasked with protecting their own idea against competitors, but also ensuring they have the freedom to use and develop their technology.“With this in mind, the importance of intellectual property cannot be overstated, and we’d urge any potential inventors to act swiftly to protect their idea from the start.”Here, Mr Robertson offers five expert ideas to protect medical technology and safeguard its innovation …
An effective IP strategy
An IP strategy is absolutely vital to the continued development of medical technology.
Implementing this from the start allows companies to identify their strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and how the IP they possess can be maximised, to ensure full protection.Mr Robertson at Wynne-Jones IP said: “Having an effective plan in place from the beginning lets you protect your technology, and reduces the likelihood of infringing existing patents.“It can also help to define the IP rights in commercial agreements with third party researchers, and could even attract further investment.”
With the development of medical technology requiring extensive investment, many start-ups may be left exploring alternative funding sources. Crowdfunding has grown in popularity thanks to its ability to pitch to an unlimited online audience of potential investors.However, Mr Robertson warns companies to be cautious when disclosing ideas via this platform. “Disclosing ideas via Crowdfunding could leave you vulnerable if they are not first protected by IP. “Those seeking to raise funding should consult with an IP attorney before publicising their idea, to ensure they are afforded full intellectual property protection.”
With numerous parties vying to create the latest medicinal innovations, it is essential that inventors thoroughly research the existing patent landscape.This can help identify risks, for example, other people who are working on closely related technology, and opportunities, such as limitations in other people’s technologies which you have overcome. This can help prevent infringement of other people’s patents, and identify commercial opportunities.
With the value of medical devices rooted in their distinguishing functions or technologies, many inventors are reluctant to disclose this commercially sensitive information through a patent applicationIn these instances, trade secret protection can help. In order for a trade secret to be effective, confidentiality must be observed by all associated parties.Mr Robertson said: “Those using trade secrets protection must take all precautionary steps to prevent their idea from being disclosed.“This may include monitoring where information is stored, using secured passwords, and including confidentiality clauses in contracts with third parties and employees.”
Exclusions from patentability
The law on patentability of medtech such as medical devices and diagnostics is complex and varies enormously around the world. For example, methods of diagnosis are patentable in some countries but not in others. With vast sums of money invested in the medical technology sector, it is essential that inventions are fully protected.
Mr Robertson at Wynne Jones IP said: “Exclusions can be a highly complex and confusing area for anyone seeking patent protection. To clarify this and obtain the best protection for an invention, it is crucial that inventors contact an IP attorney, who can advise them on strategy, and how to protect the IP they actually possess.”
Wynne-Jones IP is a UK firm of intellectual property specialists, with offices in Cardiff, London, Cheltenham and Telford. Trading for over fifty years, the firm advises businesses and inventors in a wide range of sectors worldwide on all aspects of IP rights, strategy and renewals.