A medical patent refers to a form of patent that protects owners of medical intellectual property against infringement. It prevents other individuals or entities from producing, selling, or using the patented item, idea, or method for a certain duration of time. Medical inventors and entrepreneurs can use medical patents to protect a wide range of inventions, including drugs, medical devices, medical procedures, and medical software. By giving medical inventors a competitive edge, medical patents serve the important purpose of promoting medical innovation.

What Is Medical Intellectual Property?

Similar to many other technological fields, the medical industry enables its inventors to use patents and trade secrets to protect their innovations, providing them with the competitive advantage needed to build value and identity for their products or businesses. Usually, the time and cost needed to introduce medical innovations to the market are higher compared to other kinds of innovations.

For some medical inventions, the difficulty may be the result of extended purchasing cycles and purchasing obstacles from hospitals and other medical organizations. Products that need regulatory approval, such as FDA approval, may face even greater obstacles. Since the regulatory pathway may take years and incur a very high cost, it is important to make sure that you will obtain solid intellectual property rights before you head down that path.

The great amount of time and high cost required to bring medical innovations to market makes intellectual property strategy highly critical at the initial stages of product and business development. For instance, it is essential to determine whether or not a certain innovation is patent-worthy or eligible for trade secret protection in the early stages of the process before spending the required time and money. Additionally, it is important to create products that do not infringe the rights of others.

What Is a Medical Patent?

A medical patent refers to an exclusive government-granted right that protects an inventor of a unique medical product, process, or technology against market competition. It prevents the patented invention from being produced, sold, or used by competitors for a limited time.

A biotech company uses a patent to protect its intellectual property rights to products such as drugs. A patent gives a drug protection against generic competition for a certain number of years. By doing so, it enables the company that created the drug to earn high profits to compensate for the costly research and development needed to bring it to market. However, this can prevent low-income patients from purchasing the drug. Other examples of medical patents include:

  • Patents for prosthetic limbs
  • Patents for back braces and other physical therapy devices
  • Patents for software applications for managing patients

A medical patent can be owned by one entity and licensed for use by another, allowing more than one entity to profit from it. There are three types of patent in the U.S., including:

  • Utility patent
  • Design patent
  • Plant patent

A utility patent applies to a machine, process, manufactured object, or an improvement on these items, while a design patent protects ornamentation. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is the government agency that grants patents in the U.S. A patent is valid for 20 years.

Infringement of Medical Patents

If a company thinks that another company has violated its intellectual property rights, it can file a lawsuit for patent infringement to prevent that company from making or using its patented invention. Infringement of medical patents can be a significant problem for investors if it has a negative impact on the profitability of the company that is victimized by a patent infringer or if a company that has allegedly infringed another company's patent is being sued or has to stop the sale of an important product.

Patents for biotechnological innovations are a controversial subject. People who are in favor of biotechnology patents argue that they promote scientific progress by promising financial rewards to inventors and companies that successfully develop new products. Those who oppose the granting of biotech patents say that such patents are unethical because they allow the companies that own the rights to the inventions to set high prices and limit poorer individuals' access to health care. This argument is especially relevant in developing countries.

If you need help applying for a medical patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.