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Business & Profession Professional Development, Health Economics and Policy

In Black and White

At a Glance

  • Innovations that create new commercial opportunities constitute intellectual property and need to be protected appropriately
  • Patents can be used to protect novel, useful and non-obvious ideas, and are important to have in place before publication
  • Legally-binding agreements are an essential part of creating new partnerships or joint ventures

A radiologist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Head of the hospital’s innovation arm recently launched a software venture that coordinates rides for patients who struggle to find transportation to appointments. Thanks to a partnership with rideshare giant, Lyft, a pilot program produced a 20 percent reduction in no-shows. An orthopedic surgeon in Rockford, Illinois, invented a surgical undergarment to allow patients more privacy than traditional hospital gowns. Modicine PatientWear is now used in a number of hospitals across the United States. A Canadian cardiologist developed a software platform that allows ultrasound images to be shared in real time via smartphones and tablets. Philips has already integrated it into its portable ultrasound system. A British ophthalmologist made the mental leap from laser-inflicted injury to laser-assisted surgery – 50 million procedures have since been performed (read more).

These are just a few examples of the innovations that are happening in hospitals, clinics and other medical institutions around the world. These technological advancements all created new business – in some cases, huge amounts of business. They also created intellectual property (IP). The laws surrounding IP are complex, but a general understanding can go a long way to avoiding costly disputes, assigning property rights appropriately, and ensuring that relationships between medical professionals and their employers are not damaged. The following scenarios represent situations that often arise when innovation becomes rooted in the culture of an institution. They are also situations where consulting with an IP attorney can be extremely helpful.

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