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Medical devices have left a lasting impact on the world of healthcare, and have worked to improve and save the lives of millions of people over the course of time. Developing a new medical device is no easy task, but when successful, the positive impact can be otherworldly. There are many moving parts when it comes to medical device innovation and invention. I have highlighted some of the most important elements below.

Creativity

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of medical device innovation lies in the realm of creativity. Without it, it’s nearly impossible to develop something that has never been developed before. There are many different elements of creative thinking to keep in mind. For example, fluency is defined as having many ideas, but nothing that would be deemed out-of-the-box. Flexibility is the ability to have those out-of-the-box or unusual ideas. In order to develop creative thinking, you need both.

Within that same realm are logic and intuition. Logic is mastering a specific domain, while intuition is having the ability to see other domains. For creative innovation, these skills are all relevant, and all speak to a different element within the development process.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is an invention or work that resulted from the creativity that someone owns the rights for. It’s also the absolute most valuable asset an individual inventor can have. Without this, you cannot successfully innovate. Once someone owns those rights, they can then apply for a trademark, copyright, or a patent. Trademarks are crucial because they last forever, as long as the invention is being used and renewed as needed.

Principles of Patents

Patents are a huge entity of medical device innovation. A patent is a limited monopoly awarded by the government for public disclosure of an invention, spanning 20 years from the issue date. There are four principles to explain the need for a patent: an idea, knowing if it’s useful, it must be original, and it’s cannot be too obvious of an idea. It’s also important to disclose all elements to allow others to put the invention into practice.

Infringement

If you’re in the process of developing a creative, innovative new product, it’s likely that other inventors will take an interest and try to copy you. Patents allow you to lay claim on your work, and naturally, there will be times when that patented product faces infringement. To avoid this, be sure to label your product directly with the patent number. If the infringement is still unavoidable, begin by notifying the infringer in writing. If measures are not taken to remedy the situation, you may need to turn to lawsuits to uphold your product in a legal way.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line of medical device innovation is that if you develop creative, innovative products, people will try to copy those products. Ensuring your product is protected by patent laws is a necessary step, and will ultimately give you the upper hand to sue infringers when needed. But remember, in the end, money isn’t everything. Innovate for yourself, and have fun.

Dr. Arnold Peter Weiss is the R. Scot Sellers Scholar of Hand Surgery; Chief of Hand Surgery; Vice Chairman & Professor, Brown University.