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What You Need to Know about Patents in Healthcare

Patents, exclusive rights granted for an original creation or invention to protect intellectual property, are an important part of any business or industry. They encourage further development and innovation by protecting against intellectual property theft or plagiarism.

The healthcare industry is no different. It makes use of patents to protect new developments in medical equipment, which in turn helps healthcare services improve patient care and outcomes. As technological capabilities continue to increase exponentially, patents are more important than ever for protecting rights and ensuring fair and beneficial market competition. Read on to find out more about patents in healthcare and what they mean for the industry.

Types of Patents

There are a number of different types of medical patent, all of which serve different purposes, and it’s important to highlight the distinctions between them.

Utility patents are the most common type of medical device patent, accounting for 90% of patents issued by the US government. Utility patents focus on the function of a device and cover processes, machines, products, and technology.

Provisional patents are designed as placeholders that can be secured before you are ready to apply for a Utility patent. They are served on a first-come, first-serve basis, providing a one-year window to prepare to file for a Utility patent.

Design patents offer protection for the appearance or physical design of a product. This type of patent is used to cover the shape, general appearance, or user interface of a device.

Patents Today

Patents are essential for motivating further scientific innovation, and we can expect to see even more patents filed as medical technology advances. Recent patents have been issued for nano-antibiotic technology, drugs, VR/AR systems and more.

Medical device company June Medical recently patented a new surgical retractor. Based on traditional screw-mechanism designs, the Galaxy II retractor is self-retaining, lightweight, and made of medical-grade plastic. The device is single-use, reducing contamination risks and increasing speed by reducing the need to sterilise between patients.

The Future of Medical Patents

The Covid-19 pandemic created a heated argument around medical patents and intellectual property that still rages to this day. As inequalities between financially disparate countries were laid bare during the pandemic, activists and human rights groups cried out for more democratised access to medical treatment.

Last month saw the implementation of a provisional agreement to waive intellectual property rights for vaccines in an effort to ensure vaccine access for all. However, many pharmaceutical companies have pushed back, arguing that this risks damaging rights and will work to harm the industry in the long run.


Patents are a vital part of the growth and development of any industry, the healthcare sector being no exception. They help protect the rights of new, innovative inventions, fostering an environment of positive competition that is beneficial to the industry as a whole. While there may be arguments currently regarding the global availability of treatments, patents are essential for the progress of the sector.

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