January 2014

Preserving the Value of Medical Device Patents during the rise of Three-Dimensional Printing

By: Kyle J. Trout and Justin N. Mullen  |   January 29, 2014

Originally published in Westlaw Journal Medical Devices Volume 20, Issue 17 (October 22, 2013). Pdf version available by clicking here. Reprinted with Permission. © 2013 Thomson Reuters.

The highly anticipated technology of three-dimensional printing promises to open an entirely new channel for distribution of physical articles and devices and, by the same token, a new channel for infringement of patents covering those physical articles and devices. In the medical field, particularly, 3D printing is expected to drastically reduce hospital costs associated with surgical implants and open new doors in the area of custom implants.

Current patent drafting practices and recent developments in the law, however, may create difficulty for the patent holder in finding a suitable party against whom to assert patents. Assertions of direct infringement against the hospital printing the item and assertions of indirect infringement against digital model suppliers are both less than optimal strategies. For this reason, a reassessment of a claim drafting strategy will prove useful in maximizing the assertion value of a medical device patent portfolio in the face of this burgeoning new technology.