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Intellectual Property and the Healthcare Services

June 1st, 2002

Article for the British Medical Journal, June 2002.

Ardeshir Bayat and Stephen Bush discuss how they turned their idea into a commercial product


There is a distinct sequence of steps and options, which need to be taken or considered to turn an idea into a commercial product. Here we describe this sequence and illustrate it through a new plastic surgical instrument (the DIRIGISTM). Every idea needs several steps to convert it into a reality. We followed a particular pathway for the DIRIGISTM. While each invention will need its own pathway, each of the ten steps we describe can be adapted to suit your needs.

Steps to convert an idea into a product

Whatever particular business arrangements are made, they will have to provide for the following ten steps:

  1. Make a laboratory model exhibiting the main features of the invention.
  2. Refine/correct/add features in light of trials and experiments.
  3. Obtain initial intellectual property protection (e.g. patent application, registered design, copyright).
  4. Decide on actual materials of fabrication and chemical, electrical, optical components.
  5. Prepare drawings for a working prototype: geometrical shape of devices, connections between these; electrical and optical actuation and connection; reservoirs, connections and disposal means for fluids used.
  6. [Doing all this may allow you to refine the claims in a patent application or allow a more protectable design to be registered.]
  7. Manufacture a number of prototypes which can be tried out in the working environment (theatre, ward, GP surgery, accident site, warzone).
  8. In the light of the results from these field trials, accept/amend/reject/abandon the design.
  9. Where the prototype, amended as required, is deemed to be technically effective and to have commercial potential at the likely manufactured price range, finalise the manufacturing process, the marketing method and the probable distribution arrangements.
  10. Find the resources to do (8) and set up the appropriate manufacturing, marketing and distribution systems.

Hopefully, you will receive profit from step (10). Use this profit to (a) protect the IP (patents, registered designs), (b) continue to develop the product to stay ahead of the inevitable competition, and (c) to reward yourself and your partners.