Gary K. Michelson; A Conversation about Invention Process [Edison Nation] [2015-03-09]
A Conversation about the Invention Process featuring Dr. Gary K. Michelson
A Conversation with Gary K. Michelson about the Invention Process
March 9, 2015
Edison Nation is a business intermediary focused on bridging gaps between ideas and their implementation during the invention process for entrepreneurs by licensing and commercializing services for new product introductions.
On March 9, 2015, Edison Nation discussed entrepreneurship and the invention process with Gary K. Michelson, who has over 950 issued or pending patents worldwide for instruments, operative procedures, and medical devices related to the treatment of spinal disorders.
In 2005, Dr. Michelson sold much of his portfolio to Medtronic for over $1 Billion, to which over $100 Million has been donated for cutting edge medical research and animal welfare.
Michelson candidly explains how often he has seen entrepreneurs drastically underestimate the variety of resources necessary for successfully developing, scaling and manufacturing new products during the invention process.
Entrepreneurs and new companies usually fail, not because their product or services are bad, but because they lack the business acumen and operational experience which is required to successfully drive those new products through to commercialization during the invention process. Even highly educated, technical professionals with great ideas have failed to reach market in this regard.
Dr. Michelson continues to spur advancements to the invention process across educational, economic and political spectrums through his Michelson IP initiative, the Gary Michelson Patents directory and by championing intellectual property (IP) and patent reform legislation including an open letter to the United States Senate on Patent Reform read into the Congressional Record on February 28, 2011 by the Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In 2011, Gary K. Michelson was invited by President Obama to the public signature of the America Invents Act.
Gary K. Michelson, M.D. — Spinal Surgeon/Inventor: Inventors are constantly finding out what’s wrong with the world and saying, “I want to go fix that.” So that’s an important quality and I guess I started out with that as a disgruntled person. So then beyond that I just think that it requires the ability and the willingness to see, to see things as they really are and then kind of to imagine how they could be and then just do the hard work that’s in between to make up the difference. And then finally the hard work to follow through to bring it to reality ‘cause that’s a lot of work in between.
Generally, healthcare professionals are intelligent and they’re hardworking or they would not have gotten to be healthcare professionals. So, while those aren’t absolute requirements, they’re a lot better places to start from than the opposite. Now, that having been said, all of us are in a position to perhaps invent consumer goods ‘cause we’re all consumers. But to the extent that anyone has specialized knowledge, they’re in a unique position to invent in that area.
A successful invention should fulfill a need; it’s not an absolute rule because there are inventions that come first and then you create the need. But most successful inventions fulfill a need. And I was working in an area, spinal surgery, where there are many, many problems. So, every day I was, let’s say confronted with opportunities to improve the situation, to fulfill a need. And in that regard, I was blessed.
So could Edison Nation or Edison Medical help me invent? No, but what it could’ve done is those first two parts are the easy part: you see a problem, you imagine, you come up with a solution. All the skill set stuff after that is what doctors, for example, don’t have. They go to medical school, they don’t go to business school, they’re not lawyers, they’re not going to be able to know how to best protect their idea. How to be able to shop it. How to ensure that it gets commercialized in terms that are favorable to them, or even will drive the commercialization.
But certainly, in the beginning, absolutely make, take advantage of this resource and if you really think, ‘cause doctors think they’re the smartest guys in the world, “I can do anything,” that’s why they’re lousy businessmen, ‘cause they’re not trained for that. You know, give me a break, you didn’t go to law school, you didn’t go to business school, you’re not an MB – but if you really think so, at least for the first one or two or three or ten, watch the process. And then I think what they’ll really learn is they can’t do it. I had my own full-time prototype shop. I was paying machinists who worked full time for me. What other physician would do that? That’s crazy. I had formed my own patent attorney firm; I had two patent attorneys working for me full time, they just worked for me. No normal person would want to do that.
For somebody just starting out, it’ll be 20 years till they get all of the pieces in place. And to have the resources of someone like yourself or your organization that knows how to interact with these companies, how do you shop this to five different potential manufacturers and get the most favorable terms? How do you guarantee that once they have it, and 8,000 other ideas, that they won’t shelve yours and say “Oh, this one’s better”? So, there’s just so many pieces in play. What you’re offering is a great resource.
Dr. Gary Michelson 21st Century Renaissance Man
(…) As an independent inventor and businessman, who spent years in court defending his patents, Michelson has a unique perspective on the U.S. patent system. He not only dealt with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in securing his patents, Michelson came face-to-face with the Federal Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals on the Federal Circuit during litigation with Medtronic, which he refers to as the ‘David and Goliath’ of patent litigation cases. He also has vast business experience, having created immensely successful start-ups, as well as having licensed patent agreements to the largest companies in the medical device field.
Gary Michelson: How One “Unreasonable” Man Used Patents to Create Change
(…) In this latest addition to Innovator Insights, Dr. Michelson, who is a member of the IPO Education Foundation’s Board of Directors, shares his experience as an inventor in the medical field, his advice for other doctors who want to solve problems in their areas of expertise, and how he is working to help young people better appreciate the role of patents and IP in pursuing innovative or creative endeavors. (…)
George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” I think I was the unreasonable man. Whereas all my peers, mentors, and teachers were willing to accept things as they were, I wasn’t. I think that was the difference. That saying, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door,” 99 percent of the time is absolutely nonsense. The world has a status quo; things are functioning and when you try to shake that up there are inertial forces that resist that. The world doesn’t beat a path to your door, it actually resists. (…)
I figured out a very counterintuitive way to address the problem that was 100 percent successful, but it was nothing you would normally think about doing. I designed a particular set of instruments that did not exist in order to perform this procedure with great efficiency. People started to send these cases to me and asked where I got the instruments and they wanted them. I would send those people to my machinist, and one day he called me up and asked if I knew anything about machining. He explained that all the time and effort in machining is to configure the machines with the right jigs—it’s like business cards, where the setup charge is more than the cost of the cards. He said, “You’ve sent me half a dozen people, and every time I make a set of instruments I have to stop what I’m doing and take the machines offline. Why don’t you just make 100?” I said, “What would I do with 100 sets?” and he told me to just sell them all. So, I had him make 100 sets. I didn’t really intend to do it, but at that point I was in the business.
Other problems similar to what I described above came up along the way and I realized I didn’t have to accept things the way they were, so I made other instruments. Suddenly, I was actually in the instrument business. I got a folding card table and went to one of the orthopedic conferences and there were huge numbers of people coming over. There were companies that put up multi-story buildings at these conferences, and here we were at this little table with a crowd five people deep. That led to one of the first licensing deals I ever had, with Johnson & Johnson. In essence, I sold the business to Johnson & Johnson, and they were the ones who made it very clear to me that you can’t be in this business without patents. (…)
If you’re a physician and you’re struggling with a problem, that’s actually a great place to start to come up with an invention. Edwin H. Land said that coming up with the right question is actually the hardest part of invention. But how do you know if the idea is patentable? In today’s world, you should go to Google Patents first. The results will be whatever’s closest to the invention. That’s where to start. If you don’t find a description of what you invented, you could hire a patent attorney, or you could simply write up the best description of what you have and send it to the USPTO as a provisional patent application from a first-time inventor. Then, you have at least one year to decide whether to seek patent protection. That allows you to approach companies that are in that business. The super outlier option is you could start your own company. Some manage to be successful, but most have not.
Each individual’s experiences are anecdotal. I’m certainly not a case study in what you should do. I had a group of 350 physicians contact me once. They wanted me to give a talk on monetizing medical inventions and I said I couldn’t do it. If you’re going to do public speaking it’s best to actually speak on a topic you know something about. That would have been a very short talk—I’d say, “Be lucky.” I’m no business whiz. But there’s a learning curve. I have 950 patents now, and you learn something new with each one.
|George Bernard Shaw|
|Gary K. Michelson|
|Thomas A. Edison|
|Gary K. Michelson|