Dr. Jeffrey Marcus

Mary Ellen Pennington Successfully Licensed a Product!

“I became interested in surgical device innovation over twenty years ago in my surgical training. As a plastic/reconstructive surgeon, solving problems and finding creative solutions for common (and uncommon) challenges are part and parcel with our day-to-day work. I was fortunate to have good mentorship in the early 2000’s with a close friend (orthopedic surgeon) who had invented a successful device in his field of sports surgery. He taught me what he learned about licensing, all of which was completely new to me and scarcely discussed at all among surgeons at that time. Among surgeons/physicians at the time, innovation meant venture, university partnership, and, and creation of spinoff companies. For complex ideas requiring investigation and resources, this would certainly be an appropriate path forward. But for simple ideas that can be put into actual surgical practice quickly, this pathway made little sense; and there was no reference to guide it. Only those like me lucky enough to know a colleague with experience could navigate the process.

My first idea was a lucky hit. In truth, it was more like my 10th idea, but as all inventors can attest, 1 in 10 is not bad. When Stephen Key’s book, One Simple Idea came out some time later, I read it (three times) and recognized immediately that it provided the blueprint to the process that I had more or less followed by instinct and luck.

My ideas flow constantly, and they are mostly simple ideas to solve common problems – the kind of ideas you can draw on a napkin. Starting with One Simple Idea led me to InventRight. Every idea I have had since has followed Stephen’s strategies that have further evolved; and importantly, my licensing processes have been guided by a negotiations Coach with expertise in reviewing hundreds of licenses, Paul Sorenson. I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to have a coach in your corner to help you understand the process of negotiation. Paul has been a trusted advisor and a secret weapon; having an expert behind the scenes while you confidently communicate with a potential licensee is a feeling of security. It turns out that most medical companies assume that physicians will enter a process with naivety and without any experience. They are probably right most of the time on that.

Simple ideas in surgery may not provide the cures for cancer but they can improve surgical care more quickly than any other type of medical innovation. As I have tried to impart on other surgeons with simple ideas, it does not matter whether your idea is a surgical device, a kitchen tool, or a toy. The pathway to licensure has commonalities across the spectrum. I have since used what I have learned to invent outside of my medical world; admittedly, I have not had the same success there, but I can attest that the processes are the same and the licensees behave the same. As an organization with a clear and just cause, InventRight to me is immensely valuable as a supportive resource and a repository for education to inventors.”

Jeffrey R. Marcus MD FAAP FACS

Professor and Chief, Division of Plastic, Maxillofacial, and Oral Surgery, Duke University

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