How To File a Medical Device Patent: A Comprehensive Guide

17 minutes

Table of Contents

Andrew Rapacke
Andrew Rapacke is a registered patent attorney and serves as Managing Partner at The Rapacke Law Group, a full service intellectual property law firm.
How To File A Medical Device Patent

Learning how to file a medical device patent is crucial for innovators in the MedTech industry, as navigating this complex path can be daunting. This article paves the way from concept to patent approval, elucidating the steps, documentation, and strategy crucial for protecting your medical technology (MedTech) innovation. You’ll gain insight into the essential processes and best practices to secure a patent, ensuring both legal protection for your innovation and a competitive advantage in your marketplace.

What You’ll Learn

  • The importance of safeguarding your medical device and MedTech patents and how they contribute to maintaining a competitive edge in the MedTech industry.
  • Strategies for preparing a comprehensive patent application, including the importance of a detailed patent disclosure and the differences between design and utility patents.
  • The advantages of partnering with specialized patent attorneys for their technical and legal expertise, which can significantly increase the chances of patent approval and provide customized intellectual property protection strategies for your business.

How To File a Medical Device Patent: Understanding the Essentials

In the MedTech and Medical Device marketplace, patents cover an extensive range of innovations such as:

  • Medical and Surgical Devices
  • Neurotechnology
  • Wearable Technology
  • Telemedicine
  • AI-Based Healthcare Technology

Patents about medical devices and MedTech are typically protected with utility and design patents. These patents serve as a fortress that shields inventors by securing their intellectual property rights in both functionality and aesthetic design and preventing unauthorized infringement or misappropriation of medical technology.

Within the arsenal available for protecting medical inventions are both utility and design patents.  The most common type of application filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a utility patent application that protects the functionality of your medical device.  Utility patent applications may be both a provisional patent application and a non-provisional patent application.  The foundation for a successful utility patent application is identifying the novel functions of your MedTech and clearly articulating those novel aspects in your claim set, drawings, and detailed description.

While not as common, a design patent is often one of the most overlooked forms of intellectual property protection within the MedTech space.  This type of patent specifically targets the non-functional, aesthetic aspects of your invention instead of its functionality.  When deciding what type of application is best for your invention, ask yourself “Am I protecting the functionality of the device or design of the device.”  In some instances, the answer may be both. 

Whether it’s a design patent or a utility patent, the act of submitting a patent application constitutes an essential step toward acquiring robust patent protection.  By doing so, companies that manufacture medical devices can claim ownership over their creations, thereby ensuring a defense against any infringement upon the patented works, while affirming their exclusive rights under intellectual property laws.

The process of obtaining these patents, while intricate, is a critical component of the medical device industry’s infrastructure and valuation. It incentivizes innovation and ensures that inventors can reap the financial benefits of their work in a hyper-competitive industry through licensing and acquisition opportunities. For entrepreneurs and innovators in the MedTech space, understanding the nuances between design and utility patents is paramount to building a comprehensive patent portfolio. This knowledge allows them to strategically select the type of patent protection that best aligns with their invention’s proprietary and long-term strategic intellectual property plan.

Utility patents, for instance, may encompass a wide array of medical device innovations, including new machines, manufactured articles, processes, and compositions of matter. These can range from a novel heart-valve design to an innovative method for administering medication or AI-based software to ensure the best telemedicine practices. On the other hand, a design patent may be the appropriate choice for a medical device with a distinctive visual configuration or surface ornamentation that does not affect the product’s function.

Both types of patents are essential for fostering a dynamic and competitive marketplace, where unique and beneficial medical devices can thrive without the immediate threat of infringement. Securing either type of patent empowers companies to confidently invest in research and innovation knowing the fruits of their labor are protected., This protection, in turn, contributes to a vibrant ecosystem of medical innovation aimed at improving patient care and advancing the field of medicine.

The Strategic Value of Patenting Medical Devices

Obtaining patents for medical devices goes well beyond the simple safeguarding of an invention. It is a strategic investment that can deliver immediate benefits for the patent holder.  Patents afford a tactical advantage by ensuring market exclusivity for these devices, preventing competitors from utilizing your patented technology, and delivering revenue through licensing.

Possessing a robust patent portfolio can amplify both valuation and income prospects for companies specializing in medical devices, especially during negotiations concerning future investment and merger and acquisition opportunities. These patents are intangible assets that early-stage companies can leverage to attract venture capital investments while simultaneously offering investors assurances that the patented technology cannot be copied or circumvented.

Yet, the value tied to patents surpasses their protective functions and impacts company valuation. They can be leveraged during various business dealings including licensing agreements or mergers and acquisitions to provide the patent holder with both short- and long-term income opportunities. A strong MedTech patent or portfolio of patents may also figure prominently when securing loans as they are valuable intangible assets that provide the patent holders with exclusive rights that may be used as collateral. USPTO’s medical device patent statistics.

Conducting a Preliminary Patent Search

Before embarking on the process of submitting a patent application, it’s critical to invest the time to identify the novel aspects of your invention and complete a thorough disclosure document.  Once you have your disclosure completed you are ready to begin with a patentability search to determine if your invention is patentable subject matter.

This initial step is crucial in assessing an invention’s originality and its eligibility for patent protection by researching similar patents, published patent applications, and non-patent literature to determine if your invention has already been disclosed anywhere in the world. At RLG, we offer a money-back guarantee on our patentability searches, giving our clients the peace of mind of knowing that if their innovation is not patentable for any reason, they are entitled to a full refund.

Executing an effective patentability search extends beyond mere keyword entry into databases. Incorporating synonyms and alternative expressions is essential to avoid overlooking pertinent patents that may escape detection due to restrictive keyword searches. Comprehensive tactics including freedom-to-operate assessments, validity inquiries, and conducting a sweeping analysis of the patent landscape are vital components when constructing an astute strategic plan for one’s portfolio of patents and understanding the breadth and scope of your patent protection.

A myriad of database tools—such as those offered by USPTO Public Patent Search, Google Patent, WIPO PatentScope, and Espacenet—are available at your disposal providing extensive access to various international patent offices around the world. Start by researching the summary of the invention and claims to understand the scope of the technology and the elements recited.  To attain deeper insight, analyze the drawing figures and detailed descriptions to better understand how the invention is made and the best mode of operation. 

Documentation and Disclosure: Preparing for Your Patent Application

The patent prosecution process begins with the proper preparation, which includes documenting all your disclosure information that establishes the components, operation, and novelty of the invention and outlines the specific functions to be protected by your claim set. Such detailed preparation is critical for the patent application process, as it substantiates the originality of the invention and delineates the scope of the claims that define the legal protections of your patent.

The drafting phase for a patent application is about ensuring that all necessary novelty is clearly articulated in the claims and the detailed description explains how the invention is both made and used by a person skilled in the art without undue experimentation. Remember, it’s the details that may make all the difference.

A crucial step in your MedTech patent drafting involves identifying and drafting the proper drawing figures for your application. Your drawing figures not only complement your claims and specifications, but will explain to your Examiner all the components, novelty, and operation of your invention. These patent illustrations are a tool that may disclose features that are hard to explain with words and serve to ensure your application meets the enablement and best mode requirements.

Crafting a Strong Provisional Patent Application

After conducting a preliminary patent search and documenting your medical innovation, the next step is to determine whether to file a provisional or non-provisional patent application. Where you are in the development of your invention is a great “measuring stick” in determining which of these utility applications is best. A provisional patent application acts as an initial “placeholder” application for up to 12 months until a non-provisional patent application can be filed. If you have not finalized your invention’s operation, components, or functionality, a provisional is likely the best strategy for you to ensure your application is protected while you develop the final steps.

Provisional patent applications act as a “placeholder” with the USPTO and are less stringent than their non-provisional counterparts. They do not necessitate formal drawings, claims, or strict compliance with the formatting guidelines set forth by the USPTO. Such leniency allows inventors ample opportunity to secure their priority date and perfect their invention before moving forward with a non-provisional submission.

Transitioning to a Non-Provisional Patent Application

After a year of refining your MedTech invention and improving upon the provisional application, your attention should turn to filing a non-provisional patent application. This is a critical phase in which substantive examination by the USPTO takes place. It’s during this substantive examination that your Examiner will search all relevant art to determine if your patent is novel, non-obvious, and patentable subject matter. If the Examiner finds that your invention meets these requirements, they will issue you a Notice of Allowance. The Examiner will issue an Office Action Rejection with prior art references if they do not believe your invention is novel, non-obvious, or patentable subject matter.

To be eligible for consideration, the non-provisional patent application must fulfill certain USPTO criteria:

  • A specification that includes a detailed description.
  • At least one claim (though it’s highly recommended you include up to 20 claims).
  • Drawing figures depicting the device, components, and operation of the invention.
  • An oath or declaration affirming inventorship for each named inventor.
  • Payment of required filing fees.

But it’s not sufficient just to tick these boxes. The documentation must comprehensively reveal how to make and use your MedTech by one “skilled in the art.” After your initial non-provisional patent application filing, you may not add more claims or drawing figures to your application as it will likely be rejected as “new matter.” Failure to include all the pertinent information on the novelty, enablement, or best mode in your initial application may be fatal to the outcome, so remember the “devil is in the details.”

During this transition phase from a provisional to a non-provisional patent application, the inventor must also ensure that the non-provisional application includes all the improvements made to the invention since the provisional filing. This is a period where another disclosure call with your attorney is crucial so that no detail is left out.  The non-provisional patent application is the inventor’s opportunity to present the culmination of their innovation in its most polished form, a testament to the time and resources invested in bringing a novel medical device to market.

Interacting with the USPTO: The Role of the Patent Examiner

Securing a patent is a collaborative effort that involves working closely with the USPTO, particularly with an appointed patent Examiner within a specific art unit at the USPTO. The duties of this official include:

  • A thorough examination of each submitted patent application to ensure it meets legal criteria.
  • Conducting research into existing relevant art.
  • Verifying whether the invention is novel, non-obvious, and patentable subject matter.

When examiners reach conclusions regarding either a rejection or approval of applications, they inform the inventors, as well as their respective patent attorneys via documented Official Actions. Timely responses to such communications are crucial and failure to respond will lead to an abandonment of your application. Be sure to read the entirety of the Official Action, not only to understand what claims are accepted or rejected but to understand your window to respond.

Achieving “Patent Pending” Status: Benefits and Strategies

Once your provisional or non-provisional patent application has been electronically submitted to the USPTO and you have received your filing receipt, you are considered to be “patent pending.” While this new status is not as strong as having an issued patent, the status acts to put others on notice of your pending rights and may deter potential infringers. 

When an inventor declares their medical device to be ‘patent-pending,’ it acts as a warning against infringement and demonstrates to competitors that you have taken the first steps in patenting your MedTech. This new status is a great way to advertise to the market, investors, and licensees that you have taken the necessary steps to protect your invention and conducted the proper due diligence to ensure your invention is patentable.

Enforcing and Licensing Your Medical Device Patent

Following the successful procurement of a medical device or MedTech patent, the next crucial step is to actively enforce it. The enforcement of this medical device patent is essential for prohibiting unauthorized parties from engaging in activities such as manufacturing, selling, offering for sale, or importing into the United States an infringing product.  

Enforcement actions typically commence with an infringement analysis and product research and are typically proceeded by a Cease-and-Desist Letter. If these warnings are ignored and infringement continues, legal action may be taken at either the USPTO or a Federal District Court.  Most of these cases will be resolved through settlement or licensing without costly litigation. 

Remember beyond mere enforcement lies the realm of licensing—a vital element when managing patents and a lucrative source of monetization.  A well-drafted Patent License Agreement with the right material terms such as royalty information and licensing fees, geographic scope of rights, terms of use, intellectual property ownership, and warranties and indemnification is a roadmap for financial opportunities, risk mitigation, and legal protections.  

Collaborating with Patent Attorneys: Maximizing Success Rates

As with any challenging endeavor, your chances of success increase when an experienced professional or coach is at your side to provide guidance.  The patent process is not different and the right patent attorneys can make all the difference between an issued patent and a notice of abandonment.  These professionals will guide you through your disclosure conference, identify the novelty, and provide strategies on how best to draft your claims. Once your patent has been issued, they are instrumental in identifying and executing strategies to protect and monetize your MedTech.

Should your application receive an Office Action rejection, they are surgical in identifying the flaws in the Examiner’s arguments and cited references and can draft an Office Action Amendment to traverse the rejection.

In the realm of MedTech and medical devices, specialized attorneys bring a wealth of industry knowledge, as well as access to pivotal networks that assist inventors in navigating markets and establishing partnerships. Their expert legal counsel is critical not only for acquiring but preserving and enforcing your rights in your newly acquired patent. 

Beyond the U.S.: International Patent Protection Strategies

Securing a patent domestically within the United States is crucial, but it’s just as important to consider safeguarding your invention on an international stage. Strategies such as utilizing the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) can facilitate acquiring patents across multiple nations more efficiently.

The PCT filing process is designed to be streamlined by allowing an applicant to file one single application and later designate multiple countries for national stage entry.  This allows the applicant an extended period of 30 months from the priority date to determine what specific countries they want to pursue for patent protection. While some countries may require translation fees, the PCT process is much more cost-efficient than having to file in each designated country’s patent office.

Addressing Challenges: When Patent Applications Face Rejection

Navigating the path to securing a patent might encounter some turbulence and an Examiner may issue an Office Action rejection. There are two basic types of Office Actions: Non-Final Office Actions and Final Office Actions. Both Non-Final and Final Office Actions will have one or more of the rejections and/or objections.

When you receive a Non-Final Office Action, you have an opportunity to amend the claims and make any other changes (without introducing new matter) in an attempt to place the claims and the whole patent application in condition for allowance. However, if the Patent Examiner finds that the amendments and arguments in the response to the Non-Final Office Action are insufficient or fail to be persuasive, the Patent Examiner will likely prepare and issue a Final Office Action.

A Final Office Action is issued when the response to the Non-Final Office Action fails to remedy or adequately address all the issues raised in the Non-Final Office Action, or when the response raises new issues that impede the allowance of the claims.

From a practical point of view, Patent Examiners are required to review the amendments to the claims in a response to a Non-Final Office Action, but Patent Examiners may not be required to examine amendments or new arguments in a response to a Final Office Action, except in limited circumstances. 37 C.F.R. 1.116(b) states that amendments after a Final Office Action are allowed for (1) canceling claims or complying with any requirement of form expressly outlined in a previous Office Action, (2) presenting rejected claims in better form for consideration on appeal, or (3) touching the merits of the application upon a showing of good and sufficient reasons why the amendment is necessary and was not earlier presented.

If you receive a Non-Final Office Action and you reply with amendments to the claims, if the Patent Examiner needs to find a new prior art or present new reasoning for the rejection, the Patent Examiner may still issue a Final Office Action, except in a limited number of circumstances. The most common of these exceptions occur when the Patent Examiner introduces a new ground of rejection that is not necessitated by an Applicant’s amendment of the claims.

A response to an Office Action requires detailed attention to each rejection, objection, and any other issue raised by the Examiner in the Office Action. Failure to address every issue in the Office Action may result in further rejection of the patent application and even abandonment. These may require further completion of the response and paying additional fees, such as an application revival fee, to keep the application alive.

Generally, claim rejections that cite prior art will provide detailed reasoning for the rejection. You have two options in response:

  • Argue that the rejection is improper (for example, that the Examiner failed to consider all of the elements of the rejected claim, that the Examiner misconstrued the claim and/or the cited prior art, that the multiple prior art disclosures cannot be properly combined, that prior art that was published after and not before the effective filing date, that the Examiner’s reasoning was flawed or faulty, or other arguments); and/or
  • Amend one or more of the rejected claims and argue that the amended claims overcome the rejections with supported reasoning.

The same strategy may be used when addressing an objection: argue that the objection is improper and/or amended to overcome the objection. Objections can also be placed in abeyance during the prosecution of the patent application, which is most often done when a dependent claim is allowable but for the rejection of an independent claim to which the dependent claim refers.

This type of response is only available after a Non-Final Office Action or after a Final Office Action in the situations described above (canceling claims or complying with form requirements, presenting rejected claims in better form for consideration on appeal, or touching the merits of the application upon a showing of good and sufficient reasons may also be proper). Outside of these instances, for the Patent Examiner to consider a response after a final Office action, you can file an RCE (Request for Continued Examination).

  • RCE – Request for Continued Examination

Simply put, an RCE is another opportunity to continue the prosecution of your application. Generally, an RCE is filed with a response to a pending Office Action, like a response to a Non-Final Office Action. If the amendments filed in the response with the RCE require new grounds for rejection, the Patent Examiner will issue a new Non-Final Office Action. In some cases, the Office Action may be Final, if the claims are identical or patentably indistinct from the previously examined set of claims and if it would have been proper to issue a Final Office Action if such claims had been entered as a response to the prior Office Action.

Innovations in Medical Device Patents: Trends and Examples

The realm of medical device patents is in a state of continuous evolution, regularly introducing new trends and innovations. Medical device manufacturers play a crucial role in this process, as recent trends revolve around encouraging innovation and competition, leading to significant advancements in patient care and clinical practices.

Focus areas for patenting in the medical field include chronic pain relief, emergency response solutions, devices tailored for pediatric and cardiac health, as well as technologies addressing women’s health, and wearable device advancements. Notably, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly prevalent in medical devices, offering sophisticated algorithms for diagnostics, patient monitoring, and personalized treatment plans. For instance, most medical inventions that have made a significant impact include a skin measuring microscope with a unique illumination system, Integrum’s bone-anchored OPRA Implant System for amputees, antimicrobial caps for medical connectors, and AI-driven predictive analytics for patient care optimization.

Further, the patent landscape also witnesses innovations in nanomaterials for the medical device industry, strategies to navigate complex regulatory environments, and innovations related to the integration of AI to enhance device functionality and patient outcomes. This is indicative of the sector’s evolving nature, as it adapts to incorporate cutting-edge technologies like AI to revolutionize healthcare delivery. Comprehensive insights into medical device development.

Protecting Software-Related Medical Inventions

As technological advancements propel the integration of software and digital components within medical devices, it becomes critically important to protect such medical inventions. Employing ‘means-plus-function’ claims is an effective strategy for claiming protection over particular functionalities without unduly limiting the processes involved.

When staking a patent claim, compatibility with existing standards and regulatory demands that apply to the medical system or device must be ensured. Crafting patent claims that are future-resistant requires planning for potential developments in technology, as well as possible interactions with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In drafting these patents, especially concerning software-driven medical inventions, meticulous attention is needed to ensure unambiguous language that can withstand legal scrutiny. This process typically involves beginning with broad independent claims encapsulating the essence of the invention while supplementing them with narrower dependent claims detailing specific embodiments.

The Financial Aspect: Costs and Fees Associated with Patenting

Securing a patent can entail varying expenses based on the complexity of your invention and the type of patent application you submit. A provisional patent application is a cost-effective first step in protecting your invention, with costs typically ranging from $70 for micro entity applicants to $150 for small entities, not including attorney’s fees. When engaging a patent attorney to file a provisional patent application, fees commonly range from $2,500-$5,000 depending on the complexity of the invention and the level of detail required in the application.

When it comes to non-provisional utility patent applications, expect higher costs ranging between $7,500-$13,000 for your attorney, patent illustration, and USPTO filing fees. It is advisable that you further budget between $2,000-$4,000 for an Office Action Amendment, if necessary.

Don’t forget, once your patent has been issued, maintenance fees are mandatory for utility patents at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years—with additional charges if these payments are late or your patent is abandoned.

Why Work with a Medical Device or MedTech Patent Attorney?

Patent attorneys like other lawyers often limit their practice to a few specialized areas of practice.  Within the intricate landscape of medical device patents, collaborating with an experienced MedTech patent attorney can yield a substantial impact. Patent attorneys are professionals who are well-versed in both the technical and legal aspects of patenting and understand the specifics of medical device patent prosecution. Research data shows that the outcomes of filing a patent with the assistance of a registered patent attorney are significantly more positive than doing it yourself.

Working with a patent attorney can provide several benefits, including:

  • Increasing the likelihood of obtaining a Notice of Allowance;
  • Guiding timing and competitor landscape;
  • Offering patent prosecution and portfolio growth strategies; and
  • Bringing valuable industry experience to inventors in market navigation and licensing opportunities.

Ultimately, professional legal guidance by patent attorneys is essential for successfully obtaining and maintaining medical device patents, ensuring your patent protection is both comprehensive and enforceable. To maintain patent protection, it is crucial to work with a patent attorney who understands the MedTech market and the best strategies for your business.


The journey of understanding how to file a medical device patent is intricate, involving numerous steps from initial idea protection to final patent approval, from conducting a preliminary patent search to crafting a strong provisional patent application and transitioning it to a non-provisional application. Along the way, inventors have to navigate Office Actions, enforce their patent rights against potential infringers, and work alongside a trusted attorney to license and monetize their intellectual property. As the saying goes “There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time” and in this case, it’s worth every bit of the investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To File a Medical Device Patent

Filing a medical device patent involves several key steps, starting with a comprehensive patent search to ensure your invention is novel. Documenting your invention thoroughly, deciding between a provisional or non-provisional patent application, and submitting your application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are crucial. For detailed guidance, consult the sections on “Crafting a Strong Provisional Patent Application” and “Transitioning to a Non-Provisional Patent Application” in the guide above.

How much does it cost to patent a medical device?

The process of securing a patent for a medical device incurs a wide range of expenses, typically from $8,000 to $15,000 for a non-provisional patent application, depending on the complexity of your technology.  It’s important to note that different firms offer varying fee structures from traditional hourly billing to a fixed fee approach. Our firm provides one transparent flat fee to ensure you know exactly what your legal fees will be through every step of the patent application process.

How long does a medical device patent last?

A utility provides 20 years of protection from your filing date and a design patent provides 15 years of protection from the date of the patent grant.

How do I find a patent for a medical device?

To locate a patent or relevant reference about a medical device, utilize keywords reflective of the device’s function, composition, and novelty when exploring public databases such as the USPTO’s Public Search Tool or Google Patents.

How do you patent a device?

To secure a patent for your device, the invention must be new, novel, and non-obvious.  Maintain thorough disclosure documents of your inventive process, conduct a thorough investigation into its novelty, and decide on what type of application is best for you.

What are the 3 types of patents?

There are three distinct categories of patents: utility, design, and plant. Utility patents safeguard the functional aspects of a process, machine, or composition. In contrast, design patents cover the ornamental aspect of an object. Meanwhile, new, or unique varieties of plants are secured under plant patents.

Start Working with a MedTech Patent Attorney

Not all patent attorneys are created equal or understand the underlying technology that is fundamental to receiving an issued patent. Working with Rapacke Law Group will save you time, money, and hassle. In addition to a fixed-fee billing approach, RLG offers a money-back guarantee on all prior art searches, trademark applications, provisional patent applications, and design patent applications.

To be clear: should our team determine that your invention is not patentable in light of the prior art, a full refund will be provided. If patentable, we will credit the cost of your search towards your new application. For trademark and design patent applications, this means that if your application does not receive a Notice of Allowance for any reason, we will provide a full refund.

Our trademark and design patent application packages include all search, preparation, office action, USPTO correspondence, and filing fees. Please schedule a Free IP Strategy Call or visit our AI Chatbot Pax – The IP Oracle by RLG.

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