Earlier today the Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today issued U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000. The 8 million patent was issued to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., for a visual prosthesis apparatus that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration. The invention uses electrical stimulation of the retina to produce the visual perception of patterns of light. The product – the Argus® II – is currently in U.S. clinical trials and has received marketing approval in Europe.
The USPTO has known which patent would be No. 8,000,000 for at least three weeks, and the Office is planning for the occasion with a special ceremony to be held on September 8, 2011. The USPTO notified Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. that it would receive U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000 via Issue Notification sent July 27, 2011.
“This kind of innovation is a driver of our nation’s economic growth and job creation,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “The USPTO plays a major role in serving America’s innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies and bring their products and services to the global marketplace.”
“Second Sight has 90 issued U.S. patents surrounding technology associated with sight restoration for the blind and treatment of a variety of other medical conditions,” said Robert Greenberg, president and CEO of Second Sight. “This patent protection and significant federal support for innovation have already played key roles in creating nearly 100 U.S. jobs at our company. Once the Argus II has FDA approval in the United States, we expect to create hundreds of more jobs over the next several years, while delivering a breakthrough treatment for a previously untreatable medical condition.”
But did you know that U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000 isn’t really the 8 millionth U.S. patent granted? Under the current numbering system for patents, U.S. Patent No. 1 was issued on July 13, 1836 to John Ruggles of Thomaston, Maine for his invention related to the locomotive steam engine. Prior to that U.S. patents were not numbered.
About Patent Number 8,000,000
With a provisional patent application priority date of October 19, 2006 and a subsequent nonprovisional filing date of October 18, 2007, it would have been impossible for Second Sight, or the United States Patent and Trademark Office to have had any clue back then that this application would be the one that would mature into the historic U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000. After all, only 8 months before the provisional patent application was filed U.S. Patent No. 7,000,000 had been issued to E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Yet, Application No. 11/874690 was destined for a milestone position in U.S. patent history.
In a healthy eye, the photoreceptors (rods and cones) on the retina convert light into tiny electrochemical impulses that are sent through the optic nerve and into the brain, where they are decoded into images. If the photoreceptors no longer function correctly, the first step in this process is disrupted and the visual system cannot transform light into images, causing blindness.
The system awarded patent number 8,000,000 is designed to bypass the damaged photoreceptors altogether. A miniature video camera housed in the patient’s glasses sends information to a small computer worn by the patient where it is processed and transformed into instructions transmitted wirelessly to a receiver in an implanted stimulator. The signals are then sent to an electrode array, attached to the retina, which emits small pulses of electricity. These electrical pulses are intended to bypass the damaged photoreceptors and stimulate the retina’s remaining cells to transmit the visual information along the optic nerve to the brain.
The inventors on this historic patent are Greenberg, Robert J. Greenberg, the President and CEO of Second Sight (Los Angeles, CA, US), Kelly H. McClure (Simi Valley, CA, US) and Arup Roy (Valencia, CA, US).
The signing and presentation of U.S. Patent No. 8,000,000 by Director Kappos will take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on September 8, 2011.
About Second Sight Medical Products
Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., located in Sylmar, Calif., is a privately held company founded in 1998 by Alfred Mann, Dr. Sam Williams and Gunnar Bjorg with the goal of creating a retinal prosthesis to provide sight to subjects blinded from outer retinal degenerations, such as retinitis pigmentosa.