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Protecting Innovation in Hand Surgery: A Comprehensive Analysis of Patents Filed by Academic Hand Surgeons
Sumun Khetpal, MD1,2, Alvaro Reategui, BA3, Dilan Shah, BA4, Christopher C Fernandes, BSc4, Joseph Lopez, MD, MBA2 and Adnan Prsic, MD2, (1)University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CT, (2)Yale University, New Haven, CT, (3)Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, (4)University of North Texas - Health Sciences Center, Fort Worth, TX

Hand surgery has a well-established tradition of innovation. The tremendous growth of the device, and regenerative medicine industries, paired with the advent of new techniques, positions plastic surgeons well as clinical and scientific entrepreneurs. While some may choose to participate through key opinion leader (KOL) or advisory board member roles, it remains unclear how hand surgeons navigate the processes of filing patents and ultimately, protect their innovations. The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence of patent filing among academic hand surgeons, and further understand demographic trends surrounding these data.

Materials & Methods:
Using the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) online database, a retrospective review of patents filed by academic hand surgeons was conducted. Of note, academic hand surgeons from the American Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited hand fellowships were specifically identified through the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH). Clinical role, sex, ethnicity, training specialty, and h-index were collected through institutional websites. Patent descriptions were recorded, and were classified into three distinct categories: devices (comprised of plates, prosthetics, fixation, implant solutions), techniques & frameworks, and regenerative medicine (comprised of tissue engineering and wound healing solutions).

650 academic hand surgeons filed 122 patents in this analysis. The majority of academic hand surgeons were male (82%), of Caucasian descent (79%), trained within orthopedic surgery (73%), and were assistant professors (64%). In terms of patents, the majority were similarly filed by males (99%) of Caucasian descent (80%) who trained within orthopedic surgery (81%). Full professors (46%) and fellowship directors (48%) more commonly filed patents, compared to those holding more junior roles. Of note, patents for devices (66%) were most prevalent, followed by techniques and frameworks (20%), and solutions in regenerative medicine (14%).

Our study is the first, to the author's knowledge, to examine trends in patent filing among academic hand surgeons. This analysis revealed the predominance of certain demographic cohorts, particularly male gender and Caucasian descent, in these opportunities. Future studies could further assess how academic institutions discuss patent protection among faculty and residents, why such disparities exist in filing patents, and how such patents materialize as opportunities for commercialization.

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