Doctor claims patent process unfair for small business entrepreneurs

Universities and large medical companies are often associated with medical breakthroughs. But you won't find the inventor of the Norred heart valve there. No, you'll find him...in Ada, Oklahoma.

While studying to be a cardiologist in the late 90's, Dr. Troy Norred says he invented a surgery-free device to replace bad heart valves. The valve travels through the veins, and then expands or contracts in the heart to stop the bad valve's leak, or help open it up.

"It's much less complicated and makes a patient heal easier because you don't have to open up the patient's chest to do it." Dr. Norred said.

Even though valve companies kept turning him down, he managed to have it patented through the government in 2001. It's been saving lives all over the world for years, but Norred has spent years trying to keep it his.

"Unfortunately, we were unable to make an agreement with some of the valve companies, and we've had to go through litigation in order to be recognized and be part of the process." Norred said.

A medical company put out a product similar to Norred's shortly after his patent was filed. After years of litigation, the U.S patent office ruled in that company's favor, due to a new process introduced to the system.

The process is called Inter partes review, or I.P.R, and allows anyone to review old patents. And as long as they can provide any kind of relevant material that challenges the patent, they can.

Norred says the material doesn't even have to actually be relevant, as long as their corporation's team of lawyers can argue it is. This is what Norred alleges the company did, forcing Norred to either amend his patent, or give up on it completely.

John Fisher has worked for Dr. Norred for 13 years, and even helped him draw the art for the patent. He says the new process is unjust.

"I do think it's unfair. It's not a good process we have there I guess." Fisher said. "It's certainly made it harder for him to claim his rights to his design."

However, Dr. Norred does plan to amend his patent, and refile. He says one of the biggest lessons he learned from this process is not to give up on your ideas.