This is the story of what happens when there are billions of dollars wrapped up in a prosaic piece of technology that at its core is closer to your kid’s science-fair entry than the Human Genome Project, one that despite all the commercial success and some 4 million or so patients still has its share of doubters in the medical community. It’s a story about luck and timing and the squeezing of the health care dollar. It is about betrayal and wrangling over patents. And mostly it is about invention, the tenuous and uncertain act of breathing life into an idea that may or may not have been yours all along.
Fortune Magazine’s story about how a simple medical device that closes wounds made millions for its inventors ($250 million in royalty fees), for Wake Forest University (which split the royalty fees after applying for a patent on the inventors’ behalf), and for the device’s marketers (KCI, which licensed the patents from Wake Forest University), and the patent battles that came soon after, really demonstrates some of the greed involved in the American health care system. It’s something to read if your cable goes out.