IP SYNERGY IN THE MIDWEST
Minnesota's Twin Cities - Minneapolis and St. Paul - form the second largest economy in the Midwest. This rapidly growing metropolitan region has become one of the largest medical device manufacturing centers in North America and is anchored by leading Fortune 500 companies such as Ecolab, 3M Company, St. Jude Medical, Inc., Target Corporation, U.S. Bancorp, and Ameriprise Financial.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons / PhotosByJeremiah
The region is also home to the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system. With 52,557 students, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (U of M) is the fourth-largest main campus in the United States.
Thriving Intellectual Property Legal Community
3597 patents were issued to entities in Minnesota in 2010, the bulk of which were for medical devices. While a large number of these patents were issued to big corporations, small businesses and independent inventors continue to fuel innovation thanks to the strong support of the Minneapolis-St. Paul intellectual property legal community.
In June 2011, the Minnesota Pilot Pro-bono Inventor Assistance Program was launched. USPTO worked with a committee of attorneys and the non-profit legal organization, LegalCORPS, to develop the pro-bono program to assist financially needy, independent inventors and small businesses in the Minnesota area. The pilot is the first of its kind in the U.S. and USPTO envisions similar programs replicating the LegalCORPS model sprouting across the country in the near future.
With strong support from their IP community, private industries, universities, small businesses and independent inventors within the Twin Cities have effectively leveraged the patent system to expand their businesses and spur growth throughout the region.
UltiMed, Inc. is headquartered in St. Paul and has been in business since 1988. In the mid-90's, the company concentrated its business on the growing diabetic market by manufacturing insulin syringes and related medical products sold through retail pharmacies and mail order providers. Inspired by the increasing incidence of diseases requiring injections outside medical facilities and the growing risk in infectious diseases transferred through used needles, UltiMed developed the proprietary UltiGuard™ line of products which securely packages insulin syringes within a dispenser and disposal container. UltiMed recently opened their second state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, ISO certified and FDA inspected, which has the capability of producing the highest quality insulin syringes in the world.
© UltiMed, Incorporated
Minnesota Thermal Science (MTS)
Located in Plymouth, the third largest suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul is another company that is transforming the medical device industry, Minnesota Thermal Science (MTS). The company's reusable and environmentally friendly containers protect contents at defined temperatures longer than any other passive thermal control product, providing for the safe transportation of pharmaceutical, tissue, blood and biologic products. Minnesota Thermal Science was founded in response to an industry-wide search by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research for a more effective combat-environment thermal container capable of keeping critical blood supplies safe for extended time periods in the extreme environments of Afghanistan. MTS' patented technology uses an assembly of vacuum insulated panels (VIP) or high-quality reusable cellular insulation which forms a continuous barrier on all sides of the container, dramatically improving thermal control over conventional ice and gel-pack methods. The company's Credo container line provides unprecedented protection for temperature-sensitive products from minus 50 to 22°C. The system was considered so revolutionary that it was recognized with the U.S. Army's Greatest Inventions Award in 2003.
Photo: Minnesota Thermal Science (MTS)
While the Twin Cities are best known for their contributions to the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, the region's innovation extends into a number of other high technology fields. Golden Valley-based Veritec Inc. has been a pioneer in two dimensional (2D) matrix coding technology. Developed during the late 80's, the VeriCode® symbol is a small, checkerboard-like matrix with extremely high data density. Endorsed by NASA, each coded symbol contains more information within its four solid borders than the standard one-dimensional bar code. The company's patented VeriCode® and VSCode® are machine writable and readable and can be used as a secure portable data storage system allowing end-users to produce and interpret secure coded data for identification and verification purposes. The technology is applicable in nearly all environments that require security, including financial and stored value cards; biometric identification, including the tracking and identification of people and livestock; and product marking and tracking from design and manufacturing to shipping and delivery. These codes can be encoded and marked on nearly any material through laser etching, dot-peen - small indentation on the material surface - micro abrasive blasting, and chemical etching.
By combining the strengths and synergies between the region's intellectual property community and industry base, Minnesota's Twin Cities have provided an ideal partnership to spur innovation in America.