Patent Awarded to Second Sight Medical Products for a "Visual Prosthesis Apparatus" that Enhances Visual Perception for the Sight Impaired

News Media Contact:
Shira Kramer, (202) 482-4883, skramer@doc.gov

WASHINGTON - The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host a ceremonial signing Thursday for patent no. 8 million at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos will present the patent 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. Following the signing, company President and CEO Robert Greenberg will demonstrate the new product, Argus® II.

Thursday's ceremony underlines the critical role the U.S. patent system plays in fostering American innovation and economic competitiveness and comes as Congress is acting to make the most significant reforms to the system in more than half a century. Patent reform legislation currently before Congress - The America Invents Act - will help create new jobs by simplifying the process inventors face for getting a patent, while making the system more transparent and reducing costly and time-consuming litigation.

WHAT: Ceremonial Signing of Patent No. 8 Million

WHO: Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos
Second Sight President and CEO Robert Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D.
Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum Elizabeth Broun

WHEN: 11:00 a.m., Thurs., Sept. 8, 2011
*Press check-in: 10 a.m.

WHERE: Smithsonian American Art Museum - Nan Tucker McEnvoy Auditorium
8th and F Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Media Coverage: This event is open to the press. Press who wish to attend should RSVP to Paul.Fucito@uspto.gov.

About Patent No. 8 Million

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 product awarded patent no. 8,000,000 - the Argus® II - is designed to bypass 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 visual information along the optic nerve to the brain.