In the 1980s Dr Graeme Clarke and a team from the University of Melbourne developed an ear implant to assist hearing-impaired and profoundly deaf people who are unable to benefit from traditional hearing aids. Today this device – the Cochlear implant – is used by over 10 000 people worldwide. Individual elements of the device are protected by patent, which guarantees a return for the original investors in the idea.
THE PRODUCT: COCHLEAR IMPLANT
The Cochlear ‘bionic ear’ consists of two parts: a head set consisting of a 22-channel stimulator in a titanium capsule with platinum electrodes, which is implanted inside the skull behind the ear, close to residual nerve fibres; and a pocket speech processor. The Cochlear implant is manufactured entirely in Australia and exports make up 95 per cent of its sales.
THE STRATEGY: PATENT THE RESEARCH AND ALL KEY FEATURES OF THE DEVICE
Cochlear Pty Ltd has over 180 patents in seven countries protecting key features of the implant. The University of Melbourne and the Commonwealth hold patents covering early research that has been licensed to Cochlear.
The University and the Commonwealth have earned over $8 million in royalties from this IP.