Chapter 17: The Patent Committee

Chapter 17: The Patent Committee



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In this chapter, Dr. Alexanian talks about the Patent Committee, designed to provide early documentation of innovations which would late be patented. He gives an example of a device invented by the nursing service to administer chemotherapy.



Publication Date



The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Building the Institution; MD Anderson Culture; Building/Transforming the Institution; Institutional Processes; Discovery and Success

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History


Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

I’m looking at some of the other committees you were on. Wow. You were on the Surveillance Committee for a while. Then there was the Patent Committee. Was that interesting [unclear]?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

No, it wasn’t.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Poor you. (laughs)

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Well, it was, at the time—I’m trying to remember what we did. Now, the Patent Committee, it was kind of—at first I thought it would be very boring, but occasionally there was an interesting problem would come up because if somebody felt that there was the potential for a patent, that person wanted to have some institutional protection that was evident in writing or something, so that the institution couldn’t really protect you too much legally, I guess, but at least it would be registered as an idea that was in writing, that was recorded, so that as that person is sometimes working with a drug company or other equipment company, to negotiate the terms for this patent. There was a lawyer on our committee, too, as you can imagine, so that this staff person could negotiate with some legal backing that was provided by the Patent Committee and its lawyer to work with you.

Otherwise, this person would run to the lawyer and work out something, and the lawyer would say, “I don’t know what you had. How do I know?” So they’d come to this committee, and the committee would substantiate that this was worthwhile and, therefore, had the stamp of our committee, and now you can set up some work with them.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Did that paper trail also help establish, you know, the date or origin? Because I can imagine that, you know, in a complicated—

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yes, I’m sure it did. I don’t know how much of that, something—it wasn’t so much—it doesn’t even have to be a medical [unclear]. I remember that the Nursing Service came to our committee, and I said, “Well, that’s unusual.” Well, they had a device. When you’re giving chemotherapy, you have these multipronged accesses. Now everyone sees it, but in those days, that was new. So they had something that would give three or four inputs to an IV line in a different sequence, but which also partly depended on the drugs going through. So there was a device that someone in their department devised, and there was an apparatus company that was interested in it, and so they said, “Well, what do we do now?”

They were told to come to the Patent Committee and we’ll say, “Here’s your patent.” Something like that developed. This was years ago, and I just don’t have the details and I don’t even know what happened to it. But you can see that something can develop like that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Sure. And just for the record, you were on that committee from ’83 to ’86, so I imagine those processes must be very, very different now, I mean [unclear].

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Probably. I don’t think we met every month, either. Maybe every two months.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Oh, really? Wow. Wow. I can just imagine that’s incredibly active now.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yeah, probably.

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Chapter 17: The Patent Committee