After the conversation, we performed a patent search out of curiosity. During the search, we uncovered a US patent application that claims in large part the procedure followed by Dr. Chopra. The bibliographic information of the patent and the principal claim are provided hereunder for your reference:
Methods for treating opthalmalogical conditions using micro-acupuncture (en)
Inventors: Per Otte, Hot Springs Village, ARKANSAS, United States of America
A method of treating opthalmological conditions, including macular degeneration, myopia, hyperopia, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa and eye floaters in a patient using micro-acupuncture. The method includes the steps of placing needles in the patient at key trigger points for a prescribed period of time and then removing the needles.
1. A method for treating opthalmalogical conditions in a patient comprising the steps of: (1) inserting a plurality of needles in respective key trigger points on left and right hands and feet of the patient; (2) waiting a period of time; and (3) removing the plurality of needles from the patient; wherein the respective key trigger points include GB/A located at an outer, distal end of a fourth metatarsal on bottom side of one of the left and right feet; KI/A located proximate a middle of a distal end of a third metatarsal on the bottom side of said one foot; LI/A located at an outer, distal end of a first metatarsal on the bottom side of said one foot; SP/A located at an inner, distal end of the first metatarsal on the bottom side of said one foot; LI/B located at an outer proximal end of the first metatarsal on the bottom side of said one foot; GB/B located at an outer, proximal end of a fourth metatarsal on a bottom side of an other of said left and right feet; GB/A located at an outer, distal end of the fourth metatarsal on the bottom side of said other foot; ST/A located proximate a middle of a distal end of a second metatarsal on the bottom side of said other foot; LI/A located at an outer, distal end of a first metatarsal on the bottom side of said other foot; SP/A located at an inner, distal end of the first metatarsal on the bottom side of said other foot; SI/A located at an outer, distal end of a fifth metacarpal on a palm side of one of the left and right hands of said patient; E/A located at an outer, distal end of a fourth metacarpal on the palm side of said one hand; LU/A located at an outer, distal end of the first metacarpal on the palm side of said one hand; H/A located at an inner, distal end of a fifth metacarpal on a palm side of an other of said left and right hands of said patient; and LU/A located at an outer, distal end of a first metacarpal on a palm side of said other hand.
The patent application would not merit patent grant in USA because it would not satisfy the novelty and non-obviousness requirements. The question with respect to patentability of the invention in India and Europe is very straight forward because medical methods are not patentable in both jurisdictions. As the patent specifically claims a method for treatment of eye disorders, it would be rejected based on non-satisfaction of patentable subject matter requirement.
As the method described in the patent application is not only being practised for many years but has also been documented, the method would fall within the scope of prior art. Therefore, it would not satisfy the novelty requirement. Though a few variations have been claimed, such variations would be obvious to a person skilled in the art and therefore, non-obviousness requirement would not be met. Assuming that the method satisfies both novelty and non-obviousness requirements, the patent would still not have value because medical procedures are patentable but not enforceable in USA. After an eye surgeon acquired a patent with respect to a method of performing an eye surgery through a cut that enables faster healing and attempted to enforce it against doctors (Pallin’s case), a legislation restricting the enforceability of medical procedures was passed in USA. In sucha scenario, why did the inventors file for a patent?
The answer to this question may range from poor understanding of patent law to strategic use of patent system to gain recognition and business advantage. In addition to acquiring a patent for gaining commercial benefit through exclusivity, the patent system may also be used for business advantage even if a patent may finally not be granted. Knowing pretty well that a patent will finally not be granted, many persons file a patent application with an aim of marking their products with the phrase “patent pending” because that would lend credibility and deter competitors thereby providing business advantage. In addition, some persons also file patent applications with an objective to gain recognition through patent publication, which would inturn provide business advantage. Patent applications are also filed as a defensive strategy to prevent patent grants to others and to create precedents with respect to new applications.
Unlike most Indian doctors, many physicians and surgeons in USA are not only aware of the patent regime but also use it to gain business advantage in many ways. The present application, has been abandoned by the applicants by not filing a response to the office action from USPTO. So, the information in the application is in the public domain and any one can practise it without any restriction.
Note: This post has been inspired by Dr. Chopra’s contribution to treatment of eye disorders through his innovative acupuncture microsystem technique.