Frederick Shelton IV, arguably the most prolific and financially successful inventors ever, is a Johnson & Johnson medical device innovator unknown to pretty much everyone except his employer.
With more than 700 patents issued and over 1,000 currently under pending, Shelton is the leader when it come to patent-generated revenue, according to a new startup, PatentVector.
Shelton is nowhere to be seen among prominent innovators of the 20th century. He works at Ethicon, a medical-devices subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. PatentVector values his inventions at $14 billion. No other inventor even comes close. His top three inventions are for a mechanical surgical instrument, surgical staples and the cartridge for the staples.
Ethicon, a medical-device maker, holds 95 of the world’s 200 most valuable patents, PatentVector finds. The firm, as reported in The Economist “also employs Jerome Morgan, who is listed in second place with $5 billion worth of patents, many overlapping with Mr Shelton’s. [There is no reported data about product or licensing revenue associated with Shelton’s patents.]
“Only one other person is in the $5 billion club: Shunpei Yamazaki, president of Semiconductor Energy Laboratory, a Japanese research-and-development firm. Mr Yamazaki’s most important patent covers the displays on computers, cameras and other semiconductor devices.”
65 people have each achieved inventions worth $1billion, according to a new patent valuation tool
Shelton, who wears only Hawaiian shirts, lives on an Ohio ranch where he has 15 full-sized donkeys and 20 miniature cows.
PatentVector employs artificial intelligence to review 132 million patent documents kept by the European Patent Office in Munich, reports The Economist. Then it evaluates how frequently a patent is cited and, then, how frequently it is cited by patents that are themselves cited frequently — a method of patent quality analysis that has been around since the 1960s that some owners embrace more than others.
“That provides an indication of importance which is then multiplied by a mean value of patents based on an estimate by James Bessen, an economist at Boston University, which has become a reference point.”
Bessen, as many IP CloseUp readers may recall, is part of the Bessen-Meurer team that produced the controversial 2008 book, “Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk.”
Attributed to these researchers is the repeatedly-debunked assertion that “NPE lawsuits are associated with half a trillion dollars of lost wealth to defendants from 1990 through 2010.”
PatentVector found 65 other people each responsible for patents worth in excess of $1billion. Only 14 of the top 650 are women.
Securing Its Own Technique
Based in Seattle, PatentVector offers no information about the firm on its single home page, just four media headlines. The company currently has 23 followers on LinkedIn. Andrew Torrance is listed as one of the firm’s two employees.
The Economist reports that the company “has patented its own technique” for identifying valuable patents. Justia Patents shows one grant and three USPTO applications under Andrew Torrance’s name.
The Economist story can be found here.
Image source: economist.com; J&J