Ophthalmology with perspectives

IP-refinement with strong partners - for its entry into the US market, the Zurich Eye Clinic IROC teams up with licensees.


In the USA, there are so-called cancer treatment centres. These are special private clinics with extremely close contact to the laboratories of colleges and industry - a model that is now also setting a precedent in the European health systems.


In this country, the Zurich Eye Clinic, established in 2002, ranks among the pioneers. The clinic has 32 employees, 20 of whom have day-to-day working contact with the patients and a further six who form an R+D department that has already won innumerable international prizes and at present are administering 11 patents.
“At first we believed that we could commercialise our intellectual property ourselves,” explained IROC CEO Michael Mrochen. “But we have had to accept that we are overreaching ourselves.” The decision was therefore made to increase the number of production and selling licences granted.


This strategy confronted the IP management with the highest demands because the entire patenting process must be attuned to the development of feasibility studies and business plans. “Without a definite business model,” says the 39-year old physicist Michael Mrochen, “no patent can be licensed.”


At the moment, great hopes are placed on a treatment with cornea stabilisation for defective vision in Zurich - an alternative to the conventional laser technique. Discussions with possible partners are now taking place, naturally under the cover of non-disclosure agreements, because Michael Mrochen knows: “The business processes that we propose to our partners are not disclosed in any patent specification and must remain secret.”


The global market for eye corrections is worth around five billion francs, whereby the country with the greatest sales – as in all branches of medical technology – is the USA.  A largely private health system rewards innovative suppliers but also ensures competition in which IP infringements are everyday routine.


IROC CEO Michael Mrochen is already reckoning with imitators, claims and processes. For him, the future US partner must therefore have well-filled coffers: “Legal disputes in the USA are extremely expensive. Even for the winner.”