Healing Patients Through Patent Law

Why chief intellectual property counsel Nadeem Bridi’s inclusion in Acelity’s rebranding efforts was critical to unifying the company

When Acelity L.P. Inc. invited its chief intellectual property counsel, Nadeem Bridi, to attend meetings about a major rebranding in 2014, he was more than ready to participate. As it turns out, his experience, combined with more than a decade of service, made him unusually qualified to help throughout the process.

At the time, there was no unifying brand identity, and since 2011, the company operated as separate business units. At the core was Kinetic Concepts Inc. (KCI), which was founded in 1976 by emergency room physician Dr. Jim Leininger in a one-bedroom apartment in San Antonio. KCI later introduced the first commercialized negative-pressure wound therapy technology, V.A.C. Therapy, in 1994. Bridi joined KCI as a patent attorney in 2001. He has been in his current role since 2009, overseeing and driving its global intellectual property portfolio.

Bridi jokes that the company wanted him in the branding meetings to represent the older generation. Participating employees shared stories about their experiences. He recalls learning about different perspectives from employees of LifeCell, which markets a unique tissue regeneration technology born out of treating burn patients. KCI acquired it in 2008.

He also learned about the rich history of Systagenix Wound Management Ltd., the former wound-care segment of Johnson & Johnson that KCI recently acquired in 2013.

“Then I told my story about my involvement with KCI. I talked about how V.A.C. Therapy treated some of the worst types of wounds you could imagine,” Bridi says. “Patients were literally on death’s door and had no other options. They’d try V.A.C. Therapy, and a couple of days later, surgeons would do a dressing change and gasp when they saw how well it worked.”

Patience Pays

Nadeem Bridi’s job has him on the move so much that the chief intellectual property counsel of Acelity L.P. Inc. calls himself an “accidental globetrotter.” As such, he’s learned how to deal with all the hassles of travel. “Don’t stress out over things you can’t control,” he says. “I’ve been delayed and held over, and you feel like the whole world is against you. My patience level has grown, and I’ve learned that a warm smile and a kind word is the best way to get where I need to be.”

He talked about meeting patients and doctors who had used V.A.C. Therapy. He recalls being in the room with researchers and scientists collaborating to improve the technology. He also told stories of times that KCI and its employees stepped up to help those in need by donating products and time. KCI has been charitable after terrorist attacks and natural disasters, including in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the September 11 attacks in New York City.

“I shared all that as we tried to build a new identity for the company and realized we all had a common theme, which was accelerating healing and bringing families back together again,” he says. “Ultimately, we created a word that truly evoked what we were about.”

In 2014, the switch to Acelity—the Latin root of the term refers to accelerated healing—became official, uniting the strengths of KCI, LifeCell, and Systagenix under one brand.

“To be frank, it felt like before we were three companies stumbling along together, but when we branded as one, it felt like a family coming together,” Bridi says. “You can feel it when you walk the halls and go to different locations, meeting different people who are coming on board. It’s palpable.”

When Bridi started, KCI was celebrating its twenty-fifth year in business.

“My focus then was on V.A.C. Therapy products, which have had many advances over the years,” Bridi says. “I embedded myself with engineers and scientists and learned about the products they were working on so I could write the patents.”

His responsibilities have grown with the acquisitions, but Bridi continues to stay close to product development to stay abreast of all new advancements.

“I get to see ideas just created out of thin air from the best engineers and scientists in our industry,” he says. “My team and I work with them to extract those ideas, putting pen to paper for the patents. As a patent attorney, it is a privileged opportunity to be a part of a team that brings such amazing products to the market. As in-house patent attorneys at Acelity, we have the unique opportunity to see and influence how ideas become healing technology. Ultimately, we get to meet the patients whose lives have been made better by the work we have done.”

Bridi loves every part of the process. He remembers his first office at KCI fondly; he was seated down the hall from both the lab and manufacturing facility, and enjoyed the easy access to both areas so he could learn from everyone.

Over the years, Bridi has not just received an education from engineers and scientists, but he’s also become their friend. And that has given him even more insights into the creative process. Often, Acelity scientists will simply be chatting with him over lunch about a solution they’re mulling over for a particular patient with a particularly challenging wound. “I can see the lightbulb go off and then a few engineers get involved in the conversation,” he says. “Often, I’m writing down notes as fast as I can, trying to capture as many ideas as I can.”

Bridi says that when he started at KCI, only two bookshelves held its patent documents, and the shelves weren’t very full. Now, Acelity has about 2,700 patents issued worldwide and more than 2,000 others pending. Every once in a while, Bridi will find himself scanning the halls of Acelity’s research facilities, where those patents are memorialized in plaques and are a reflection of his work there.

“It’s wonderful to see how much innovation has expanded,” he says. “Managing that growth has been both challenging and rewarding. As we’ve grown and been successful, we’ve become the gold standard in the field.”

With this success, plenty of competitors have attempted to imitate the company, but Bridi remains undaunted. Those patents are tangible proof that his team’s skills at protecting the company’s technology may be as effective as the technology itself.