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A Urologist’s ‘Voicebox’ Is The Center Of An Intellectual Property Debate


In Massachusetts, a recent case has emerged that centers on the work of Dr. Joseph Grocela, a urologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Grocela invents his own devices while he is off the clock, and created something he calls a “voicebox” in 2011.

However, the voicebox has been the subject of a heated intellectual property debate between Dr. Grocela and his employer, MGH and its corporate parent, Partners HealthCare System.

Dr. Grocela claims that because he invented the device in his own home and it was developed for one’s larynx and not for urological purposes — which he asserts has nothing to do with what MGH pays him for – he is the rightful owner of the voicebox device.

However, MGH and Partners HealthCare System disagree.

They claimed ownership over the invention because Dr. Grocela signed a intellectual property agreement with the hospital.

You can read the full court decision directly below:



  • Andrew Beckerman-Rodau, professor of law and co-director of the Intellectual Property Law Concentration at Suffolk Law School
  • Michael Meurer, professor of law at Boston University School of Law

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  • J__o__h__n

    This technology could be used for evil if the urologist develops the voicebox for his usual area of expertise and a new right wing talk radio host is born. 

  • J__o__h__n

    Even high level employees can get screwed when we overly value sanctity of contract when there isn’t equal bargaining power.

  • maine_maddog

    I don’t think that as a scientist, I should need to have a lawyer
    present to go over my employment contract. Most individuals would assume that an
    IP agreement covers their work activities, which I have no problem with – but not any and all activities OUTSIDE of work.  Unfortunately, that was an incorrect assumption on my part.

    I have no idea what Dr. Grucela’s situation is, but as a patent holder myself, I don’t feel that MGH or any other institution has the right to things that I do in my own time. That is the largest issue for me.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to this egregious over-reach on MGH’s part.

  • J__o__h__n

    Meghna, don’t say incentivize.

    • Meghna Chakrabarti

      You’ll be amused to know that as the sentence was coming out of my mouth, I felt the word “incentivize” on my lips and grimaced. But in the moment, it was admittedly quicker than saying, “…to provide incentives to…” Still, verbal faux pas. My bad. (Ha, ha.)

      • J__o__h__n

        Just don’t do it again!  :) 

  • Rick Becker

    Welcome to the cold cruel world of being an ‘independent’ researcher.

    If you would like to benefit from 25 years of IP combat experience, because I really understand the nature of your problem, and what it ‘costs’ to be free of a very unfair and innovation-stifling counter-productive system.

    No strings attached, just one polymath to another.


    please e-mail: ionsourcerer at mac dot com

  • Mary

    Now you know why Silicon Valley happened in California and not here..

  • Richard A. Goren, Esq.

    Does this case  go too far, you ask.  Is it right that Partners’ Billion dollar inventions business should own Dr. Grocela’s brain!  His contract permits him to  moonlight in an inventions business .   Yet it was immaterial  that Dr. Grocela invented his music invention, on his own time at home, and at his sole risk.  It is owned by Partners not because Dr. Grocela is paid to invent–he is not–not because he used hospital resources or secrets, but because the invention incorporated Joseph Grocela’s  knowledge and experience.  That goes too far!

    Richard A. Goren, Esq. (Dr. Grocela’s lawyer)


  • Billcole 29

    Would they also own the rights to any books he authored?  How is that different from intellectual ideas like an invention?  

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