More than ideas: ’93 grad’s patents stretch worldwide

Rich Dettinger

18 years after graduating from UW-L with a degree in Computer Science, Rich Dettinger has been issued164 patents.

His patents are helping industry-leading specialists with research ranging from patent mining to searching for disease markers in the human genome.

Computer Science grad Rich Dettinger, ’93, is a pro when it comes to developing patents. To date, he has 164 patents in 40 countries around the world, including China, Taiwan and throughout Europe.

“I’m always looking for better ways to do things. You get good at recognizing opportunities,” he says. “If you recognize the problems or the holes in other people’s solutions, you can leverage that to invent new things and solve new problems.”

His patents are all related to software solutions and were all acquired as a software engineer for IBM over 13 years. Many had co-inventors who helped make the idea stronger. Out of all his patents, Dettinger is particularly proud of a patent technology called Abstract Database, an idea he developed for Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which allows medical researchers and doctors to extract complex medical research information from databases using medical concepts they understand instead of complex computer languages.

Securing patents is one part science, one part art and one part persuasive speaking, says Dettinger. For many patents, he had to first convince a review board his idea was sound and then turn around and convince the patent officials why other ideas did not adequately solve the same problems.

“I have been a pretty good lawyer along the way,” he says. “I could argue why something was novel in one breath and then turn around and argue why it was not in the next.”

Dettinger left IBM more than a year ago to become a program director for a start-up company, Preventice, with fellow alum, Jon Otterstatter. Otterstatter founded the company with three others. Preventice develops mobile applications related to health such as applications to monitor heart rate or sleep apnea.

Dettinger says it’s a venue to continue to work on novel ideas and, of course, apply for more patents.

Featured in the Winter 2011-12 Magazine