Theranos Doesn't Exist Anymore, But Its Patents Live On

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Dec. 9 2021, Published 2:01 p.m. ET

Elizabeth Holmes was once a billionaire and one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 emerging leaders. Now, as Holmes' defense rests in a trial accusing her of wire fraud, the company that got her in this situation—Theranos—is under the spotlight.

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What happened to Theranos and, perhaps more importantly, what legacy will it leave as Holmes and her former boyfriend and business partner, Sunny Balwani, face judiciary judgment?

Theranos officially closed down in 2018.

Although the drama surrounding the so-called blood test tech company started in 2015, Theranos didn't officially become defunct until three years later in 2018.

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One year before The Washington Post published the first in a series of articles questioning the legitimacy of Theranos, Holmes was worth about $4.5 billion on paper. This made her the youngest "self-made" female billionaire at the time. When the publication revealed that Theranos used commercial blood analyzers—and not the proprietary machine that scored billions from investors over a 12-year period—that the story started to change.

Holmes spent the next few years trying to collect the ever-scattering pieces of Theranos, a business that once seemed so innovative and secure. Balwani left the company in 2016 as part of a larger corporate restructuring and Holmes continued to deal with lawsuits and investigations galore. That same year, Theranos closed its medical lab operations indefinitely.

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By 2018, the company became fully defunct in a move that didn't free Holmes or Balwani from the drama, but rather escalated it on a national scale.

Holmes used existing Theranos patents as part of her defense.

Holmes' defense now rests in the trial where she's fighting against multiple counts of wire fraud. During the defense, Holmes' team displayed Theranos patents to increase the company's (or at least Holmes') perceived legitimacy.

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However, prosecutors found the evidence irrelevant. U.S. Attorney Robert Leach said, "They’re pieces of paper. They’re not proof that the technology worked."

Ultimately, the judge at the helm of the trial, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila, decided to accept early patents only and block the use of patents from later years being used as part of the defense.

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Theranos wasn't ever public.

Theranos was always a privately held company. Sometimes, it offered up private stock to keep investors interested. After bankruptcy in 2018, that stock liquidated at the same price it was originally issued, a full $0.18.

Did Theranos investors ever get their money back?

Some lawsuits resulted in multi-million-dollar settlements that required Theranos to pay back investors. For example, Theranos had to refund Arizona investors to the tune of $4.65 million dollars in 2017. That same year, institutional investor Partner Fund Management proposed a $96 million settlement, although the deal's end terms weren't disclosed.

If Holmes is found guilty of fraud, she could face big fines and decades in prison for the alleged crimes. A documentary about Theranos' demise, called The Inventor, came out in 2019. A new movie featuring Jennifer Lawrence is set to be released on Amazon Prime in the future. Regardless of the trial outcomes for Holmes and Balwani, the story for Theranos has largely already been written in history. A verdict on individual guilt might not change that, but we'll have to wait and see.

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