Months after challenging the Department of Veterans Affairs’ decision to tap Cerner to replace its EHR, CliniComp is waging a new legal battle alleging the EHR giant infringed a decades-old patent.
The lawsuit, filed this week in the Southern District of California, claims that Cerner directly infringed a patent (PDF) originally filed by CliniComp CEO Chris Haudenschild in 1997 for an “enterprise healthcare management system” that provides users with access to “remotely hosted turnkey healthcare applications” via a public network. The complaint (PDF) makes specific references to the remote hosting capabilities on Cerner’s Millennium architecture that mirror the technology described in CliniComp’s patent. The lawsuit asks for permanent injunctive relief along with treble damages “as a result of Cerner’s willful infringement.”
Cerner may not be the company’s only target. A CliniComp spokesperson said the company is also analyzing potential patent infringement cases against other EHR vendors.
“In 1997, CliniComp invented and patented a groundbreaking technology that used the internet to manage electronic healthcare enterprise systems,” Haudenschild said in a statement to FierceHealthcare. “Over the course of the last year, we have determined after a careful analysis that Cerner is directly infringing on our patented technology.”
“[The] legal action is simply a necessary step to protect CliniComp’s intellectual property that was developed and patented two decades ago,” he added.
The complaint kicks off what will likely be a long and drawn out legal battle. While CliniComp argues the merits of its patent, which was approved in 2003, Richard Beem, a patent attorney in Chicago who has filed several patents for EHR companies, expects Cerner will challenge the patent, arguing that it is too vague and not technical enough to apply to modern EHR systems.
“Bottom line is this case is probably not going away easily or quickly for Cerner,” he says. But, Cerner has a “thick hide and deep pockets,” he added, and CliniComp may be a long way from obtaining an injunction against the EHR giant or collecting a payout from the complaint.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of CliniComp’s lawsuit against the VA following Secretary David Shulkin’s decision to award Cerner a no-bid contract to replace its ailing VistA system. The VA is still finalizing an estimated $10 billion contract, and CliniComp is in the midst of appealing a decision by a federal claims court to dismiss the case.
A CliniComp spokesperson insisted that the patent infringement lawsuit is the result of detailed analysis of the two EHR systems and unrelated to its case against the VA, adding that the company plans to push forward with its complaint against Cerner regardless of how the court decision shakes out. But the timing appears more than coincidental.
“One way to get into a lawsuit is to win a bid, and then your competitor starts looking for a way to throw a wrench in the works,” Beem says.