The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has thrown out MyMedicalRecords' (MMR) patent claim against Walgreens and other companies on the grounds that the purported patent is based on an abstract idea and thus patent-ineligible.
MMR had sued Walgreens, the lead defendant in this case, alleging that its 466 patent is built on proprietary, patented technology, and that Walgreens infringed on the patent by making, using, offering for sale and/or selling its methods and systems. Other defendants named in the consolidated lawsuit included Quest, WebMD, Jardogs and Allscripts. Walgreens settled its suit with MMR in early 2014.
According to the court, MMR had claimed a patent on a method of collecting, accessing and managing personal health records (PHRs) in a secure and private manner using conventional computer components and the Internet. MMR did not claim to have invented the computer components; the patent relates to the idea of providing access to and storage and maintenance of healthcare records in secured, organized files.
The court found that the patent was invalid. To be patent-eligible, a claim must fall within one of four subject matter categories; even if it does so, a claim still may not qualify for a patent if it's coextensive with a natural phenomenon, laws of nature or abstract ideas. The court found the concept of access to and secure management of records an "age old" idea; without more, it was not patentable.
"[The] patent recites an invention that is merely the routine and conventional use of the Internet and computer with no additional specific features. ... [The] patent claims are directed to nothing more than the performance of a long-known abstract idea 'from the pre-Internet world'--collecting, accessing and managing health records in a secure and private manner--on the Internet or using a conventional computer," the court determined.
MMR, which has denied that it's a patent "troll," has vigorously defended its patents against possible infringers, and has contacted and offered licenses on its patents to more than 1,000 hospitals, group practices and others, signing license agreements valued at more than $30 million. It is not yet known how the court decision will affect all of these licensing agreements, or whether MMR will appeal the ruling.
The decision may, however, affect pending and future patent infringement lawsuits involving electronic health records, PHRs and the Internet.
To learn more:
- read the court decision