Do you often feel like the goals of IT and the goals of healthcare don't quite match up? If so, you may have been spending too much time thinking about the budget. Perhaps you should take a break and briefly consider the case of so-called "obvious patents," another issue that finds healthcare and IT at odds. The issue at hand is as follows: should technology developers be able to file patents for technologies that are "obvious?" A key part of understanding the problem is understanding what "obvious" means in a legal context. Many times an "obvious" device is one that combines two extant technologies. Currently, the U.S. judicial system allows companies to file "obvious" patents, under certain guidelines. Should companies be allowed to patent such technology in the first place or should only inexorable technologies be eligible?
Here's where the split lies: IT companies (especially hardware manufacturers) dislike obvious patents, as they feel such patents stifle innovation. On the other hand, the healthcare industry (especially biotech companies) like the system the way it stands, as it allows for new combinations of existing compounds or drugs.
At any rate, the issue may soon come to a head. A case involving two tech companies (KSR vs. Teleflex) that will be decided on the grounds of obviousness will soon go before the Supreme Court and will allow the court to revisit the issue. Both the healthcare and tech industries have worked themselves into a fervor trying to lobby for their respective positions. Being involved in health IT, the intersection of those two industries, we find ourselves in a unique position. Whose side are you on?
For more on patent obviousness:
- see this Ars Technica article