Last fall/autumn (23 Oct), we noted that one company has developed the interesting tactic of going after users of health tech to gain fees. This was the curious case of one penny-stock company, patent holder and personal health record (PHR) developer MMRGlobal, sending out 250 letters per week to EHR/EMR users–practices, hospitals and notably pharmacies–to notify them of possible patent violations they were committing by using their contracted system, without licensing fees paid to MMR Global, and offering them licenses. As of late November the total was over 1,000. (FierceEMR, 28 Nov 12)
The evident aim of this fishing expedition was not to collect pennies from petite practices or pills from your local pharmacy, but to collect evidence of use for claims of patent violations from developers and large organizations. According to FierceEMR based on their November release, MMRG has signed license agreements valued at more than $30 million.
Here are the big tunas they are setting on the hook:
- At the end of January, the company filed suit against Walgreens in US District Court, claiming that Walgreens’ “Manage Your Prescription Service” infringes on MMRG’s patents and seeks not only an injunction but also to collect fees. (FierceEMR, 5 Feb; company announcement 31 Jan)
- In Australia, MMRG is investigating the National eHealth Transition Authority (Nehta), the federal/state entity rolling out a PHR, for infringement on patents it holds in Australia (The Australian, updated, 12 Feb, MarketWatch press release 5 Feb)
- Posted 8 February on the MMRG Facebook page, they will also investigate the Microsoft HealthVault/AARP partnership, adapting HealthVault for AARP Health Record, for “any possible infringements”
- And posted 7 Feb on Facebook, is this company also seeking to go into the insurance business? “Also very close to seeing the day when MMR Patent Infringement Protection is offered as part of underwriters Medical Malpractice Insurance coverage for hospitals.”
The timing is interesting, in that on 9 Jan (press release), they received approval for two more patents (with 57 claims, same as Heinz varieties) to their previous five in portfolio, and the release widely trumpets their global patents/pendings.
In December, Healthcare Holdings Group, a small Florida-based EHR company–one of those 600-odd in the US market–licensed for five years the patents around the MMRG PHR, MyMedicalRecords. This EHR had developed its own PHR and patient portal, AccessMyRecords. The announcement by the HHG CEO was not partnership language:
“In spite of the fact that our two companies regularly compete in the marketplace, we recognize the importance of MMR’s Patent Portfolio as we approach requirements under the HITECH Act mandating the use of Personal Health Records and Patient Portals by 2014. Therefore, for the benefit of our clients and shareholders, we have made the decision to license the technology at this time. Although we approach the market differently, we both have a mission to provide seamless connectivity between patients and physicians.The Agreement with MMR is consistent with HCH’s position to enhance and support industry-wide standardization efforts. HCH will launch its MU-1 compliant EHR at HIMSS13.” (HealthcareITNews, 18 Dec)
Unlike NPEs as defined by Mr. Felts, MMRG evidently seems capable of marketing its own system in conjunction with a licensee, Interbit, announcing 6 Jan that the MMR portal will be used in a Michigan hospital. The company CEO is also very active with governmental entities, based on activities posted on the MMRGlobal Facebook page, which is there for anyone to see with a Facebook account–and will be sitting in the audience for the State of the Union address.
There is a long road between lawsuit and settlement (especially in the US contingency system), but the activities of this company give us a view of a particularly audacious endgame.