Is mobile health about to enter a patent thicket?

By MHN Staff
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Statistics On mHealth Patenting Activity

The sections that follow summarize some key aspects of patenting activity associated with the mHealth industry. Before discussing the numbers, it is important to understand the methodologies I used in my research, to help you understand some inherent limitations in the data I collected.

There is no agreed definition of mHealth, and no government or private sector entity (that I am aware of) which tracks mHealth patents. Categorizing mHealth patents one at a time would take years, so I resorted to key word searching several comprehensive patent databases to collect information about mHealth patents. I believe that patents covering component parts of mHealth products can be as important to mHealth companies as patents covering entire mHealth products, so I used relatively broad search strings in my research. I performed full text key word searches using the following search string: (health or “health care” or healthcare or medical) and (wireless or WiFi). I am sure that the keywords I selected were both over-inclusive and under-inclusive, so you should not treat the charts below as objective data on the absolute number of mHealth patents and applications in the system. Rather, focus on the trends revealed by the charts, which are very instructive and less likely to mislead.

mHealth Companies are Investing Heavily in Patent Protection and Large Numbers of Patents Will Issue in the Next Few Years

The chart immediately below provides a rough estimate of the volume of patent applications related to mHealth filed in the United States each year. Thousands of patent applications related to mHealth are being filed each year, and the number of applications has increased steadily since 2000. The Patent Office’s historical grant rate is slightly above 50 percent, and the average pendency for a patent application is about three years. In other words, the large number of patent applications that were filed between 2008 and 2011 will soon begin issuing as patents.

Patents Chart 1