Is mobile health about to enter a patent thicket?

By MHN Staff

The next chart provides a rough estimate of the number of patents related to mHealth that issued since 2000.  Issuance of new patents spiked in 2010, approximately two years after the surge in mHealth-related patent applications.  The spike in new patents will continue into 2013 and 2014, as the Patent Office finishes processing the slew of applications filed in 2010 and 2011.

Patents Chart 2

Considering the number of pending and issued patents that relate to mHealth, it is likely that the mHealth industry will soon find itself in a patent thicket, in which many different patent owners hold blocking patents on widely-adopted, essential technologies.  Patent thickets tend to increase the cost of doing business for established companies (money losing start-ups are rarely sued for patent infringement).

The Poor Economy and Tight Funding Environment are Hampering Small Entities’ Patenting Efforts, and Large Companies are Capturing the Majority of the mHealth IP Frontier

The two charts below indicate that large companies are capturing the vast majority of intellectual property related to mHealth.  It is likely that large companies’ research, development, and patent budgets were less impacted by the sour economy than smaller companies’ budgets.  The likely result of this funding disparity is that large companies are probably capturing most of the foundational mHealth patents granted by the Patent Office.

Patents Chart 3

Patents Chart 4