Why CliniComp Is Suing Cerner for Patent Infringement

The lawsuit could be an important litmus test for future litigation, as CliniComp seems to claim it has a patent on cloud-based EHR systems.

CliniComp is suing Cerner for patent infringement, according to a filing made this week in the United States District Court of Southern California.

US Patent No. 6,665,647 (‘647 patent), filed in 1999 and published in 2003, granted CliniComp’s founder Chris Haudenschild the legal ownership of a patent for a remotely-hosted enterprise healthcare information management system. The new suit claims Cerner’s cloud-based Millennium electronic health records (EHR) infrastructure directly infringes on that patent.

The lawsuit comes less than 2 months after a federal claims court dismissed another lawsuit involving the two companies. After the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) selected Cerner to take over its EHRs, CliniComp sued the VA for awarding the contract without a bidding process. CliniComp appealed that dismissal and proposed a settlement agreement in November.

Some outlets report that this week’s patent lawsuit could be a retaliation for that previous case. Whether the claim stands up could be an important litmus test for future litigation: Most of the other large EHR providers offer similar cloud-based systems, and a spokesperson for CliniComp indicated to FierceHealthcare that the company was looking into other infringement cases.

The original patent contains open language, and it does allude to the “cloud” concept once: “In such a manner information is accepted into the Internet at one location, routed through various Internet servers within the cloud, and then received at a final location.”

“It is to be understood that various different modifications are possible and are contemplated within the true spirit and scope of the appended claims,” the filing concludes. “There is no intention, therefore, of limitations to the exact abstract or disclosure herein presented.”

Although cloud computing was first theorized in the 1960’s, the ‘647 patent was filed before interest in the technology exploded in the last decade, and years before the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) Act drove EHR usage from under 50% of health systems to near-ubiquity.

“In 1997, CliniComp invented and patented a groundbreaking technology that used the internet to manage electronic healthcare enterprise systems,” Haudenschild told FierceHealthcare. He said that through “careful analysis” his company had determined Cerner to be in violation of their patent.

CliniComp is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against Cerner, as well as damages and legal fee reimbursement. It says it has suffered greatly, and without the injunction, it will “continue to suffer severe competitive harm, irreparable injury, and significant damages, in an amount to be proven at trial.”