Federal Circuit Affirms PTAB Ruling in Health Care Management System Patent Dispute

The Federal Circuit ruled Tuesday in a per curiam opinion that certain claims of Clinicomp International Inc.’s patent for a method of consolidating legacy software and updated software for health care management systems are patentable, affirming a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

Cerner Corporation and athenahealth Inc. originally petitioned the PTAB to review the patentability of claims 1-25 and 50-55 of U.S. Patent 6,665,647, covering a technology that “allows healthcare enterprises to preserve existing legacy applications while simultaneously phasing in new or updated applications on the same system,” the court explained. The PTAB agreed with the petitioners on claims 50-55 but maintained that claims 1-25 were patentable, so Cerner appealed to this circuit court — only for the panel to affirm the PTAB judgment.

The health care management system that the patent-in-suit describes works with health care enterprises, so it has the capability of separately storing data and applications of distinct enterprises while allowing them to share access to some applications. At dispute is the claim 1’s “storing” clause which addresses “the partitioning of data for multiple enterprises so as to allow the storing of ‘(the) first healthcare data in a first portion of the database associated with the first healthcare enterprise facility’ and separately storing ‘(the) second healthcare data in a second portion of the database associated with the second healthcare enterprise facility.’”

Cerner argued on its appeal that the PTAB determination was based on a misconstrued definition of the term “portion.” The court said there was a fundamental issue with this argument.

“The problem for Cerner is that it never asked the Board to construe the term ‘portion’ in the storing clause of claim 1 and the Board did not do so,” according to the court.

Cerner additionally argued on appeal that the PTAB’s “explanation for its reasoning was lacking”; the circuit judges found this unpersuasive, according to the opinion.

Claims 2-25 are contingent on the first claim of the patent, the court noted, so the panel’s discussion focused just on claim 1.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. represents Cerner while Fish & Richardson represents athenahealth. Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP represents Clinicomp.