• Ariel Chen

Are Property Rights the Start of The Corporate Battle for Telehealth Market Share?

As pandemic-induced demand for virtual care is surging, it becomes more challenging to find the right balance between intellectual property protections and supporting competitions within digital health organizations. The balance is needed to support more effective products and better outcomes for patients.

Last month at this time, top headlines in the industry were around Teladoc-Livingo Acquisition and Amwell IPO. This week, however, the headline is around property rights involves accusations by Teladoc that rival Amwell is infringing on patents tied to several digital devices. The patent war between these two giants is not new. In 2015, Amwell accused Teladoc of infringing on patents tied to communication software between patients and providers. Now Teladoc fights back, alleging Amwell that one or more of Amwell’s products “directly and indirectly infringe” patents that Teladoc took ownership of earlier this year through the acquisition of telemedicine startup InTouch in a deal announced in January.

For reference, Teladoc acquired these patents as part of their nearly $600 million acquisition of InTouch Technologies. The patents largely revolve around a mobile robot cart with a camera system and some of the peripherals like the digital scope system. Amwell has received widespread recognition for its novel technologies, solutions, and inventions. Amwell has a patent portfolio that includes 28 issued patents and 22 pending patent applications covering various aspects of this field.

This will be a key dividing line in digital health, with the onus on companies to prove their products are truly inventive. As was the case with Amwell in 2015, that will likely be far harder for health software, given its focus on automation. So far, companies have struggled to secure and enforce patents on those products.

As the digital health market continues grows, we are sure to see more battles among the telehealth companies. Intellectual property is just an early battle in the ongoing war to come.