Digital health is experiencing a boom in investment as the regulatory environment becomes more supportive of digital health services. But as companies seek to make the most of their funding and protect the innovations that drive their product, it is imperative that they protect their intellectual property from being copied or duplicated by others in the market.

What exactly is IP?

Intellectual Property (IP) is generally non-tangible property. You can hold your laptop in your hands or you can stand on a piece of land — those are both tangible examples of property. Intellectual property cannot be physically held or touched. Protections available for intellectual property generally break down into one of four areas: patents; trade secrets, trademark, and copyright.

Patent protection offers an additional layer of protection for digital health solutions compared to copyrights. For example, a company may be eligible for a patent if it has innovated a new approach to identifying data, a new approach to storing data more efficiently, or a new approach to the data structure itself—those are all ways where innovations could be patentable and help extend protection around data.

How does IP apply to data?

If, in a digital health patent application, a company focuses on innovation for a computer-specific problem—such as keeping data private, keeping data secure, de-identifying data—that is usually a homerun argument to the patent office for crossing the first threshold of eligibility for patenting.

This is one of the few areas where the patent office has made it clear that these ideas and invention types are considered patent eligible. Thereafter, of course, remains the traditional challenge of getting a patent, which is to prove that no one before you has invented what you’ve invented. But lately, in the digital health space, that challenge seems to be less difficult to overcome compared to the eligibility challenge.

How to protect IP


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Digital health companies are producing innovative products at a rapidly accelerating pace and experiencing a boom in investments and demand as the regulatory environment becomes more supportive of digital health services to both improve patient care and stay profitable. Protecting intellectual property (IP) and building a feasible data strategy to support the research and development

The digital health market is expected to grow beyond $379 billion by 2024, with a 27.7 percent compounded annual growth rate over the coming years. This activity is fueled by increasing demand for remote monitoring services, favorable government initiatives and funding, and the proliferation of mobile intelligent devices. An article by Rock Health noted that in 2018, “investors poured nearly $8.1B into the sector, surpassing 2017’s record-setting total of $5.7B by a whopping 42%.”

Amidst this growth, digital health startups are seeking to make the most of their funding and protect the innovations that drive their product. To do so, they must protect their intellectual property from being copied or duplicated by others in the market. Patents offer the strongest form of protection for innovations and can lead directly lead to increased investment. For digital health startups that eventually go public, valuation can reach $1.1 million per software patent application filed.

An issued patent in the United States gives the patent owner a 20-year monopoly right to stop others from making, using or selling the patented invention. A digital health company with a patent on a software feature—for example, a unique approach to dynamically generate a questionnaire based on user information for a remote health consult—has the right to stop competitors from making, selling or using software that includes that feature. Digital health companies, particularly pre-IPO, should develop a patenting strategy to assess how best to protect the innovations that drive their business and increase the company’s monetary value and longevity. If you have ever said one of the following phrases, your company likely will benefit from a discussion with patent counsel on how to protect your inventions:

  • We’re the first ones to ever do this.
  • None of our competition does this.
  • This feature drives a lot of business to our company.
  • This feature was really hard to implement, but we found a way to do it.


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