Bosch sues three competitors over Health Buddy patents

By: Neil Versel | Feb 14, 2012        

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Health Buddy now BoschRobert Bosch Healthcare Systems has sued three makers of remote home health monitoring technology, claiming that the competitors infringed on patents for Bosch’s Health Buddy system.

The telehealth business of German industrial conglomerate Robert Bosch GmbH filed three separate lawsuits last month in federal court in California against: mobile health monitoring technology vendor MedApps, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Austin, Texas-based startup Waldo Networks; and telehealth vendor Express MD Solutions, Berkeley Heights, N.J. At press time, MobiHealthNews was awaiting copies of the lawsuits, but spokeswoman Cheryl Kilborn of Robert Bosch LLC, the U.S. affiliate of Robert Bosch GmbH and parent of Bosch Healthcare said the three cases relate to intellectual property.

“We feel it is important to demonstrate that IP is important, and not just to our company,” Kilborn told MobiHealthNews. “Bosch Healthcare Systems, like most high-tech companies, values its intellectual property as an essential asset of its business,” she added in an e-mailed statement.”Bosch is open to working with those companies that are interested in securing this technology through a licensing agreement, and we are in discussion with numerous companies in this regard.”

Bosch is seeking to have the court order the three defendants to stop marketing their products, plus unspecified punitive damages.

The three companies do, like Bosch, market products for home-based health monitoring. MedApps makes connectivity software and devices for home health, including the HealthPAL data-transmission unit. Express MD Solutions offers the Electronic House Call vitals monitor and various Web-based telehealth services.

Waldo Networks, formerly Waldo Health, developed a tablet-based home monitoring system. There isn’t much online about Waldo Networks, but the company won a local IBM contest last year and raised $750,000 in private equity in 2010. (This 2010 video demonstrates the technology.) The websites for both Waldo Health and Waldo Networks were down on Monday.

MedApps CEO and founder Kent Dicks said that the suit against his company was baseless. “We obviously don’t infringe their patents,” he told MobiHealthNews. Dicks added that two patents mentioned in the suit are set to expire at the end of 2012, so it was unclear what Bosch’s intent is with the legal action.

Express MD also denied the claims. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week, parent company Authentidate Holding Corp. said that Express MD had, along with EncounterCare Solutions, co-licensed the Bosch technology. We believe that we have strong defenses to [Bosch’s] allegations and we intend to vigorously defend the litigation,” the filing said. Express MD further stated that it countersued Bosch on Jan. 27.

Citing company policy, Kilborn declined to discuss specifics of each case.

Since 2009, Bosch and disease management services provider Healthways have been licensing their remote health monitoring, automated diagnostics and health/disease management technology. Bosch acquired the Health Buddy in a 2007 takeover of Health Hero Network, a firm founded by technology entrepreneur Steve Brown.

  • Paul Sonnier

    Excellent reporting illustrating the challenging digital health landscape. There are some thought provoking comments (from varying perspectives of those intimate with this topic and the companies) in the Wireless Health LinkedIn group:

  • Steve Hards

    Interesting… but there are some other points to consider.

    First is that if you are a technology start-up you should make sure to ‘cover your butt’ as far as patents are concerned.

    Second, it is not as if Bosch’s patent portfolio and its wide-ranging nature is not well known. My understanding is that the company’s initial approaches to companies it suspects of infringing its patents is quite low-key. Well, iron fist in a velvet glove, perhaps, but at least the glove doesn’t come off until the infringing company shows that it intends to ignore the matter or, worse, takes a belligerent stand. My sources tell me that if companies respond positively to the Bosch approach, a low-cost deal that covers the company and satisfies Bosch’s need to be seen to protect its patents can be struck. If not, they end up paying a lot more one way or another.

    Third, it is not just small start-ups that Bosch tackles. Remember the patents case with Alere in 2008-10? Alere had to back down and reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum. [ and long links shortened]

    Steve Hards
    Editor, Telecare Aware

  • deetelecare

    Neil, excellent reporting and digging into responses.  Having been with a company (Living Independently Group, developer of QuietCare) that was on the challenging side of telecare system patents against at least two competitors during my time. I would agree with my editor Steve below that usually the first approach by the patent owner/chief licensor is a light one–basically cease and desist, or make a licensing deal.  One competitor smartened up and developed monitoring algorithms that finally were different enough from QuietCare to be patentable on their own. The other imploded due to other factors.

    That being said, I am really wondering why Bosch chose to come down hard to enforce a patent expiring at end of year on a company that’s been operating for some time–MedApps–and gaining some traction vs. Health Buddy in the AT&T ForHealth ecosystem; a startup hardly out of beta  (Waldo) with system features quite different, and a purported licensor of Health Buddy technology (Authentidate/Express MD).  Could this be driven by sharp elbowed competitive reasons, perhaps from outside the US?  If so, the sharp elbows can win, but what is the cost in partnerships and their leadership position?

    Donna Cusano
    Editor, North America
    Telecare Aware

  • SarahAnn 1025

    Steve, your comments are alittle concerning to me because you left out 1 very important factor.   What if the companies that were approached to license actually did not infringe the patents in question, and they didn’t want to license the whole portfolio for many many years. In your world, those that didn’t come forward and license were considered to be “ignoring the matter” or “belegerent”.  What if they actually were innocent and didn’t want to be forced with a gun to their head to license a portfolio they didn’t need or want?   And why would they license a patent (7,223,236) that even the Patent Office is in final efforts of finding invalid, because of prior art (The Buddy System / FDA Submission from 1986/1987) and could be the baseline for invalidating a wide array of patents in the portfolio?

  • John

    This type of story makes me think that it will be hard for any startup company to do much in the telehealth space.  I bet the patent trolls in the telehealth space are all just sitting there waiting to pounce on people.  Considering the big names that have invested so much money on over the top telehealth systems, I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise.

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