EFF / ParamountHave you ever read a patent and thought, “I feel like I’ve seen that in a Star Trek episode?”
Well, this month the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s patent sharpshooters have found a patent that quite literally had all of its key claim elements described by Star Trek—specifically, a 1998 episode of Deep Space Nine.
Earlier this week, EFF lawyer Vera Ranieri described the latest “Stupid Patent of the Month.” US Patent No. 6,612,985 is a “method and system for monitoring and treating a patient” and is owned by My Health Inc.
That company appears to be a non-practicing entity, and it has filed at least 30 lawsuits in the Eastern District of Texas, a well-known patent troll haven.
The patent pretty much describes figuring out how to treat a patient but “at a remote location” before updating their treatment plan and “generating compliance data.”
“This is not a new idea, and the patent doesn’t even claim how to do it, but only the idea of doing it (albeit with a bunch of patent-speak to make it look complicated),” writes Ranieri.
She goes on to point out that this is an actual plot for a Deep Space Nine episode.
Check out the edited scene below, annotated to correspond with the patent claims.
The simple idea of a doctor treating patients from afar seems like it must be as old as the idea of medicine itself, but that hasn’t stopped My Health from getting a patent.
But My Health has a special place in EFF’s long pantheon of Stupid Patents. My Health also has a stupid trademark for MY HEALTH.
In at least three instances, the company has actually filed trademark lawsuits, including one against General Electric last year.
Since 2005, GE has maintained a website called “myHealth” to serve its employees, retirees, and dependents who get their healthcare through the company.
Unlike a patent, you’re supposed to actually use a trademark if you want to sue someone for using it. GE lawyers did some poking around after they got sued and found out that My Health really doesn’t have any business outside of litigation.
“Plaintiff My Health, Inc. (MHI) has sold neither goods nor services under its claimed MY HEALTH trademark,” GE lawyers told (PDF) the Wisconsin judge who oversaw the trademark lawsuit.
Instead, discovery in this case has confirmed that MHI’s revenue-generating activity apparently is litigation and, specifically, collecting settlements for claims of infringement of its business method patent.
In this case, MHI has failed to produce in discovery a single shred of evidence of any bona fide sale of goods or services using the purported mark.
GE lawyers asked for the case to be thrown out. My Health didn’t oppose the motion, rather the company reached a quick settlement with GE.
So, My Health got a patent, got a trademark—and has been able to threaten companies and collect settlement cash ever since.
It’s a sad state of affairs, and the company certainly seems to have earned the EFF’s latest award.
Ars attempted to contact My Health, hoping to get founder and CEO Michael Eiffert, MD on the phone.
The company’s phone number is disconnected, and Eiffert didn’t respond to e-mailed requests for a comment.