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American Well Corp. v. Teladoc, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 13, 2016

AMERICAN WELL CORP., Plaintiff,
v.
TELADOC, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Indira Talwani United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff American Well Corporation (“American Well”), the owner of Patent No. 7, 590, 550 (“‘550 patent”), alleges that Defendant Teladoc, Inc.’s (“Teladoc”) telehealth[1] system infringes on at least four of the ‘550 patent’s claims. Am. Compl. [#41]. Before the court is Teladoc’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint [#42] on the grounds that these four claims are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

         American Well argues that underlying claim construction disputes preclude this court from addressing Teladoc’s motion to dismiss at this stage. American Well is correct that it may sometimes be “desirable-and often necessary-to resolve claim construction disputes prior to a § 101 analysis [because] the determination of patent eligibility requires a full understanding of the basic character of the claimed subject matter.” Bancorp Servs., LLC v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Can., 687 F.3d 1266, 1273-74 (Fed. Cir. 2012). But addressing 35 U.S.C. § 101 at the outset may “conserve[] scarce judicial resources and spare[] litigants the staggering costs associated with discovery and protracted claim construction litigation.” OIP Techs., Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 788 F.3d 1359, 1364 (Fed Cir. 2015) (Mayer, J., concurring). In applying § 101 at the pleading stage, the court construes the patent claims in a manner most favorable to the non-moving party. See Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, Nat’l Ass’n, 776 F.3d 1343, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 119 (2015).

         Construing the patent claims in this manner, the court finds the four claims are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Accordingly, Teladoc’s motion is ALLOWED.

         II. Facts as Alleged in the Amended Complaint

         a. Background

         American Well owns an intellectual property portfolio directed at components in a telehealth system. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10. At issue is American Well’s Patent No. 7, 590, 550 (“‘550 patent”), entitled “Connecting consumers with service providers.” Id. ¶¶ 11, 70. This patent was meant to address the limitations of earlier telehealth systems. Although earlier systems allowed patients to receive medical care without coming into an office to see a doctor face-to-face, they did not “allow patients to select from amongst a group of doctors who were available at the time to consult with them.” Id. ¶¶ 21, 24-25. This deficiency left medical care providers who had unexpected openings or cancellations without the ability to display themselves to prospective patients as available and left patients without the ability to locate currently available doctors when their normal physicians were unavailable. Id.

         The patented technology monitors, records, and extends services based on the “present availability” of a medical care provider. Id. ¶ 26. The technology “constantly monitors the availability of a provider for an engagement and thus, consumers receive immediate attention to address their questions or concerns, since the brokerage will connect them to available service providers.” Id. ¶ 27 (quoting ‘550 Patent col. 4 ll. 45-49). The technology activates a “communication channel” between “the patient and [an] available physician” when a patient requests an “on-demand, real-time consultation with a physician, ” id. (quoting ‘550 Patent at col. 2 ll. 62-67), through well-known communications protocols such as “Instant Messaging and Presence Service (IMPS), Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), and the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).” Id. ¶ 29 (quoting ‘550 Patent at col. 7 ll. 22-29). Additionally, the technology allows patients searching for medical care providers to filter those providers based on qualifications, experience, and present availability, thus allowing patients to make an informed decision about which provider to choose. Id. ¶ 34.

         The ‘550 Patent was issued on September 15, 2009. Id. ¶ 40. In issuing the patent, the United States Patent and Trademark Office noted that there were other existing telehealth systems, but none of those systems contained the novel technological features of the ‘550 Patent. Id. ¶ 37. Teladoc sought to obtain a license on American Well’s patents, but American Well rejected Teladoc’s request. Id. ¶ 54.

         b. The Claims at Issue

         American Well asserts that Teladoc has infringed and continues to infringe without license on “at least claims 10, 11, 23, and 30 of the ’550 patent.” Am. Compl. ¶ 72. What is claimed by these paragraphs of the ‘550 Patent is:

10. A computer-implemented method comprises:
accessing a data repository that stores information pertaining to medical service
providers, including present availability of the medical service providers for
participating in a consultation;
receiving in a computer, indications that members of a pool of medical service
providers have become presently available;
receiving in the computer, a request from a consumer of services to consult with a
medical service provider;
identifying in the computer, an available member of the pool; and
establishing a real-time communication channel between the consumer of services
and the identified member of the pool.
11. The method of claim 10 wherein:
the request includes an identification of a time in the future; and
identifying the member of the pool and establishing the ...

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