In a word – No. Abstract ideas and objects that occur in nature by themselves are not patentable. What does this boil down to for an area like digital health? It can mean some serious thought into what to patent, how and when.
A common stumbling block is the “pen and paper” syndrome. A process that could be done by other means, simply automated by computer, generally does not merit a patent claim. Where the computer process brings defined benefits or improvements, this may lend itself to patentable subject matter. This then brings the next question:
Should you patent everything?
Generally – the answer is no. Getting to this answer can depend on your end goals. If you want a long list of patents or at least patent applications to your name, you could take the scattershot approach. But for reasons of cost and strategy, you may want to take a more targeted approach.
First – all claims ae not created equal. Some patent claims can be difficult to enforce. For example, processes and algorithms that would not be discoverable without getting into the code or getting “inside” knowledge of a competitor’s product. This information is generally not publicly available or readily available from examining what’s commercially available. Taking a guess that a competitor infringes your patent is risky – the law demands that you have a good faith basis for your claim and you’ve done a reasonable investigation of the products that you accuse of infringement.
Second – patent applications typically publish 18 months after filing. At this stage, the claims are not granted and aren’t enforceable. But whatever you put in the patent – product details, methods, algorithms – these are now in the public domain. If the patent office eventually grants claims that cover everything you disclosed – well you are in a nice position. But what if the claims get limited to a narrower scope? You’ve just given your competitors a road map but you can’t protect the full landscape.
So where does this leave you? Patent nothing – nope, that’s likely not the answer either. It’s a strategy of what, how much and when – a path that should dovetail with your business plans of what products you launch, when, what’s coming in your development pipeline and who else is out there as competition.