McKesson, Epic patent suit prolonged in federal appeals court
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted an en banc re-hearing to McKesson Technologies v. Epic Systems to further address whether joint parties can act in concert to infringe upon multi-step patented methods. The case involves McKesson's Electronic Provider-Patient Interface technology and Epic’s MyChart software, both of which allow for electronic communication between patients and providers.

In an April ruling, the court previously decided that infringement of a patented method requires that a single entity must perform all of the steps, an opinion now vacated with McKesson’s appeal reinstated. The issue at hand is whether Epic violated patent laws by allegedly encouraging healthcare providers to complete steps of McKesson’s patented communication method.

The parties in the case were asked by the court to file new briefs addressing the following issues:
  1. If separate entities each perform separate steps of a method claim, under what circumstances, if any, would either entity or any third party be liable for inducing infringement or for contributory infringement?
  2. Does the nature of the relationship between the relevant actors—e.g., service provider/user; doctor/patient—affect the question of direct or indirect infringement liability?
McKesson patented an electronic communication method that enables healthcare providers and patients to exchange information and access visit-specific content online following doctor visits. Using the technology, patients can also submit appointment and prescription refill requests.

McKesson sued Epic in 2006, alleging that Epic infringed upon its claims by licensing MyChart software to healthcare providers who subsequently offered the technology to their patients. MyChart allows healthcare providers to associate medical records with a patient’s personalized web page and patients can communicate back using the software. At the time, the court ruled in favor of Epic, affirming noninfringement of McKesson’s patent.

In this appeals case, McKesson’s en banc brief is due in June and Epic’s response is due within 30 days of the filing. The court also is entertaining amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court briefs.