Tensys Medical, Inc. (San Diego, CA)
What is a Software Medical Device for Method and apparatus for monitoring physiologic parameters of a living subject
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What is a software medical device?
The FDA could refer to software functions that include ” Software As a Medical Device” and “Software in Medical Device(SiMD)” These are functions of software that are integral to (embedded within) medical device.
Section 201(h) of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 321(h)(1), defines a medical device as ?an instrument, apparatus, device an instrument, device implant an in vitro reagent or any other similar or related item, which includes a component or accessory that is . . . (b) is intended for diagnosis or treatment of disease or other conditions in humans or animals. (c) is designed to alter the structure or function of the human body or animal. So, to be considered a medical device and therefore subject to FDA regulation, your software must satisfy one of two criteria:
- It must be intended for use to diagnose or treat the patient
- It should not be designed to alter the structure or the function of the body.
So, if your application is designed specifically for healthcare professionals to treat and diagnose patients, or is used in hospitals to manage patient data and patient information, the FDA will likely consider such software as medical devices that are subject to regulatory review.
Is Your Software a Medical Device?
What does it mean if your software/SaaS is classified as a medical device?
SaaS founders need to be aware of the compliance risks that medical devices pose. Data breaches are one of the biggest risks. Medical devices often contain sensitive patient data, which is why they are subject to strict regulations. This data could lead to devastating consequences if it were to become unprotected. SaaS companies who develop medical devices need to take extra precautions to ensure their products are safe.
So who needs to apply for FDA clearance? The FDA defines a ?mobile medical app manufacturer? is any person or entity who initiates specifications, designs, labels, or creates a software system or application for a regulated medical device in whole or from multiple software components. This term does not include persons who exclusively distribute mobile medical apps without engaging in manufacturing functions; examples of such distributors may include the app stores.
Software As Medical Device Patenting Considerations
The good news is that investors like medical device companies which have double exclusivity obtained through FDA and US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) approvals. As such, the exit point for many medical device companies is an acquisition by cash rich medical public companies. This approach enables medical devices to skip the large and risky go-to-market (GTM) spend and work required to put products in the hands of consumers.
Now that we have discussed the FDA review process, we will discuss IP issues for software medical device companies. Typically, IP includes Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade secrets. All of these topics matter and should be considered carefully. However, we will concentrate on patents to demonstrate how careless drafting and lack of planning can lead to problems, namely unplanned disclosures of your design that can then be used as prior art against your patent application.
In general, you should file patent application(s) as soon as practicable to get the earliest priority dates. This will help you when you talk to investors, FDA consultants, prototyping firms, and government agencies, among others. Compliance or other documents filed with any government agency may be considered disclosure to third parties and could make the document public. In general, disclosures to third parties or public availability of an invention trigger a one year statutory bar during which you must file your patent application. Failure to file your application within the required time frame could result in you losing your right to protect your invention.
The information from your FDA application may find its way into FDA databases, including DeNovo, PMA and 510k databases and FDA summaries of orders, decisions, and other documents on products and devices currently being evaluated by the FDA. Your detailed information may be gleaned from Freedom of Information Act requests on your application. This risk mandates that you patent your invention quickly.
When you patent your medical device invention, have a global picture of FDA regulatory framework when you draft your patent application. Be mindful of whether your software/SaaS application discusses the diagnosing and treating patients or affecting the structure or function of the body and add language to indicate that such description in the patent application relates to only one embodiment and not to other embodiments. That way you have flexibility in subsequent discussions with the FDA if you want to avoid classification of your software/SaaS/software as a medical device. In this way, if you wish to avoid FDA registration and oversight, you have the flexibility to do so.
An experienced attorney can assist you in navigating the regulatory landscape and ensure that you comply with all applicable laws. This area of law is complex and constantly changing. It is important that you seek legal advice if you have any questions about whether or not your software should be registered with FDA.
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