Black tech founder George McKinney has been embroiled in a legal battle with Kaiser Permanente over the past five years over patent violations. As reported by Houston Style Magazine, McKinney sued the company for $50 million in 2018 and alleged that they stole trade secrets from his company, Better Life Technologies Group. In a 2018 lawsuit, McKinney claimed Kaiser Permanente developed wearable medical devices with other clients after signing an NDA with his company in 2012.
According to the suit, “On or about late 2016, plaintiff discovered that defendant had used plaintiff’s proprietary trade secrets to enter into business relationships with plaintiff’s competitors and had derived income from providing plaintiff’s trade secrets to plaintiff’s competitors and other unauthorized recipients.”
Kaiser Permanente signed a non-compete, non-disclosure agreement with VIQUAL Medical, a sister company to Better Life Technologies. VIQUAL was intended to be the medical device division of Better Life Technologies, and as such, Kaiser Permanente agreed not to share intellectual property and trade secrets they received from VIQUAL, which was essentially a subdivision of Better Life Technologies. As a small, Black-owned company, Better Life Technologies had hoped to use the deal with Kaiser Permanente to generate enough money to launch their products.
“One of our company’s objectives has always been to show the world that if the doors of diversity could open ever so slightly, the African American science community has powerful technological developments that can have a huge impact on science and technology,” McKinney told Houston Style in 2018.
As Face 2 Face Africa reported, McKinney and his fellow founders believe that their innovations have been used in Kaiser Permanente’s healthcare application IOT and maintain that the breach of contract has resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for VIQUAL. McKinney spoke to Black News on Aug. 21 and connected their long struggle against Permanente Kaiser with the buried history of Black inventors and inventions.
“The theft of African American music, ideas, real property, and intellectual property has been integrated into American culture for years,” he said. “How many times have we heard about the Black man or woman who has a great idea, something special, but after disclosing it, has found that the idea now belongs to someone else? Our history is replete with innovations, technologies, and patentable ideas that never saw the light of day because they were stolen.”