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MASIMO ACCUSES APPLE WATCH OF PATENT INFRINGEMENT

July 23, 2021

By Sukku and Johny Solomon Raj

Masimo, a California-based medical technology company, has recently filed a complaint before the United States International Trade Commission, inter alia stating that the Apple Watch Series 6 uses medical technology that infringes five of its patents. The application was filed under Section 337 of the Tariff Act, under which the Commission shall investigate any unlawful act under the provision. “The importation into the United States, the sale for importation of articles that infringe a valid and enforceable United States patent or a valid and enforceable United States copyright registered” have been rendered illegal under the said section.

As regards the type of patent allegedly infringed, Masimo claims that Apple infringed its Patent by using technology used for monitoring Oxygen Levels for its smartwatches. The said patented technology is purportedly the core business of Masimo. The patents in this dispute are used by devices that measure blood oxygen levels by transmitting light through the user’s body. The complaint also includes an application by the medical-sensor company to ban all imports of Apple Watches into the US. It alleges that although Apple markets its new series of watches as medical devices, the fine print states that the blood oxygen level readings made by the watch should not be relied upon for medical purposes.

Smart Watches and Health Monitoring Features

One of the main selling points of most smart watches these days is features for monitoring health and fitness of the users. Other than Apple Watch Series 6, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, the Noise ColorFit Pro 3, the Realme Watch S etc. have applications that provide blood oxygen measurements. Some of these watches use built-in oximeters while others analyze the chemical makeup of one’s sweat. The dispute between Apple and Masimo is based on Apple’s alleged usage of light to sensor blood oxygen levels, which Masimo claims is their patented technology. However, interestingly, technically ‘light’ is used for measuring blood-oxygen by other companies also, including but not limited to Huawei (as is suggested by the red-light which is used for measuring).

Masimo’s trade secret allegations against Apple

This is not the first time that a dispute has arisen between these two companies. In January 2020, Masimo had filed case regarding trade secrets against Apple, inter alia alleging that the tech company had promised a working relationship through which it gained access to confidential information and hired key employees. Apple had filed requests to dismiss the case and had also lodged petitions before the USPTO to invalidate the related patent held by Masimo.

Patent No. Title Abstract PTAB

No.

10376191 Multi-stream data collection system for noninvasive measurement of blood constituents The present disclosure relates to noninvasive methods, devices, and systems for measuring various blood constituents or analytes, such as glucose. In an embodiment, a light source comprises LEDs and super-luminescent LEDs. The light source emits light at at least wavelengths of about 1610 nm, about 1640 nm, and about 1665 nm. In an embodiment, the detector comprises a plurality of photodetectors arranged in a special geometry comprising one of a substantially linear substantially equal spaced geometry, a substantially linear substantially non-equal spaced geometry, and a substantially grid geometry.

 

IPR20  to around USD 30.6billion. It has been predicted that a legal settlement between the two companies would force Apple to pay somewhere between USD 50 million to USD 300 million, as royalties to Masimo.

References:

  1. https://www.indiatoday.in/technology/news/story/apple-watch-faces-potential-ban-in-the-us-for-alleged-patent-infringement-1823224-2021-07-02
  2. https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/apple-accused-of-delaying-masimo-legal-fight-to-gain-watch-sales
  3. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/gadgets-news/why-this-medical-tech-company-wants-the-apple-watch-banned/articleshow/84008324.cms
  4. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/pharma-and-life-sciences/apple-watch-should-be-blocked-from-import-to-u-s-masimo-claims
  5. https://portal.unifiedpatents.com/ptab/case/IPR2021-00209

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