Tech supplier accuses Apple of stalling in court to sell more watches

Tech supplier accuses Apple of stalling in court to sell more watches
The hot new feature on this year's Apple Watch Series 6 is the pulse oximeter on the timepiece. By measuring the percentage of oxygen being carried by the red blood cells from your lungs throughout the rest of the body, you can monitor your overall health and even get an advance warning about COVID-19 (according to some doctors). On Apple's support page, it cautions users that "Blood Oxygen app measurements are not intended for medical use." So is it for on the watch for entertainment use? "Hey Joe, want to watch my Apple Watch give me another sp02 reading?"

Delaying court hearings related to an Apple Watch sensor could help Apple "capture the market"

Earlier this year, medical technology firm Masimo and its Cercacor Laboratories spin-off, sued Apple for allegedly infringing on ten patents. In the papers filed with the court, Masimo stated that Apple had approached it back in 2013 about having the company supply the Apple Watch. But instead of working out an agreement with the company, it appears that Apple started poaching the medical tech firm's employees. Masimo saw this as a way for Apple to get the ex-employees to reveal trade secrets.

With the release of the Apple Watch Series 6 earlier this month, Masimo went back to court on Monday. According to Bloomberg, the company filed papers that accuse the tech giant of stalling by failing to respond to the suit. Instead, Apple filed papers seeking to have the trade secrets part of the suit dismissed. It also petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to invalidate Masimo's patents. Apple would be able to use the delay that it helped create to capture the market. In the filing, Masimo wrote that the delay "would allow Apple to seize on a critical window of opportunity to capture an emerging field. Just as it has done in numerous other markets, Apple seeks to use its considerable resources and ecosystem to capture the market without regard" to the patents that Apple allegedly infringed.

Apple says that delaying the patent infringement part of the case by trying to get the USPTO to invalidate Masimo's patents could help the court by narrowing the issues and reduce the waste of court resources. Masimo, of course, doesn't agree with Apple's statement.

Earlier in this article, we quoted Apple's own website stating that the pulse oximeter readings "are not intended for medical use." Ironically, that mirrors the words of Masimo Chief Executive Joe Kiani who said in the court papers that "I have seen reports from consumers and others suggesting that the Series 6 be used as a medical product. Not only will that harm consumers themselves, it will also reduce our opportunities to sell truly clinical-grade products to consumers."

Masimo also says that when it asked Apple whether the Series 6 Apple Watch would sport a pulse oximeter, Apple deflected the question by referring to the speculation as "internet rumors." While we have no idea what Masimo and Apple are thinking, it would appear that the former is trying to build a case showing that Apple hid its true intentions and had cozied up to the sensor manufacturer just to talk to employees under the guise of signing a future agreement with the company. If Apple already planned on adding a pulse oximeter to the next version of its smartwatch, these talks could have been used by Apple as a cover to poach employees, steal trade secrets and obtain the expertise needed to produce the pulse oximeter for the Apple Watch.

District Judge James Selna will hold hearings in April to determine how certain terms related to Masimo's patents will be interpreted in court. There is always the chance though, that the judge will side with Apple and allow it the time needed to allow a review board to rule on the patents.


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