Update: Apple has now filed a second lawsuit, this one revealing that Masimo was given access to confidential information and source code. It accuses the company of infringing five Apple patents. More details at the bottom of the piece.
A lawsuit filed by Apple yesterday accuses medical tech company Masimo of creating an Apple Watch clone, in the form of the W1 Advanced Health Tracking Watch.
Masimo rejects the claim, and says that Apple is merely retaliating for its own lawsuit alleging patent infringements by the Cupertino company…
The battle between the two companies has a long history. Back in 2013, Apple reportedly contacted Masimo to discuss a potential collaboration between the two companies. Instead, claims Masimo, Apple used the meetings to identify staff it wanted to poach. Masimo later called the meetings a “targeted effort to obtain information and expertise.”
Apple did indeed hire a number of Masimo staff, including the company’s chief medical officer, ahead of the launch of the Apple Watch.
Masimo CEO Joe Kiano later expressed concern that Apple may have been trying to steal the company’s blood oxygen sensor technology. The company describes itself as “the inventors of modern pulse oximeters,” and its technology is used in many hospitals.
“Some of the talent (Apple recruited) has access to deep wells of trade secrets and information,” said Joe Kiani, chief executive officer of medical device firm Masimo Corp, who lost his chief medical officer to Apple in mid-2013. Kiani said that Apple was offering sizeable salaries with little indication of what researchers would be doing. “They are just buying people,” he said. “I just hope Apple is not doing what we’re doing.”
In 2020, the company sued Apple for stealing trade secrets and infringing 10 Masimo patents. The lawsuit asked for an injunction on the sale of the Apple Watch.
Masimo W1 is an Apple Watch clone, says Apple
Fast-forward two years, and now Apple is suing Masimo. The Cupertino company claims that both the design and functionality of the Masimo W1 Advanced Health Tracking Watch make it an Apple Watch clone.
Masimo is a hospital equipment manufacturer that has never been in the consumer wearables business. But recently, Masimo released its first watch, direct to consumers, called the Masimo W1. Rather than innovating and developing a product independently, Masimo copied Apple while filing lawsuits to try to prevent sales of Apple Watch.
CNET reports an Apple spokesman saying that the lawsuit was intended to “protect the innovations we advance on behalf of our customers.” Masimo’s general counsel, Tom McLenahan, claimed that this is part of a pattern of behavior by the Cupertino company:
Apple’s actions today are a desperate attempt by the world’s largest company to divert attention from the litigations brought by Masimo. The truth is Apple has a well-established pattern of stealing intellectual property from competitors instead of competing fairly.
W1 design and features
While the Masimo W1 does bear more than a passing resemblance to the Apple Watch, the Cupertino company might have a hard time alleging design infringements, given the somewhat limited number of ways of designing a square smartwatch.
It may have more luck attacking the feature set. Here’s how Masimo describes the W1 functionality:
The first of its kind, the Masimo W1 offers accurate, continuous health data and actionable health insights – from the leader in hospital pulse oximetry – in a personal, lifestyle-friendly watch.
Building on Masimo’s decades of leadership in creating revolutionary noninvasive blood parameter monitoring solutions, Masimo W1 provides a variety of physiological data – including oxygen level (SpO2), pulse rate, pulse rate variability, heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, pleth variability index, and perfusion index – for consumers wanting to make better informed health and lifestyle decisions, improve their fitness, or track their health data on their own or with friends and family.
With the W1, Masimo aims to make its money from subscription services rather than the hardware.
Second lawsuit by Apple, revealing history
Patently Apple reports that Apple has now filed a second, “heftier” lawsuit, alleging that Masimo infringed five utility patents.
The suit also reveals that a Masimo spin-off was granted access to confidential information, including Apple Watch source code, and alleges that this information was used in the design and creation of the W1 smartwatch. Quoting from the lawsuit:
In January 2020, Masimo brought a patent lawsuit against Apple targeting the Apple Watch. In that case, access to Apple’s confidential information and source code for various models of Apple Watch, including details of its construction and functionality, was provided to a board member of Cercacor—a spin-off from Masimo that focuses on research and development. That was two years before Masimo released the W1 to the general public.
Masimo, while trying to block importation or sale of Apple Watch, was also secretly copying it. Masimo hid its copying until the W1 was ready for the public.
When the Masimo W1 became public, it was clear that Masimo had copied Apple. As more details emerged, it was clear the scope of that copying was expansive. In addition to copying Apple Watch’s overall look and feel, the Masimo W1 appropriates specific patented features and functionalities from Apple Watch. Apple worked hard to develop innovative designs and features for Apple Watch. Masimo took shortcuts.
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