Apple wins AliveCor smartwatch patent challenges over heart monitoring technologies

A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) tribunal ruled that three patents owned by medical-device maker AliveCor Inc are invalid. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board canceled the AliveCor patents at Apple’s request based on earlier publications that it said disclosed the same innovations in wearable heart monitoring.

AliveCor said in a statement Wednesday that it was “deeply disappointed” by Tuesday’s decision and will appeal it, but looks forward to the ITC’s separate determination. Apple said in a statement Tuesday that it appreciates the board’s “careful consideration” of the patents, and that the decision “confirms that the patents AliveCor asserted in the ITC against Apple are invalid.”

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in June ruled in a preliminary decision that the Apple Watch’s heart-monitoring capabilities infringe two of the patents and the imports of infringing Apple Watches can be banned if it affirms the ruling.

AliveCor sued Apple in West Texas in 2020 and at the ITC last year for infringing the patents related to AliveCor’s KardiaBand, an Apple Watch accessory that monitors a user’s heart rate, detects irregularities and performs an electrocardiogram (ECG) to identify potential heart issues like atrial fibrillation. AliveCor also sued Apple in California for allegedly monopolizing the U.S. market for Apple Watch heart-rate monitoring apps. Mountain View, California-based AliveCor stopped selling the KardiaBand in 2018 after Apple launched its own ECG feature. AliveCor said Apple copied its technology starting with Series 4 Apple Watches.

Apple went on the offensive against AliveCor and sued the company, saying that its devices copied Apple advancements related to heart-rate sensors in electronic devices, health-data aggregation, and other personal-health innovations. Apple said it developed its technology as early as 2008, two years before AliveCor was founded.

Apple had recently commented that AliveCor filed the lawsuits in response to “its own failures in the market,” and said it wants to “set the record straight as to who is the real pioneer” of the technology. In retaliation, AliveCor had called Apple’s lawsuit “a desperate last-ditch effort by Apple to bully AliveCor into submission just days before the ITC decision.”

Apple is a well-known technology company that produces a range of popular consumer electronics, including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. AliveCor is a health technology company that produces mobile-based electrocardiogram (ECG) devices for consumers and healthcare providers.