Several companies have taken legal action against Apple for allegedly taking advantage of their position to obtain their technology and implement it in products such as the Apple Watch.
When Manzana became interested in technology masinoa company with more than 30 years of experience in the development of blood oxygen monitoring systems and other health parameters, its CEO and founder, Joe Kiani, everything seemed positive. A short time later, she found out how wrong she was,
Now, Kiani recognizes The Wall Street Journal that, once Apple takes an interest in your technology, it’s a gesture equivalent to a “kiss of death.” And you have reason to believe it: your company has already invested more than 55 million dollars in lawsuits against the bitten apple company, which he claims has used his position to copy their ideas and steal their technology. And Masino is not the only company affected.
“The patent system benefits the largest companies”
It was in 2013, after Masino announced a blood oxygen measuring device compatible with Apple devices, when Apple was interested in the project and assured through a representative want to go deeper in technology with the aim of ending up integrating something similar in a future product. A system that, finally, would end up materializing in Apple Watch.
However, what Kiani found himself with a few months later was the goodbye of one of the main managers of Masimothe person in charge of the medicine area, who informed him about his decision to join the ranks of Appleafter she offered him double his salary and grant him shares of the company valued at millions of dollars.
But Apple decided to keep in touch with Kiani, urging him “not to worry” about hiring his former Chief Medical Officer. Later, up to 30 Masimo employees went to work for Appleand to this day they continue to make offers to some of the employees who are still part of the Masimo workforce.
Soon after, the Apple Watch capable of measuring the level of oxygen in the blood hit the market, integrating technology that Apple had patented under the name of one of Masimo’s former employees.
Faced with this situation, Masimo decided sue Apple in 2020alleging that those of Cupertino had obtained access to confidential information related to its technology, and a year later a patent infringement complaint was filed with the International Trade Commission. The subsequent investigation determined that early models of the Apple Watch had infringed one of Masimo’s patents.
But Masimo is not the only company affected by Apple’s practices. In the year 2016, AliveCor presented a strap for apple watch whose main peculiarity was the possibility of perform electrocardiograms.
Apple became interested in the project, and the founder of AliveCor was invited to the offices of Apple, where he was able to talk with various company managers. After being able to test a prototype of his product, the leader of Apple’s health-related initiatives acknowledged that “they would like to find a way to work with him, but they may end up competing with his company.”
What happened a short time later should surprise no one. In 2018, Apple released Apple Watch Series 4 with built-in electrocardiogram function, without the need to use the AliveCor strap (which had been released a year earlier). In addition, Apple made changes to the operating system of the watch, so that the AliveCor strap will no longer be compatibleforcing the company to withdraw its product from the market.
It was not until 2021 when AliveCor decided file a patent infringement complaint against Applewhich the international trade commission ended up endorsing by pointing out that Apple had violated three of its patents and thus blocking imports to the United States of Apple Watch with cardiac detection function.
But Apple, with much more experience in this field, decided take the claim to the Court of Patent Appealthat invalidated AliveCor’s patents and, therefore, ended the import blockade.
In this sense, the former director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office assures that the patent system benefits large and well-established companiesalthough from the commission they affirm that they are committed to offering a neutral system.
Since 2012, Apple has tried to invalidate more patent claims than any other petitioner, thus generating cases whose defense may entail expenses of half a million dollars for the affected companies. A cost that not all companies, especially smaller ones, can afford. In the case of Masimo, costs are on track to exceed $100 million.