Apple wins AliveCor smartwatch patent challenges ahead of import ban ruling

A woman takes pictures with a smart phone as she stands in front of an Apple Watch display at an electronics store in Omotasando in Tokyo April 24, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
  • Apple faces potential smartwatch import ban over AliveCor patent claims
  • PTO tribunal finds patents invalid week before scheduled ITC decision on ban

(Reuters) - A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal ruled Tuesday that three patents owned by medical-device maker AliveCor Inc are invalid, boosting Apple Inc's defense against a potential import ban on Apple Watches in a separate but related dispute.

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.

The U.S. International Trade Commission in June had ruled in a preliminary decision that the Apple Watch's heart-monitoring capabilities infringe two of the patents. The commission could ban imports of infringing Apple Watches if it affirms the ruling.

The ITC's target date for its final decision is Dec. 12.

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."

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.

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 in Series 4 Apple Watches, and separately sued Apple last year in California for allegedly monopolizing the U.S. market for Apple Watch heart-monitoring apps.

Apple went on the offensive against AliveCor recently, suing the company in San Francisco federal court on Dec. 2 for allegedly infringing patents related to heart-rate sensors in electronic devices and other personal-health technology.

The cases are Apple Inc v. AliveCor Inc, Patent Trial and Appeal Board, IPR2021-00970, -00971, and -00972.

For Apple: Karl Renner and Jeremy Monaldo of Fish & Richardson

For AliveCor: James Glass, Andrew Holmes and John McCauley of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Read more:

Apple sues AliveCor over patents as Apple Watch import ban deadline looms

Apple Watch import ban in play after trade judge finds patent infringement

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com