Apple must face claims it bars outside heart-rate apps from Apple Watch -U.S. judge

March 21 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday said Apple Inc (AAPL.O) must face a Silicon Valley company's claims it illegally monopolized the U.S. market for heart rate monitoring apps for its Apple Watch.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said AliveCor Inc, whose SmartRhythm app alerts users to irregular heartbeats, could try to prove that Apple violated federal antitrust law based on its alleged "complete control" over the market for such apps.

"AliveCor alleges that Apple made changes to the heart rate algorithm that made it effectively impossible for third parties to inform a user when to take an ECG," or electrocardiogram, White wrote. "Plaintiff's allegations plausibly establish that Apple's conduct was anticompetitive."

White also dismissed AliveCor's separate claim that Apple maintained an illegal monopoly over ECG-capable smart watches.

The Oakland, California-based judge said this was because AliveCor's KardiaBand wristband, which can record ECGs, "complements but does not compete" in that market.

Apple and its lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Adam Wolfson, a lawyer for AliveCor, declined to comment.

In its May 2021 lawsuit, privately held AliveCor accused Apple of changing the heart rate algorithm for the Apple Watch to gain an "unfair competitive edge" over rivals, and "put countless AliveCor users' lives in danger."

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, countered that it was an "uncontroversial proposition that product improvement by itself" did not violate the federal Sherman antitrust law.

The case is AliveCor Inc v Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 21-03958.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis

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