HomeHealthcareAliveCor Isn’t Backing Down from Apple, Its ‘Bully’

AliveCor Isn’t Backing Down from Apple, Its ‘Bully’


All through its storied historical past, Apple has been no stranger to litigation. Whereas many articles concerning the Cupertino, California-based tech large’s authorized woes are at the moment being printed given the antitrust lawsuit that the Division of Justice filed over Apple’s alleged monopolization of the smartphone market, this story focuses on its authorized wrangling with a smaller rival within the medical system area.

The Apple Watch, which first hit client cabinets in 2015, is at the moment one in all Apple’s best-selling merchandise. The corporate offered practically 50 million in 2022. The wrist-worn system has an array of coronary heart monitoring options, corresponding to electrocardiogram (ECG) performance and irregular coronary heart rhythm detection, enabling customers to conveniently observe their coronary heart well being. Regardless of its smashing business success, the Apple Watch has confronted years of authorized challenges. 

Priya Abani — CEO of AliveCor, a firm that at the moment has a number of lawsuits pending in opposition to Apple — thinks that the tech juggernaut has made a behavior of taking mental property from smaller medical system corporations as a way to enhance the functionalities of the Apple Watch. She additionally believes that Apple has averted being held accountable as a result of it “bombards” smaller corporations with litigation it is aware of they received’t have the ability to afford.

In an unattributable assertion emailed to MedCity Information, Apple denied all expenses that it makes use of aggressive litigation techniques to intimidate smaller corporations making patent infringement claims in opposition to it. The tech firm additionally mentioned that it values innovation and respects mental property.

In the meantime, Abani mentioned AliveCor plans to face its floor and proceed to battle again in opposition to Apple any approach that it could actually — with hopes that it may be the David that lastly beats Goliath.

Litigation historical past

Based in 2011 and based mostly in Silicon Valley, AliveCor is a medical system firm that sells distant and linked cardiac care companies. Its founder — David Albert, who at the moment serves as the corporate’s chief medical officer — has been a pioneering determine within the area of cell well being expertise for many years. He created AliveCor as a result of he acknowledged the potential of using smartphone expertise to create moveable, accessible electrocardiogram (ECG) units.

In 2016, the corporate launched its KardiaBand product, which is an FDA-cleared wearable wristband that integrates with the Apple Watch to supply steady coronary heart charge monitoring and ECG readings to detect atrial fibrillation. Two years later, Apple launched its personal software program and {hardware} to supply instant ECG readings to Apple Watch customers.

AliveCor discontinued the KardiaBand product in 2019 — this was introduced about eight months after Apple launched its personal ECG functionalities, in accordance with information studies. Apple’s new native ECG capabilities had apparently made AliveCor’s product pointless.

That led to AliveCor suing Apple in December 2020. AliveCor filed its case within the U.S. District Courtroom for the Western District of Texas, claiming that Apple had infringed on three of its patents — all of which deal with monitoring cardiac arrhythmia. These patents lined AliveCor’s expertise and strategies for detecting and analyzing coronary heart rhythms utilizing moveable units. AliveCor expenses that the Apple Watch utilized related expertise for monitoring coronary heart rhythms with out correct authorization or licensing from AliveCor, thereby infringing on its mental property rights.

In April 2021, AliveCor ratcheted up the authorized battle by submitting one other grievance in opposition to Apple with the Worldwide Commerce Fee over the identical three alleged patent infringements. This time, AliveCor sought to ban the import of the Apple Watch within the U.S. This might principally stop Apple Watches from being offered within the U.S., as they’re assembled abroad.

The ITC launched an investigation in Might 2021. That very same month, AliveCor filed an antitrust lawsuit in opposition to Apple in California federal court docket, which accused Apple of monopolistic habits.  The grievance alleged that Apple had violated the Sherman Antitrust Legislation and California’s unfair competitors regulation by the use of its determination to bar third-party distributors from offering coronary heart charge monitoring apps for the Apple Watch.

In June 2022, the ITC issued an preliminary willpower in favor of AliveCor. 

However then in December 2022, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace’s Patent Trial and Enchantment Board (PTAB) invalidated AliveCor’s patents on the request of Apple. The PTAB ruling mentioned that AliveCor’s patents have been unpatentable as a result of they have been too apparent contemplating the state of cardiac analysis and expertise developments. 

AliveCor is battling the PTAB ruling — in a current interview, Abani described these patent invalidations as Apple’s “determined last-ditch effort” to “bully” her firm out of pushing ahead with its patent infringement lawsuits. Apple denied this characterization.

When it got here time for the ITC’s closing willpower, which was additionally in December 2022, the company sided with AliveCor. On this determination, the ITC declared that imports for all Apple Watches with ECG expertise needs to be banned — however that it might not implement such a ban till an enchantment tied to the PTAB dispute was resolved. The case is at the moment on enchantment.

“The ITC order and the PTAB case are actually being determined on the federal circuit courts, so we’re taking a look at a summer time timeframe during which extra issues will occur,” Abani mentioned. 

As for the antitrust case AliveCor filed in opposition to Apple, it was dismissed by a federal decide in February of this yr. The reasoning for the dismissal is being stored underneath seal quickly. Abani mentioned her firm plans to enchantment the dismissal, remarking that she is “deeply dissatisfied and strongly disagree[s] with the court docket’s determination.”

“Normal playbook”

In Abani’s view, it’s Apple’s “commonplace playbook” to intimidate smaller corporations till they again out of combating for his or her mental property. 

“Apple’s huge sources enable them to squash small innovators,” she mentioned. “They’ve extra lobbyists and attorneys on their payroll than we’ve got workers.”

Her medical system firm is much from the one one which has fallen sufferer to Apple’s aggressive refusal to settle lawsuits and penchant for dragging out authorized battles, Abani added.

As an example, pulse oximetry firm Masimo additionally sued Apple in 2020 on the premise of patent infringement. Within the lawsuit, the medical devicemaker accused Apple of poaching its workers as a way to steal commerce secrets and techniques. Masimo additionally accused Apple of infringing on 10 of its patents, together with expertise to trace customers’ coronary heart charges and blood oxygen ranges.

In December, the ITC banned the Sequence 9 and Extremely 2 fashions of the Apple Watch. This was the results of an ITC ruling that mentioned Apple’s blood oxygen sensors did in actual fact infringe upon patents owned by Masimo and its subsidiary Cercacor Laboratories. The ITC paused this ban the following day, permitting the watches to be offered quickly. However then in January of this yr, the court docket reinstated the ban.

In response to the ban, Apple redesigned the Sequence 9 and Extremely 2 variations of its watches so they’d now not have blood oxygen monitoring options. These redesigned variations of the Apple Watch are at the moment being offered within the U.S. Neither Masimo nor its attorneys responded to requests for touch upon the litigation.

A lawyer engaged in one other patent infringement lawsuit in opposition to Apple additionally believes that Apple goes after the little man.

Andrew Bochner, managing associate at Bochner PLLC, at the moment represents NYU Langone heart specialist Joseph Wiesel in a federal court docket case accusing Apple of utilizing his patented atrial fibrillation monitoring software in its Apple Watch with out permission.

“Apple has fought again with numerous patent proceedings. They filed an inter partes evaluate, they usually misplaced that. Then they filed an ex parte re-exam, which is now working its approach by the system. In order that they’ve achieved all the pieces they will to keep away from defensively litigating and have tried to go on the offensive in opposition to a person physician,” Bochner declared of the lawsuit between his consumer and Apple. 

He asserted that the tech large “simply fights again in opposition to who challenges them with out ever being accountable.” He additionally mentioned that Apple is thought among the many authorized neighborhood to have a sure modus operandi: they do “not entertain any kind of actual settlement discussions” and as an alternative battle “tooth and nail” as a way to put on out their rivals with fewer sources.

Through the case’s post-grant continuing within the U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace, Apple mentioned that it filed “roughly 10%” of the workplace’s whole put up grant proceedings, Bochner famous. A post-grant continuing refers back to the authorized course of performed after a patent has been granted, usually involving challenges to the patent’s validity or enforceability. These proceedings usually come up as a consequence of challenges mounted by third events or rivals who assert {that a} patent is invalid, both as a result of it’s overly broad or not novel. 

“They’re utilizing the courts as a software as a result of they comprehend it’s costly — for corporations massive and small — to litigate,” he remarked.

Stealing IP can “truly be cheaper”

One other medical IP lawyer — Bethany Corbin, who at the moment serves as CEO of girls’s well being innovation platform FemInnovation — agreed that it’s not unusual for giant corporations to make the most of smaller opponents that don’t essentially have the means to undergo an costly authorized course of. 

She checked out this subject from the attitude of a bigger firm infringing on the patents of a smaller one. If a smaller firm takes its patent infringement grievance to court docket and wins, this might trigger a big tech firm to must pay hundreds of thousands of {dollars}. However hundreds of thousands of {dollars} “is a small drop within the bucket” for tech giants, Corbin identified. Apple garnered $383 billion in whole income final yr and greater than $173 billion in earnings

“In some cases, it could actually truly be cheaper for a big tech firm to steal the IP from smaller tech corporations than to attempt to enter right into a authorized licensing association,” Corbin mentioned. 

Huge tech corporations might attempt to “sport” the patent system and problem smaller corporations’ patents in two totally different venues — the courts and the PTAB. When the PTAB was established in 2012, it gave large corporations an entire new option to battle patent infringement litigation, Corbin defined.

Enormous corporations like Google, Apple and Samsung have been accountable “for over 80%” of PTAB petitions in 2021, she added.

“The small tech firm sues the bigger tech firm in court docket. The massive tech firm then petitions the PTAB to strike down the patents that the massive tech firm is accused of infringing. This results in parallel litigation with double the associated fee for small tech corporations which have very restricted budgets,” Corbin acknowledged.

The litigation charges alone may sink a small startup, she declared. She mentioned the charges usually whole a whole bunch of hundreds of {dollars}, notably as litigation drags on for years and thru the appellate course of. 

In Corbin’s view, if a big tech firm attracts out litigation and refuses to settle, it’s “primarily ready for the smaller tech firm to expire of cash and fold.”

However within the case of AliveCor, Apple might have misjudged the startup’s tenacity. Abani mentioned that her firm’s claims “go effectively past AliveCor,” representing each small firm and future innovation that’s “vulnerable to being squashed by Goliaths like Apple.”

In Abani’s eyes, the battle in opposition to Apple is paramount to preserving truthful competitors within the medical system area.

“Defending our rights is dear, however the different is to provide in to those that would proceed to repeat, monopolize and in any other case suppress the development of life-saving applied sciences,” Abani wrote Thursday in an emailed assertion. “We’re lucky to be able to go toe-to-toe with Apple, for the advantage of our prospects and different equally impacted corporations, whereas nonetheless operating a profitable enterprise.”

On the enchantment for its antitrust case in opposition to Apple, AliveCor might want to argue that the distinct court docket erred in dismissing the lawsuit. If the appellate court docket agrees with AliveCor, then the case will return to the district court docket and progress into the following phases — discovery, abstract judgment motions and finally a trial. 

In spite of everything of that happens, the dropping social gathering can nonetheless enchantment the judgment as much as the appellate court docket and Supreme Courtroom. 

“This complete course of can take a number of years, so the dismissal of the case is unquestionably not the tip of the story. In some methods, it’s truly only the start,” Corbin remarked.

AliveCor didn’t disclose its appeals technique, however Abani mentioned her firm will do no matter it takes to face up for itself.

“We’re dedicated to defending our IP and skill to compete pretty within the market, to make sure that customers at all times have the choice to decide on one of the best services and products,” she declared.

Picture: AndreyPopov, Getty Photographs



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