Apple Brings Patent Suit Against AliveCor in Parties’ Ongoing Heart Rate Sensor Technology Battle

A lawsuit filed by Apple Inc. asserts that defendant AliveCor Inc. illegally copies the technology of four Apple-owned patents relating to electronic sensors that capture heart rate information and that are embodied in Apple’s smartwatch products. According to the plaintiff, AliveCor’s “brazen infringement” impinges on technology Apple developed long before AliveCor entered the market.

The suit comes as dismissal briefing is underway in an unfair competition lawsuit brought by AliveCor, which developed the Kardia Band, a wristband for the Apple Watch that tracks heart rate and beat irregularities. In that case, AliveCor claimed that Apple liked AliveCor’s product so much it co-opted them for its own profit.

Apple allegedly accomplished this with “behind-the-scenes acts of sabotage,” by pushing out  

undocumented updates to the Apple Watch’s operating system that suddenly rendered SmartRhythm, the app accompanying the AliveCor’s Kardia Band, inoperable.

In March 2022, the Northern District of California largely permitted AliveCor’s antitrust and California Unfair Competition Law (UCL) claims to proceed. In May, the court issued a second opinion, this time dismissing Apple’s counterclaim against AliveCor. In his opinion, Judge Jeffrey S. White rejected the notion that AliveCor had to indemnify Apple for claims against it based on a provision in the developer agreement it signed.

In November, Apple moved to dismiss AliveCor’s amended complaint. Briefing is set to conclude this month and the dismissal hearing is scheduled for mid-January.

The present complaint explains that Apple “brings this action to set the record straight as to who is the real pioneer and to stop AliveCor’s rampant infringement that unlawfully appropriates Apple’s intellectual property.”

For example, Apple says that AliveCor filed a complaint before the International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking to stop Apple from importing its products into the country based on its assertion of patents covering “unimportant alleged improvements to [electrocardiogram] devices.” The complaint adds that though an administrative law judge made an initial determination against Apple, it is presently contesting that decision before the ITC.

The filing states four claims for relief, asserting that AliveCor commits direct and indirect infringement. Apple seeks immediate injunctive relief as well as damages and is represented by Kirkland & Ellis LLP.