Apple Watch atrial fibrillation feature at the heart of a patent lawsuit

JC Torres - Dec 29, 2019, 8:29 pm CST
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Apple Watch atrial fibrillation feature at the heart of a patent lawsuit

It may look dated and seem a bit overpriced but few smartwatches can make the same life-saving claims that the Apple Watch has. Apple has turned its wearable into more than just a smartphone extension and has outfitted it with features that put the wearer’s health at the center. Now one of those features is at the center of litigation claiming that Apple willfully ignored that someone else already patented the much-advertised irregular heartbeat detection it added in recent Apple Watches.

Inspired by reports of how the Apple Watch’s heart-monitoring features have saved lives, Apple continues to equip generation after generation of its smartwatches with technologies that try to detect signs of health problems. The latest as the atrial fibrillation detection which, thanks to a combination of new sensors and algorithms, can warn wearers if an irregular heartbeat pattern is detected. As expected there have been positive reports about this feature but one doctor is crying foul over patent infringement.

New York University School of Medicine cardiologist Dr. Joseph Wiesel filed a lawsuit against Apple in the Brooklyn federal court claiming that the tech giant knowingly and willfully infringed on his patent. He claims that he approached the company in September of 2017 to inform them about the patent he holds. Apple, he says, refused to even negotiate in good faith and he now wants either royalties or for Apple to be blocked from using the feature without his permission.

The patent in question talks about a “Method of and apparatus for detecting atrial fibrillation” and doesn’t explicitly mention smartwatches. It does, however, note devices that can attach to body parts and have chips for processing the information. Of course, it will be up to a court to interpret whether the patent covers the Apple Watch’s specific implementation.

Atrial fibrillation or afib detection may not be an essential feature of the Apple Watch but it has become a critical selling point for the wearable. Apple even conducted studies on the effectiveness of the technology and has already made plans to expand health features to detect even more disorders. It might deal a rather big blow to the Apple Watch if Dr. Wiesel makes his case, presuming Apple doesn’t decide to settle the matter beforehand.


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