A patent complaint filed in Delaware federal court last week by Apple Inc. accused medical equipment company Masimo Corporation and its recently acquired consumer division Sound United of copying three design patents undergirding the Apple Watch product line. Though it was well behind in research and development the complaint says, Masimo launched a competing smart watch by cutting corners: carefully copying the technology and bringing well-timed lawsuits to try to kick Apple out of the market.
According to Apple, Irvine, Calif.-based Masimo has been a hospital equipment company since its inception in 1989. However, in 2019, Masimo’s patents and license agreements began to expire, and its corresponding royalty revenue dried up. Around the same time, the complaint says, Masimo noticed the success of consumer health technology and tried to pivot to that market to stay competitive.
Apple claims, however, that Masimo, “having focused only on clinical settings for decades, had already fallen behind.” Leading up to the January 2022 rollout of its W1 smart watch, Masimo brought a patent lawsuit against Apple targeting the Apple Watch and filed a complaint before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking an order banning the Apple Watch importation to the United States. According to the ITC filing, Masimo explained to the agency that there were “no public interest concerns” with banning the Apple Watch’s import.
The W1’s public debut made clear that Masimo had copied Apple and had done so extensively, the complaint says. “In addition to copying Apple Watch’s overall look and feel, the Masimo W1 copied the patented designs of Apple Watch and its wireless charger,” Apple urges.
The filing states three claims for infringement of Apple’s design patents. It features direct comparisons between the watches, their internal components, and watch charges as a means of illustration.
“Masimo either knew about or willfully blinded itself to Apple’s patent rights while infringing the Patents-in-Suit,” the filing says, explaining that the W1 watch line so closely resembles the Apple Watch “that the only plausible inference is that Defendants copied [it] to develop their own product.”