Apple has big plans to make its Apple Watch as much of a medical device as an expensive wrist accessory, but a new lawsuit may throw a wrench in the works. According to a Michigan-based health company called Omni MedSci, Apple stole the technology that was needed to create its heart rate sensor, a key component to the Apple Watch that is being further explored for newer models of the wearable.
According to Omni’s founder Dr. Mohammed Islam, several Apple team members, including the company’s medical technology specialist, hardware designer, and vice president of product marketing, met with Omni personnel between 2014 and 2016 to discuss patent applications — that is to say, Omni’s patent applications.
Islam alleges that after showing these patents to Apple, the tech giant went silent, and reneged on any potential partnership negotiations that may have been ongoing. Ultimately, Islam claims, Apple took the startup’s patent ideas and received approval for its own infringing patent in 2017 and earlier in 2018 — the more recent one addresses how light sources might be leveraged to monitor glucose. This is of particular interest, seeing as Apple is reportedly looking to create a sensor for the Apple Watch capable of keeping tabs on blood sugar levels for those living with diabetes.
As a result of the lawsuit, Islam hopes to receive both damages and an injunction preventing further sales of the Apple Watch (which, by the way, seems like a rather unlikely outcome).
While lawsuits against Apple are nothing new, this particular case does have a few fishy elements. First off, the startup founder claims to have first met with Apple in 2014, just a few months before the Apple Watch made its debut. At point, however, the company had already solidified its heart rate sensor technology, as this particular feature was discussed at length during the wearable’s unveiling. Plus, as Apple Insider reports, Islam seems to have incorporated certain modifications into his own intellectual property (IP) after the Apple event at which the Watch was introduced.
Islam has also previously brought lawsuits against Huawei, Nokia, and Verizon for patent infringement. As for this current Apple case, the tech giant has yet to respond to the allegations.