The U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board has dealt AliveCor a setback in its intellectual property fight with Apple over the technology behind wearable AFib detection.
In a ruling entered yesterday, the PTAB agreed with Apple that AliveCor’s claims around U.S. Patent No. 10,595,731 B2 were unpatentable. The board made the determination based on the IP law concept of obviousness. Basically, someone with ordinary skills in the field would have found the patent obvious. They could have created what AliveCor was patenting based on the research and technological advancements that had already taken place.
The PTAB said: “Considering all the art and argument of record, and the level of ordinary skill in the art, we agree with [Apple] that ‘after an ECG is measured, it would have been obvious to confirm arrhythmia detection using a machine learning algorithm based on the PPG data, motion sensor data, and/or ECG data.'”
In a statement shared with MassDevice, AliveCor said it is “deeply disappointed and strongly disagrees with the decision by the PTAB and will appeal.”
What led up to the Apple-AliveCor decision?
AliveCor sued Apple over the IP in 2020, about a year after AliveCor stopped selling its KardiaBand for use with the Apple Watch. Apple had already launched its own onboard EKG scanning and AF detection technology on the Apple Watch. Last year, the FDA cleared an irregular heart rhythm notification on the Apple Watch, and Apple continues to develop the technology.
Meanwhile, Mountain View, California–based AliveCor continues to advance in the space with support from GE Healthcare. The Chicago-based medtech giant is set to become an independent company in January. It led AliveCor’s Series F financing round this year.
Under the two companies’ partnership, people with an AliveCor KardiaMobile 6L ECG device outside of the hospital can have their data go directly to GE Healthcare’s Muse cardiac management system. Physicians can then view and evaluate the information. The idea is that the doctors can hopefully spot atrial fibrillation and other cardiac conditions before they send someone to the hospital.
What’s next in the Apple-AliveCor patent battle?
On top of the patent lawsuit, AliveCor filed a separate complaint before the International Trade Commission.
In a countersuit filed against AliveCor on Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court in Northern California, Apple said: “And while an administrative law judge issued an initial determination in that action finding a violation — a finding that Apple is presently contesting before the commission — Apple now 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 its part, AliveCor says it is cautiously optimistic about the final determination from the ITC, which it expects Dec. 12.
Said AliveCor: “We will continue to vigorously protect our patents for the sake of our customers. The PTAB decision does not impact AliveCor’s ongoing business. We will continue to design and distribute our best-in-class portable ECG products and services to our customers.”