Patient-monitoring company Masimo (NSDQ:MASI) and spinoff company Cercacor filed suit yesterday accusing Apple (NSDQ:AAPL) of poaching its employees and infringing 10 of its patents to improve the health monitoring functions of the Apple Watch.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, claims that in 2013, Apple contacted Masimo and asked to meet regarding a potential collaboration. Apple told Masimo that Apple would like to understand more about Masimo’s technology to potentially integrate that technology into Apple’s products, according to the claim. Under a confidentiality agreement, the companies met to discuss Masimo’s technology, after which Masimo claims “Apple quickly began trying to hire Masimo employees, including engineers and key management.”
Masimo and Cercacor claim that Apple used their technology in the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5, released in September 2018 and September 2019 respectively. Specifically, the companies allege that the Series 4 and Series 5 watches use their technology to solve some of the watch series’ performance issues.
The Masimo/Cercacor claim is just the latest among patent infringement suits leveled against Apple. Last month, a New York cardiologist filed suit, claiming that Apple infringed his patent for an atrial fibrillation detector.
Apple’s recruiting activity raised eyebrows at Masimo in 2014. “Some of the talent [Apple recruited] has access to deep wells of trade secrets and information,” Masimo CEO Joe Kiani told Reuters at the time. “I just hope Apple is not doing what we’re doing.”
Among the Masimo alumni who headed to Apple was Michael O’Reilly, who was chief medical officer at Masimo from 2008 until 2013, during which time Masimo released the 1st Apple-approved pulse oximetry system, compatible with iPods, iPhones and iPads.
O’Reilly accompanied Apple workers to a suggestive meeting with FDA officials in 2013, listed on the FDA’s calendar as a meeting to discuss “mobile medical applications.” Cercacor’s chief technology officer and a former research scientist at Masimo, Marcelo Lamego, left Cercacor for Apple in 2014, the lawsuit says.