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Apple’s Fight Over Watch Patents Could Slow Its Health Ambitions

What an Apple Watch patent fight means for you

As a longtime Apple watcher, I’ve covered the company’s decade-long journey into health care with much interest. Its first major feature was heart rate monitoring in the Apple Watch. Since then it’s expanded to features like a mobile EKG machine built into the watch and access to patient hospital records on the iPhone and iPad.

But the real inventive work that could change the game for both consumers and the company’s bottom-line are its litany of future features. The most significant is non-invasive glucose monitoring, which the company hopes to bring to market by the end of the decade after reaching major milestones in recent years. The company has hopes to roll out two other major health features as soon as this year: hypertension and sleep apnea detection.

Those features — like blood sugar checking — will require a combination of advanced new algorithms and upgraded sensors on the bottom of the Apple Watch. And that’s where things may get tricky for Apple. The Silicon Valley company is currently embroiled in a fight with Masimo over patents related to blood oxygen sensors.

The results have already moved Apple to remove its blood oxygen sensing feature from newly sold Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Series 9 models. That has cracked an opening in the marketplace for other watches with the feature, including Masimo’s own new smartwatches.

The threat Masimo has unleashed on Apple is two-fold. With Masimo’s success, Apple may be far more vulnerable to litigation. And to roll out its sleep apnea feature, Apple is going to need that blood oxygen tech.

There are a litany of other companies that hold patents in the glucose, blood pressure and sleep apnea detection space — making it a prime area for litigation. I don’t think Apple will fear litigation enough to scale back its development of new health features (they’ll just fight them like they’re fighting Masimo). But the issue is enough to potentially delay or alter the company’s plans.

Posted on: 2/2/2024 3:19:09 AM


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