Cardiologist sues Apple for infringing on heart monitor patent. WIESEL v. APPLE

Cardiologist sues Apple for infringing on heart monitor patent. WIESEL v. APPLE

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted the the inventor of a new invention.  A patent grants its owner the exclusive right to make, use, sell and import an invention in the United States.  If someone other than the patent owner attempts to exercise one of these exclusive rights, without authorization, that can be considered patent infringement.  If a patent owner feels that their patent is being infringed on, the patent owner can file a lawsuit in United States Federal Court.

When a patent owner files a patent infringement complaint there are several requirements that the complaint must meet.  One of those requirements is that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must set forth enough facts, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”  A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).  This means, merely stating that the plaintiff has a patent and the defendant is infringing the patent is not enough.  A patent infringement plaintiff must explain  how a defendant infringed on a patent in the initial complaint.  To help illustrate what needs to be shown in an initial complaint it is useful to study other cases.

JOSEPH WIESEL v. APPLE INC., 19-cv-07261 (E.D.NY 2019) is an example of a patent infringement lawsuit that makes it clear how a device infringes on the claims of a patent.  The plaintiff in this case is a cardiologist who owns U.S. Patent No. 7,020,514 (the ‘514 Patent) entitled “Method of and apparatus for detecting atrial fibrillation,” which was issued on March 28, 2006.  The ‘514 Patent claims a method of detecting atrial fibrillation by measuring a patient’s heart rate over a period of time.  The ‘514 Patent also claims a device that measures a patient’s heart rate using light and monitors for atrial fibrillation.

The defendant is a major manufacturer of consumer electronics.   The defendant began selling the Apple Watch in 2016. The Apple Watch has had numerous revisions over the years.  New versions of the watch come with software that provide an irregular pulse notification feature that checks a user’s pulse rhythm and sends a notification if atrial fibrillation is detected.  Older versions of the watch were given a software upgrade that provides the same feature.  The watch monitors a user’s heart rate using light.

In September 2017 the plaintiff contacted the defendant with concerns that the atrial fibrillation detection feature of the watch may infringe on the ‘514 patent.  When the defendant did not respond the plaintiff filed a complaint for patent infringement.

In its complaint, the plaintiff cites documents that the defendant provided the Food and Drug Administration to explain how the watch infringes on the patent.  Because the watch is being marketed to monitor heart rate, it could be considered a medical device, therefore FDA approval was needed.  The defendant’s FDA filings show that the watch monitors heart rate for a one minute sequence to determine if a heart beat is irregular.  The FDA filings also show that the watch uses LEDs to monitor heart rate.   The complaint then explains how the defendant’s statements in the FDA filings show the watch infringe on the claims of the ‘514 patent.

While this is a well pleaded complaint, it is not the end of the case.  There are several strategies the defendant can take to win the case, like arguing the patent is invalid or that the watch uses a method that isn’t actually claimed in the patent.  Given the well crafted complaint it is likely that this case will settle quickly.

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