Apple, Masimo court case over smartwatch trade secrets ends in hung jury

A jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision in a trial to determine whether Apple infringed on health-tracking technologies originally developed by fellow wearable maker Masimo.

Masimo—along with its spinout company Cercacor Laboratories—originally filed suit against Apple in 2020, accusing the tech giant of using their trade secrets in the development of the Apple Watch’s light-based pulse oximetry feature.

Masimo and Cercacor claimed Apple had gained access to the trade secrets by hiring away their former employees. The companies also accused Apple of filing for patents on technologies that Masimo and Cercacor employees had helped develop and requested that they be given part ownership of the patents.

For its part, Apple denied all of Masimo’s claims, arguing that it didn’t steal any trade secrets, that the overlaps in their technologies don’t actually constitute trade secrets and that there’s no need to add Masimo and Cercacor employees to any of the Big Tech’s patents.

The lawsuit originally spanned several dozen trade secret misappropriation claims, many of which were ultimately dropped by either the court or Masimo itself. Masimo stood to take home up to $1.85 billion in damages in the trial, down from the more than $3.1 billion it was originally seeking in the case.

According to court documents filed this week, after a three-week-long trial, six jurors voted in favor of Apple, but one took Masimo’s side and “will not change”—leading the judge in the case to declare a mistrial.

In a statement sent to Fierce Medtech, Apple thanked the jury “for their careful consideration in this case.”

“We deeply respect intellectual property and innovation and do not take or use confidential information from other companies. We are pleased that the court correctly rejected half of the plaintiffs’ trade secret allegations and will now ask the court to dismiss the remaining claims,” the company said in the statement.

Masimo said in a statement of its own that it was “disappointed” in the lack of a verdict and vowed to “retry the case and continue to pursue legal redress against Apple.”

In the statement, Masimo continued, “As we begin that process, the United States [International] Trade Commission is scheduled in the coming months to decide whether to ban the importation of certain models of the Apple Watch, following a ruling last year by an administrative law judge that Apple infringed one of Masimo’s patents for pulse oximetry.”

That patent concerns Masimo’s “light-based pulse oximetry functionality and components,” according to the company’s announcement of the ruling earlier this year. The U.S. International Trade Commission had been tasked with determining whether similar technology was used to add a pulse oximeter to Apple’s wearables, beginning with the Apple Watch Series 6 in 2020.

Meanwhile, in recent months, Apple has filed a handful of patent infringement cases against Masimo, claiming that the latter’s recently launched W1 smartwatch bears strong similarities to both the outer design and inner functions of the Apple Watch.