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Judge declares mistrial in Apple vs. Masimo case over oxygen sensor in Apple Watch

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 10, 2023
A trial between Apple and Masimo over the Apple Watch's functionality and potential trade secret infringement has ended in a mistrial.
A trade secret misappropriation case between Apple and Masimo Corp. over a function of the Apple Watch has ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to come to a unanimous decision on May 1.

Masimo and its subsidiary, Cercacor Laboratories filed their suit in 2020 seeking as much as $3.1 billion, (which a judge reduced to $1.85 billion), alleging that the blood-oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch was developed using trade secrets from Masimo.

They said that Apple hired their employees to learn about the technology after CEO Tim Cook rejected an internal proposal for Apple to buy Masimo, and that it filed patents for technologies that these employees helped develop. They requested partial ownership of the patents.

Apple called to the stand multiple employees who testified throughout the three-week trial that they did not use Masimo’s technology as the basis for the oxygen sensor.

Among the seven members of the all-female jury, who deliberated on May, six voted in favor of Apple, while one took Masimo’s side and refused to change her vote.

“We’re not going to be able to come to a joint conclusion,” the jury wrote in its final note to the judge.

In a statement, Apple said that it “deeply respects intellectual property and innovation,” and that it is “pleased that the court correctly rejected half of the plaintiffs’ trade secret allegations, and will now ask the court to dismiss the remaining claims.”

Masimo said in its own statement that it would retry the case. “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.”

Apple released its pulse oximeter sensor as part of the Apple Watch Series 6 in 2020, and continues to use it in its current Apple Watches. But last year's ruling declared that the light-based pulse oximetry functionality and components of certain Apple Watches imported and sold in the U.S. infringed on Masimo’s pulse oximeter patents.

It recently filed its own patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo, saying that its W1 smartwatch, launched in January, has outer design features and inner functions that look similar to the Apple Watch.

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