ECG app for Apple WatchSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled against Apple.
  • The court says that the patent infringement lawsuit can move forward.

The Apple Watch will continue to have some patent infringement problems according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

As reported by Reuters, the court has ruled against Apple, saying that the case can go forward. Apple attempted to escape the case by claiming the patents in question, which focus on heart rate detection, were owned by a university rather than the professor who brought the suit forward.

The employment agreement between professor Mohammed Islam and the university didn't automatically assign his patents to it, and Apple couldn't escape the case based on a lack of standing by his company Omni MedSci Inc, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Linn said for a divided three-judge panel.

Circuit Judge Pauline Newman dissented, arguing the majority "overturns decades of unchallenged understanding and implementation of the University's employment agreement and policy documents."

Omni had originally sued Apple back in 2018. Islam had complained that Apple, after meeting with him several times to talk about licensing his patents, ended conversations and ended up copying his technology. The professor was on unpaid leave from his university when he applied for the patents that the case is based around.

Apple moved to dismiss the case, arguing the university owned the patents under part of Islam's employment agreement that says patents he receives "shall be the property of" the university if they were obtained based on activity it supported directly or indirectly. The university also argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that it owned the patents at issue.

U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder in Marshall, Texas rejected Apple's motion, finding the agreement didn't automatically assign Islam's future patent rights to the school but stated a future intention to assign them, at most. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers denied Apple's request for leave to file a motion for reconsideration of the decision after the case was moved to her Oakland, California court.

Apple is no stranger to being a target for lawsuits over the Apple Watch. Just this year, one company sued to ban the import of the Apple Watch Series 6 into the United States and another company is attempting to block all imports of Apple Watches that feature ECG.