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Masimo claims $3.1 billion after Apple accused of stealing trade secrets

The legal dispute between Apple and pulse oximetry company Masimo has been going on for a fortnight, and we know very little about it because the trial is taking place behind closed doors. Masimo is claiming joint ownership of the patents and $3.1 billion (currently about RMB 21.328 billion).

Apple hired Michael O’Reilly, Masimo’s chief medical officer, in July 2013 and Marcelo Lamego, chief technology officer of Cercacor, a division of Masimo, in early 2014 to work on the Apple Watch. Masimo claimed that Apple had deliberately poached employees and that Lamego had leaked Masimo’s trade secrets to Apple. Apple maintains that the hiring of the two employees had nothing to do with their experience at Masimo, but was based on their talents. Apple also said that the two former Masimo employees did not disclose Masimo’s intellectual property when they worked on the Apple Watch.

Lamego worked for Apple for only six months, but in that time he filed 12 patents and is listed as an inventor on several future Apple patents. Lamego was hired on the recommendation of O’Reilly, who had warned Apple that Lamego’s O’Reilly had warned Apple that “most of Lamego’s knowledge” was “confidential Cercacor or Masimo information”. Apple, for its part, pointed to an email Lamego had sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook in which he said he could “add significant value to Apple” without relying on the work he had done for Masimo. The offer email indicated that Apple was interested in his “professional experience” in the development of the Apple Watch sensor.

Lamego claims that he had to be “extremely careful to avoid intellectual property conflicts” while he was developing heart rate detection algorithms for the Apple Watch, and says that shortly after he was hired, Masimo sent a threatening letter that caused Apple to withdraw the resources it had offered him. He eventually left Apple, but Masimo maintains that the information he shared with Apple during that time was critical to the development of the Apple Watch. According to Masimo CEO Joe Kiani, the patents issued to Apple in 2019 were “based on [Masimo’s] stuff”.

The eight-member jury hearing the case is expected to begin deliberations next week, when Apple and Masimo will conclude their legal arguments. The US International Trade Commission has already ruled that Apple has infringed Masimo’s patent on the Apple Watch, but Apple is defending against this.

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