Wearable technology: a new battleground for patent disputes

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We have become accustomed in the last few years to reading about patent disputes concerning mobile phone technology. Whilst there is no suggestion of these abating, there are signs that the next big battleground for patent disputes across the world could be wearable technology (a subject upon which we wrote at the end of last year).

This is prompted by the news that wearable tech maker, Valencell, is suing Apple and Fitbit for patent infringement, claiming that the two companies have copied its health monitoring technology without its consent. Reportedly, Valencell is arguing that Apple began to take a more than healthy interest in their biometric sensing technology in early 2013, when Apple’s development work on its Apple Watch technology was beginning to get going.  Valencell are claiming that Apple employees accessed its technical white papers under a false pretence, namely that Apple was interested in taking a licence for the technology.  Ultimately, Valencell say, Apple took the commercial decision to gamble on the risk of an infringement action instead of investing in a licence.  In relation to Fitbit, on the other hand, Valencell claim that it saw Valencell’s technology at a trade fair, liked it and then copied it.

Valencell are seeking an injunction preventing Apple and Fitbit from selling products which incorporate the allegedly infringing technology. They are also claiming damages, which, because it is alleged that the infringement was “wilful”, could include court awarded punitive damages.

This is an ambitious claim and it will be one to watch with interest, not least to see if it does presage further claims in the wearables sector.