NYU Cardiologist Sues Apple Over Patent Infringement

NYU cardiologist Dr. Joseph Wiesel is suing Apple for incorporating his patented irregular heartbeat detection technology into the Apple Watch.

The lights of the Apple Store illuminate 5th Avenue. The trillion-dollar company is being sued by an NYU Langone Cardiologist. (Staff Photo by Jake Capriotti)

Dr. Joseph Wiesel — an NYU Langone cardiologist — is suing Apple, claiming that the Apple Watch uses technology that he patented.

Wiesel’s invention notifies users when it detects irregular heartbeats, something he referred to as a “pioneering step” in heart monitoring technology. Wiesel was instructed by his attorney to not disclose further information due to legal concerns. 

Wiesel filed patent ‘514 in 1999 after noting a trend of patients having strokes caused by atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heartbeat that is conducive to blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. Wiesel noticed a lack of technology to screen for atrial fibrillation, and said patients were often unaware their strokes were being caused by an irregular heartbeat.

“[These strokes] could have been prevented,” Wiesel told WSN. “So I was looking for ways to pick up atrial fibrillation before strokes developed.”

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Wiesel initially taught his patients to check their own pulses at home, but soon found this method to be unreliable. Wiesel also found it ineffective to use blood pressure monitors to detect irregular heartbeats. 

“I looked at the transmission of lights through the skin,” Wiesel said. “At that time, we had the pulse oximeters that we put on the fingertip and that would pick up the pulse. And then you are able to detect.”

Over the past twenty years, Wiesel has researched and experimented to find new ways of detecting atrial fibrillation. According to court documents, he filed the first of numerous patents in December 1999.

Wiesel has reached out to smartwatch companies over the years to apply his patented technologies to their products. 

In 2017, Apple announced Apple Heart Studies, a feature of the Apple Watch which uses similar technologies to ones Wiesel had been developing. Before this, smartwatch companies could detect a user’s pulse, but were unable to detect irregular heartbeats.

According to the written complaint, Apple is aware of Wiesel’s patent. 

“Since at least as early as September 20, 2017, before the launch of the Series 4 [Apple Watch], Apple has had indisputable actual knowledge of Dr. Wiesel’s ‘514 Patent,” the court document states. 

Wiesel added that his legal team has not heard from Apple. The company has yet to comment on the litigation.

Despite the lawsuit, Wiesel emphasizes his willingness to collaborate with Apple to develop the watch. 

“I still have that desire,” Wiesel said. “I think they have a good product. Collaborating with small inventors will be good for everybody, because even though they have tremendous resources and very smart people working there, some other people may still have good ideas.”

Email Yi Yang at [email protected]

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