Samsung sues Oura preemptively to block smart ring patent claims

Samsung isn’t waiting around for Oura to file any patent claims over its forthcoming smart ring. Instead, it’s preemptively filed its own suit against Oura, seeking a “declaratory judgment” that states the Galaxy Ring doesn’t infringe on five Oura patents.

The suit alleges that Oura has a pattern of filing patent suits against competitors based on “features common to virtually all smart rings.” In particular, the suit references sensors, electronics, batteries, and scores based on metrics gathered from sensors. The case lists instances in which Oura sued rivals like Ultrahuman, Circular, and RingConn, sometimes before they even entered the US market.

For those reasons, Samsung says in the suit that it anticipates being the target of an Oura suit. And it brought receipts, too. Shortly after the Galaxy Ring was announced, Oura sent an unprompted statement to multiple publishers — including The Vergeabout the strength of its IP portfolio, noting it had “100 granted patents, 270 pending patent applications, and 130+ registered trademarks.” The suit also cites a CNBC interview with Oura CEO Tom Hale in which he said the company would closely monitor Samsung’s Galaxy Ring and “take the action that’s appropriate.” Samsung goes on to cite several other instances of Hale and other Oura executives touting the strength of the company’s IP portfolio — and the fact that it’s willing to take action to protect its patents.

The Verge reached out to Oura regarding the lawsuit but did not receive an immediate response.

The suit also confirms some details — like the fact the Galaxy Ring is planned for August.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

The lawsuit also confirms several details about the forthcoming Galaxy Ring. It notes that the hardware design was finalized in mid-May, that it’s scheduled to begin mass production in mid-June, and is expected to hit the US market “in or around August of this year.” It also includes a Samsung Health app screenshot showing an “Energy Score” feature based on metrics like sleep, activity, heart rate, and heart rate variability.

It’s not uncommon to see these types of patent battles in the gadget world. Medical device maker Masimo, for example, made headlines late last year when it won an ITC import ban against the Apple Watch, claiming it infringed on its blood oxygen patents. That said, if the court rules in Samsung’s favor, it could have a ripple effect in the smart ring market. Until now, Oura has been virtually uncontested as the leader of the smart ring market. Samsung is the first big-name tech giant to throw its hat in the ring — and given its rich gadget ecosystem, it poses a real threat to Oura in a way smaller, less recognizable smart ring makers haven’t. Plus, a win for Samsung here could give smaller smart ring makers some ammo against Oura.

In any case, Samsung’s entrance into the smart ring market is a sign this category is heating up after a few years of sitting on the back burner. And if the past few months are any indication, Oura may be feeling the heat. It’s released several software updates in the past few months, while also expanding its sales channels to retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Amazon.

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