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Here’s How Swatch is Secretly Taking on Apple

December 10, 2015, 6:26 PM UTC
Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek shows on March 12, 2014 shows the new Swatch Touch Zero One wristwatch during a press conference to present annual results of the worlds No. one watchmaker in Corgemont. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Fabrice Coffrini — AFP via Getty Images

Swatch, the world’s largest watchmaker, has really come a long way in its view of smartwatches.

Swatch Group (UHR) CEO Nick Hayek was once dismissive of smartwatches—ripping their short battery life and referring to the Apple Watch as “an interesting toy, but not a revolution”—but the company has actually moved into the smartwatch market recently by adding chips to its watches that allow users to make mobile payments. The company also launched a touchscreen watch earlier this year that works as a fitness tracker.

Now it turns out that Swatch may be secretly hoarding patents for technology with smartwatch applications. According to Bloomberg, which cites U.S. patent law firm Envision IP, Swatch has filed more than 170 patent applications in the U.S. and overseas in recent years, and mostly since 2012.

It’s not rare for companies to file a lot of patents as a preliminary move to avoid knockoffs and lawsuits down the road, but Envision managing attorney Maulin Shah told Bloomberg that Swatch’s collection of patents should allow the company to introduce its own branded line of smartwatches without having to partner with an outside telecom or smartphone maker. Included in the patent applications are filings for a trademarked smart battery that can transmit data as well as a receiver to pick up on radio frequencies.

Earlier this year, Swatch did announce that it set a personal record for patent applications filed in 2014, noting at the time that the filings would be “reflected in the numerous innovative product launches in all segments in 2015.” Swatch declined to tell Bloomberg how it will use its stockpile of patent applications, and a Swatch spokesperson did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.