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Apple awarded stocking full of patents, including heart monitor

US Patent and Trademark Office grants Apple 23 patents on Christmas Eve, perhaps most interestingly one for an embedded heart-rate monitor. That's for you, iWatch watchers.

A drawing submitted with Apple's patent for a seamlessly embedded heart rate monitor, granted Tuesday.

The US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple 23 patents, including one for an embedded heart-rate monitor that might just be of interest to those on the watch for all things iWatch.

The most notable of the bunch -- which range from Apple Store display stands to data storage management -- is the patent for a "seamlessly embedded heart rate monitor." That seems like something that would be used in the much-anticipated and so-called iWatch.

In the patent, Apple points out that the heart rate monitor might be integrated into an accessory: "In some embodiments, an accessory coupled to the electronic device could be used to detect a user's heart rate. For example, the leads could be located in one or more earbuds or in a headset, for example."

We have to tip the (Santa's) hat to Patently Apple for noticing the patents on this Christmas Eve. (Update: Apple Insider -- we've since learned -- spotted the patents first.)

Interest in wearable computers has swelled in recent months as reports trickled out that Apple was creating a smartwatch that would run on its iOS mobile operating system. Later reports suggested that Apple went on a hiring spree for its iWatch effort.

And just Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees in a memo that the company has "big plans that we think customers are going to love" in 2014.

We're certainlyexpecting lots of wearable gadgets to debut next month in Las Vegas at CES. Perhaps this patent is key to one in the distant future from Apple.

Here you can view the full list of patents awarded to Apple today.