On Thursday, Oct 26, 2023, the International Trade Commission (ITC) in the U.S. ordered a potential Apple Watch ban alleging that the Apple Watch violates a medical technology company called Masimo’s patent rights.
The issues first came about in January 2023, when a U.S. judge ruled that Apple had infringed Masimo’s pulse oximeter patents. It was argued that Apple had done so by importing and selling specific Apple Watches that had light-based pulse oximetry functions and components.
At that time, the ITC was yet to pass a ruling on whether the Apple Watch should be banned or not. In the latest update, that ruling is upheld but will not take immediate effect as it now involves presidential review.
According to Reuters, President Joe Biden will have 60 days to review the case and decide whether the decision to ban the Apple Watch import should be Veto-ed. Once the review period ends, Apple can pass an appeal regarding the ban to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
A spokesperson from Apple stated:
“Masimo has wrongly attempted to use the ITC to keep a potentially lifesaving product from millions of U.S. consumers while making way for their own watch that copies Apple. While today’s decision has no immediate impact on sales of Apple Watch, we believe it should be reversed, and will continue our efforts to appeal.”
On the other hand, Masimo’s Chief Executive Officer argued that the decision sets forth an example that even the biggest companies must be held accountable by law. He argued that the decision “sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law.”
At the moment, the ITC has not highlighted which Apple Watch models will be affected by the ban. However, Masimo registered a complaint in 2021 mentioning that the 2020 Apple Watch Series 6 infringed its patent rights for the technology used in monitoring blood-oxygen levels. It is important to note, that this particular Apple Watch series was the first to feature such a technology.
Previously, Irvine, California-based Masimo, also filed a complaint regarding the tech giant stealing the company’s technology and using it in their products. Unfortunately for Masimo, the case ended up in a mistrial in May since the Californian court could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Looking back at the legal issues surrounding Apple Watches, there was also a complaint by AliveCor arguing that Apple had violated its patent rights for its ECG technology that was used in the Apple Watch.
While this complaint could also lead to a ban on Apple Watch imports, as of now, it has been put on hold until AliveCor’s patents are complete.