July 13, 2024

Import Ban on Apple Watches Takes Effect in the US amidst Patent Dispute

The United States has imposed an import ban on certain models of Apple smartwatches due to patent infringements, with the Biden administration deciding not to veto the ruling. The ban, imposed by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC), is related to a patented technology used in detecting blood-oxygen levels.

Apple has expressed strong disagreement with the ITC’s decision and stated its intention to appeal the ruling in a US federal court. In response to the ban, Apple temporarily halted the sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US. The ban officially went into effect on the online Apple Store on December 21, and retail locations ceased sales on December 24, just days before the holiday season.

The patent infringement complaint was initially filed by medical device maker Masimo Corp in mid-2021. Masimo accused Apple of infringing on light-based oximetry functionality and claimed to have invented the technology. The company also alleged that Apple hired its employees to gain access to the knowledge. Despite Apple’s opposition and appeal, the US Trade Representative’s office confirmed that the ITC’s decision had become final on December 26, 2023.

While the president has the power to reverse import bans, such actions are rare. Apple has been continuously enhancing the fitness and health features of its Apple Watch series, which currently dominates the smartwatch category. In September, the company released the Apple Watch Series 9, highlighting improved performance and the ability to access and log health data.

In a statement, Apple expressed its disagreement with the ITC’s decision and its commitment to resolving the matter, aiming to return the affected Apple Watch models to US customers as soon as possible. Apple also accused Masimo of attempting to use the ITC to hinder their product’s availability in the market, claiming that Masimo’s intentions were driven by the desire to promote their own watch that allegedly copies Apple’s technology.

The legal battle between Apple and Masimo has been ongoing. In May, a trial ended in a mistrial as the jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict on Masimo’s allegations. Apple retaliated by filing two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo, accusing the company of copying its Apple Watch technology. However, in November, Masimo received regulatory clearance to use its wrist-worn product for both prescription and over-the-counter purposes.

Apple has consistently argued that Masimo’s litigation tactics are designed to create space for its own products inspired by the Apple Watch. The ongoing dispute between the two companies highlights the competitive nature of the wearable technology market and the importance of protecting intellectual property rights.

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Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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