Potential Import Ban Threatens Apple Watch in the United States: Here’s the Story Behind It

“U.S. ITC Upholds Ruling Against Apple, Threatening Apple Watch Imports into the Country”

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has sustained a judgment that Apple violated a patent held by Masimo, a medical technology firm, related to the Apple Watch. This ruling could potentially prohibit Apple from importing its watches into the U.S. However, this decision remains subject to presidential review and potential appeals. Masimo’s CEO, Joe Kiani, views this as a significant step highlighting that even the largest companies are accountable under the law. Apple can challenge the ban once the review period concludes.

The U.S. ITC’s decision found Apple in violation of Masimo’s patent rights related to light-based technology used for blood oxygen level measurement in Apple Watches. This ruling, if implemented, could restrict Apple’s watch imports into the U.S. Yet, the order’s enforcement is pending presidential review and possible appeals.

Masimo CEO Joe Kiani emphasized that the decision signifies that no company, regardless of its size, is exempt from legal responsibilities. The Biden administration holds the prerogative to veto the import ban based on policy concerns within 60 days before it becomes effective, although such vetoes are rare.

Apple, post the review period, retains the option to challenge the ban in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The dispute between Apple and Masimo traces back to 2013, when Apple initially sought a partnership with Masimo. The attempt was met with suspicion by Masimo, claiming that Apple aimed to lure its employees. Later that year, Apple hired several Masimo employees, including the chief medical officer, allegedly offering higher salaries. As a result, these employees had access to Masimo’s confidential data and trade secrets.

Masimo, known for developing modern pulse oximeters, supplies its technology to medical equipment in various hospitals. In 2020, Masimo filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging trade secret theft and demanding a ban on Apple Watch sales in the U.S. Subsequently, in 2021, they accused Apple of infringing upon their pulse oximeter patents during the launch of the Apple Watch Series 6.

In a recent ruling, the U.S. ITC found that Apple infringed on one of Masimo’s patents associated with light-based pulse oximetry, sparing the violation of the other nine patents. The upheld decision could impact the import of Apple Watches Series 6 and newer models, although it doesn’t specify the affected Apple Watch models.

Notably, Apple faces another import ban threat for the Apple Watch due to a distinct patent dispute with medical technology company AliveCor. The ITC issued a ban in February, yet its enforcement remains on hold pending ongoing proceedings to ascertain the validity of AliveCor’s patents.

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