Potential Apple Watch Ban Issued by US Trade Tribunal in Masimo Patent Battle

by Tim Hardwick

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Thursday ordered a ban on Apple Watch imports into the country after finding that Apple violated pulse oximetry company Masimo’s patents with the devices (via Reuters).

The ban is now subject to presidential review, so it does not take effect immediately, and Apple can take the ban to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after the 60-day review period ends. Presidents have rarely vetoed bans in the past.

“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,” an Apple spokesperson said. “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.”

Masimo Chief Executive Officer Joe Kiani said the decision “sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law.”

Since 2021, Masimo has been embroiled in an ongoing battle with Apple over several health capabilities found in some Apple Watch models, and Masimo has been pushing to have the models banned in the United States. The ITC decision did not specify which models of Apple Watches would be affected by the ban, but Masimo’s original complaint said the Apple Watch Series 6, released in 2020, infringed its patents.

Masimo accuses Apple of having illegally poached Masimo employees and stole trade secrets when developing the Apple Watch. The company is seeking over $1.8 billion in damages and co-ownership of five Apple pulse oximetry patents that Masimo says use its technology.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ended up invalidating all but two of the patents, but the ITC in January said that Apple had infringed on a Masimo patent relating to light-based technology for reading blood-oxygen levels.

Apple is also facing an Apple Watch import ban in a separate patent court battle with medical technology company AliveCor. The ITC issued a ban in February, and the Biden administration declined to overrule the decision, but the ban has been placed on hold while proceedings over the validity of AliveCor’s patents are completed.

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