U.S. Administration allows import ban on certain Apple Watches amid patent dispute
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has passed on a veto against the decision of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the import of certain Apple Watches. The ITC’s landmark order, effective from December 26, follows a complaint from medical monitoring technology company Masimo.
The ITC’s decision prevents the import and sale of Apple Watches that utilise patent-infringing technology for blood-oxygen level readings, particularly those with the pulse oximeter feature introduced in the Series 6 model in 2020. The ban will affect Series 6, 7, 8, and 9 models, while the more affordable Apple Watch SE, lacking the pulse-oximetry capabilities, remains unaffected. Apple, with the option to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, has paused the sales of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches in the United States since last week. However, previously sold watches will not be impacted by the ban.
Masimo’s allegations against Apple include claims of hiring away its employees, stealing pulse oximetry technology, and incorporating it into the Apple Watch. A jury trial in a California federal court on these allegations ended in a mistrial in May.
U.S. Administration allows import ban on certain Apple Watches
This marks an important decision as the last instance of a presidential administration not vetoing an ITC ruling dates back to 2013. Apple can appeal the ban, but the ongoing patent dispute raises concerns about the potential impact on Apple’s wearables business, which reported $8.28 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2023.
Masimo argues that the ban won’t harm public health, citing inaccuracies in Apple Watch blood oxygen measurements. Apple, in response, contends that Masimo is using the ITC to hinder a potentially life-saving product while promoting its competing smartwatch.
The ban poses a challenge for Apple, adding to its series of setbacks in 2023, including declining revenues, regulatory pressure, and challenges in the Chinese market. Apple faces the complex task of navigating legal resolutions, potential settlements, or modifications to its devices to overcome the import ban.