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ITC ruling could lead to ban on Apple Watch imports in US


In a recent development, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) affirmed a judge’s previous verdict that found Apple Watch in violation of patents held by medical technology firm Masimo, according to Reuters. Although this ruling theoretically paves the way for a potential import ban on certain Apple Watch models, the tech giant still possesses several avenues to avert such an outcome.

The lawsuit originated from a 2021 legal action initiated by Masimo, which alleged that Apple had infringed on the company’s patents relating to light-based blood-oxygen monitoring. Apple introduced this feature in the Apple Watch Series 6, its flagship smartwatch launched in 2020. Notably, Apple’s 2023 models, including the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, continue to feature blood-oxygen sensors.

Masimo’s legal action primarily focuses on the Apple Watch Series 6, which Apple discontinued in 2021 after unveiling its successor. The potential impact of a hypothetical import ban on Apple’s latest iterations of its flagship wearable remains uncertain. An earlier trial in federal court addressing Masimo’s claims resulted in a mistrial.

The case now advances to the White House, where the Biden administration holds a 60-day window to decide whether to override the import ban based on policy considerations. Historical data, as reported by Reuters, indicates that US Presidents have infrequently rejected such bans. Should President Biden opt not to veto, Apple retains the option to appeal the ban to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after the White House’s review period concludes. Apple’s alternatives include settling with Masimo or releasing software updates that work around the patent issue.

Masimo characterizes this development as a triumph for the underdog. Joe Kiani, Masimo’s CEO, stated, “Today’s ruling by the USITC sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law. This important determination is a strong validation of our efforts to hold Apple accountable for unlawfully misappropriating our patented technology.”

In response, Apple framed the situation as a decision that could jeopardize lives to promote Masimo’s product lineup. An Apple spokesperson conveyed, “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.”

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