Apple Watch: The US International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an order that could prevent Apple from importing its Apple Watches due to patent infringement against medical technology company Masimo. The Commission upheld a judge’s ruling in January, which found that Apple had infringed Masimo’s patent rights in relation to technology used to check blood oxygen levels. However, the decision will not have immediate effect as it will have to undergo presidential review and possible appeal.

Joe Kiani, chief executive of Masimo, said the decision “sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law.” The Biden administration has 60 days to decide whether to veto the import ban based on policy concerns before it takes effect, although presidents have rarely vetoed bans in the past.
Apple also has the option to appeal the ban to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after the review period ends.

An Apple spokesperson said, “Massimo attempted to misuse the ITC to keep a potentially life-saving product from millions of American consumers, while paving the way for its own copycat Apple watch.” “Although today’s decision will have no immediate impact on Apple Watch sales, we believe it should be reversed, and we will continue our efforts to appeal.”

Apple’s patent ‘problem’ on Watch

In 2013, Apple attempted to partner with Masimo. However, the CEO of Massimo claimed that Apple had some ill intentions as it wanted to take control of its employees. Subsequently, Apple recruited several employees from Massimo, including the Chief Medical Officer, by offering them higher salaries. These employees had access to confidential information related to Massimo.

Massimo, who considers himself “the inventor of the modern pulse oximeter”, supplies his technology to many hospital devices. In 2020, Massimo filed a lawsuit against Apple for stealing secrets and requested a ban on the sale of Apple Watches in the US. A year later, the company accused Apple of patent infringement. The company claimed that Apple infringed 10 of its pulse oximeter patents during the launch of Watch Series 6.

In January this year, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Apple infringed only one of Masimo’s patents related to pulse oximetry, but did not infringe the other nine patents. Now, ITC has upheld the court’s decision, which could lead to a ban on the import of Apple Watch Series 6 and newer models. However, the order did not clarify which Apple Watch models would be affected by the ban.

Apple faces a second import ban for the Apple Watch due to a separate patent dispute with medical technology company AliveCore. The ban was issued by the International Trade Commission (ITC) in February, but has been put on hold while related proceedings are underway to determine the validity of AliveCor’s patent.

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