Apple Watch faces sales ban in US over patent dispute

Apple has been ordered to stop selling its latest Apple Watch models in the US, after losing a patent infringement case against a medical technology company. The ban, which affects the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, will take effect on December 25, unless the White House intervenes.

The patent dispute dates back to 2020, when Masimo, a company that specializes in non-invasive monitoring devices, sued Apple for allegedly stealing its trade secrets and violating its patents. Masimo claimed that Apple hired some of its key employees and copied its blood oxygen sensing feature for the Apple Watch.

The blood oxygen sensor, also known as a pulse oximeter, measures the amount of oxygen in the blood, which can indicate health conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma, and COVID-19. The feature was introduced in the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, which were launched in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Apple Watch faces sales ban in US over patent dispute
Apple Watch faces sales ban in US over patent dispute

Masimo argued that Apple’s use of the sensor infringed on two of its patents, and that the US public would not be harmed by a sales ban, since the Apple Watch was not a medical device and its readings were not reliable. Apple denied the allegations and said that Masimo was trying to stifle innovation and competition.

ITC rules in favor of Masimo, orders import ban on Apple Watch

In January 2023, the US International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent federal agency that deals with trade disputes, ruled in favor of Masimo and found that Apple had violated its patents. The ITC recommended an import ban on the Apple Watch models that used the sensor, as well as a cease and desist order to prevent Apple from selling any existing inventory in the US.

The ITC’s decision was subject to a 60-day review period by the White House, during which President Biden could veto the ban. However, as of December 20, no such action has been taken by the administration, leaving Apple with little time to avoid the ban.

Apple has filed a motion to stay the ban while it appeals the ITC’s ruling, but the motion was denied on December 20. Apple has also said that it will file an appeal on December 26, but that will not affect the ban unless the court grants a stay.

Apple halts sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in US

In anticipation of the ban, Apple has announced that it will stop selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US, starting from December 21 online and December 24 in its physical stores. The company said that it was taking the steps “preemptively” to comply with the ban, and that it believed the ruling should be reversed.

Apple also said that it was “disappointed” by the ITC’s decision, and that Masimo had “wrongly attempted to use the ITC to keep a potentially lifesaving product from millions of US consumers while making way for their own watch that copies Apple.”

The ban will not affect the Apple Watch SE, which does not have a blood oxygen sensor, or the older models of the Apple Watch. It will also not affect the sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in other countries, where the patent dispute is not applicable.

The ban could have a significant impact on Apple’s revenue and market share, as the Apple Watch is the best-selling smartwatch in the world, and the US is one of its biggest markets. According to research firm IDC, Apple shipped 36.4 million units of the Apple Watch in 2022, accounting for 31.7% of the global smartwatch market.

Masimo welcomes ITC’s decision, plans to launch its own smartwatch

Masimo, on the other hand, has welcomed the ITC’s decision, and said that it was “pleased” that the agency had recognized the validity of its patents and the importance of its technology. Masimo also said that it was “committed to defending its intellectual property rights and protecting its innovations.”

Masimo, which was founded in 1989 and is based in Irvine, California, is one of the leading providers of non-invasive monitoring devices for hospitals and clinics. The company has more than 100 patents and offers products such as pulse oximeters, capnographs, and brain monitors.

Masimo is also planning to launch its own smartwatch, called the Radius Tº, which will feature a blood oxygen sensor and a temperature sensor, as well as other health and fitness functions. The company said that the Radius Tº will be a medical-grade device that will provide accurate and reliable readings, unlike the Apple Watch.

The Radius Tº is expected to be available in early 2024, and will compete with the Apple Watch and other smartwatches in the growing wearable health market.

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