Apple Seeks to Overturn Import Ban on Apple Watches Amid Patent Dispute

In a recent legal maneuver, Apple Inc. has approached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, seeking to overturn an import ban on certain models of its Apple Watch. This request stems from a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) favoring Masimo, a medical-monitoring technology firm, in a patent infringement dispute.

Apple argues that the ITC’s decision was founded on what it considers “substantively defective patent rulings.” The company further contends that Masimo has not demonstrated sufficient investment in domestic products that would merit such an import ban.

The dispute traces back to allegations by Masimo, based in Irvine, California, that Apple not only poached its employees but also appropriated its pulse oximetry technology. These claims arose after Apple debuted this technology in its Series 6 Apple Watches in 2020.

Following a successful complaint by Masimo, the ITC issued a directive on December 26 to halt the importation of Apple’s latest Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches. This decision came after it was determined that the smartwatches’ method for measuring blood-oxygen levels infringed on Masimo’s patents.

Apple, however, managed to get a temporary reprieve by convincing the Federal Circuit to stall the ban. Despite this brief resumption of sales, the appeals court later reinstated the ban in January. In response, Apple opted to disable the pulse oximetry function in its watches pending the appeal—a process that the company anticipates could extend over a year.

In a separate ruling, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection concluded in January that newly redesigned versions of Apple’s watches did not infringe upon Masimo’s patents and were exempt from the import ban. Masimo has maintained that the modified watches lack the contentious pulse oximetry feature.

Apple’s plea to the Federal Circuit highlighted the absence of a competing Masimo wearable product at the time Masimo lodged its ITC complaint in 2021. Apple describes the Masimo product as “purely hypothetical.” Moreover, Apple challenges the validity of Masimo’s patents and denies that its smartwatches infringe upon these patents.

This legal battle highlights the complexities of patent infringement issues within the tech industry, particularly as companies innovate in overlapping technological fields. The outcome of this appeal could have significant implications for both Apple and the broader wearable technology market.

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