June 23, 2024

Apple is facing a significant crackdown from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which may prevent its Apple Watch importation.

This decision stems from a judge ruling in January on Apple’s violation of a medical technology company, Masimo’s patent rights related to light-based technology for monitoring blood-oxygen levels.

According to Masimo’s Chief Executive Officer, Joe Kiani, this pending decision is a message that even the world’s largest company is subject to the law. 

Apple Watch Ban by ITC

For now, the ruling hasn’t been effected, as it still awaits presidential review and potential appeal. The Biden administration has a 60-day window to decide whether to disapprove the import ban before it takes effect. 

After the review period, Apple can dispute this ban by appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Meanwhile, an Apple spokesperson, in a statement, already challenged the move of the medical technology company. 

The spokesman noted that Masimo is attempting to use the ITC to restrain Apple’s potentially life-saving product to promote their watch, which they claim imitates Apple.

Notably, the ITC’s decision doesn’t specify which Apple Watch models will be affected by the import ban.

However, the medical tech company’s initial complaint in 2021 alleged that the 2020 Apple Watch Series 6, the first model with blood-oxygen monitoring capabilities, violates its patents.

The complaint also cited that the violating Apple Watches were manufactured in China, although Apple has long transferred some of its production to Vietnam.

Interestingly, this case is part of a broader property dispute between both parties that spans multiple legal jurisdictions. At the time, Masimo accused Apple of appropriating its technology and incorporating it into Apple Watch models.

Notably, the jury trial regarding these allegations in California federal court ended in an injustice in May this year.

In the meantime, the current ruling doesn’t affect the sale of Apple Watches. In terms of financials, Apple’s wearables, home, and accessory business, which includes the Apple Watch, AirPods earbuds, and other products, generated $8.28 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2023, according to a company report.

Other Cases Regarding Apple’s Product Ban

In a separate legal action, Apple sued Masimo for patent infringement in federal court in Delaware. According to the report, Apple characterized Masimo’s legal actions as an attempt to pave the way for its competing smartwatch.

Besides these challenges, Apple also deals with a separate Apple Watch import ban in another patent dispute with medical technology company AliveCor. The ITC issued a ban in February but put it on hold while related proceedings concerning the validity of AliveCor’s patents are ongoing.

Additionally, the regulatory body has also stated that it will execute a restricted exclusion order to prevent the importation of the watches and their components. For now, the companies await the decision of Biden’s administration over the ban to know the next steps.

 But it’s worth mentioning that past presidents have rarely rejected such bans related to human well-being. The ban may likely take effect until Apple disputes it or abides by it. 

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