, the Apple Watch faces an import ban that could block the device from being shipped into the U.S. On Thursday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that the timepiece violates patents belonging to medical technology company Masimo. The ITC upheld a ruling made by a judge at the beginning of this year finding Apple in violation of Masimo’s intellectual property rights for technology that measures an Apple Watch user’s blood-oxygen level.
This measures the percentage of oxygen found in the blood of an Apple Watch user compared to the maximum amount that could be carried. Most healthy individuals will have a reading between 96% and 99%. The ITC decision does not state which Apple Watch models would be impacted by the ban. Masimo’s original 2021 complaint said that the Apple Watch Series 6, the first model to include a blood-oxygen sensor, infringed its patents. This past September, Apple released the Apple Watch Series 9
and the Watch Ultra 2.
The blood-oxygen sensor at work on the Apple Watch
While the original complaint notes that the Apple Watch is made in China, since then Apple has moved some production to Vietnam.
Despite the ruling from the ITC, the Biden administration will have 60 days to review the order and decide whether or not to veto it. While presidents in the past have typically allowed an import ban to proceed, in 2013 President Barack Obama vetoed a product ban against Apple
that would have resulted in bans against U.S. imports of AT&T versions of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 3G, iPad 2 3G, and iPad 3.
At the time, only the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 3G were being sold by Apple. In this situation, Samsung
had won a court case saying that Apple had infringed on some of the manufacturer’s patents.
After the 60-day review period ends, Apple can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. An Apple spokeswoman said, “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.”
Joe Kiani, Masimo’s CEO, said the decision “sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law.” Apple filed a separate patent infringement lawsuit against Masimo in Delaware and called Masimo’s legal actions a “maneuver to clear a path” for its own smartwatch.
The Apple Watch also faces an import ban in a separate case involving AliveCor.. In February, the ITC issued a ban against the Apple Watch after the president upheld the ruling
. However, the ruling was put on hold so that proceedings could take place to determine the validity of AliceCor’s patents. The company alleges that the electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor on the Apple Watch infringes on a couple of its patents.