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USITC calls for import ban on Apple Watches that infringe on Masimo patents

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | November 03, 2023
Business Affairs
The ITC has recommended an import ban on Apple Watches that infringe on Masimo patents.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has proposed an import ban on Apple Watches in the U.S. that infringe upon patents owned by competitor Masimo.

In 2020, Masimo and its subsidiary, Cercacor Laboratories alleged the light-based pulse oximetry functionality in Apple Watches, specifically the 2020 Apple Watch Series 6, was developed using its trade secrets. In January 2023, a judge ruled that Apple infringed on one of Masimo’s patents, leaving the decision of an import ban up to the U.S. International Trade Commission, according to Reuters.

The commission upheld the ruling and issued an exclusive order for the ban but did not say which models would be affected.

“Today’s ruling by the USITC sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law,” said Joe Kiani, founder, chairman, and CEO of Masimo, in a statement.

By law, Biden has 60 days to veto the ban before it takes effect. An Apple spokesperson told Reuters that the company will appeal the decision. " 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 watch that copies Apple.”

Academic institutions, antitrust and intellectual property scholars, physicians, investors, nonprofits, and members of Congress have voiced support for a ban, saying that it is necessary to protect innovation and fair competition.

In a statement, the Consumer Federation of America said that “competition will swiftly replace any services or products that Apple is no longer able to deliver” and “because of the remedy, there will be little harm and a great deal of benefit for consumers and the economy.”

Masimo says the Apple Watches were made in China, and Apple has since transferred some production to Vietnam, reported Reuters. It says that Apple hired its employees to learn about the technology. Apple refuted this in multiple testimonies in a separate federal case that ended in a mistrial in May.

Apple is also suing Masimo for patent infringement, saying that its W1 smartwatch, launched in January, has outer design features and inner functions that look similar to the Apple Watch.

Additionally, it is involved in another patent dispute with AliveCor, which says that the Apple Watch's built-in heart-monitoring technology has features similar to sensors used in AliveCor's KardiaBand solutions to monitor irregular heartbeats and help make diagnoses.

While the ITC issued a ban in this case as well, it has put a hold on it to allow appeals to finish in a separate but related dispute in which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deemed AliveCor’s claims to be unpatentable.

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