The decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Thursday has put Apple in a precarious position, as it faces a potential ban on importing its Apple Watches into the United States. This move comes after the ITC found that Apple had violated several patents held by Masimo, a company specializing in pulse oximetry.
However, the ban will not come into immediate effect as it is now pending a presidential review, giving Apple a 60-day grace period to challenge the decision at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Historically, presidential vetoes on such bans have been a rarity.
In response to the ITC’s decision, an Apple spokesperson condemned Masimo’s actions, accusing the company of using the ITC to hinder the availability of a potentially lifesaving product while simultaneously planning to introduce its own watch, allegedly replicating Apple’s design. Apple remains confident in reversing the decision and intends to appeal, ensuring no immediate impact on Apple Watch sales.
Masimo’s CEO, Joe Kiani, expressed satisfaction with the ITC’s ruling, highlighting it as a significant statement against even the most powerful companies, asserting that they are not exempt from legal accountability.
The legal skirmish between Apple and Masimo dates back to 2021, focusing on specific health-related functionalities within certain Apple Watch models. Although the ITC’s recent ruling does not clarify which Apple Watch models are implicated, Masimo’s initial complaint identified the Apple Watch Series 6 as a primary infringer of its patents.
Masimo has leveled serious accusations against Apple, including the illicit recruitment of its staff and theft of trade secrets during the development of the Apple Watch. The company is seeking upwards of $1.8 billion in damages, along with co-ownership rights to five of Apple’s pulse oximetry patents, which Masimo claims incorporate its proprietary technology.
Despite the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office invalidating all but two of Masimo’s patents, the ITC in January affirmed that Apple had indeed infringed on a Masimo patent related to light-based blood-oxygen level detection technology.
Simultaneously, Apple is navigating through another legal challenge concerning the Apple Watch, facing an import ban due to a separate patent dispute with the medical technology firm AliveCor.
Although the Biden administration chose not to intervene following the ITC’s ban in February, the ban is currently on hold, pending the resolution of ongoing proceedings to validate AliveCor’s patents.