Apple Halts Sales of Latest Smartwatches in the US Amid Patent Infringement Dispute
Apple’s latest smartwatches, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, faced a sudden halt in sales in the United States just ahead of the holiday season. This move follows a United States International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling in October, imposing an import ban on certain Apple smartwatch models due to alleged patent infringements related to blood-oxygen level detection technology. Here’s a closer look at the events leading to Apple’s decision and the ongoing legal battle.
ITC Ruling and Import Ban
Background: The ITC decided to ban specific Apple Watch models over a patented technology for detecting blood-oxygen levels. This decision came in response to a complaint filed in mid-2021 by medical device maker Masimo Corp, accusing Apple of infringing on its “light-based oximetry functionality.”
Apple’s Response: Apple strongly disputes the ITC finding, asserting that it was in error and should be reversed. Despite its disagreement, Apple chose to pause the sales of the affected smartwatches in the US, both online and in retail locations, starting December 21.
Legal Dispute Details
Masimo’s Allegations: Masimo claims to have invented the technology and accuses Apple of poaching its employees to gain access to this knowledge. The complaint initiated a legal battle, and in November, Masimo received clearance from US regulators to use its own wrist-worn product for prescription and over-the-counter use.
Ambassador’s Decision: The office of the US Trade Representative, headed by Ambassador Katherine Tai, decided not to reverse the ITC’s determination, making the import ban final on December 26, 2023. While the US president has the authority to reverse import bans, such actions are rare.
Apple’s Appeal and Strong Disagreement
Legal Actions: Apple swiftly announced its intention to appeal the decision in a US federal court. The company maintains that it is taking all measures to expedite the return of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to US customers.
Disagreement with Masimo: At the time of the initial ruling, Apple accused Masimo of attempting to use the ITC to impede a potentially lifesaving product from reaching millions of US consumers while promoting their own watch that allegedly copies Apple’s design.
Ongoing Legal Dynamics
Mistrial and Counter Lawsuits: In May, a trial of Masimo’s allegations against Apple ended in a mistrial as jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict. Apple responded with two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo, claiming the medical device maker copied Apple Watch technology.
Apple’s Perspective: Apple contends that Masimo is leveraging litigation to clear the path for its own products inspired by the Apple Watch.
In conclusion, as the legal saga unfolds, the fate of Apple’s latest smartwatches in the US remains uncertain. The clash between technology giants highlights the complexities of intellectual property disputes in the competitive landscape of wearable devices.