The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) implemented an import ban on certain Apple smartwatch models on Tuesday, impacting the sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2. The ban followed the Biden administration’s decision not to veto the ITC ruling on patent infringements related to a technology for detecting blood-oxygen levels.
The ITC had decided in October to ban these Apple Watch models based on a complaint filed by medical device maker Masimo Corp in mid-2021. Masimo accused Apple of infringing on “light-based oximetry functionality” and claimed that Apple poached its employees to gain access to this technology.
Apple disputes the ITC finding, asserting that it was in error and should be reversed. Despite its intention to appeal the decision in a US federal court, Apple halted the sales of the affected smartwatches in the US. The ban came into effect on the online Apple Store on December 21, with retail locations ceasing sales on December 24, just ahead of the holiday season.
The complaint from Masimo led to the ITC ban, which the Biden administration chose not to reverse, making the decision final on December 26, 2023. While the US president has the authority to overturn import bans, such actions are rare.
Apple, dominating the smartwatch category, expressed strong disagreement with the USITC decision and the resulting exclusion order. The company is taking measures to address the situation and return the affected smartwatches to US customers as soon as possible.
The dispute between Apple and Masimo dates back to allegations of patent infringement, with Apple accusing Masimo of copying its technology. The recent ban has further intensified the legal battle between the two companies, adding complexity to the competitive landscape of the smartwatch industry.
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