Apple files appeal against ban on smartwatch

Published December 27, 2023
An Apple smartwatch is displayed as customers visit the Apple store in New York, on Tuesday.—Reuters
An Apple smartwatch is displayed as customers visit the Apple store in New York, on Tuesday.—Reuters

CALIFORNIA: Apple filed an appeal on Tuesday of a decision to ban imports of Apple Watches based on a complaint from medical monitoring technology company Masimo after US President Joe Biden’s administration declined to veto a government tribunal.

The US International Trade Commi­ssion’s (ITC) order will go into effect on Dec 26, barring imports and sales of Apple Watches that use patent-infringing technology for reading blood-oxygen levels. Apple has included the pulse oximeter feature in its smart watches starting with its Series 6 model in 2020.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai decided not to reverse the ban following careful consultations, and the ITC’s decision became final on Dec 26, the Trade Representative’s office said on Tuesday.

“We strongly disagree with the USITC decision and resulting exclusion order, and are taking all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the US as soon as possible,” Apple said in a statement on Tuesday.

An Apple spokesperson confirmed the company has appealed the ban to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington. The ITC last week rejected Apple’s request to pause the ban during the appeal process.

Representatives for Masimo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“Our litigation expert predicted that a potential Apple appeal would extend the ‘final’ ITC case verdict roughly another year,” analysts at Stifel said in a note.

Apple has paused its sales of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches in the United States since last week, though the watches remain available from other retailers including Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart as of Tuesday.

The ban does not affect Apple Watch SE, a less expensive model, which will continue to be sold. Previously sold watches will not be affected by the ban.

Masimo has accused Apple of hiring away its employees, stealing its pulse oximetry technology and incorporating it into the popular Apple Watch.

A jury trial on Masimo’s allegations in California federal court ended with a mistrial in May. Apple has separately sued Masimo for patent infringement in federal court in Delaware and has called Masimo’s legal actions a “maneuver to clear a path” for its own competing smart watch.

A presidential administration has not vetoed an ITC ruling since 2013, when President Bara­ck Obama’s administration overturned an import ban on Apple’s iPhones and iPads in the company’s patent dispute with Samsung.

The Biden administration in February chose not to veto a separate import ban on Apple Wat­ches based on a patent-infringement complaint from medical technology company AliveCor. The ITC has placed the ban on hold for other reasons.

Apple’s wearables, home and accessory business, which inclu­des the Apple Watch, AirPods earbuds and other products, brought in $8.28 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2023, according to a company report.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2023

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