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Potential Ban on Apple Watch’s Entry into the United States

Apple Watch Faces Import Ban in the U.S.

Per Reuters, the Apple Watch faces an import ban that could block the device from being shipped into the U.S. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that the timepiece violates patents belonging to medical technology company Masimo. The ITC upheld a ruling made at the beginning of this year finding Apple in violation of Masimo’s intellectual property rights for technology that measures an Apple Watch user’s blood-oxygen level.

Apple Watch Blood-Oxygen Level Measurement

This measures the percentage of oxygen found in the blood of an Apple Watch user compared to the maximum amount that could be carried. Most healthy individuals will have a reading between 96% and 99%. The ITC decision does not state which Apple Watch models would be impacted by the ban. Masimo’s complaint noted that the Apple Watch Series 6 infringed its patents, which was the first model to include a blood-oxygen sensor. Apple has since released the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Watch Ultra 2.

While the original complaint notes that the Apple Watch is made in China, since then Apple has moved some production to Vietnam.

Biden Administration to Review the Order

The Biden administration will have 60 days to review the ITC’s order and decide whether or not to veto it. In the past, import bans have typically proceeded after such reviews. However, in 2013, President Barack Obama vetoed a product ban against Apple that would have resulted in bans against U.S. imports of AT&T versions of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 3G, iPad 2 3G, and iPad 3. At that time, only the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 3G were being sold by Apple. The ban was initially caused by a court case won by Samsung, claiming that Apple had infringed on some of its patents.

Apple’s Response and Future Steps

After the 60-day review period ends, Apple can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. An Apple spokeswoman said, “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 own watch that copies Apple. While today’s decision has no immediate impact on sales of Apple Watch, we believe it should be reversed, and will continue our efforts to appeal.”

Joe Kiani, Masimo’s CEO, said the decision “sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law.” Apple also filed a separate patent infringement lawsuit against Masimo in Delaware, calling Masimo’s legal actions a “maneuver to clear a path” for its own smartwatch.

Import Ban Involving AliveCor

The Apple Watch also faces an import ban in a separate case involving AliveCor. In February, the ITC issued a ban against the Apple Watch after the president upheld the ruling. However, the ruling was put on hold to determine the validity of AliveCor’s patents. AliveCor alleges that the electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor on the Apple Watch infringes on a couple of its patents.

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