Apple has taken action following a decision to restrict the import of its watches due to a complaint from medical tech firm Masimo, with the Biden administration declining to override a governmental tribunal.
The tech giant appealed the import ban decision on Tuesday, seeking an emergency intervention from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to halt the ban temporarily.
Apple’s request aims to pause the ban until the U.S. Customs and Border Protection evaluates redesigned watch versions for potential patent infringement, with a decision expected on Jan. 12.
Masimo has accused Apple of poaching its employees, appropriating pulse oximetry technology for its widely popular Apple Watch.
The ban, imposed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), prohibits the import and sale of Apple Watches utilizing blood-oxygen level reading technology, a feature introduced in its Series 6 model from 2020 onwards.
The U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, upheld the ban after extensive consultations, confirming the ITC’s decision as final as of Dec. 26.
In response, Apple spokespersons expressed strong disagreement with the decision, affirming their appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington.
The ITC, in a recent ruling, rejected Apple’s plea to suspend the ban during the appeals process, with Masimo applauding the decision as a victory for the U.S. patent system and consumers.
While such disputes are typically settled, Apple appears poised to either swiftly redesign its products or eliminate the disputed feature to address the patent concerns.
Legal experts suggest that while ITC exclusion orders aren’t uncommon, the high-profile nature of this case and Apple’s decision not to settle immediately make it noteworthy.
Industry analysts anticipate that an Apple appeal could extend the ITC case verdict by approximately another year.
Apple has temporarily halted sales of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches in the U.S., but they remain available through other retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart.
The ban does not impact the sale of the less expensive Apple Watch SE or previously sold models.
Legal battles between Apple and Masimo continue in federal courts, reflecting a broader conflict over patents and smartwatch technology.
The Biden administration’s decision echoes past actions concerning import bans related to tech disputes, notably in 2013 during the Obama administration’s intervention in Apple’s patent clash with Samsung.
Apple’s wearable tech, including the Apple Watch, contributed significantly to its $8.28 billion revenue in the third quarter of 2023.