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Apple smartwatch import ban goes into effect amid patent dispute in U.S. International Trade Commission

The controversy stems from a dispute between Apple and medical technology company Masimo, which created a feature to measure blood oxygen for its wearers

Smartwatch | Shutterstock

January 18, 2024 12:03pm

Updated: January 18, 2024 12:03pm

The U.S. has banned Apple from selling two smart watches models amid a continuing legal battle over a patent dispute, according to a report filed by the Wall Street Journal.

The California based company started by Steve Jobs was previously selling its Ultra 2 and Series 9 watches, but a U.S. appellate court has since stepped in and reversed the U.S. District Court decision that allowed sales to continue.

To avoid legal hassles, Apple has said it will continue to sell the watches without the feature that is in dispute, which measures blood oxygen levels of the wearer.

“The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which is responsible for enforcing a trade ban, recently approved Apple’s proposed technical changes to the Apple Watch that would disable the pulse oximeter and avoid violating Masimo’s patents,” the Journal reported.

The controversy stems from a dispute between Apple and medical technology company Masimo.

Masimo and another company, Cercacor, have accused Apple of using their former staff members to appropriate its technology.

Three months ago in October, the U.S. International Trade Commission, which hears such disputes and issues rulings on imports and exports, issued a ruling saying it believed the iPhone manufacturer was in violation of some patent rights and issued an order prohibiting certain imports and sales.

This order was set to go into effect in late December but was stayed after Apple filed an appeal.

Some of Apple's watches, including the Ultra 2 and Series 9 use the blood oxygen feature. The Apple SE model does not.

The affected watches cannot be imported as of 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Masimo's founder and CEO, Joe Kiani, said the ruling showed that “even the largest and most powerful companies must respect the intellectual rights of American inventors and must deal with the consequences when they are caught infringing others' patents.”

Apple lashed out at the U.S. International Trade Commission's decision, saying that it “strongly disagreed” with its assessment it violated Masimo’s patent rights.

“Pending the appeal, Apple is taking steps to comply with the ruling while ensuring customers have access to Apple Watch with limited disruption," the iPhone maker said in a statement.

Apple currently dominates the world’s smartphone market, toppling Samsung for the first time in 12 years, according to data from the International Data Corporation released this week.