A ban on the import of specific Apple smartwatch models has officially taken effect in the United States as of Tuesday. The Biden administration chose not to intervene, allowing a ruling on patent infringements to proceed.
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) had earlier decided, in October, to prohibit certain Apple Watch models due to a patented technology related to blood-oxygen level detection. Apple, however, disputes the ITC’s findings, asserting an error in the decision. Despite its ongoing efforts to reverse the ban, Apple recently halted the U.S. sales of both the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.
This ban follows a complaint lodged with the ITC in mid-2021, accusing Apple of infringing on the “light-based oximetry functionality” patented by medical device maker Masimo Corp. The president’s executive office released a statement on Tuesday confirming that Ambassador Katherine Tai decided not to overturn the ITC’s determination, solidifying the decision on December 26, 2023.
Apple, a prominent player in the smartwatch market, has been progressively enhancing its fitness and health features with each new generation of the Apple Watch. In September, the company unveiled the Apple Watch Series 9, emphasizing improved performance and expanded health data accessibility.
Despite Apple’s commitment to providing industry-leading health, wellness, and safety features, the company now faces challenges due to the import ban. Apple contends that Masimo is attempting to hinder a potentially life-saving product for millions of U.S. consumers while promoting its own watch, which Apple claims mimics its technology.
The legal dispute between the two companies reached a critical point in May when a trial on Masimo’s allegations resulted in a mistrial, with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Adding to the complexity, Apple responded by filing two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo late last year, accusing the medical device maker of copying Apple Watch technology.