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Court of Appeal suspends ban on Apple Watch imports in violation of patent

Enlarge / The Apple Watch Series 9 was released in September 2023.


Just before Christmas, Apple pulled two of its latest smartwatches from stores. The cause was not an unwelcome visit from the ghost of mechanical watches past, but the International Trade Commission, which found that the California-based computer maker had violated certain patents, leading the ITC to ban the importation of these watches. Yesterday, Reuters reported that Apple had filed an emergency request to the courts to lift the ban and would appeal the ITC’s decision.

And today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted Apple’s wish, putting the ban on hold while it considers the tech company’s argument.

Apple’s Watch problems started in January. That’s when a court ruled that the light-based pulse oximetry sensor (found on the backs of watches) infringed patents owned by Masimo, a medical device maker also based in California.

At the time, Apple said Masimo was not a consumer-focused company and chose not to collaborate with or acquire the medical device maker. Masimo, for his part, said Apple led the discussions, then took his idea and hired Masimo’s engineers.

In October, the ITC upheld the counterfeiting finding and began the process of banning watch imports, giving U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration 60 days to review the case and potentially veto the ruling. .

But the Biden administration chose not to intervene, unlike in 2013, when the Obama administration vetoed a ban on iPhones and iPads during a patent dispute between Apple and Samsung. Although the ITC import ban on Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models was supposed to take effect on December 26, Apple removed the watches from sale a few days earlier. The older Apple Watch SE, which does not use the counterfeit blood oxygen sensor, remains on sale.

“We strongly disagree with the USITC’s decision and resulting exclusion order, and are taking all steps to return the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the United States as soon as possible,” Apple said in a statement.

Apple had asked the CAFC to suspend the ban until U.S. Customs and Border Protection decides whether the redesigned Apple Watches no longer infringe Masimo’s patents, a decision expected to be made by January 12 . The court has now given the ITC a deadline of January 10 to respond to Apple.

This article was updated shortly after publication to reflect the court’s suspension of the import ban.

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