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Apple Inc. Set to Challenge US Ban on Latest Smartwatch Models Amid Patent Dispute

Published December 27, 2023
7 months ago

The US technology sphere witnessed a significant development as Apple Inc. disclosed its intention to appeal against the United States International Trade Commission's (ITC) ban on its latest wearables, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2. The embargo, which commenced on Tuesday, resulted in both models being pulled from physical retail outlets and the company's online store, creating ripples in the consumer electronics market.

The roots of the ban trace back to a legal contention with Masimo Corp., a medical device manufacturer that alleged Apple contravened its patented oximetry technology—crucial in the detection of blood oxygen levels. Masimo's accusations peaked with a complaint to the ITC in mid-2021, culminating in October's ruling favoring the medical tech firm and enforcing the ban on these Apple products.

Ambassador Katherine Tai, involved in the consultations, upheld the ITC's decision, a rare stance as the presidential office, vested with the power to veto such bans, seldom exercises this authority. Reinforcing the ban's legitimacy, Masimo heralded this decision as a triumph for the sanctity of the US patent system and heralded the benefits awaiting consumers who appreciate authentic innovation.

Apple, strongly opposing ITC's ruling, announced its appeal filed in a federal US court. Highlighting its disagreement, the tech behemoth removed the contested products from its listings in late December, a strategic move preceding the enforced deadline.

With a substantial portion of its manufacturing based in China, the decision squarely places within ITC's remit, raising stakes in the strategic legal skirmish. Masimo has upped the ante by claiming credit for the pioneering technology and asserting that Apple lured away its employees to siphon off intellectual property.

Adding complexity to the dispute, Apple Watch has been progressively enhancing fitness and health functionalities with every new iteration, cementing its domination in the smartwatch market niche.

The legal spar, which includes an inconclusive trial that ended in a mistrial in May, hasn't thwarted Apple's commitment to its consumers. The company staunchly refutes Masimo's claims, insisting it aims to block the sale of a potential lifesaver to accommodate Masimo's emerging watch that seemingly takes a leaf out of Apple's design book.

Beyond the current impasse, Masimo secured a green light from US regulators to market its wrist-worn device, which may be strategically positioned against Apple's offerings. Meanwhile, Apple has been on the offensive, lodging two lawsuits alleging Masimo's infringement of its smartwatch technology.

As Apple gears up to counter the current ban in the courts, consumers and industry watchers are braced for a potentially lengthy legal face-off that pits two innovators against each other in a battle that could redraw the contours of patent law and product innovation moving forward.

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