Wait, Is the Apple Watch Really About to Be Banned?

A couple of patent cases against Apple may lead to drastic measures, including an import ban on several popular Apple Watch models

A new Apple Watch is displayed during an Apple special event on September 07, 2022 in Cupertino, California. Some Apple Watches may receive an import ban due to upcoming patent infringement cases.
There is a (small) chance the Apple Watch may get an import ban
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While the Apple Watch is the worldwide smartwatch leader (by a hefty margin) and touted for its health metrics, these smart tickers may be a lot harder to find domestically if a legal battle isn’t resolved soon. Per 9to5Mac, a successful patent infringement claim by the brand AliveCor may cause the U.S. to impose an import ban on the Apple Watch.

Some background: AliveCor is a company that works with FDA-cleared personal electrocardiogram (ECG) technology. Apple was interested in the ECG tech all the way back in 2015, but nothing ever materialized…until the company released the Apple Watch Series 4 in 2018, which allowed users to get an ECG reading without additional hardware. In 2021, AliveCor launched a case against the tech giant.

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Late in December, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) issued a Limited Exclusion Order (LEO) and a cease and desist order on Apple Watches for infringing on AliveCor patents. And now, that LEO has cleared a Presidential review — meaning, President Biden declined to veto the ITC ruling.

“We applaud President Biden for upholding the ITC’s ruling and holding Apple accountable for infringing the patents that underpin our industry-leading ECG technology,” said Priya Abani, CEO of AliveCor, in a press release. “This decision goes beyond AliveCor and sends a clear message to innovators that the U.S. will protect patents to build and scale new technologies that benefit consumers.”

No surprise, this isn’t the end of the story. The appeal process over the validity of the patents now moves through federal court; the antitrust case takes place in the Northern District of California and is expected to go to trial in early 2024. Apple, meanwhile, believes it will weather the legal challenge. “The patents on which AliveCor’s case rest have been found invalid, and for that reason, we should ultimately prevail in this matter,” the company said in December (though that was before the presidential non-veto).

So that issue may take a while, and most likely result in a settlement. Unfortunately for Apple, that’s not the only patent case involving the Apple Watch; per The Verge, the company Masimo has also sued Apple for allegedly infringing on five of its pulse oximetry patents, and that case could be decided by May of this year — and that, too, could end in an import ban. Or a very hefty licensing fee.

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