Apple Watch Sales Ban Reinstated

Apple Watch Sales Ban Reinstated in the U.S. Due to Patent Infringement

In a significant development impacting the tech industry, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has reinstated the ban on the sale of certain Apple Watch models, including the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2, effective from January 18, 2024, at 5:00 pm ET. This decision follows the denial of Apple's motion to pause the ban during its appeal against the ruling of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

The ITC had previously found that these Apple Watch models infringed on two patents held by Masimo, a medical device company. Masimo accused Apple of stealing trade secrets and poaching employees, leading to the initial ban. This infringement is particularly linked to the blood oxygen sensing feature first introduced with the Series 6 model in 2020.

The court's decision to deny Apple's request for a pause was based on four key factors: the likelihood of Apple’s success in its appeal, the potential harm to Apple if the stay isn't granted, the impact of the stay on other parties, and the public interest. The court also considered the recent EOE Branch ruling in making its decision. Despite not concluding on the appeal's merits, the interim stay has been lifted.

In an interesting twist, the US Customs agency has found that Apple's proposed software changes, which remove the blood oxygen features from the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, do not fall under the ITC ruling's scope. This means that these models, without the pulse oximetry features, do not violate Masimo's patents.

Consequently, Apple plans to continue selling the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Series 9 in the U.S. but will disable the blood oxygen feature through a firmware update. This change will apply only to newly-sold devices in the country and will not affect existing Apple Watches with pulse oximetry features.

In response to the ongoing legal battle, Masimo's CEO, Joe Kiani, expressed satisfaction with the Federal Circuit's decision, emphasizing it as a victory for the American patent system and the safety of individuals relying on pulse oximetry. Masimo also highlighted a study showing that Apple Watch's blood oxygen sensing feature "missed over 90% of potentially life-threatening events," contrasting it with the effectiveness of its own Masimo W1 health watch.

The development is a setback for Apple, which is likely to continue its appeal against the ruling. The tech giant is also reportedly working on a software update to adjust the Blood Oxygen app's algorithms in a bid to avoid infringing on Masimo's patented technology. However, the outcome of these efforts and the legal battle's future remain uncertain.

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The court document is below.


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