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 Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ban on Apple Watches with Blood Oxygen Feature Amid Patent Dispute

Matter

In a significant setback for tech giant Apple, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday against the company’s plea to extend a stay on the import ban of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watch models. The ban, initially imposed by the International Trade Commission (ITC) in response to a patent infringement case brought by health technology company Masimo, revolves around the alleged violation of Masimo’s patents related to a pulse oximeter function for reading blood oxygen levels.

The court’s decision denies Apple the ability to import watches equipped with the blood oxygen feature while the appeal of the ban unfolds in court. The ban, which briefly took effect in December, will be reinstated at 5 p.m. EST on Thursday, potentially affecting Apple’s ability to sell these specific watch models for an extended period—potentially more than a year.

Masimo had filed a lawsuit asserting that Apple’s devices infringed upon its patents, particularly in the technology used to measure blood oxygen levels. Apple, however, maintains its innocence, arguing that it did not use Masimo’s technology and seeking permission from the appeals court to continue importing the watches during the appeal process.

Despite the setback, Apple can still import and sell watches lacking the blood oxygen reading capabilities while the legal battle unfolds. The ITC’s initial ruling in October instructed Apple to cease importing and selling watches with the contested technology, leading to the ongoing legal saga.

The Biden administration had the opportunity to reverse the ITC’s decision but chose to uphold the ban, prompting Apple to file an appeal. The company contends that the ban would result in “continuing irreparable harm to its reputation and goodwill” if it is unable to sell Apple Watches with the technology.

In a related development, a recent court filing disclosed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection permitted Apple to sell redesigned versions of the banned models without the blood-oxygen detection technology. However, details of the redesign remain undisclosed, and the ITC retains the authority to reconsider the ruling.

Apple’s legal battle with Masimo underscores the complexity and challenges technology companies face when navigating patent disputes, with potential implications for the availability of certain Apple Watch models in the market.

Conclusion

With the import ban set to be reinstated, Apple faces the challenging prospect of navigating a lengthy legal battle while adapting its market strategy for the affected Apple Watch models. The implications extend beyond the courtroom, as the company must now contend with potential reputational damage and operational adjustments. As this complex patent dispute continues to unfold, the tech giant is left to strategize its next moves, weighing the options available in a bid to mitigate the impact on its product lineup and market standing.

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Pratap Singh
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