Apple Can Resume Selling Its Smartwatches for Now

Yesterday, an emergency request by smartwatch maker Apple to pause an order blocking the import and sale of its smartwatches because of a patent dispute was granted. Apple had stopped the sale of affected smartwatches in the U.S. in its retail stores and on its website last week.

The U.S. International Trade Commission previously ruled in October that Apple had infringed the patents of medical technology company Masimo and banned the import or sale of Apple smartwatches that featured technology for reading blood-oxygen levels. The order did not affect the Apple Watch SE, which does not have a pulse-oximetry feature.

According to Masimo, Apple hired away Masimo employees and stole trade secrets after Apple rejected its proposal to collaborate. According to Apple, Masimo was motivated to remove Apple’s smartwatches from the market so that it could sell its own smartwatches.

In its ruling temporarily pausing the ban, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit gave the International Trade Commission until January 10 to respond to Apple’s request for a longer pause during the appeals process. The Biden administration had declined to veto the ban on Tuesday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expected to decide by January 12 whether or not a newer design of Apple’s smartwatches could be imported without infringing on Masimo’s patents.

Apple sued Masimo in October 2022, accusing it of infringing Apple’s patents in its own line of smartwatches. A jury trial on Masimo’s claims ended in a mistrial in May.

Additional Reading

Apple can temporarily sell smartwatches after US appeals court win, Reuters (December 27, 2023)

Explainer: What is next after pause of US Apple Watch import ban?, Reuters (December 27, 2023)

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