American trade-board issues potential import ban on Apple Watches

The U.S. International Trade Commission has issued an order that could lead to an import ban on Apple Watches.

The Commission imposed an import ban last week in response to a judge’s ruling from January that Apple had violated medical tech company Masimo’s patent rights by using its blood-oxygen reading technology in some versions of the Apple Watch.

The ITC’s decision does not take effect immediately; the ruling now heads to President Biden’s desk for approval.

The White House will have 60 days to decide whether to veto the decision. If the administration does not veto the ruling after 60 days, then Apple Watches will be slapped with an import ban.

Presidents typically uphold the ITC’s decisions.

Apple also will have the option to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals after the presidential review period has expired.

The company said in a statement that it vehemently disagrees with the ITC’s decision and painted itself as the victim of theft.

“Masimo has wrongly attempted to use the ITC to keep a potentially lifesaving product from millions of U.S. consumers while making way for their own watch that copies Apple,” Apple said in a statement.

An import ban on Apple Watches could make them essentially unobtainable for U.S. consumers. Apple has famously manufactured most of its products abroad, especially in low-wage Asian countries such as China and Vietnam.  

Apple is also facing another patent-infringement lawsuit from medical tech company AliveCor. The ITC issued an import ban in that case back in February, but then placed it on hold over concerns about the validity of AliveCor’s patents.

Before the decision to delay the order, Mr. Biden upheld the ITC’s ruling.

If the Masimo-relatd ban goes into effect, it’s unclear whether all versions of the Apple Watch will be banned. Masimo’s original complaint to the ITC mentions only the Apple Watch Series 6 which was released in 2020.

Apple has dominated the growing smartwatch market since it launched the Apple Watch in 2015. According to some estimates, Apple sold over 50 million Apple Watches last year alone and sells nearly $9 billion a year in accessories to the Watch.

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