Another David v. Goliath fight! The International Trade Commission (ITC) on Thursday ruled that the Apple Watch violates Masimo’s patents on light-based technology for reading blood oxygen levels (pulse oximetry). This decision by the full commission upholds January’s ruling by a judge that Apple was in violation of Masimo’s patent rights. If upheld, this would ban the importation of current Apple Watches, all of which have pulse oximetry except for the SE. The ITC issued a Limited Exclusion Order (LEO) plus a Cease and Desist Order (CDO).
The next steps before the ban takes effect occur in the next 60 days with a presidential administration review. Presidential vetoes of the ITC are rare but not unprecedented. After the review period, Apple can take the ban to the US Court of Appeals,
As usual there’s a war of words between the two companies:
Apple: “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,” an Apple spokesperson said. “While today’s decision has no immediate impact on sales of Apple Watch, we believe it should be reversed, and will continue our efforts to appeal.”
Masimo: Chief Executive Officer Joe Kiani said the decision “sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law.”
The other David is AliveCor. Earlier, the ITC found that the Apple Watch’s ECG reading tech was in violation of AliveCor’s (the other David) patents. Apple’s appeal is pending in the US District Court of Northern California. The last word on this was in July [TTA 19 July and prior].
The Masimo story is developing and will be updated with additional information when available.
Updates The Masimo filing dates back to 2021 and was about the Apple Watch 6, the first with pulse oximetry. That model has since been discontinued for new models Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 which also include blood-oxygen sensors. A previous lawsuit ended in a mistrial. Engadget
More background in Strata-Gee.com, an electronics/tech business site, on the mistrial. “Apple broke off partnership discussions with Masimo and then proceeded to hire away many of their employees to pursue adding pulse oximetry into Apple Watch on their own. It would later come out that Apple had hired a few dozen of Masimo employees.” This should sound familiar to those following the AliveCor patent infringement fight with Apple. Masimo did not win their claims of infringement on all patents listed in their lawsuit, but enough to trigger a ban.
The article also clarifies what the ITC did in using a Limited Exclusion Order (LEO) to block Apple from importing Apple Watches with the pulse oximetry technology, then adding a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) to prohibit sales from existing inventory. Again, this cannot go into effect without a presidential review signoff.
James Major, a noted patent and IP attorney of counsel at Armstrong Teasdale, opines on this on LinkedIn. His first post contains the actual filing. His later post explains what a Section 337 action of the Tariff Act (of 1930) entails. (Disclosure: Editor Donna worked with Mr. Major on copyright renewals for trade names on behalf of a previous company, Viterion Digital Health. Since the company had been purchased and certain renewals had been forgotten in the transition, it got sticky, but he did a great job sorting it out.)
From the Editor: This leaves Apple with the following options: drag it to Federal District Court to delay the ban, hoping that Masimo runs out of resources and fight (likely), license the technology (not likely, given the ongoing nature of this and AliveCor’s suits), or develop their own technology or software updates that skirt the patents. Do bet that this last route if taken will wind up with additional filings with the ITC.