Apple Watch could be banned in the US

The likelihood of a ban on imports of newer-model Apple Watches to the US has increased after President Joe Biden upheld a patent-infringement ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC).

In December 2022, the ITC issued a final determination that Apple had infringed on wearable electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) patents owned by medical device manufacturer AliveCor.

It recommended a limited exclusion order (LEO) and cease-and-desist order for Apple Watch models that feature the ECG capability.

The ruling could have been vetoed by President Joe Biden, as former President Barack Obama had done with a similar ban proposed for iPhones and iPads in 2013 after Apple infringed on Samsung tech.

AliveCor said in a statement on Tuesday that the LEO had passed presidential review.

Should the ban take effect, Apple will be barred from importing several years of Apple Watch models for sale in the US.

The models that feature AliveCor’s patents include the Watch Series 4 and subsequent releases, including the latest Watch Series 8 and Watch Ultra models.

Inside the Apple Watch Ultra

The only recent models that lack ECG features are the budget-oriented Apple Watch SE models.

Apple does not currently make any of its tech products in its home country, so US consumers will be left wanting.

It would effectively only be able to sell the smartwatches that it had already imported by the time the ban took effect.

An Apple spokesperson told The Verge that the company plans to appeal the ITC’s decision in the US Federal Court.

Even if Apple’s Federal Court challenge fails, there is no guarantee that the ban will come into effect,

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board recently ruled that AliveCor’s ECG tech wasn’t truly patentable, which the company has also appealed.

Second smartwatch patent challenge worsens Apple’s prospects

But Apple is facing another major patent challenge from smartwatch developer Masimo that could also impede imports.

The company sued Apple for using five of its pulse oximetry patents in Apple Watches with a blood oxygen (or SpO2) sensor, which will include all models from the Watch Series 6 upwards, except for Watch SE variants.

While the ITC has ruled in Masimo’s favour, it will only decide whether an import ban is justified in May 2023.

Apple has faced numerous cases of patent trolling, where individuals or companies accuse it of using their patented technology in its products, despite those accusers not showing any evidence of using or developing the patent for an actual product.

But AliveCor and Masimo are legitimate companies that use their intellectual property to build products, so their claims at least don’t appear to be frivolous.

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Apple Watch could be banned in the US