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The Apple (watch) that fell far from the tree

Date: 5 February 2024

In the US a patent infringement case involving tech giant Apple has been making headlines. The dispute has been ongoing for over three years, with Apple’s opponent being Masimo, the global medical technology company.


While the Apple Watch is not normally considered a medical device, it incorporates a lot of features related to the general wellness of an individual. Health features found in different models include heart rate notifications (high/low rate, irregular rhythm), ECG app, cardio fitness notifications and fall detection.


Newer Apple Watch models can measure blood oxygen levels with a pulse oximetry sensor that uses light-based technology. Masimo claims that Apple’s pulse oximetry sensor technology has purposefully infringed their patents. Apple has been disputing this issue over the last few years, but recently it appears their luck has run out.


The International Trade Commission determined that Apple’s Apple Watches (Series 9 & Ultra 2) did infringe Masimo’s patents. Because of this decision, a US import ban was placed on the infringing models as of 26 December 2023. Apple removed the watches from its website and stores when the ban came into effect.


Apple appealed against the ban, and requested an emergency stay until a decision is made on whether redesigned versions of the watch were held to infringe. The ruling favoured Apple, and a temporary pause on the watch ban came into effect on 27 December, with sales resuming on the next day. Apple attempted to extend the pause on the ban, but this was denied by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. This ultimately meant that Apple was yet again banned from selling the Apple Watches Series 9 & Ultra 2 on 18 January 2024.


To combat the ban, Apple has proposed redesigned versions of the relevant models without the relevant blood oxygen features (the sensor and corresponding app). These were approved by the US Customs and Border Protection and subsequently put on sale to replace the banned versions.


The result is that, unless Apple can find another way to implement blood oxygen technology in their smartwatches, future planned features may have to be put on hold. One of the affected features is Apple’s sleep apnoea feature, which would reportedly use, amongst other measurements, information collected from blood oxygen sensors.


We will keep you posted with further developments, and if you have any questions regarding patent infringement, please contact us at info@maucherjenkins.com.




Healthcare - Apple Watch - Apple (UK)


Apple Watch sales ban restarts Thursday - The Verge


Apple's Watch Patent Fight Could Slow Health-Care Tech Rollout - Bloomberg