When I first heard about the potential Apple Watch ban in early February, thanks to The Hill, I thought, “There’s no way that one of the most popular smartwatches on the planet would get barred.”
Even The Verge was skeptical: “Given the Apple Watch’s popularity and the size of Apple’s coffers, it’ll be surprising if an import ban actually materializes,” adding that it’s more likely that Masimo, the medical-tech company that sued Apple, will walk away with a licensing agreement.
But the question is, how did we get here?
5 major events that led to the Apple Watch ban
Jan. 2020. Masimo first sued Apple, according to Bloomberg. The med-tech company accused Apple of promising a partnership (both companies reportedly met in 2013 to discuss a working relationship) — only to turn its back on Masimo by stealing trade secrets and hiring key employees.
Sept. 2020. Apple introduced the Watch Series 6, which boasted a new blood-oxygen monitoring feature, a technology Masimo claims Apple stole from the med-tech company.
In the same month, Masimo accused Apple of trying to delay and postpone the legal fight. For background, by this time, Apple already filed requests to dismiss the trade secrets accusation and filed petitions to have Masimo’s patents invalidated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
June 2021. Masimo filed a complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), hoping that it would pull the Apple Watch from the market. In short, the complaint claims that Apple infringed upon several patents by releasing a watch that can measure arterial oxygen saturation.
Oct. 2023. The ITC ruled in favor of Masimo, stating that Apple did, indeed, violate Masimo’s patents that protected its blood-oxygen monitoring inventions. The ITC issued an import ban, taking effect on Dec. 26, on the devices that include the technology (i.e., Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2).
Dec. 2023. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives under the Biden administration could have stepped in to veto the ban, but on Dec. 26, it decided against reversing the ITC’s ruling, according to The Hill.
So what now?
According Bloomberg, Apple will challenge the ban at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. “We strongly disagree with the USITC decision and resulting exclusion order, and are taking all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the US as soon as possible,” an Apple spokesperson said.
On Tuesday, Apple also requested an emergency removal of the ban for a minimum of two weeks while the court mulls over Apple’s appeal.