US Customs Clears Redesigned Apple Watches, Lifting Import Ban

A US law enforcement agency has informed Apple that a redesign can enable the tech giant to sidestep an import ban on its newer Apple Watch models, a result of the ongoing patent infringement dispute with medical-monitoring technology company Masimo, as stated in a court filing on Monday. 

The import ban, issued by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) for Apple’s Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches, took effect on December 26.

However, Apple swiftly obtained a pause on the ban from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on the following day, allowing the company to resume sales while challenging the import ruling. 

To address the patent infringement findings, Apple proposed a redesign that remains undisclosed to the public but may involve software updates to the watches.

In a filing with the Federal Circuit, Masimo disclosed that Apple assured the US Customs and Border Protection agency that the redesigned watches “definitively do not contain pulse oximetry functionality.” However, Apple’s filings and the agency’s decision on Friday have not been released publicly.

Masimo responded positively to Apple’s claim, stating that it is a step toward accountability. Nevertheless, Apple stated on Monday that Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches with blood-oxygen reading capabilities remain available.

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US Customs Awaits Federal Circuit Decision 

us-customs-clears-redesigned-apple-watches-lifting-import-ban
A US law enforcement agency has informed Apple that a redesign can enable the tech giant to sidestep an import ban on its newer Apple Watch models, a result of the ongoing patent infringement dispute with medical-monitoring technology company Masimo, as stated in a court filing on Monday.

US Customs is currently investigating allegations by Masimo, a California-based company, accusing Apple of poaching its employees and stealing pulse oximetry technology for use in Apple Watches after discussions about potential collaboration; Apple introduced the pulse oximeter feature in its smartwatches with the Series 6 Apple Watch in 2020.

The legal battle escalated in 2021, when Masimo asked the ITC to ban Apple’s imports and sales of allegedly infringing Apple Watches. The ITC ruled in favor of Masimo last year, leading to the ban that took effect in December 2022.

Despite a brief halt in sales before Christmas due to the ITC decision, Apple resumed selling the Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches on December 27 after obtaining the Federal Circuit’s pause on the ban.

Apple anticipates the appeal process to take at least a year, with a decision on the request to keep the ban paused expected as early as Tuesday. 

The Federal Circuit is yet to decide whether to continue the pause or reinstate the ban, which would affect Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches without the redesign.

Apple contends that allowing the ban to persist would cause significant harm, while Masimo argues that maintaining the pause would negatively impact its business and reputation. 

The Customs decision, as mentioned in Masimo’s filing, challenges Apple’s claim of irreparable harm if the ban is reinstated.

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