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U.S. Apple Watch ban inches one step closer to reality

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7 mins
  • Apple could face import ban for Apple Watch due to patent infringement by AliveCor.
  • AliveCor accused Apple of stealing its ECG technology and infringing three of its patents in 2021.
  • President Biden upheld ITC's ruling against Apple's infringement, handing AliveCor a victory.
  • The appeals process over the patents' validity will determine if the ITC implements the ban.
  • Apple hired former ITC chairwoman to lobby on its behalf to secure a presidential veto.
  • Apple claims the patents on which AliveCor’s case rest were found invalid and they should ultimately prevail in the matter.

Apple is facing the possibility of an import ban on its Apple Watch following the decision by President Biden to uphold the ruling by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) that it infringed on the patented technology of AliveCor, a health tech company. In 2015, AliveCor had demonstrated its patented technology to allow an Apple Watch wristband to take ECG readings. AliveCor accused Apple of stealing its ECG technology and infringing three of its patents in 2021. In December, the ITC ruled that Apple had indeed infringed AliveCor’s patents with the Apple Watch’s ECG features. Image credit: DetroitBORG on The ITC ordered a ban on the import of the Apple Watch due to the infringement. However, this order was put on hold as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the US Patent and Trademark Office declared that all three of AliveCor’s patents were invalid. AliveCor appealed this ruling, and the ITC’s import ban has been on hold during this appeal. In Biden’s review of the ITC ruling, he declined to veto it, thereby handing AliveCor a victory.

The CEO of AliveCor, Priya Abani, said in a statement that she applauded Biden’s decision for holding Apple accountable for infringing on the patents that underpinned the company’s ECG technology. She noted that this decision went beyond AliveCor and would send a clear message to innovators that the US would protect patents to build and scale new technologies that benefit consumers. Image credit: AliveCor Apple is facing the possibility of an import ban on the Apple Watch as the ITC’s ruling stands, and the result of the appeals process over the validity of the patents could determine whether or not the ITC implements this ban. If AliveCor is successful in its appeal, the full “Limited Exclusion Order” on Apple Watches would go into effect. The ITC’s ruling was the first against Apple to clear presidential review, and the administration’s decision to uphold the potential ban on imports of the tech product sets the stage for a high-stakes legal battle. Image credit: Phone Arena Presidents don’t typically veto ITC decisions, but in 2013, then-President Obama vetoed a potential ban on iPhone and iPad imports after the ITC ruled that Apple infringed on Samsung’s patents. Following the ITC’s recent ruling, Apple hired the former chairwoman of the ITC to lobby on its behalf, in an apparent effort to secure a presidential veto. The tech giant, along with its allies in Congress, warned that a ban would undermine public health. Apple remains hopeful, stating in December that the patents on which AliveCor’s case rest were found invalid and for that reason, the company should ultimately prevail in the matter.

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