What’s at the pulse of the dispute?
Masimo alleges that Apple’s blood oxygen monitoring feature, introduced in Apple WatchSeries 6 and later models, infringes on its patented technology.They claim Apple appropriated their unique algorithms and light sensor arrangements, enabling similar blood oxygen measurements. Furthermore, Masimo accuses Apple of misappropriating trade secrets, confidential information allegedly involving specific technical details and know-how crucial to their pulse oximetry technology. Masimo also said that Apple had poached some of its employees.
What has been Apple’s defence?
Apple has denied any wrongdoing or stealing any patent from Masimo. “Apple’s teams work tirelessly to create products and services that empower users with industry-leading health, wellness, and safety features,” said Apple. One of Apple’s defence has been that the Apple Watch has life-saving ability to help users discover potential issues with their health.
Battleground: Courts and the ITC
The dispute is playing out on two fronts: courts and the US International Trade Commission (USITC). In October 2023, the USITC dealt a blow to Apple, siding with Masimo and recommending a ban on Apple Watch imports with blood oxygen functionality. However, this decision is under review by the Biden administration, with a final verdict expected before Christmas.
The court situation is murkier. A federal court case brought by Masimo ended in a mistrial in May 2023, leaving the jury unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Meanwhile, a separate court case upheld the validity of Masimo’s patents in September 2023, offering them a legal edge.
What is the current situation?
As of now, Apple has halted the sale of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US. The Biden administration will announce its decision by December 25. “While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from Apple.com starting December 21, and from Apple retail locations after December 24,” Apple said in a statement. “Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers,” the company added.
What happens next?
As the legal dispute continue, the final outcome hinges on the Biden administration’s decision on the USITC ruling. If upheld, Apple could face significant disruptions, but the implications stretch further. A victory for Masimo could set a precedent for stricter patent enforcement in the wearable health technology space, potentially impacting not just Apple but other manufacturers as well.