As Biden upholds a ruling, an Apple Watch ban is a step closer in the U.S.

Apple Watch Ultra
(Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

As the Biden Administration gave way to a company challenging a patent for Apple and its Watch in February 2022, it may mean that the wearable could be banned in the United States - but it's still unlikely for this to happen.

Recently, AliveCor won an infringement case from Apple, explaining that the company had stepped on some patents that AliveCor had owned, which related to Apple Watch. While Apple appealed against this decision back in December, the Biden Administration cleared this for review, meaning that this has gone one step beyond many other patent challenges that had been filed in the past.

This patent revolves around the ECG (Electrocardiogram) that includes atrial fibrillation features of the Apple Watch which measures your heart rate, currently found on the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra models. While AliveCor supplied an accessory for Apple Watch users to do this, Apple soon integrated this into Series 4 models and above, which is where this infringement comes from.

However, if you're worried about Apple Watch being banned in the United States, I'm here to tell you that it's as likely as me becoming the next Prime Minister of Australia while winning the latest Masterchef competition using nothing but Pasta, glitter, and a lightsaber.

More drama than a Facebook status

The Great Ace Attorney Ryunosuke Susato Court Room

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Patent troll cases are nothing new - new companies spring up, buy patents that Apple has used in the past for its products, and then take Apple (or another company) to court, all in the name of cash settlements.

However, AliveCor differs here, as it did have a product, based on its patent, that it sells to measure your ECG, way before Apple offered it in the Watch. This is where it has a faint advantage compared to the other patent court cases.

So let's back up. As a business, you want your product to be used in the best way possible for the maximum number of customers to buy into it and keep your business going. From a PR perspective, banning a product from one of the most respected companies in the world could also attract sales and attention.

However, it's a slippery slope for AliveCor, as it's further along with its patent case than others. So there's a slim, very slim, possibility that the Apple Watch could indeed be banned, which would be a PR disaster for the company regardless.

So what do you do if you're in charge of a company like AliveCor? There are two potential solutions.

Either a Shark Tank deal or a settlement is the endgame

If you've seen the TV show Shark Tank on NBC, you'll be aware of a 'royalty' deal, so this could be what AliveCor wants as the endgame to this patent case.

For every Apple Watch sold that features an ECG, which is a lot in 2023, the company could be given a small percentage of a sale from a Watch, and because of the high sales Apple receives from its wearables, AliveCor could essentially survive off this, feel no need to bring out new products, and let the royalties roll in.

But this is Apple, and in some court cases it has settled, such as the Qualcomm case from 2019 (opens in new tab). It gave a large amount to the chip manufacturer, a deal for a number of years to keep on creating modems for the iPhone for example, and a licensing agreement.

AliveCor won't want the Apple Watch to be banned - no business would. However, the fact that the Biden Administration has upheld the ruling means that Apple would like this done sooner rather than later, so it's not a stretch to imagine that there's going to be a deal done between the two companies soon.

Sometimes one statement will mean something else entirely, and in AliveCor's case, it simply wants to be paid for a patent that it owns, and it knows Apple has the cash to do it.

So don't worry - your Apple Watch isn't going anywhere.

Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's  Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.


Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider (opens in new tab)', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.