Apple Watch ban saga takes another turn as ITC hits back — one legal expert claims Masimo "clearly abusing patents"

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch ban saga has taken its latest turn after the International Trade Commission filed a new objection to Apple’s motion to stay the ban until the court case has been hashed out.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last month, you’re probably aware that Apple pulled its two best Apple Watch models, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, from sale in late December in anticipation of a ban on the import and sale of the device, handed down by the ITC. 

More recently, Apple was granted a stay by the United States Court of Appeals, allowing both models to return to shelves, but this was only temporary. Now, Apple is fighting for a permanent stay that would see sales permitted until the court case is resolved, and the ITC is trying to stop that. 

Apple Watch ban saga continues 

As noted by patent litigation expert Florian Mueller at ip fray, “The United States International Trade Commission (USITC, ITC) and complainant Masimo filed their opposition briefs to Apple’s motion for a stay pending the entire appellate proceedings.” 

As Mueller notes, it’s possible Apple only needed an interim stay on the ban anyway, with a software update to get around the patent infringements likely close at hand. However, as far as a more permanent stay for the duration of the trial is necessary, Mueller states that “the ITC and Masimo make pretty much the same arguments, suggesting that Apple’s appeal is not likely to succeed.” 

The filing claims Apple presents a “weak and unconvincing case” in seeking an appeal, and claims Apple hasn’t shown either the merits of its case or that it will suffer irreparable harm as a result of the ban. 

More interestingly, Mueller highlights some key aspects of the case that seem to show Apple may be the victim of patent trolling, or at the very least abuse, in this case. Mueller (who is by all accounts not Apple’s biggest fan) states, “Apple sometimes engages in bullying, but the ITC’s attack is gratuitous, disingenuous and irresponsible,” noting the ITC’s own record shows that Apple created the disputed pulse oxymetry technology independently and that Masimo “tactically designed the patents-in-suit after Apple’s independent innovation, and more than 10 years after the original applications, in order to read on the relevant Apple Watch feature.” 

As Mueller notes, this may all be rendered moot if Apple does indeed come up with a satisfactory software fix for the problem. It has previously been reported that Apple is working on a change that would shift how blood oxygen data is measured and presented to users, and that fix could surface as early as this week.  

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9