The Apple Watch could be banned in the US unless President Biden steps in

Apple Watch series 8
(Image credit: Future / iMore)

The Apple Watch could be banned from the United States as soon as next week. That's unless President Biden's administration stops it from happening.

The ban is now hanging over Apple's head after the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in December that the Apple Watch infringes upon patents owned by AliveCor, a medical device company. The patents relate to electrocardiogram technology as used in Apple's latest wearables.

If the ban goes ahead sales of wearables like the Apple Watch Series 8 will no longer be possible across the United States. But the Biden administration could stop the ban in its tracks.

Patent problems

The patent relates to one of the best iPhone features around, its ability to take ECGs to detect heart problems. But that might not be enough to stop it from being banned. What might be enough is Apple's seemingly unlimited lobbying power.

“Apple has unlimited resources. They’re gonna go after everyone they can get and that’s what they’re doing,” said Priya Abani, CEO of AliveCor when speaking with The Hill. “We are just a startup.”

Apple employed "Shara Aranoff, a lobbyist at Covington & Burling who chaired the ITC during the Obama administration," in an attempt to ensure that its Apple Watch remains on sale.

Now President Biden must decide by Monday whether to let the ITC's ruling stand and allow it to move on to court. He could also veto it entirely, which would let Apple off the hook.

AliveCor reportedly told The Hill that it had a good relationship with Apple. That was until the Apple Watch gained ECG functionality in 2018. AliveCor had to cancel its own product as a result.

“We come up with new technologies, and instead of the ecosystem letting us thrive and continue to build on top of the innovations we already have, Apple cuts us out up front, steals our technology, uses their platform power to scale it, and now is basically saying it’s scaled so it can’t be cut off,” Abani told The Hill.

All eyes will now be on The White House to see what comes next.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.