Apple won a key legal victory this week when a U.S. appeals court temporarily halted a ban that blocked imports of its latest Apple Watch models. However, the company’s long-running patent battle with medical device maker Masimo is likely far from over.
Ban Halted Pending Appeal
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted Apple’s request to temporarily pause a ban imposed earlier this month by a U.S. trade agency. The ban stopped Apple from importing and selling its latest Series 8, Ultra and SE models which contain technology found to infringe on Masimo patents related to health monitoring.
The appeals court sided with Apple in agreeing the ban should be halted while Apple’s appeal plays out. If left in place during the appeals process, Apple argued the ban would cause “truly irreparable harm” to its sales during the critical holiday period.
Background of Dispute with Masimo
Apple and medical device company Masimo have been embroiled in a long-running patent dispute focused on health tracking technology built into the Apple Watch.
Masimo holds patents related to non-invasive patient monitoring and measuring blood oxygen levels using a process called pulse oximetry. Back in 2020, Masimo sued Apple for infringing 10 of its patents by incorporating similar features into the Apple Watch without permission.
Apple has denied infringing and argued its technology is fundamentally different than Masimo’s. However, a trade agency judge and commission sided with Masimo, issuing import bans on the three latest Apple Watch models in early December.
Impact of Ban Prior to Pause
In the weeks following the ban prior to Tuesday’s temporary hold, Apple faced turmoil over how to deal with the blocked Watch imports during the key holiday season.
However, Apple continued selling available existing Watch inventory for a few weeks as it pursued an appeal. Tuesday’s temporary reversal now allows Apple to resume imports and sales through the appeals process which could still take many months to play out.
What Comes Next in Legal Fight
Looking ahead, Apple plans to continue appealing the import ban to try and overturn the earlier rulings that found it infringed Masimo patents.
Analysts say the coming appeals battle will center around debates over the technical workings of health tracking algorithms along with broader debates over reforming the patent process around complex technologies like software and AI.
|Chance of Apple Prevailing
|Tough for Apple to overturn findings of infringement from agency judges familiar with the technology details
|Some prior Supreme Court rulings criticized overreach on software patents which could aid Apple
Meanwhile, Masimo’s CEO has said his company has spent $100 million already fighting Apple with few signs of backing down. Settlement talks have failed so far as well.
The case seems destined to spend months or even years winding through appeals. So while Apple won a short-term reprieve this week, the company still faces lingering legal headaches that could eventually force changes to the Apple Watch’s health tracking features.
Broader Industry Impacts
Beyond just Apple, the dispute is being closely watched for the precedent it could set across consumer tech devices and wearables. A broad import ban on a major product like the Apple Watch was relatively unprecedented and alarmed the industry.
If Apple ultimately loses, it could chill innovation and investments in health tracking on consumer devices more broadly. However, a Apple victory could also weaken patent protections that medical device makers rely on.
For consumers though, the temporary halt on the import ban at least removes immediate worries over holiday shortages and allows Apple Watches to remain widely available – for now at least.
So while the latest Apple vs. Masimo chapter delivered the iPhone maker some relief, tech and health companies will anxiously await the next rounds in this long-running patent fight playing out between the tech and medical industries.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.