Masimo escalates legal battle with Apple, now seeks import ban on Apple Watch Series 6

Medical-sensor maker Masimo Corp. is once again escalating its legal battle against Apple over health technologies found in the Apple Watch. As reported by Bloomberg, Masimo has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission arguing that imports of the Apple Watch into the United States should be banned.

Masimo is a global medical technology company focused on developing noninvasive patient monitoring features — with a specific specialization in pulse oximeters. In 2014, ahead of the launch of Apple Watch, various reports noted that Apple had hired executives from Masimo.

Masimo says that the Apple Watch Series 6 infringes upon five of its patents related to blood oxygen measurement technology. Masimo says that its patented technology uses light transmitted through the body to measure oxygen levels in the blood, and that Apple is copying this feature with the Apple Watch Series 6.

Masimo also takes issue with Apple’s marketing for Apple Watch Series 6’s blood oxygen features:

“Apple heavily markets that feature of the Series 6 to give the watch the appearance of a medical device,” Masimo said in the filing. “Yet, hidden from the millions of purchasers of the Series 6, Apple warns in the fine print that the blood oxygen measurements should not be relied upon for medical purposes.”

Now that Masimo has filed its request with the ITC, Bloomberg explains what comes next:

The patents in that case are being reviewed by the US Patent and Trademark Office after Apple argued they didn’t cover new inventions. The judge put that aspect of the case on hold until the reviews are completed.

Unlike a district court, the trade agency won’t delay consideration of the patent complaint and it typically completes investigations in 15-18 months. Conversely, if Apple decides to challenge these patents as well, the patent office is likely to decline any request for a review because the ITC works so quickly.

There is quite a bit of messy history between Masimo and Apple. Masimo first filed a lawsuit against Apple in January 2020, saying that Apple stole trades secrets “under the guise of a working relationship.” Apple also poached multiple employees from Masimo for its own health teams, and Masimo CEO Joe Kiani said in a 2014 interview with Christina Farr that Apple had gained access to “deep wells of trade secrets” through its hires.

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