Sunday, February 19, 2023

Build-up to the Apple Watch ban decision


Last month an International Trade Commission (ITC) judge ruled that Apple infringed on a patent owned by medical device maker AliveCor with the blood oxygen feature on the Apple Watch. 

While Apple was cleared of infringing on four other AliveCor patents, the one patent that Apple got busted for using without permission could lead to an import ban that would block shipments of the Apple Watch from entering the U.S.


Back in 2015, right after Apple Watch was released, AliveCor created a special Apple Watch band with ECG sensors to showcase the potentials of this technology. The company even shared the technology with Apple hoping to secure a partnership agreement.

However, that partnership never happened, and in 2018 Apple introduced Apple Watch Series 4 with its own ECG sensor built into the watch.

Apple (via 9to5Mac):

At Apple, our teams work tirelessly to create the best products and services in the world, with technology that empowers users with industry-leading health, wellness and safety features. While we firmly disagree with the ITC’s decision today, we are pleased that the exclusion order has been put on pause, consistent with past precedent. The patents on which AliveCor’s case rest have been found invalid, and for that reason, we should ultimately prevail in this matter.

The Hill:

Apple is boosting its lobbying might as President Biden nears a decision next week on whether to block a potential Apple Watch ban. The apparent effort to win over the White House is the latest lobbying push by Apple, which leans on former congressional staffers and federal officials to relay its message in the nation’s capital. “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. “We are just a startup.”

The Mountain View, Calif., startup, which employs around 150 people, first shared its wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor with Apple in 2015. AliveCor told The Hill that it believed that it had a good relationship with the Silicon Valley giant and went on to sell an ECG accessory for the Apple Watch. But in 2018, Apple launched an Apple Watch with a built-in ECG sensor and made third-party heart monitoring software incompatible with the product, forcing AliveCor to cancel sales of its product.

Various app developers and startups have accused Apple of “Sherlocking,” where the Silicon Valley giant monitors an innovative technology, then copies it once the use case is demonstrated, rather than pay startups to license their technology. 

If Biden upholds the ITC ruling, litigation would continue, while a veto would ensure that an Apple Watch ban will not take place. Startups are closely watching Biden’s decision, given that the president has railed against powerful companies for using their market dominance to crush competition, Abani said.

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