No US Help Over ITC’s Apple Watch Import Ban Ruling

Apple is facing a potentially worrying developing after the US International Trade Commission (ITC) last year  ruled against it for alleged patent infringement.

The ITC ruling just before Christmas, could potentially block imports of Apple Watches into the US, for infringing AliveCor Inc patents related to heart monitoring, the office of the US Trade Representative was quoted as saying on Tuesday by Reuters.

The ITC ban remains on hold while Apple and AliveCor continue to clash over the patents, but an AliveCor spokesperson told Reuters it had been informed there would be no veto of the ruling.

Apple Watch Ultra

Overturning ban

It was just before Christmas when Reuters revealed that the ITC had ruled that imports of Apple’s smartwatches should be banned for infringing AliveCor’s patents, but it paused the ban while related proceedings over the patents run their course.

Reuters reported that earlier in December that the US Patent and Trademark Office found the patents invalid, in a ruling that AliveCor said it will appeal.

Apple meanwhile reportedly said on Tuesday it will appeal the ITC’s import ban decision, which it said would have a negative effect on public health.

Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The ITC had no comment, Reuters reported.

The White House had 60 days to decide whether to veto the ITC’s 22 December ruling based on policy concerns.

But Reuters noted that Presidential vetoes of ITC import bans have historically been rare.

That said back in 2013 the Obama administration had reversed a ban on some iPhones and iPads in 2013 in a patent fight between Apple and Samsung Electronics.

The US administration at the time cited its effects on US consumers and economic competition.

Patent infringement

At the heart of the matter is the allegation from AliveCor that Apple infringed three patents related to its KardiaBand, an Apple Watch accessory that monitors a user’s heart rate, detects irregularities and performs an electrocardiogram to identify heart problems such as atrial fibrillation.

According to Reuters, Mountain View-based AliveCor has told the ITC that Apple allegedly copied its technology and drove it out of the market by making Apple’s operating system incompatible with the KardiaBand.

Apple first introduced its Apple Watch to the world back in 2015, and the Apple Watch Series 4, 5,6, 7, and 8 (plus the Apple Watch Ultra) utlise ECG technology.

Apple introduced its most recent Series 8, and the Apple Watch Ultra, last September.

Apple Watch Ultra

Meanwhile Reuters noted that AliveCor has separately sued Apple in California federal court for allegedly monopolising the US market for Apple Watch heart-rate apps, and filed a related patent infringement lawsuit against Apple in Texas federal court.

Last December Apple reportedly countersued AliveCor in San Francisco federal court for allegedly infringing its patents.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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