Apple has been fighting a patent battle with healthtech company AliveCor since last year, as the Cupertino-based company is being accused of infringing patents related to the Apple Watch’s ECG feature. On Thursday, the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Apple infringed on AliveCor’s patents, which could threaten Apple Watch sales in the US.
Update: Post updated with statement from Apple.
Apple Watch could be banned in the US due to patent infringement
The decision resulted in a Limited Exclusion Order and also a cease and desist order that can ban Apple from importing patent infringing Apple Watch models into the US. This would result in a huge impact on Apple Watch sales, as the company would no longer be able to sell Apple Watch Series 8 or Apple Watch Ultra in the US, since both models feature an ECG sensor.
In a statement shared with 9to5Mac, AliveCor says that the ITC decision is a victory not only for the company, but also for “other small innovative companies” and also for consumers.
This ruling has resulted in a Limited Exclusion Order and cease and desist orderbarring Apple from importing infringing Apple Watches into the U.S., potentially impacting sales of millions of devices. Although the ITC has suspended enforcement of the LEO until all appeals have been exhausted, today’s news is a victory for AliveCor, for other small innovator companies, and for consumers who deserve to have choices for how to manage their cardiac health.
The ITC’s initial determination announced in June of this year already suggested that Apple would be penalized for infringing AliveCor’s patents. However, the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), said earlier this month that AliveCor’s technologies are “unpatentable,” which means that they’re too obvious or too general to be patentable.
Statement from Apple
Apple said in a statement to 9to5Mac that it “firmly disagrees” with the ITC’s decision and that it continues to believe that AliveCor’s patents are “invalid.”
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.
Backstory in dispute between Apple and AliveCor
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. Then, in 2021, AliveCor claimed that Apple stole its patents, and sent a request to the ITC to ban Apple Watch sales in the US. Apple asked the PTAB to declare AliveCor’s patents invalid.
Separately, AliveCor this year filed an antitrust lawsuit, claiming that Apple was blocking competitor apps by restricting third-party app access to the heart-rate monitor.
It’s now up to none other than President Joe Biden to decide whether or not Apple has infringed AliveCor’s patents. Biden has 60 days to review the determination.