New Apple Watches Could Be Banned From The U.S. Here's Why

In December 2022, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Apple infringed on patents held by AliveCor, a California-based company that specializes in offering end-to-end cardiological care and services. AliveCore claims that it is the global leader in FDA-cleared personal electrocardiogram (ECG) technology, which is also found in Apple's smartwatches. Now, the ITC's declaration has passed the Presidential review process.

According to an official statement, President Biden has refused to veto the federal agency's order that could ban the import of certain Apple Watch models in the United States. President Biden has upheld an order by the ITC that imposed a Limited Exclusion Order (LEO), as well as a cease-and-desist order on Apple Watches, according to AliveCor. The company also has an antitrust case lined up against Apple and it is expected to go on trial early next year.

AliveCor claims that it shared its heart rate monitoring tech with Apple back in 2015 with the intention of scoring a partnership, but that apparently didn't flesh out as planned. Instead, AliveCor had to nix the sale of its own heart-monitoring accessory after Apple launched smartwatches with ECG tech onboard in 2018. The ITC ruled against Apple in 2013 in a patent dispute filed by Samsung, which again sought an import ban covering iPhones and the second-generation iPad.

Looming ban, but a long drawn out battle

A ban on the import of Apple Watches in the U.S. is plausible, but the road ahead for AliveCor won't be easy. While the U.S. ITC ruled in November that the import of Apple's smartwatches should be banned because they infringed on AliveCor patents for heart rate monitoring, the actual execution of a ban order was put on hold. That's because a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal ruled that the three contested patents owned by AliveCor were invalid, which means Apple didn't violate any patent laws. AliveCor is currently in the process of appealing the USPTO's ruling, which went in Apple's favor. 

Following the ITC's contradictory judgment, it was left up to President Biden to uphold or reject the ITC's ban recommendation within a period of 60 days. Now that the President's office has decided to uphold the ITC's findings, both companies will now duke it out in an appeals court and get a final verdict that will decide the fate of an Apple Watch import ban. That process could take up to 18 months. Interestingly, Apple hired Shara Aranoff, a lobbyist who chaired the ITC during President Obama's tenure. Responding to Apple's move, AliveCor CEO Priya Abani proclaimed that "Apple has unlimited resources. They're gonna go after everyone they can get and that's what they're doing."