Legal Showdown Between Apple and Masimo over the Apple Watch Oximetry Patent

Apple and Masimo engage in a legal dispute over patent infringement related to pulse oximetry technology in Apple Watch, raising questions about the efficacy of patents and potential sales bans on certain models

By Raunak Bose
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Apple vs Masimo

Apple vs Masimo’s legal fight. (Image via TechFirstNow)

Apple Inc., a major player in the digital technology industry is in a legal fight with Masimo. This medical technology supplier accuses Apple of patent violation by using pulse oximetry technology in the Apple Watch. This argument has made people raise questions about the effectiveness of patents anymore, in a case where sales bans may target some Apple Watch models.

Things started with Masimo when Apple was charged with unauthorizedly snatching Masimo’s employees and as well as engineers and even their sophisticated medical device technology. This allegation triggered a patent lawsuit whereby the Masimo team contended that the patent technology related to the detection of oxygen saturation levels was used in the recent Series 9 and Ultra 2 wristwatches produced by the company, Apple.

Masimo became the first company to succeed in stopping Apple from infringing on its IP by receiving a ban from ITC on the import of Apple Watches into the United States. Meanwhile, Apple started an immediate appeal to the U.S. Court, saying Masimo did not demonstrate an investment in competing U.S. products to justify an import ban. Apple also maintained that Masimo’s patents were without merit, and their watches did not break any rules set by those patents.

Apple Appeals Trial Rulings and Contests Validity of Masimo's Patents 

Apple's fight in the federal court ended at the Federal Circuit Court where it emphasized that the rulings were bogus and invalid. By remarking on the lack of patent availability and the immature stage of Masimo's device at the point of the complaint, Apple aimed to nullify Masimo's claims.

United States Court of Appeals
United States Court of Appeals (via Latham and Watkins LLP)

As the legal procedures gained momentum, Apple took quick steps to try and contain the effects of the import ban. In the light of the Federal Circuit's imposition of a suspension on the ban, however, Apple responded by introducing some decisive measures. The company chose to disable the pulse oximetry function on the watches sold during the appeal, a tactful move that allowed it to navigate through the legal arena for close to a year.

Interestingly, the United States Customs and Border Protection by their own accord determined that the redesigned watches drafted by Fossil had not infringed upon the patented rights of Masimo and would therefore be exempted from the imposed import ban. Masimo takes this on by saying that the functionality of the redesigned watches is not related to pulse oximetry.

The legal squabble between Apple and Masimo represents an illustration of how complicated the intellectual property rights system in technology can be. It highlights the role of the clumsy patent laws and powerful implementation mechanisms so that innovation is protected and no one argues with those who are coming up with new technology.

Going on as the case proceeds, both Apple and Masimo keep holding firm toward their sides as the legal battle rages on, where arguments on each side become more forceful. This case will have enormous consequences for the parties affected as well as the broader tech industry and consumers who depend on ingenious products featuring Apple Watch for health tracking and other purposes.

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