Masimo seeks Series 6 import ban in smartwatch fight with Apple


Apple Watch Series 6
Apple Watch Series 6
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Healthcare technology company Masimo Corp. has upped the ante in its legal fight with Apple. In a patent-infringement complaint filed today at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., it said U.S. imports of the Apple Watch Series 6 should be halted.

Masimo alleged that Apple’s smartwatch infringes five patents for devices that measure blood oxygen levels via light transmitted through the body. The company said the patents are central to its business and Apple unfairly copied key features.

Follows 2020 federal lawsuit

Masimo makes signal-processing technology for healthcare monitors. Along with spinoff Cercacor Laboratories, it first sued Apple in January 2020.

The Cupertino-based tech giant stands accused, in the ongoing case, of stealing technology to overcome problems inherent to measuring oxygen levels in the blood via light emitters.

That suit also includes information alleging that Apple poached employees from Masimo, including it chief medical officer.

ITC may be faster than federal court

Patents at issue in the federal lawsuit are under review by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That resulted from Apple’s argument that the patents did not cover new inventions, Bloomberg explained in it report on the ITC complaint. It noted the judge effectively put the older case on hold while the review progresses.

“Unlike a district court, the trade agency won’t delay consideration of the patent complaint and it typically completes investigations in 15-18 months,” Bloomberg said. “Conversely, if Apple decides to challenge these patents as well, the patent office is likely to decline any request for a review because the ITC works so quickly.”

Further Masimo arguments

In the ITC complaint, Masimo said halting imports of the Series 6 won’t harm the public. It said the pulse oximetry functionality is “not essential to the public health or welfare.”

“Apple heavily markets that feature of the Series 6 to give the watch the appearance of a medical device,” Masimo contended. “Yet, hidden from the millions of purchasers of the Series 6, Apple warns in the fine print that the blood oxygen measurements should not be relied upon for medical purposes.”

Possible outcome

The dispute could end in a settlement. If so, Masimo could get up to $300 million a year in royalties, according to analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence.

For its part, Apple denied the earlier case’s allegations that it stole trade secrets or infringed patents. But so far, it has withheld comment on the new ITC complaint.

The company’s Apple Watch revenues reportedly reached $30.6 billion in fiscal 2020.

The case title is In the Matter of Certain Physiological Measurement Devices, 337-3554, U.S. International Trade Commission.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.