White House to Decide on Apple Watch Ban Next Week

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to issue his decision on a potential ban on Apple Watch imports into the country next week (via The Hill).

The news comes after the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in December found the ECG functionality on some Apple Watch models to be infringing on health tech company AliveCor’s patents.

Alongside its decision, the ITC issued a Limited Exclusion Order against Apple, as well as a cease and desist order that could ban the iPhone maker from importing select Apple Watch models that breach AliveCor’s patents into the U.S. Unfortunately, these include the latest Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra models, both of which feature an ECG sensor.

Come Monday, President Biden must decide whether to veto the ITC’s ruling or allow the dispute to proceed in court. Apple and AliveCor have been engaged in a patent battle since 2021.

Ahead of Washington’s decision, Apple has ramped up lobbying efforts and retained Shara Aranoff, a lobbyist at Covington & Burling who also served as ITC chair during the Obama administration, to lobby the U.S. government on its behalf.

“Apple has unlimited resources. They’re gonna go after everyone they can get and that’s what they’re doing,” said AliveCor CEO Priya Abani. “We are just a startup.”

AliveCor’s is just one of the many allegations against Apple of “Sherlocking,” a colloquial term for when the iPhone maker monitors a technology developed by a partner, developer, or another party, copies it, and rebrands it into a feature of its own without any credit (or compensation) to the original creator.

Apple said in a statement that the import ban AliveCor won from the ITC hasn’t taken effect yet because the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found the company’s patents to be invalid in December.

If President Biden supports the ITC ruling, Apple and AliveCor would continue litigation. A veto from the White House, however, would scrap the potential ban on Apple Watch imports. Notably, Apple was able to secure a veto against a similar ITC ban on iPhone and iPad imports in 2013 from then-President Barack Obama.

AliveCor also filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple earlier this year, alleging that the tech giant was stifling competition by restricting third-party app access to the Apple Watch’s heart rate monitor.

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