By Blake Brittain
(Reuters) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection determined on Friday that Apple (NASDAQ:) can use a redesign to bypass an import ban on newer Apple Watch models stemming from its patent infringement dispute with medical-monitoring technology company Masimo, according to a Monday court filing.
The import ban, issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), applies to Apple’s current Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches and initially went into effect on Dec. 26. Apple convinced a U.S. appeals court to pause the ban the next day, and has since resumed selling the watches as it contests the import ruling. Apple had argued that a proposed redesign would moot findings that the watches infringe blood-oxygen reading patents belonging to Masimo. Apple has not publicly described the redesign, which could involve an update to the watches’ software. The customs agency’s decision could be overruled if the ITC disagrees with it. Masimo accuses Apple of hiring away its employees and stealing its pulse oximetry technology to use in Apple Watches. Apple has countersued, calling Masimo’s legal actions a “maneuver to clear a path” for its own competing smartwatch. The ITC barred Apple’s imports and sales of Apple Watches with technology for reading blood-oxygen levels based on allegations that they infringe two Masimo patents. Apple has included a pulse oximeter feature in smartwatches since its Series 6 Apple Watch in 2020. Apple briefly stopped its sales of its latest Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches in the United States before Christmas due to the ITC decision, though they remained available from other U.S. retailers including Amazon (NASDAQ:), Best Buy, Costco (NASDAQ:) and Walmart (NYSE:). The tech giant resumed selling the watches Dec. 27 after the Washington-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said it would pause the ban while it considers whether Apple’s appeal should put the ITC’s decision on hold.
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