Apple Watch import ban in play after trade judge finds patent infringement

2 minute read

A man shows the new model of Apple Watch during the opening of Mexico's first flagship Apple store at Antara shopping mall in Mexico City, Mexico September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Luis Cortes

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  • AliveCor accused Apple of copying heart-monitoring technology Judge initially finds infringement, full ITC could ban imports

(Reuters) - An administrative judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission said that Apple Watches violate AliveCor Inc's patent rights in wearable devices with electrocardiogram (ECG)technology, setting up a vote by the full commission that could lead to an import ban.

The judge's preliminary ruling Monday that Apple violates two AliveCor patents sets the stage for a ban on infringing Apple Watch imports if the full commission affirms the decision. The commission is expected to issue a final decision by Oct. 26.

The U.S. president can veto an import ban, but does so rarely. Parties can appeal a ban to the Federal Circuit after the presidential review period ends.

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AliveCor CEO Priya Abani said in a statement Monday that the decision was "a strong validation of our IP" that "underscores that patents matter and even an influential company like Apple cannot simply violate them to stifle innovation."

Apple and its attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

AliveCor accused Apple of infringing three patents related to its KardiaBand, which monitors a user's heart rate, detects irregularities, and performs an electrocardiogram (ECG) to identify possible atrial fibrillation.

It told the ITC last year that Apple copied its ECG technology to use in Apple Watches beginning with its Series 4 model, and drove AliveCor out of the market by making the Apple operating system incompatible with the KardiaBand and AliveCor's SmartRhythm app. Apple responded that it does not infringe and that the patents are invalid.

AliveCor sued Apple last year in California federal court for allegedly monopolizing the U.S. market for Apple Watch heart-rate monitoring apps, in a case that is still ongoing.

AliveCor also sued Apple for patent infringement in West Texas in 2020. That case has been paused based on the ITC proceedings.The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Wearable Electronic Devices with ECG Functionality and Components Thereof, U.S. International Trade Commission, Investigation No. 337-TA-1266.

For Apple: Benjamin Elacqua of Fish & Richardson

For AliveCor: Alex Lasher of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Read more:

Apple must face claims it bars outside heart-rate apps from Apple Watch -U.S. judge

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com