In an unexpected turn, world leading smartwatch manufacturer, Apple, will freeze US online and retail store sales of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 Duo watches from 21 December 2023., leaving only their budget model available for sale so close to Christmas. This is a massive blow to one of the world's largest and most valuable companies.

A patent dispute between Apple and medical tech company Masimo, who owns patents in relation to blood-oxygen monitoring technology, could cost Apple hundreds of millions of dollars.

Masimo accused Apple, in a US International Trade Commission claim brought recently, of entering into discussions with it for a potential partnership in 2013, only to steal the biotech startup's idea and poach some of its engineers to implement it on its own. The Commission proceeding handed down a landmark ruling in October 2023, finding that Apple's smartwatches have infringed on two patents owned by Masimo. A 60-day clock is now running for Apple to seek a review of the ruling. Reports are that Masimo has spent US $60 million fighting Apple to date.

Apple say they are 'pre-emptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand' but 'strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers'.

A possible outcome is a deal between Masimo and Apple, where Masimo licences its patent technologies to Apple in exchange for the payment of licence fees. Another possible outcome is for Apple to disable the blood-oxygen monitoring feature of its devices. It remains to be seen what if any impact there might be for Apple Watches in Australia.

Apple's technology shines red and near-infrared (IR) light into blood-perfused tissue. According to Masimo, which holds thousands of healthcare and consumer-focused patents worldwide, it pioneered a sensor technology that consistently emits light through the skin to monitor blood oxygen saturation.

A patent is a way to protect an invention. It gives the inventor the right to stop others from making, using or selling the invention without the inventor's permission. It also lets the inventor license the invention to someone else on the inventor's chosen terms, usually in exchange for a payment of a royalty or licence fee. To get a patent, an invention must be new, useful and inventive. Patents are granted by IP Australia in Australia and last up to 25 years.

It is critical that any business or individual who thinks they may have come up with a new, useful and inventive invention obtains legal advice, including from one of our Patent Attorney partners throughout Australia. Publishing the invention even among family members can void patent rights. Please contact our IP team for guidance on any matters relating to intellectual property.

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