Apple Watch Ban: Will Biden Veto ITC Decision in AliveCor's ECG Patent Theft Case Against Tech Giant?

President Joe Biden is about to decide if he would veto a ban on Apple Watch imports next week. The corporate world and the political circles are awaiting the decision by Biden, who had earlier made tall promises on reining in monopolistic tech organizations that stymie innovation and suppress pioneering start-ups.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) ordered a ban on Apple Watch imports into the US after it found that the tech giant had infringed on the patents owned by US medical device company AliveCor. The ITC allowed Apple to appeal the decision, giving it a reprieve from immediately banning the imports of Apple Watch.

Apple Watch

Biden has to decide by Monday if he should use the veto power to hold the ITC ruling void. If he does so, Apple will have a straight win over the small start-up and can continue the business as usual. If Biden decides not to use the veto powers, the various legal battles between Apple and AliveCor will go on.

What's the Case?

AliveCor, a California-based medical technology start-up, says it shared its wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor technology with Apple in 2015. The early phase of the association with Apple was friendly, and AliveCor sold Apple an ECG accessory for the Watch project, which was highly prestigious project for Apple.

However, AliveCor says it was dealt a harsh blow by Apple, which launched the Watch with a built-in ECG sensor in 2018, and made third-party heart monitoring software incompatible with the product. This, AliveCor says, forced it to cancel the sales of its own product.

"We come up with new technologies, and instead of the ecosystem letting us thrive and continue to build on top of the innovations we already have, Apple cuts us out up front, steals our technology, uses their platform power to scale it, and now is basically saying it's scaled so it can't be cut off," AliveCor CEO Priya Abani said, according to The Hill.

Apple Watch
Apple Watch 2 to feature built-in GPS and Swim Tracking features Apple

ITC Verdict

In December last year, the U.S. International Trade Commission banned Apple from importing all watches citing the patent infringement over the heart monitoring technology. However, ITC suspended the ban, allowing Apple to file an appeal against the ban.

Complicating the legal process, Apple also filed a patent infringement lawsuit against AliveCor. The tech giant said it wanted to set the record straight 'as to who is the real pioneer'. It claimed that AliveCor was responding to its own failures in the market 'through opportunistic assertions of its patents against Apple', Stat News reported.

Apple Watch series 4 comes with ECG
Apple Watch series 4 comes with ECG Apple Event Page screen-grab

What is AliveCor?

AliveCor was co-founded by David Albert, a former chief clinical scientist of cardiology at General Electric, in 2011. Its primary product is the AliveCor KardiaMobile, which is a portable ECG device. AliveCor says KardiaMobile device is the most clinically-validated personal ECG solution in the world.

AliveCor KardiaMobile
AliveCor KardiaMobile Wikimedia Commons

"AliveCor was founded on the strength of our proprietary technologies: AI-enabled, machine learning-powered ECG sensors that deliver medical-grade heart data anytime, anywhere. Our digital tools help patients access, manage and share their data, and connect with cardiologists to better understand and manage their heart health," the company says.