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Judge backs AliveCor patent suit that seeks US Apple Watch ban

An International Trade Commission (ITC) judge has issued an initial finding that says Apple has infringed AliveCor's patented ECG technology — which could lead to a ban on Apple Watch.

Following its December 2020 filing of a lawsuit against Apple over patent infringement, mobile ECG firm AliveCor also took its case to the ITC in April 2021. Now an ITC judge has backed AliveCor, and has recommended that the International Trade Commission undertakes a review of the case.

"Today's ruling is a strong validation of our IP and underscores that patents matter and even an influential company like Apple cannot simply violate them to stifle innovation," Priya Abani, CEO of AliveCor, said in a statement to AppleInsider. "Since the start, our focus has been on our customers and providing them with strong choices to help monitor their cardiac health, including KardiaBand, the first-ever FDA-cleared ECG device accessory for Apple Watch."

If the full ITC review concurs that Apple infringed on AliveCor's patents, it's possible that imports of the Apple Watch into the US could be barred.

AliveCor also separately filed an antitrust suit against Apple in May 2021, and all its cases center on a claim that Apple copied the company's Apple Watch ECG ideas.

The company further claims that Apple allegedly altered App Store guidelines, and updated watchOS, specifically to make AliveCor's KardiaBands product inoperable. The KardiaBands were the first ECG technology to receive over-the-counter FDA clearance, and did so in 2014, ahead of their launch in 2017.

As noted by AppleInsider in 2018 when Apple Watch first gained an ECG, however, AliveCor KardiaBands required unlocking. Before a user could check their own ECG or EKG using the device, the first reading had to be reviewed by a US board-certified cardiologist.

Apple Watch's ECG did not include such a requirement.

Apple has not commented publicly on the ITC's initial findings.