Reviews - February 8, 2024

Apple loses Apple Watch lawsuit

In recent months, Apple has been grappling with a series of lawsuits over the fate of its popular Apple Watch line. But this week, the company won. A federal judge ruled in Apple’s favor, dismissing an antitrust lawsuit alleging the company illegally monopolized the U.S. market for a heart rate app for the Apple Watch, according to Reuters.

AliveCor, a medical device and AI company, filed the lawsuit in 2021. It claimed that Apple abused its market power by undermining competition and engaging in “predatory” and “exclusive” conduct regarding the Apple Watch’s electrocardiogram (ECG) technology. The judge’s decision is currently unknown due to confidentiality issues, but at some point the decision should be made public.

This is a separate lawsuit from the lawsuit filed by medical technology company Masimo. As we previously reported, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has banned sales of Apple’s Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 due to patent infringement claims related to the watches’ blood oxygen sensor technology. Apple appealed and was granted a temporary stay, but in January 2024 the U.S. Court of Appeals declined to extend the stay.

Over the past few months, the company has been exploring last-minute workarounds to avoid running afoul of the law. The ban only applies directly to Apple, so you can still buy watches with intact blood oxygen sensors from other retailers as long as they have supplies. Otherwise, Apple would disable the sensor and begin shipping modified watches earlier this year.

AliveCor said in a statement to 9to5Mac that it plans to appeal the ruling. The company also said that another, completely separate lawsuit involving the ECG sensor is ongoing and will be reviewed in the coming months. In 2015, the company presented its ECG sensor to Apple for future collaboration. Then, in 2018, Apple released its own ECG sensor. The ITC ruled that Apple infringed on AliveCore’s technology. The incident did not lead to a ban.

This week’s decision was a setback for small companies hoping to take on the tech giant. But the good news for Apple Watch owners is that their devices won’t lose any functionality, as they did as a result of the Masimo dispute. (And even then, if a blood oxygen sensor isn’t important to you, the cheaper Watch SE didn’t have it in the first place.) We’ll continue to update our best Apple Watch guide based on the best guidance at the time.