Federal court temporarily pauses Apple Watch ban [Updated]


Biden won't overturn ITC ban on Apple Watch.
U.S. imports and sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are on again ... for now.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

The ban on Apple Watch 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 sales in the United States stands, after the Biden administration confirmed Tuesday it won’t overturn it, but a federal court paused it temporarily Wednesday after Apple’s request for appeal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted a temporary stay until January 10 — so Apple can resume selling the wearables, at least for a short time.

White House elects not to veto ITC ban on U.S. Apple Watch imports and sales; Apple appeals

ITC’s ruling to ban U.S. imports and sales of Apple Watch 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 stems from a long-running patent dispute between Apple and medical technology company Masimo over blood-oxygen analysis technology.

In the dispute, Masimo alleges Apple unlawfully used the company’s pulse-oximetry tech, starting with Apple Watch Series 6. In January, a judge ruled against Apple in the case, opening up the possibility of import and sales bans on current Apple Watch models.

Ban halts sales of Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2

Apple decided to halt sales last week in its online store, just ahead of ITC’s ban, leading to speculation that Cupertino hoped its apparent cooperation might influence the Biden administration to veto the ban.

But, as widely expected, the ban stands. It halts sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the Apple Store online and at Apple Store retail locations. It also affects repairs on those models. Third-party sellers can exhaust their remaining stock, however. Apple Watch SE, which does not include the blood oxygen sensor, is the only new model to remain on sale.

Here the ITC’s full statement:

On October 26, 2023, the U.S. International Trade Commission found that Apple, Inc. infringed two patents owned by Masimo Corporation and Cercacor Laboratories, Inc, both based in the United States. Since 2005, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has been delegated the President’s authority under Section 337 of the Trade Act of 1930 to review the ITC’s decision for a 60-day period. After careful consultations, Ambassador Tai decided not to reverse the ITC’s determination and the ITC’s decision became final on December 26, 2023.

Court grants temporary halt after Apple’s appeal

“We strongly disagree with the USITC decision and resulting exclusion order, and are taking all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible,” Apple said in a statement to Reuters and other media outlets.

The iPhone giant, which has been trying to come up with a software solution to the patent dispute, filed an emergency request Tuesday for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to stop the ban, at least temporarily.

According to Reuters:

It asked the Federal Circuit to pause the ban at least until U.S. Customs and Border Protection decides whether redesigned versions of its watches infringe Masimo’s patents, and to put the ban on hold while the court considers Apple’s request. The customs office is due to make its decision on Jan. 12, Apple said.

During the temporary stay on the ban, the court will review Apple’s request. Now the ITC has until January 10 to respond to Apple’s request for a stay.

We published this story Tuesday, December 26, and updated it later that day with more news of Apple’s appeal and on Wednesday when the court issued the temporary pause of the ban.


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