Court Temporarily Lifts Apple Watch Import Ban

Due to a patent dispute, Apple was barred from importing Ultra 2 and Series 9 watches

Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 were unavailable directly from Apple while the ban was in effect, though they could still be purchased from third-party retailers. Apple Watch SE is not affected by the ban. Photo by Apple.

By Josh Levin
Published January 1, 2024 | Updated May 13, 2024 at 11:03 am

Two Apple Watch models are again available in the U.S. after a federal appeals court temporarily stayed an order Dec. 27 barring the company from importing them.

Apple appealed the U.S. International Trade Commission’s order in the patent dispute with a medical technology company, Masimo, over the blood oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 wearables.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit temporarily ordered the government to not enforce the import ban while they decide Apple’s request to stay the commission’s order pending appeal. The USITC opposes the request, according to court documents, but has not yet filed their response.

Masimo asked the USITC to investigate in June 2021, according a press release from the USITC.

The USITC ordered Apple on Aug. 26 to stop importing the watches after finding that Apple was in violation of the patent. The commission is “an independent, nonpartisan, quasi-judicial federal agency,” their website states. Part of their mission is to “make determinations in proceedings involving imports claimed to injure a domestic industry or violate U.S. intellectual property rights.”

Masimo stated in an August press release that the USITC’s order was necessary to hold Apple accountable. “Today’s ruling by the USITC sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law,” said Masimo CEO Joe Kiani, who founded the company in 1989.

“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 Dec. 26. Neither Apple nor the USITC responded to The Terabyte Tribune’s requests for comment.

The import ban went into effect Dec. 25 following a 60-day presidential review period, during which President Joseph R. Biden Jr. declined to step in. It remained in effect for fewer than two days before the court intervened.

While the ban was in effect, Apple had pulled the two models from sale on their website, though they could still be purchased from some third-party retailers. The Apple Watch SE remained available because it does not have a blood oxygen sensor.

The court ordered the USITC to file their opposition to the stay by Jan. 5, at which point the court could order that the ban be reinstated. The ban only prevents Apple from importing the devices, so any that are already in the U.S. can still be sold and used.

The ban also includes an exception for warranty repair and replacement of any watches purchased before it went into effect, according to the USITC’s order. 

Stated Masimo, “To protect innovation, such as Masimo’s technology, and to protect public health, it is necessary to preserve incentives to innovate and protect intellectual property and fair competition.”

The Terabyte Tribune will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Josh Levin is the founder and editor in chief of The Terabyte Tribune, handling all aspects of operations and coverage. He can be reached via email at [email protected]