Apple to restart watch sales after court blocks import ban

Dec 28, 2023, 7:00 AM

Image of Apple Watches. A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a sweeping Apple Watch impo...

A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a sweeping Apple Watch import ban. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

(Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Originally Published: 27 DEC 23 11:51 ET
Updated: 27 DEC 23 17:49 ET

Washington (CNN) — Apple will immediately return to selling its most advanced Apple Watch models in stores, after a federal appeals court temporarily blocked a sweeping import ban on its latest smartwatches while a patent dispute winds its way through the legal system.

Apple will also once again offer the affected watches for sale on its website. Those sales will begin Thursday at noon Pacific Time, the company said in a statement.

The announcement means Apple will be selling “the full Apple Watch lineup to customers in time for the new year,” the company added.

Apple filed an emergency appeal motion Tuesday on a US International Trade Commission ruling that went into effect this week. That ITC order prevented Apple from importing the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, among other newer models, to the United States. Those models violated patents registered to another company.

The Biden White House had until the end of Christmas day to overturn the ban but the office of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai confirmed in a statement Tuesday that the White House would not intervene.

The appeals court’s temporary block on the ITC’s order will allow US Customs to consider Apple’s redesign of the offending Apple Watch models, a fix that is expected to take place by January 12. The company said in the motion Tuesday that it could “suffer irreparable harm” if the ban is kept in place while the appeal is ongoing.

Apple had already taken the offending Watch models off its online store, and Apple Store locations opened Tuesday without any of the latest top-of-the-line watches in stock. The cheaper Apple Watch SE, which was not part of the ruling, remains on sale, but the ban affects the Apple Watch Series 6 and later, and all models of Apple Watch Ultra.

“Apple’s teams have worked tirelessly over many years to develop technology that empowers users with industry-leading health, wellness and safety features and we are pleased the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has stayed the exclusion order while it considers our request to stay the order pending our full appeal,” the company said. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 will again be available for purchase in some US stores starting Wednesday. Wider availability will roll out in the coming days, according to the company.

In October, the US International Trade Commission ruled that Apple was in violation of a pulse oximeter patent. The patent uses light-based technology to read blood-oxygen levels. Masimo, a medical device maker, holds the patent in question.

But the ban was on imports, not on sales. Third-party stores continued to sell the latest Apple Watch models even after the ban went into effect.

With Wednesday’s emergency stay, however, Apple has won an early-stage reprieve. It paves the way for Apple to continue selling its top-tier smartwatches even as it challenges the ITC decision in court. Wednesday’s order from the Federal Circuit directs the ITC not to enforce its ban “until further notice while the court considers the motion for a stay pending appeal.”

Masimo declined to comment.

This story has been updated with additional developments and context.

CNN’s Clare Duffy contributed to this report.

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Apple to restart watch sales after court blocks import ban