Court bars US Apple Watch imports during appeal over ban

Apple Watches capable of reading blood-oxygen levels cannot be imported into the US while Apple challenges a government decision that the devices infringe patents.

A federal appeals court ruled on the matter Wednesday.

The patents in question belong to medical technology company Masimo. The ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit means the affected watches cannot be imported while Apple appeals the U.S. International Trade Commission's ban.

Separately, US Customs and Border Protection on January 12th determined that a proposed redesign from Apple would allow it to import reconfigured versions of its latest Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches without violating the ITC's restrictions, court filings show.

Apple has not yet described the redesign publicly, which could involve an update to the watches' software.

Representatives for Apple and Masimo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision.

The ITC's import ban on Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches briefly went into effect on Dec. 26. The Federal Circuit lifted the ban on Dec. 27 while it considered Apple's request for a long-term pause, and Apple resumed sales of the smartwatches later that day.

Masimo has accused Apple of hiring away its employees and stealing its pulse oximetry technology to use in Apple Watches.

The ITC barred imports and direct Apple sales of Apple Watches that read blood-oxygen levels following a Masimo complaint.

Apple stopped selling its latest Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches in the US before Christmas until the appeals court's temporary pause.

The devices remained available from other US retailers including, Best Buy, Costco and Walmart.

Apple asked the Washington-based Federal Circuit to keep the ban on hold for the duration of the appeals process, which is likely to take months.

It argued that it was likely to win its appeal and that keeping the ban in effect would harm the company, its suppliers and the public.

The commission countered that Apple's arguments "amount to little more" than a patent infringer "requesting permission to continue infringing."

Apple has included a pulse oximeter feature in smartwatches since its Series 6 Apple Watch in 2020. It has countersued Masimo for patent infringement, calling Masimo's legal actions a "maneuver to clear a path" for its own competing watch.

Apple Watches comprise about a quarter of the global smartwatch market, according to Counterpoint Research.

An Apple company report said its wearables, home, and accessory business, which includes the Apple Watch, AirPods earbuds, and other products, brought in $8.28 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2023.

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