Apple Inc. has announced the imminent return of its latest smartwatch models to the shelves of its US retail stores. This decision follows a favorable court ruling in a patent dispute, offering a swift respite for the tech giant’s $17 billion business. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 will not only be available in physical stores beginning Wednesday but will also resume online sales starting Thursday, specifically at noon Pacific time.
The background of this development involves the US International Trade Commission’s prior ban on the import and sale of these smartwatches through the Company’s official channels. This ban was instated after the commission ruled in favor of Masimo Corp., a medical device manufacturer, in a patent infringement case, asserting that Apple violated two of Masimo’s patents related to measuring blood-oxygen saturation.
An appellate court in Washington temporarily halted the ITC’s decision on Wednesday while Apple pursues an appeal, providing the company with an opportunity to continue its smartwatch sales. The interim stay was granted as Apple works to overturn the ITC’s ruling, allowing the company to put its watches back on the shelves of approximately 270 retail locations across the country, with broader availability expected by Saturday.
Apple, emphasizing its commitment to developing cutting-edge technology in health, wellness, and safety features, expressed satisfaction with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision to stay the exclusion order during the appeal process. A spokesperson for the company conveyed that its teams had dedicated years to empower users with innovative technology.
The ITC’s initial ban, announced in October, triggered a 60-day review period by the White House, during which it could potentially veto the decision. However, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai declared on Tuesday that there would be no intervention, and the White House opted not to veto the measure.
The company has also devised a software update for the Apple Watch intended to address the alleged patent infringement issue. The company has submitted the update’s design to the US customs agency, with a decision on its approval scheduled for January 12.
Masimo Corp. alleged Apple watch used its blood-oxygen technology
The appellate court in Washington has granted the ITC until January 10 to respond to the company’s request for a more extended stay during the full appeal process. Meanwhile, Masimo, based in Irvine, California, the medical device company involved in the patent dispute, declined to comment on Wednesday’s court ruling.
Despite the court’s temporary lifting of the sales ban, Masimo’s shares experienced a 4.6% decline to $115.11 at the close in New York, while the company’s stock remained relatively unchanged.
The ITC argued against the interim stay, contending that Apple did not face “irreparable harm” during the appeal since sales of some watch models continued. According to the ITC, the remedial orders specifically targeted Watch products featuring a light-based pulse oximetry feature for measuring blood oxygen levels.
Masimo, seeking to intervene in the appeals case, asserted in a separate filing that Apple’s emergency request for an interim stay should be denied due to the absence of an emergency. Masimo claimed that Apple had ceased sales of the infringing Apple Watches even before the ITC orders took effect.
Apple, disputing the ITC’s decision, insisted it was incorrect and asserted that it was undertaking all necessary measures to reintroduce the watches to the US market. Notably, during the ban, owners of Apple Watch Series 6, 7, and 8, all equipped with the blood-oxygen feature, faced restrictions on hardware repairs for out-of-warranty watches.