Apple Watch woes continue as Biden administration decides not to veto US import ban

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Future)

It’s been a tough holiday period for Apple’s wearable department, and things are about to get worse. The administration of US President Biden has decided to uphold the decision from a government tribunal which will see an import bad placed upon the best Apple Watches.

This follows an ongoing patent dispute between Apple and medical tech company Masimo, which for years has claimed that Apple’s wearable infringes on its protected method of reading blood oxygen levels. It’s a feature that’s been included in the Apple Watch since the Series 6, which launched in 2020, with Masimo looking for back-dated damages since the introduction of the feature.

The International Trade Commission’s order kicks off today (December 26), and extends a disastrous holiday sales window for the Apple Watch — a sales ban came into effect the week before Christmas, which usually sees a sales spike for the fitness focussed wearable as customers prepare for new year’s resolutions.

Apple’s next step will be to appeal the ban in the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, but means availability of the wearable will continue to be limited in the US for weeks to come.

Courts, courts, courts

At present, the only current model unaffected by the sales ban is the Apple Watch SE, which lacks the blood oxygen reading method used by the Series 9 and Ultra 2. Older generations remain unaffected.

It’s been a tumultuous battle between Apple and Masimo, with the later company also claiming that Apple looked to headhunt its staff in order to reverse engineer and circumvent its protected patented technologies. The battle has already seen one court run end in mistrial, while Apple is separately suing Masimo for a separate patent infringement, with Apple positioning Masimo’s complaints as an attempt to prepare the market for its own wearable device.

The fight with Masimo is not Apple’s only smart watch headache at the moment either — a separate patent infringement claim from another medical technology company, AliveCor, was brought to the International Trade Commission, requesting a ban in February. But, for the time being, that case is on hold.

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Gerald Lynch
Editor in Chief

Gerald Lynch is the Editor-in-Chief of iMore, keeping careful watch over the site's editorial output and commercial campaigns, ensuring iMore delivers the in-depth, accurate and timely Apple content its readership deservedly expects. You'll never see him without his iPad Pro, and he loves gaming sessions with his buddies via Apple Arcade on his iPhone 15 Pro, but don't expect him to play with you at home unless your Apple TV is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. 


Living in London in the UK, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK, and Executive Editor of TechRadar, and has covered international trade shows including Apple's WWDC, MWC, CES and IFA. If it has an acronym and an app, he's probably been there, on the front lines reporting on the latest tech innovations. Gerald is also a contributing tech pundit for BBC Radio and has written for various other publications, including T3 magazine, GamesRadar, Space.com, Real Homes, MacFormat, music bible DIY, Tech Digest, TopTenReviews, Mirror.co.uk, Brandish, Kotaku, Shiny Shiny and Lifehacker. Gerald is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press, and also holds a Guinness world record on Tetris. For real.

  • MLG0823
    Is anyone really shocked by this. Democrats don't care about big corporate issues. Too busy lying to the American public about the economy, jobs, and the real reason for sending money to Ukraine.
    Reply
  • Just_Me_D
    If Apple violated the Masimo’s patent then they should be held accountable. Period. Either pay up or suffer losses in watch Ultra 2 and watch 9 sales and then focus on creating the watch Ultra 3 and watch 10 without violating any patents.

    As for government intervention, the less the better.
    Reply
  • Captain NV
    They've been found to have been using stolen technology. Allowing them to continue doing so would be wrong.
    Reply
  • naddy69
    "It's been a disastrous holiday period for Apple's wearable department."

    Not really. Anyone who was in the market for a new watch for Christmas was not going to wait until 12/24 to buy one. I bought mine 3 weeks ago, before this issue even came up.
    Reply