Apple Watch Ban Blocked

John Lister's picture

Two new models of the Apple smartwatch were briefly banned from sale in the US. The ban related to intellectual property, rather than any safety or security concerns.

The ban affected the Series 9 and Ultra 2, which are the latest versions of the two more expensive models in the range. It didn't affect the "standard" SE model.

Both sales and imports of the devices were barred by the US International Trade Commission (US ITC). Among other powers, it can ban sales where there's a dispute over intellectual property which have an international element. That's what happened in this case with a claim by Californian company Masimo.

Former Engineer Jumped Ship

It argued that the new Apple models violated its patents on technology that can read blood oxygen levels. That normally requires a dedicated device and can be an early warning sign that a respiratory problem can be serious enough to require emergency medical attention.

The dispute was particularly spicy as Masimo's legal filings included an email from the chief technical officer of its sister company (Ceracor Laboratories) to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Shortly afterwards, the man was hired by Apple and began working on smartwatch tech. Apple insists he didn't have any specialist knowledge about the blood oxygen technology.

Masimo requested that the US ITC block sales of the two watches while the two companies could resolve their legal disputes. The ITC actually agreed to that ban in October, but that kicked off a 60 day period where the federal government could veto the ban.

Christmas Day Ban

The government chose not to and thus the ban took effect on Christmas Day. The ban had a mixed affect as it didn't affect third-party sellers that already had stock of the products. (Source:

However, Apple almost immediately took the case to a federal appeals court. It agreed to put the ban on hold until at least January 15 and will then decide whether the ban should stay in place or the watches go back on sale until the patent issue is resolved. That's not expected to happen until October, 2024. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Should devices be banned during intellectual property disputes? Do such bans encourage spurious lawsuits? Is there any point to such bans if they don't affect third-party sellers?

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