The Apple Watch Series 9 and the Ultra 2 are no longer purchasable through Apple’s online store, and as of December 24, they will also be unavailable at the company’s retail outlets. The reasons behind this decision are as follows.
Why is there an Apple Watch ban?
Following an order from the United States International Trade Commission (ITC), Apple has removed certain watch models from its website, ceasing their sale in the United States. The ITC imposed a ban on Apple Watch sales in response to a lawsuit filed by Masimo, a medical technology company, in 2021. Masimo claimed that Apple had violated five patents related to light-based blood oxygen monitoring.
The ITC, in October, affirmed a judge’s earlier ruling that the Apple Watch indeed infringed upon Masimo’s patents. Notably, the banned models include the blood oxygen monitoring feature, introduced with the Watch Series 6, while older models with this capability remain unaffected by the sales prohibition.
Despite Apple’s appeal of the ITC decision, requesting a stay on the ban pending the appeal’s resolution, the commission rejected the request. The ban will proceed unless the president intervenes and vetoes the order. The US Trade Representative is also reviewing the ITC’s decision and may disapprove it for policy reasons.
Masimo’s legal action against Apple originated in 2020, alleging the theft of trade secrets. Masimo claimed that Apple hired former Masimo employees, leveraging their knowledge to develop the blood oxygen monitoring capabilities in the Apple Watch. This particular case is still ongoing.
What is Apple doing about it?
To proactively address a potential enforcement of the recent ruling, Apple had announced the removal of the affected watch models from its websites on December 21, with plans to pull them from retail outlets on December 24. The import ban, however, is slated to take effect on December 26, while the Presidential Review Period extends until December 25.
In response to the situation, Apple emphasized its commitment to developing products and services with leading health, wellness, and safety features. The company expressed strong disagreement with the ITC’s order and disclosed its pursuit of various legal and technical avenues to ensure continued availability of the Apple Watch to customers. Apple assured its dedication to taking swift measures to restore the availability of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US as expeditiously as possible.
Looking forward, Apple faces the possibility of a prolonged wait for the appeal’s outcome unless the ban is overturned by the president or the US Trade Representative. The tech giant has also initiated two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo in 2022, alleging that Masimo’s smartwatch mimics the features of Apple watches. If the ban remains in effect, negotiations or settlements with Masimo, potentially involving financial terms, could be a route for resolution. While Masimo’s CEO has expressed openness to a financial settlement, Apple has reportedly not engaged in negotiations as of now. Additionally, Apple is reportedly developing a software update that it believes could address the concerns raised by the ITC dispute.
How can I buy an Apple Watch now?
Despite the import ban on the affected Apple Watch models set to commence on December 26, consumers still have options for acquiring the brand’s older watches or the Apple SE, which lacks a blood oxygen monitor. Those interested in purchasing the impacted models during the holiday season can explore third-party retailers.
Given that the ban allows retailers to sell their existing stock, reputable establishments such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target, or Walmart may still offer the models in question. However, availability is contingent on existing inventory, so it’s advisable to check with these retailers promptly. In the event of stock depletion, waiting for a resolution to the situation or considering alternative plans, such as a getaway to Mexico or Canada, might be the course of action.