Apple Watch ban isn't stopping third-party sales — but Apple can't tell you that

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Future)

You can still buy the Apple Watch 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 at third-party retailers, even if Apple itself can't sell them right now for legal reasons. But according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple staff are apparently not allowed to tell customers this.

Instead, Gurman reports Apple team members are instructed to tell you: “Unfortunately, due to the ongoing legal matter, I am not able to provide you with any information about where you can buy Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2.” They're also ordered "not to speculate with customers on when or how the matter would be resolved," the report elaborates.

This seems a rather draconian order to pass down to staff in Apple Stores, and is arguably bad buying advice. But considering the possible legal consequences, Apple's definitely better off being safe instead of sorry here.

Because of Apple's patent dispute with fellow Californian company Masimo over who owns the right to specific blood oxygen monitoring patents, the International Trade Commission ordered Apple to stop selling its latest smartwatches by December 25th. While Apple is expected to appeal this decision, and is also likely to seek a settlement or a licensing agreement with Masimo or try to redesign the infringing components, the ban will remain in place until everything's resolved.

Apple's apparently preparing itself for this block early though. It's due to stop selling the Apple Watch 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 online on Thursday, December 21, and in-store by Monday, December 24. 

However, as you can see in our Apple Watch 9/Ultra 2 stock guide, stores like Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart are still offering these two watches for sale. But Bloomberg adds that Masimo and Apple disagree on whether third-party sales are allowed under the terms of the ITC's block, so we'll have to wait to find out if these retailers can keep selling the watches.

Even if non-Apple sales are allowed to continue, there's also the matter of finite stock. Even if non-Apple stores can keep selling the two offending Apple Watches, they may not be able to restock once they run out if Apple can't supply them with new units under the terms of the ban.

The White House is watching

Apple Watch Series 9

(Image credit: Future)

In another Bloomberg report we learn that the Biden administration is keeping an eye on this situation, although there's only limited time left in which the federal government could act to stop the ban.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained that Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative and the person responsible for deciding what if any action the government will take, is “carefully considering all of the factors in this case.” It will be on her recommendation if the administration takes action.

President Biden could overrule the import ban, as Barack Obama did while president in 2013 when Apple faced a similar dispute with Samsung. But with the ban going into effect on the 25th, and no changes possible after that fact until the dispute is resolved, it's looking less and less likely to happen.

If you were hoping to give the Apple Watch 9 or Apple Watch Ultra 2 as a Christmas gift, we hope you were prepared and already bought them. If you haven't, then let us give you a hand with our best smartwatches guide, which is full of alternatives that you will still be able to buy.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.