Apple Watch ban update — the Apple Watch 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 may soon be unavailable again

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 on a wrist.
(Image credit: Future)

A new episode of the Apple Watch ban saga has dropped, and it's more potential bad news for Apple.

Apple presents a weak and unconvincing case to invoke the extraordinary remedy of a stay pending appeal under the Standard Havens factors. Its arguments amount to little more than an indisputably adjudicated infringer requesting permission to continue infringing the asserted patents. Chiefly, Apple fails to demonstrate the two most important factors in granting a stay — likelihood of succession the merits and irreparable harm.

International Trade Commission

The U.S. International Trade Commission, the body responsible for the block on Apple Watch 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 sales, has written to the U.S. Appeals Court to argue that these two smartwatches shouldn't remain on sale while Apple appeals against the ITC's original judgment.

In the PDF of the response (courtesy of MacRumors), we can see the ITC argues that Apple's case for continuing sales isn't strong enough, and is effectively asking for permission to continue its alleged patent infringement.

The U.S. Appeals Court set January 15 as the deadline for responses to Apple's request, so we won't see anything change immediately as a result of this statement. However, if the Court sides with the ITC, then we may see the return of a proper Apple Watch ban.

The story so far

Back in October 2023, the ITC ruled that Apple had infringed patents on blood oxygen monitoring tech, held by Californian company Masimo, since 2020's Apple Watch 6 series (although not the Apple Watch SE). As a result, the Apple Watch 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 were briefly yanked from physical and digital store shelves in the last few days of December, but after Apple filed an appeal against the ruling, the U.S. Appeals Court allowed Apple to put the watches back up for sale for the time being.

Apple's apparently looking to issue a software update to its smartwatches to disable the blood oxygen-measuring tech. It will be the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency's decision (due by January 12) if this is enough to stop the smartwatches from infringing on the patents in question, or if a full hardware redesign would be needed, as Masimo has claimed.

Another block on Apple Watch sales would no doubt be annoying for users who wanted to start their New Year's resolution to get fitter with the help of an Apple Watch. However, legal protection of patents is essential for ensuring companies get their just rewards for their ideas. So if Apple did indeed infringe on the patents, it shouldn't be allowed to profit off of this.

Masimo still holds out hope of being able to come to a financial settlement and licensing agreement, but Apple seems uninterested in this. We'll have to see how Apple's appeal turns out before we get any closer to a conclusion to this story.

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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.