Apple Watch US ban upheld

A recent U.S. ban on Apple Watch imports will remain in place, after the Biden administration declined to veto an earlier ruling by the International Trade Commission. The ITC ruling goes into effect today.

The company previously halted sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, in anticipation of the ban, pausing online sales on December 21 and in-store sales three days later.

A statement issued this morning by the Office of the United States Trade Representative notes, “After careful consultations, Ambassador [Katherine] Tai decided not to reverse the ITC’s determination and the ITC’s decision became final on December 26, 2023.”

Apple has staunchly refuted the pair of patent infringement claims behind the ban, made by health tech company Masimo. In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Apple touts the device’s healthcare features, while promising to continue fighting the decision.

At Apple, we work tirelessly to create products and services that meaningfully impact users’ lives. It’s what drives our teams — Clinical, Design and Engineering — to dedicate years to developing scientifically validated health, fitness and wellness features for Apple Watch, and we are inspired that millions of people around the world have benefited greatly from this product. We strongly disagree with the USITC decision and resulting exclusion order, and are taking all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible.

Apple has also appealed the decision with the Federal Circuit court. The decision stems from a light-based pulse oximetry sensor introduced on the Watch Series 6, back in 2020. Masimo has also accused Apple of poaching employees in a bid to bring the technology to its smartwatch line.

In a statement released shortly after the October ITC decision, Masimo founder/CEO Joe Kiani noted, “Today’s ruling by the USITC sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest company is not above the law. This important determination is a strong validation of our efforts to hold Apple accountable for unlawfully misappropriating our patented technology.”

Kiani has continued on the offensive against the company in a series of interviews over the past few weeks.

While currently barred in the U.S., the Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 are still available for purchase outside the country. The Watch SE, meanwhile, remains on sale in the States, as the more budget-minded option does not utilize the same sensor technology.