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The Apple Watch ban is here: Why Apple is no longer selling the Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra

The company pulled the models after the ITC ordered a pause on their sale.

Photo by Cherlynn Low / Engadget

You can't buy the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Ultra 2 from Apple's online store anymore — and as of December 24, they're no longer available from the company's retail outlets. Here's why.

Why is there an Apple Watch ban?

Apple has pulled the watch models from its website after the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) ordered the company to stop selling them in the US.

The ITC issued the Apple Watch ban after siding with Masimo, a medical technology company, which sued Apple in 2021 for allegedly infringing on five patents related to light-based blood oxygen monitoring. In October, the ITC upheld a judge's ruling from earlier this year that the Apple Watch did violate Masimo's patents. Both the affected models come with the feature, but older models with the capability are not included in the sales ban. Apple started offering blood oxygen monitoring with the Watch Series 6.

The ITC had upheld a judge’s previous ruling from earlier this year that Apple did violate Masimo’s patents. Apple is appealing the decision and tried to convince the commission to put a pause on the ban until it’s done. However, the ITC has denied the request, meaning the ban is pushing through unless the president himself steps in and vetoes the order. The US Trade Representative is reviewing the ITC’s decision, as well, and could choose to disapprove it due to policy reasons.

Masimo originally sued Apple in 2020 for allegedly stealing trade secrets. It alleged that Apple hired several Masimo employees and used their knowledge of Masimo's products to develop the Apple Watch's blood oxygen monitoring capabilities. That case is still ongoing.

What is Apple doing about it?

Apple previously told Engadget that it’s pulling the watch models from its websites on December 21 and from its retail outlets on December 24 as a preemptive measure. The import ban took effect on December 26, following the Presidential Review Period, which also ended December 25 without veto.

"Apple’s teams work tirelessly to create products and services that empower users with industry-leading health, wellness, and safety features," the company said earlier this month. "Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers." The company added that it will "continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the US as soon as possible.”

In 2022, Apple itself filed two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo that accuse it of releasing a smartwatch that copies its watches’ features. If neither the president nor the US Trade Representative overturns the ban, however, the company may have to wait for the results of its appeal.

Apple could also come to an agreement with Masimo, which most likely means money will be changing hands. The company's CEO has said he is open to a financial settlement, but told Bloomberg that Apple has not tried to negotiate an agreement. Bloomberg also reports that Apple is working on a software update that it believes will resolve the ITC dispute.

How can I buy an Apple Watch now?

You can still get the brand’s older watches, or the Apple SE, which doesn’t have a blood oxygen monitor. If you’re looking to buy either of the affected models this holiday season, they will still be available from third-party retailers.

With the Apple Watch import ban now in effect, retailers will only be able to sell through their existing stock. So your best bet for buying these models would be a reputable retailer like Amazon, Best Buy, Target or Walmart. If they're out of stock, you'll just have to wait for this mess to get sorted out — or take it as an excuse to vacation in Mexico or Canada.