The Apple Watch import ban is paused — for now

What happens next depends on the ITC's response.

CHRIS DELMAS via Getty Images

A federal appeals court in Washington D.C. has allowed Apple to continue importing the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 models on Wednesday. The court’s decision comes a day after Apple filed an appeal against a decision by the International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban imports of both models of the Apple Watch, which are at the heart of a patent dispute.

The court’s ruling is temporary. It has given the ITC until January 10 to respond to Apple’s motion for a longer-term pause on the ban during the appeals process, Reuters reported. This means that Apple should be able to resume Apple Watch sales on its website and in Apple Stores in the US, something that the company had stopped doing last week.

Hours after this story was published, Apple told Engadget that the company would, indeed, start selling the Apple Watch in the US again. “We are thrilled to return the full Apple Watch lineup to customers in time for the new year," an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement. "Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, including the blood oxygen feature, will become available for purchase again in the United States at Apple Stores starting today and from tomorrow by 12pm PT. Apple’s teams have worked tirelessly over many years to develop technology that empowers users with industry-leading health, wellness and safety features and we are pleased the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has stayed the exclusion order while it considers our request to stay the order pending our full appeal.”

The Watch side of Apple's business generates about $17 billion a year, according to Bloomberg. In October, the ITC determined that Apple violated two patents belonging to another California-based company called Masimo. Both patents revolved around the blood-oxygen sensor that Apple has included in most models of the Watch since 2020. The ITC denied Apple’s appeal against its decision, sending the case all the way to the White House for a Presidential Review. President Biden, however, did not veto the ITC’s decision, which meant that the ban officially went into effect last week.

In its appeal filed on Tuesday, Apple claimed that the company will “suffer irreparable harm” if the ban continued. The company is currently exploring redesigning the blood oxygen sensors in its smartwatch after both the ITC and Masimo said that a software fix, which the company is scrambling to issue, would be insufficient to resolve the patent dispute.

Update, December 27 2023, 5:49PM ET: This story was updated with a statement from Apple.

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