Apple Watch import ban timeline: 7 events that got Apple into this mess

    When I first heard about the potential Apple Watch import ban in early February, thanks to The Hill, I thought, “There’s no way that one of the most popular smartwatches on the planet would get barred.”

    Even The Verge was skeptical: “Given the Apple Watch’s popularity and the size of Apple’s coffers, it’ll be surprising if an import ban actually materializes,” adding that it’s more likely that Masimo, the medical-tech company that sued Apple, will walk away with a licensing agreement.

    But here we are. It’s the end of 2023, and Apple got banned from selling and importing its latest wearables: Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2. And then the mandate got reversed temporarily — yeah, I know. It’s confusing.

    But the question is, how did we get here?


    Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2: What are the differences?

    7 major events that led to the Apple Watch ban

    • Jan. 2020. Masimo first sued Apple, according to Bloomberg. The med-tech company accused Apple of promising a partnership (both companies reportedly met in 2013 to discuss a working relationship) — only to turn its back on Masimo by stealing trade secrets and hiring key employees.

    • Sept. 2020. Apple introduced the Watch Series 6, which boasted a new blood-oxygen monitoring feature, a technology Masimo claims Apple stole from the med-tech company.

      In the same month, Masimo accused Apple of trying to delay and postpone the legal fight. For background, by this time, Apple already filed requests to dismiss the trade secrets accusation and filed petitions to have Masimo’s patents invalidated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

    • June 2021. Masimo filed a complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), hoping that it would pull the Apple Watch from the market. In short, the complaint claims that Apple infringed upon several patents by releasing a watch that can measure arterial oxygen saturation.

    • Oct. 2022. Apple sued Masimo, claiming that its W1 line of smartwatches replicates its wearable devices. However, according to Reuters, Masimo said in a statement that the lawsuit is “retaliatory.”

    • Oct. 2023. The ITC ruled in favor of Masimo, stating that Apple did, indeed, violate Masimo’s patents that protected its blood-oxygen monitoring inventions. The ITC issued an import ban, taking effect on Dec. 26, on the devices that include the technology (i.e., Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2).

    • Dec. 2023. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives under the Biden administration could have stepped in to veto the ban, but on Dec. 26, it decided against reversing the ITC’s ruling, according to The Hill.

    • Dec. 2023. A federal appeals court paused the sales and import ban on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2, according to The Verge. Online sales are set to resume on Thursday, Dec. 28 at 3 p.m. ET.

    So what now?

    Apple is allowed to continue selling its watches while the company hears a final decision on whether its proposed changes to the devices help dodge the patent issues, The Verge said. The US Customs and Border Protection is poised to rule on these tweaks on Jan. 12. 

    “We are thrilled to return the full Apple Watch lineup to customers in time for the new year. 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,” the Cupertino-based tech giant told TechCrunch.

    Read the full article here

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