Saturday, June 15

Apple resumes sale of watches after Appeals Court lifts US ban

Apple Inc. said it would put its latest smartwatch models back on sale in its US retail stores Wednesday after it won a court ruling in a patent fight, providing a quick reprieve for its $17 billion business.

The company said its Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 would also resume online sales beginning Thursday by noon Pacific time. The US International Trade Commission had banned the import and sale of the products at Apple’s official channels after it ruled in favor of Masimo Corp., a medical device maker, in a patent infringement case. An appellate court in Washington had issued an interim stay of the ITC’s decision earlier Wednesday while Apple seeks to overturn the decision.

“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,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

The watches will be back on shelves beginning Wednesday at some of Apple’s about 270 retail locations across the country, with wider availability by Saturday, the company said.

Apple was forced to stop sales of one of its signature products after the ITC found the company infringed a pair of Masimo patents related to measuring blood-oxygen saturation. Apple pulled the watches from its website on Dec. 21 and in retail stores on Christmas Eve.

The ITC announced the sales and import ban in October, but the White House had 60 days to review it and potentially veto it. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Tuesday she wouldn’t intervene and the White House refused to veto the measure.

Apple also has developed a software update for the Apple Watch that it believes will mitigate the issue. It submitted the design of that update to the US customs agency and said the government is scheduled to decide Jan. 12 whether to approve the changes.

The appellate court in Washington gave the ITC until Jan. 10 to respond to Apple’s request for a longer stay during the company’s full appeal. A spokesperson for Irvine, California-based Masimo declined to comment on Wednesday’s court ruling. Masimo’s shares fell 4.6% to $115.11 at the close in New York after the court temporarily ended the ban on watch sales. Apple’s stock was little changed.

The ITC had argued against the interim stay of its order, saying in a Tuesday court filing that Apple didn’t face “irreparable harm” during its appeal because sales of some watch models continued.

“The Commission’s remedial orders do not affect all Apple Watch products, but only those that include a light-based pulse oximetry feature, i.e., a feature for measuring the oxygen level in the blood,” the ITC said.

Masimo is also seeking to intervene in the appeals case. The company said in a separate filing on Tuesday that Apple’s emergency request for an interim stay should be denied “because there is no emergency.”

“Apple misleads the Court as to the status quo,” Masimo said. “Apple fails to inform the Court that it has already stopped sales of the infringing Apple Watches that are the subject of the challenged ITC orders.”

Apple had argued the ITC’s decision was wrong and said it was “taking all measures” to return the watches to the US market. In a headache for owners of the Apple Watch Series 6, 7 and 8 — all of which include the blood-oxygen feature — out-of-warranty watches also weren’t eligible for hardware repairs as long as the ban had remained in place. – Bloomberg

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