When I first heard about the potential Apple Watch ban in early February, thanks to The Hill, I thought, “There’s no way one of the most popular smartwatches on the planet is going to be banned.”
Even The Verge was skeptical: “Given the popularity of the Apple Watch and the size of Apple’s coffers, it will be surprising if the import ban actually materializes,” adding that it is more likely that Masimo, the medical technology company that is suing Apple withdrew with a license agreement.
But here we are. It’s the end of 2023 and Apple is already banned from selling its latest wearables: the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2.
But the question is, how did we get here?
Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Ultra 2: What are the differences?
5 Big Events That Led to the Apple Watch Ban
January 2020. Massimo first sued Apple, according to Bloomberg. The medical technology company accused Apple of promising a partnership (the two companies met in 2013 to discuss a working relationship) — only to turn its back on Masimo by stealing trade secrets and hiring key employees.
September 2020 Apple unveiled the Watch Series 6, which boasted a new blood oxygen monitoring feature, technology that Massimo claims Apple stole from the medical company.
That same month, Massimo accused Apple of trying to delay and delay the legal battle. By way of background, at this point Apple has already filed motions to dismiss the trade secret allegation and petitioned the US Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate Masimo’s patents.
June 2021 Masimo has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), hoping it will pull the Apple Watch off the market. In short, the complaint alleges that Apple infringed several patents by releasing a watch that can measure arterial oxygen saturation.
October 2023 The ITC ruled in Masimo’s favor, saying that Apple had indeed infringed Masimo’s patents that protected its blood oxygen monitoring inventions. The ITC has issued an import ban, effective December 26, for the devices that incorporate the technology (i.e. Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2).
December 2023 Office of the US Trade Representative under the Biden administration could intervened to veto the ban, but on December 26 decided vs overturning the ITC decision, according to The Hill.
According to Bloomberg, Apple will challenge the ban in the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. “We strongly disagree with the USITC’s ruling and the resulting exclusion order, and we are taking every measure to return the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to US customers as soon as possible,” an Apple spokesperson said.
On Tuesday, Apple also asked for an emergency lifting of the ban for a minimum of two weeks while the court considers Apple’s appeal.