Apple quietly confirmed a few days ago that it would stop selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the days leading up to Christmas. The International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an import ban on the two devices. The agency found that Apple had violated two Masimo patents concerning technology related to blood oxygen readings on these devices.
After Apple’s attempt to stay the decision failed, it could only avoid a sales ban with a last-minute veto from the Biden administration. As some speculated last week, President Biden has chosen not to veto ITC’s ban. That means the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 will not be available from Apple stores again anytime soon.
The Office of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai posted the following statement on Tuesday, confirming that there won’t be a veto for ITC’s ruling:
On October 26, 2023, the US International Trade Commission found that Apple, Inc. infringed two patents owned by Masimo Corporation and Cercacor Laboratories, Inc, both based in the United States. Since 2005, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has been delegated the President’s authority under Section 337 of the Trade Act of 1930 to review the ITC’s decision for a 60-day period. After careful consultations, Ambassador Tai decided not to reverse the ITC’s determination and the ITC’s decision became final on December 26, 2023.
As CNBC points out, a presidential administration has not vetoed an ITC ruling since 2013. Interestingly, that’s when President Obama vetoed an import ban on iPhones and iPads in a patent fight between Apple and Samsung.
This isn’t even the first ban on Apple Watch sales. The ITC also imposed a ban on Apple’s wearables in a different Apple Watch patent-based case. That one involved the medical tech company AliveCor. President Biden did not veto that import ban in February, but the ITC placed it on hold on its own.
There’s no telling how long the ban will last. Apple is reportedly working on an Apple Watch software fix that might alleviate the ITC’s concerns. That’s on top of the appeal that Apple is working on. Another option would be negotiating a settlement with Masimo, of course.
Meanwhile, nothing changes for buyers. In the absence of a presidential veto, Apple still can’t sell Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 online or in retail stores. It can only sell the Apple Watch SE 2, which lacks a pulse oximeter sensor.
However, you can still find Apple Watch stock at Apple’s various partners. But once their supplies run out, there will be no way to buy the two Apple Watch models in the US until the import ban is lifted.
The action only concerns the US market. People can purchase any Apple Watch model in international markets.