Ban on Apple watches with blood oxygen sensors confirmed after failed appeal

Series 9 and Ultra 2 models cannot be imported to the US starting from 18 January

Apple will not be allowed to sell its latest watches containing blood oxygen sensors starting from Thursday, judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ordered.

The iGiant has been locked in an ongoing patent dispute with medical-device maker Masimo for years. Masimo claims that Apple sought info about its tech, then later lured its staff to work on iDevices and pinched trade secrets.

The US International Trade Commission ruled in October that Apple had violated Masimo's patents concering the measurement of blood oxygen levels. Last month, the International Trade Commission (ITC) placed a ban on Apple's Series 9 and Ultra 2 models being sold in the USA. 

The order was temporarily lifted, however, when Apple asked judges to stay the import ban whilst it asked the US Customs Border Protection (CBP) to clarify whether its devices could still be sold if blood-oxygen measuring features were disabled. 

CBP officials have now decided "Apple's redesign falls outside the scope" of the ban, so judges reinstated the ITC's initial order. In a motion [PDF] published on Wednesday, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said: "We lift the interim stay and deny Apple's motion. We reach no conclusion on the merits of the appeal." 

The failure to quash the ban means that as of January 18 at 1700 ET (2000 UTC), Apple is not allowed to import two of its latest watch models to the USA. Last month, Apple reportedly responded to the ban by removing its watches from retail stores and pausing online sales - but not before the Christmas shopping season had largely ended. 

It looks like Apple will disable the blood-oxygen measuring abilities in its watches for now to avoid a complete halt of sales and imports. The iGiant has reportedly developed software to remove the feature so that its devices don't break the CBP's rules.

President Biden was given 60 days to veto the ITC's ban in October. The deadline to do so passed on December 25, leaving Apple needing to appeal the decision. 

In May 2023, judges at a California federal court declared a mistrial in Masimo's case against Apple after jurors struggled to reach a unanimous verdict on the patent infringement claims. Apple has also filed its own lawsuit accusing Masimo of ripping off its technology to create its own consumer smartwatch. The case is ongoing. 

The Register has asked both parties for comment. ®

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