Apple wins temporary pause on Apple Watch pulse ox sales ban while it appeals

Shortly after the Biden administration allowed the U.S. International Trade Commission’s prohibition on domestic sales of certain Apple Watches to stand, the ban has already been temporarily put on hold.

In an appeal filed Tuesday, almost immediately after the sales ban took effect, Apple asked for an emergency pause, noting that it will “suffer irreparable harm” if the embargo stays in place during the weeks needed to consider its requested “stay pending appeal,” according to court documents (PDF) shared by 9to5Mac.

Apple added that it has submitted to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans for redesigned Apple Watches that may fall “outside the scope” of the sales ban. The customs department is set to return a decision on Jan. 12, according to Apple, which suggested that the ban be lifted at least until then.

A day later, a federal appeals court granted Apple’s request to stay the sales stoppage while it determines whether to grant an even longer pause on the ban as Apple’s formal appeal of the ITC decision plays out, according to a filing (PDF) Wednesday.

The ITC now has until Jan. 10 to register its opposition to the proposed stay pending appeal, while Apple will be able to reply to that opposition through Jan. 15.

In late October, the commission sided with Masimo over arguments that the light-based blood oxygen sensor built in to certain Apple Watches infringed upon Masimo’s own pulse oximetry technology.

The Biden administration then had 60 days to decide whether to veto the decision, with a deadline of Christmas Day, Dec. 25; U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s office confirmed Tuesday that the ITC’s ruling had not been reversed and that the sales ban had therefore taken effect.

Apple has maintained its staunch disagreement with the ITC’s conclusions and, indeed, has filed its own patent infringement suits against Masimo arguing that the medtech giant’s smartwatch looks and acts a lot like the Apple Watch both internally and externally.

Even so, as time ran out on a presidential reprieve, Apple this month decided to get a jump on the ban: It stopped selling the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models of the Apple Watch on its website on Dec. 21 and cut off in-store sales and the delivery of online orders on Dec. 24.

The ban did not affect previously sold Apple Watches containing the blood oxygen sensor. Additionally, the pulse ox-less Apple Watch SE remained available for sale in the U.S., and even the banned models could still be purchased through third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.

Now, with the ban temporarily lifted, Apple is set to resume its sales of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models on Thursday, CNN reports.

Neither Apple nor Masimo immediately responded to a request for comment.

This marks the second time this year that the Biden administration allowed a proposed ban on U.S. sales of certain Apple Watch models to stand.

In the previous instance, the presidential review period ended in February, with Biden choosing not to veto the ITC’s ban on Apple smartwatches containing ECG technology that AliveCor has argued infringes on its own portable heart-monitoring tech.

In that case, however, the ban still has yet to take effect, as a separate decision from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office concluded around the same time that the AliveCor patents at the core of the ITC’s ruling are invalid. AliveCor is now in the process of appealing that decision.