Apple has won the right to import two of its most popular smartwatches into the United States, after the appeals court paused a previous ban on imports.
The tech giant was ordered in October to stop importing and selling Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches, following a complaint from medical-monitoring technology company Masimo that it had infringed patents.
Masimo accused Apple of hoovering up its employees, stealing its pulse oximetry technology and incorporating it into Apple watches.
US President Joe Biden’s administration declined to veto the ban on Boxing Day, allowing it to come into effect.
Apple has appealed the ban that was imposed by the US International Trade Commission (ITC). But on Tuesday, it also asked the US Court of Appeals to grant a pause on it in the meantime.
Apple said it would suffer “irreparable harm” if the ban remained for the two weeks it thought it would take to get a response to its appeal from the US ITC.
In a victory for Apple, today the US Court of Appeals granted a pause on the import ban.
In a four-paragraph ruling, court officials said it would lift the restrictions while it considers Apple’s motion for a longer-term pause during the appeals process.
The court gave the ITC until 10 January to respond to Apple’s request.
“This is a big win for Apple that was unexpected by many given the legal issues involved in this patent battle,” Wedbush
Securities analyst Dan Ives said.
“Masimo now has a big fight ahead. We expect an appeals case in January to be a big moment.”
The US ITC ruled in October that Apple watches with technology for reading blood-oxygen levels should not be imported or sold.
Apple subsequently paused sales of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches in the US, though shoppers could still buy them from other retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Costco and Walmart.
The ban does not affect the Apple Watch SE, a lower-end model that does not have a pulse oximeter, nor any watches that have already been sold.
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If the import ban were to remain in place, it could cost Apple from hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, Ben Bajarin, CEO of analyst firm Creative Strategies, said before the decision was announced.
“Going forward, it’s absolutely certain [Apple is] going to have to take a different approach in future hardware to still
enable this feature,” he said.