In a disappointing turn of events for Apple enthusiasts, the White House has declined to overturn a ban that prevents the import of the latest Apple Watch models into the United States[^1^]. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling, which came into effect on December 25, 2023, prohibits Apple from importing the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, among other newer models, due to patent infringement issues[^1^].
A Blow to Apple’s Best-Selling Smartwatch
The ban on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 deals a significant blow to Apple, as these models have been highly popular and sought after by consumers. Apple had already removed these models from its online store, and Apple Store locations opened without any stock of the latest top-of-the-line watches[^1^]. This ruling affects all models of Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Series 6 and later[^1^].
The cheaper Apple Watch SE, however, remains unaffected by the ban and is still available for purchase[^1^]. This comes as a relief to customers who were eagerly awaiting the release of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models but will now have to explore other options or wait for a resolution to the patent dispute[^1^].
The Patent Dispute
The patent dispute at the center of this ban involves a pulse oximeter patent held by Masimo, a medical device maker[^1^]. The US International Trade Commission ruled in October 2022 that Apple had violated this patent with its pulse oximeter technology, which uses light-based technology to read blood-oxygen levels[^1^].
Apple has filed an appeal to the Federal Circuit court to overturn the ITC ruling[^1^]. The company is actively pursuing legal and technical options to resume imports of the affected watches. Apple plans to submit a redesigned version of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches to U.S. Customs for approval[^1^]. They are also seeking a temporary stay on the ban until the redesigned watches can be considered by U.S. Customs[^1^].
Apple has expressed its strong disagreement with the USITC decision and the resulting exclusion order[^1^]. The company emphasizes its dedication to creating products and services that enhance users’ lives, particularly focusing on the scientifically validated health, fitness, and wellness features of the Apple Watch[^1^]. Apple is committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure the availability of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models to customers in the United States as soon as possible[^1^].
Potential Impact on Apple’s Brand
The Apple Watch has been widely touted as a life-saving device, which has contributed to its immense popularity and success worldwide[^1^]. The ban on the latest models, however, threatens to undermine this perception and could potentially impact Apple’s brand image[^1^]. Customers who have come to rely on the advanced health monitoring features of the Apple Watch may have to seek alternative options while awaiting a resolution to the patent dispute[^1^].
Availability of Apple Watches from Other Retailers
While Apple is unable to import more of the affected smartwatches into the United States, other retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy continue to sell their remaining stock of Apple Watches both in stores and online[^1^]. This provides customers with alternative avenues to purchase Apple Watches, albeit limited to the existing inventory[^1^].
Historical Precedent and the Role of the White House
Although the White House did not intervene in this case, there is a precedent for a president to overturn an ITC ruling. In 2013, President Barack Obama vetoed an ITC ruling that would have banned the import of older iPhones and iPads after determining that Apple had violated one of Samsung’s patents[^1^]. However, it is worth noting that presidential intervention in such cases is not common and depends on various factors.
For individuals interested in acquiring a new smartwatch, I recommend exploring the latest offerings from Apple, such as the Apple Watch Series 7 or other available models. These devices feature advanced technology, innovative design, and a wide range of functionalities to meet diverse user needs.
It’s important to stay updated on the latest product releases and availability through official Apple channels and authorized retailers. Additionally, consider reaching out to Apple customer support for further assistance or information regarding potential future releases or product updates.
The ban on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the United States has left Apple enthusiasts disappointed. While Apple continues its legal and technical efforts to overcome the patent infringement issues, customers will have to explore other options or wait for a resolution[^1^]. The availability of the Apple Watch SE provides some consolation, but the absence of the latest models may impact Apple’s brand perception in the health and wellness market[^1^]. As the legal battle unfolds, customers and industry observers will be eagerly awaiting the outcome and the potential return of the affected Apple Watch models to the US market.