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Apple Appeals Smartwatch Ban After White House Refuses to Intervene

Apple is appealing a ban that threatens its $17 billion smartwatch business.

The tech giant filed a challenge to the ban imposed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) — the result of a patent dispute — at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday (Dec. 26).

In addition, the report said, Apple filed an emergency motion asking that the ban be stayed while the court considers the appeal.

The move came after the White House — seen as Apple’s last hope in avoiding the ban — declined Tuesday to intervene in the matter. The decision rested with Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative. 

“After careful consultations, Ambassador Tai decided not to reverse the ITC’s determination and the ITC’s decision became final on December 26, 2023,” the Office of the Trade Representative said in a news release Tuesday.

The ITC in October ruled that the watch’s blood oxygen sensor had infringed on intellectual property from Masimo, a medical technology firm that sued Apple in 2020, alleging the company had stolen trade secrets connected to health monitoring technology and poached key staff.

After the ITC ruling, Apple said that Masimo had “wrongly attempted to use the ITC to keep a potentially life-saving product from millions of U.S. consumers while making way for their own watch that copies Apple.”

Apple had appealed that ruling, but the ITC last week denied that request, meaning that sales of the latest versions of the smartwatch — Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 — would cease. Previously imported Apple Watches can be sold if stores still have them in stock.

The Bloomberg report said that the timing of the ban means Apple likely won’t see a major dent in its holiday sales, as most people completed their shopping prior to Christmas, while others might have scrambled to buy watches when word of the restrictions came down.

Masimo Founder and CEO Joe Kiani told Bloomberg last week that he would be open to settling with Apple, but declined to say how much money he’d seek from Apple. 

Kiani said his company would “work with them to improve their product,” but added “They haven’t called. It takes two to tango.”