Washington: Apple Inc. won a court ruling temporarily pausing a US sales ban on its newest smartwatches, giving the company a reprieve in a patent fight that had forced the devices off the market and threatened an estimated $17 billion business.
An appellate court in Washington issued the interim stay Wednesday a day after Apple sought a delay of the decision by the US International Trade Commission, which had blocked the import and sale of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2. The court gave the commission until Jan. 10 to respond to Apple's request for a longer stay during the company's appeal of the ITC's order.
Apple was forced to stop sales of one of its signature products after the ITC found the company infringed a pair of patents from medical device maker Masimo Corp. related to measuring blood-oxygen saturation. Apple pulled the watches from its website on Dec. 21 and in retail stores on Christmas Eve. The court's ruling appears to allow the company to resume sales.
The ITC announced the sales and import ban in October, but the White House had 60 days to review it and potentially veto it. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Tuesday she wouldn't intervene and the White House refused to veto the measure.
Apple also has developed a software update for the Apple Watch that it believes will mitigate the issue. It submitted the design of that update to the US customs agency and said the government is scheduled to decide Jan. 12 whether to approve the changes.
A spokesperson for Irvine, California-based Masimo declined to comment on Wednesday's court ruling. The company's shares fell as much as 6.3 per cent on the pause, while Apple's stock was little changed.
The ITC had argued against the interim stay of its order, saying in a Tuesday court filing that Apple didn't face "irreparable harm" during its appeal because sales of some watch models continued.
"The Commission's remedial orders do not affect all Apple Watch products, but only those that include a light-based pulse oximetry feature, i.e., a feature for measuring the oxygen level in the blood," the ITC said.
Masimo is also seeking to intervene in the appeals case. The company said in a separate filing on Tuesday that Apple's emergency request for an interim stay should be denied "because there is no emergency."
"Apple misleads the Court as to the status quo," Masimo said. "Apple fails to inform the Court that it has already stopped sales of the infringing Apple Watches that are the subject of the challenged ITC orders."
Apple, which didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, had argued the ITC's decision was wrong and said it was "taking all measures" to return the watches to the US market. In a headache for owners of the Apple Watch Series 6, 7 and 8 "- all of which include the blood-oxygen feature "- out-of-warranty watches also weren't eligible for hardware repairs as long as the ban remained in place.