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US court puts Apple Watch US sales ban on hold

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A US appeals court has halted a trade tribunal order banning Apple from selling the Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US, the latest development in an ongoing patent battle with health technology company Masimo.

The order on Wednesday granted a reprieve on the sales ban pending further action from the court, although Apple has pulled the latest models of its watch from its online and physical stores in the US.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Masimo declined to comment.

The iPhone maker has been locked in a legal dispute with California-based Masimo over pulse oximetry technology that measures blood oxygen levels by shining light into the wrist. Apple added these features to the Apple Watch for the first time in 2020, but Masimo has alleged the feature infringed on its own patented technology.

The International Trade Commission sided with Masimo, finding Apple had infringed on its patents and barring sales of the affected models within the US. The White House has the authority to over-rule ITC decisions, although it very rarely exercises that power. It had 60 days to act after the ITC found against Apple in October.

On Tuesday Apple failed to obtain a reprieve from the Joe Biden administration, and subsequently appealed against the decision to a federal appeals court. On Wednesday the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted its request for an interim stay. The court has given the ITC until January 10 to file its opposition to a longer court stay on the order pending the appeal.

Apple’s response is due by January 15. This means that the interim stay on the ITC’s order will remain in place for at least the first two weeks of 2024.

Masimo has hailed the ITC’s ruling as a win for intellectual property rights and the US patent system, designed to protect innovation, while Apple has said it strongly disagrees with the decision. Earlier this month, Masimo chief executive Joe Kiani said he was open to reaching a settlement with the iPhone maker.

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