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A US appeals court has allowed a sales ban to resume on Apple’s Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, the latest setback in the technology giant’s dispute with health technology company Masimo over patents for its blood oxygen tracking feature.
The decision on Wednesday by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will remain in place while Apple pursues its appeal against a decision from a trade panel that blocked the products that Masimo has challenged from being sold in the US.
It casts further uncertainty over when sales of the two products — which were released in September — can resume, even as Apple faces concerns over the strength of its hardware sales.
At the core of the patent dispute with Masimo is a technology called pulse oximetry, which measures blood oxygen levels by shining light into the wrist. California-based Masimo has also accused Apple of misappropriation of trade secrets, partly through hiring its employees, in separate litigation against the company. A mistrial was declared in that case in May.
The International Trade Commission confirmed in October that Apple was violating Masimo’s patents with the latest versions of its Watch and issued a limited exclusion order, prompting the company to pull the devices from its online and physical stores in the US ahead of Christmas.
The White House, which has the power to veto such bans from the ITC, opted not to intervene by a December 25 deadline. After the brief pause, Apple resumed US sales late last year when the appeals court granted its request to temporarily lift the ban.
On Wednesday, the same court opted to lift that stay pending the outcome of Apple’s appeal of the ITC’s order. It said it considered a number of factors, including the risk of harm to both sides and the public interest. It emphasised, however, that it had not reached a conclusion on the merits of Apple’s appeal. Masimo and the ITC opposed any extension to the stay.
The court said that the temporary stay will be lifted at 5pm Eastern Time on Thursday. Apple and Masimo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Apple has asked US Customs and Border Protection, a federal trade agency, to approve redesigns of its Watch to avoid the contested technology, which would allow it to continue selling a version of the Watch regardless of the ongoing litigation. The CBP had approved that redesign, according to Wednesday’s court order.
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