Apple Watch sales can resume as IP battle continues, federal court rules

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Two higher-end models of the Apple Watch can go on sale again after a federal court temporarily lifted a sales halt ordered by the International Trade Commission over a patent dispute.

The ITC, a federal agency, ordered the halt in October to block Apple from using specific technologies underpinning a blood-oxygen measurement system in its Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches. Apple has been embroiled in an intellectual property dispute with the medical technology company Masimo over those technologies.

Apple cut off online sales of the watches in the U.S. last week, just days from the Christmas holiday, to comply with the ITC ruling. The court’s action will allow sales of the two Apple Watch models pending its decision on whether to also permit sales as it weighs Apple’s appeal. As of 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, neither of the Apple Watch models in question were available at Apple’s online store.

This isn’t the first patent roadblock the Apple Watch has run into as the company morphs its watches into health-management devices. Last year, the ITC ruled that Apple had infringed on the wearable EKG technology of AliveCor — a decision the Biden administration declined to overturn. That dispute hasn’t directly affected Apple Watch sales yet because another regulatory body had ruled that AliveCor’s technology isn’t patentable. The legal tussle on that issue is still ongoing.

The patent headaches facing Apple as it tries to infuse more medical technology into its watch models make it increasingly likely the company will either have to start working out licensing deals or simply acquiring startups specializing in the field, Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives predicted.

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