The newest Apple Watch models have to take another time-out.
Apple must stop selling the current version of the Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 by the end of the day on Thursday, according to a federal court ruling.
At the end of 2023, Apple was barred from selling the two wearables by the US International Trade Commission because of a dispute over a patent for the technology Apple uses in the watches’ blood-oxygen sensor. Apple appealed that ruling, and was granted a temporary stay on the ban while the court reviewed the case.
But on Wednesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit declined to extend the stay any further, forcing Apple to stop selling the two Watch models in question, and setting the company on the long path toward a formal appeal. The ban goes back into effect at 5 pm Eastern on Thursday, January 18.
The ITC initially banned sales of the Watch because of a patent dispute brought by the medical technology company Masimo, which sued Apple in 2021. The company alleged that Apple had infringed on its patents for a smartwatch sensor that uses lights to measure the concentration of oxygen in the wearer’s blood. This sensor tech was added to the Apple Watch Series 6, and has remained in the device’s design through the current Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models. (Apple stopped selling the older watches as new models were introduced, so the 9 and Ultra 2 are the only ones named in the ban.) A federal judge ruled in Masimo’s favor, saying that Apple had infringed on the company’s patents, and the ITC upheld that ruling in October of 2023.
The fate of the newest Apple Watch models has hung in the balance ever since. Immediately after the ruling, Apple started taking preemptive steps to comply with a coming ban. Just before Christmas, the company pulled the watches from its physical and online stores, though the Watches were still available at online retailers like Amazon and at non-Apple brick-and-mortars over the holiday. The pause in sales lasted a few days and resumed just after Christmas, before halting again this week.
Apple will lodge an appeal in federal court, but that could take a year to resolve, and there’s no guarantee the company would win. In the meantime, Apple cannot sell any Series 9 or Ultra 2 smartwatches that contain the blood-oxygen sensing tech. Apple has come up with a workaround to disable the offending sensor in existing smartwatches with a software update, and has redesigned the new Watch models to remove the sensor entirely.
Mark Gurman at Bloomberg has reported that Apple has already shipped the newly redesigned versions of the watches to Apple Stores with instructions to begin selling them once the ban takes effect.
Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Wednesday’s court ruling does not affect the Watch SE, which has no blood-tracking sensors. Apple’s most affordable version of the Apple Watch is our top overall pick in our guide to the Best Apple Watches.