The time is approaching for a last-minute emergency action to keep the latest Apple Watch on store shelves.
President Joe Biden has until the end of Christmas Day to reverse a decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission that will block Apple from selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, among other newer models, because they infringe on patents filed with another company. But it seems unlikely that he will intervene.
Apple has already removed the offending watch models from its online store, and Apple Stores are expected to open on Tuesday without any of the latest high-end watches in stock. The cheaper Apple Watch SE, which was not part of the decision, remains on sale, but the ban would affect the Apple Watch Series 6 and later, as well as all Apple Watch Ultra models.
In October, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Apple had infringed a patent on a pulse oximeter, which uses light-based technology to read blood oxygen levels. Masimo, a medical device manufacturer, owns the patent in question.
Apple regularly markets its smartwatch as a lifesaving device, which helped launch the Apple Watch into the stratosphere, making it the most popular watch sold worldwide. But his skirmish with Masimo threatens to undermine that.
On December 18, Apple chose to preemptively begin backordering the Series 9 and Ultra 2 versions of the Apple Watch in anticipation of the decision taking effect. Without intervention from Biden, the 60-day review period for the ITC’s decision ends Monday.
“Apple strongly disagrees with this order and is pursuing a series of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers,” the company said in a statement at the time. But Apple (AAPL) also pledged to “take all measures” to bring the Apple Watch back to U.S. customers soon.
The company might be able to make changes to the software, perhaps changing how the watch interacts with the pulse oximeter so that it doesn’t infringe on Masimo’s patent. But such a change could take time, and there is no guarantee that the ITC will accept Apple’s potential solution.
Masimo CEO Joe Kiani told CNN that he believes Apple deliberately infringed on his company’s patents. But the companies have been at odds for years. In October 2022, Apple filed two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo.
Although Biden intervention seems unlikely, there is precedent. In 2013, President Barack Obama vetoed an ITC ruling banning older iPhones and iPads after determining that Apple was infringing one of Samsung’s patents.
CNN’s Samantha Kelly contributed to this report.
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