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US Apple Watch import ban is on hold, for now

Apple Watch Series 9 (left) and Apple Watch Ultra (right)

Apple has won a temporary stay blocking the ITC sales and import ban on the Apple Watch in the United States, two days after the ban was implemented.

On December 25, an ITC order banned the import and sale of Apple Watch models that infringed on patents owned by Masimo, preventing their sale in the United States. On Wednesday, Apple managed to secure a reprieve.

In an appeals court win on December 27, Apple managed to convince the court to delay the import ban, effectively allowing the sale of the wearable devices in the United States once again.

The filing explains that Apple submitted a motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to stay the International Trade Commission's limited exclusion and cease-and-desist orders, as well as an interim stay for the orders pending a ruling on the motion to stay the orders.

Apple filed the motion on December 26, citing the potential "irreparable harm" to its business. December 26 was the earliest opportunity for Apple, as it had to wait until after the 60-day White House review window elapsed on December 25.

In response, the ITC opposed and "respectfully requests a five-day extension" from January 5, 2024 to January 10, 2024 so it can "file its response" to the motion for a stay pending appeal.

In its own filing, the Appeals Court orders that the interim stay motion is granted, stopping the enforcement of the import and sales ban until the court considers the motion for a stay pending appeal. While the interim stay is in effect, Apple still must comply with existing bond requirements from the ITC's orders.

The ITC, meanwhile, has been granted its five-day extension, and opposition to the motion to stay pending appeal is due by January 10. Replies in support are due by January 15.

In short, this means Apple has secured a temporary halt on the import and sales ban, and it will be in place until the Appeals Courts make a full ruling on the infringement case. As such a ruling could take weeks or months to be determined, this does buy Apple time to make more holiday season sales.

While the win is positive to Apple, it won't be an immediate change. U.S. Customs will have to process the court's order and re-allow imports into the country.

Despite a reprieve, there's no guarantee that Apple will restart direct Apple Watch sales straight away. It will have to quickly import a lot of stock from elsewhere, or sell direct from the supply chain in China, to make restarting worthwhile during the highly lucrative holiday sales period.

Third-party retailers who sell the Apple Watch remain unaffected, though they will have to depend on existing stock on hand for the moment.