If you wanted to buy your loved ones the latest Apple Watch for the holidays, you should try to do it before December 21.
Apple has announced that it will pause sales of its two newest Apple Watch models, the Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2, pending an expected ban by the US International Trade Commission. The federal agency is considering a ban because of a dispute over a patent for the technology that Apple uses in the newest Watch models’ blood-oxygen sensor.
9to5Mac reports that sales will pause on Apple.com starting at 3 pm Eastern on December 21, and in-store inventory will no longer be available at retail locations starting on December 24. The ITC’s ban would only affect Apple, so the watches will continue to continue to sell on retailers like Amazon and Best Buy for the time being. The proposed ban also concerns only the import of watches into the United States, so both watches will continue to be available in other countries.
The suspension follows a long-running dispute with the medical tech company Masimo. As Engadget reports, Masimo sued Apple in 2021. The company alleged that Apple had infringed on one of its patents related to light-based blood-oxygen monitoring. A judge ruled that Apple had infringed on the patents, and the ITC upheld that ruling in October. The decision then led to a 60-day presidential review period, which expires on December 25. Apple is taking steps preemptively to comply.
Apple has several options for getting its wearables back on the market. The company will lodge an appeal in federal court. It can also reach a settlement with Masimo by deactivating the blood-oxygen sensing features. More information about future plans for the Watch 9 and Ultra 2 should be available after the review period expires on December 25.
Many smartwatches look alike and have similar features, so it’s rare for a company to successfully block the sales of a competitor by claiming patent infringement. In 2016, Fitbit attempted to block the import of Jawbone products in a patent case, but dropped its suit after realizing that … well, Jawbone doesn’t sell that many fitness trackers anyway. To see this happen to a Goliath company like Apple, the maker of the best-selling watches in the worlds, is truly a feat.
The ruling does not affect the Watch SE, as that watch has no blood-tracking sensors. Apple’s affordable entry-level option is our best overall pick in our guide to the Best Apple Watches. The ban also does not affect any watch before the Series 9. Apple introduced the blood-monitoring features in the Watch Series 6 in 2020; the Series 7 and Series 8 will still be available.