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Apple Watch ban latest example of feckless Biden leadership
Image courtesy of Apple Newsroom

Apple Watch ban latest example of feckless Biden leadership

Just days before Christmas — the busiest shopping season of the year — two of the hottest tech products were withdrawn from sale by Apple: the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. And it’s largely thanks to the weak hand of President Biden.

Apple also can’t replace older Apple Watch models, going back to the Apple Watch Series 6. So if you break a screen, you’re out of luck because Apple Watches are practically impossible to repair — Apple tends to replace them instead. There is one exception: Apple will still replace broken Apple Watches under warranty.

To add even more holiday fun, if you got the wrong Apple Watch under the tree this year, you can’t exchange it for a different size or band style. You can, however, return it to Apple for a full refund.

Note that the sales ban doesn’t currently apply to third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.

How did Joe Biden let the Apple watch be banned?

How did we get here? It all comes down to the blood oxygen sensor feature introduced in the Apple Watch Series 6. Back in October, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Apple violated light-based pulse oximetry patents held by Masimo, an Irvine, California-based medical device manufacturer.

So the ITC decided to ban imports of the Apple Watch three whole years after the technology was introduced on the market.

President Biden then had a 60-day period when he could have vetoed the import ban. President Obama did so for iPhones and iPads back in 2013.

However, Biden declined to veto the import ban. On Tuesday, December 26, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who handles such requests for the president, announced that the administration would let the ban stand.

An anti-consumer decision from Biden

I’m not a patent attorney, so I won’t delve into the merits of Masimo’s case or whether the ITC was correct to ban the Apple Watch. Apple is one of the world’s wealthiest companies, and it’s no stranger to questionable business practices.

But this much I can say for sure: This sucks for Apple Watch owners, and that’s who ultimately suffers for it. And the Biden administration is more than happy to let them suffer.

It’s also not a wise economic move. Apple is one of our economy’s biggest drivers and is valued at about 10% of the U.S. GDP. Banning one of America’s hottest products during a shaky economic period is unwise.

Regardless of whether Apple infringed on Masimo’s patent, the fact is that these companies do not compete directly against each other. Masimo makes dedicated medical devices, and Apple makes consumer electronic fashion accessories that happen to have medical features.

Masimo does make a smartwatch of sorts, the $500 Masimo W1 Sport, which is more expensive than an Apple Watch and emphasizes health features over general computing functions. The W1 Sport is a niche device aimed at a much smaller audience.

Simply put, Obama was wise enough to belay an outright ban on the iPhone and iPad. Biden is not as wise. So now we must wait for Apple and Masimo to come to a settlement. Apple should compensate Masimo fairly for its patents, but better leadership from President Biden could have avoided a total ban.

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