Apple Inc. will stop selling the latest versions of its smartwatch in the US due to a patent dispute, taking the devices off the market in the middle of the busy holiday season. Sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models will be halted on the company’s online store on December 21, according to a statement from Apple on Monday.
Apple retail locations will stop selling these two watches after December 24, 2023, as shared by the company in a statement to 9to5Mac. “A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the US International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature. While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2”, the statement read.
What is dispute against Apple?
The patent dispute centers on the blood oxygen monitoring feature that Apple introduced in its Apple Watch Series 6 back in 2020, and later expanded to majority of the Apple Watch models launched thereafter. The feature uses a sensor that emits and detects light to measure the oxygen saturation level in the user’s blood, which can indicate health conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma, or COVID-19.
Masimo claimed that Apple infringed its patent on a similar technology, which it developed and patented in 1995. Now, the ITC issued a limited exclusion order that bans Apple from importing, selling, or distributing the infringing products in the US. However, as mentioned, it is going under a presidential review, meaning US President Joe Biden can reject the ban and allow Apple to continue selling the products in concern.
”Should the order stand, Apple will continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the US as soon as possible”, said Apple.
Which models are being taken off the market?
The Watch Series 9 and the Watch Ultra 2 are the only models that are being taken off the market. These are the latest smartwatches that were launched by Apple earlier this year. The decision affects these two watches as they include blood oxygen monitoring capabilities. The lower-end Apple Watch SE, which does not have this feature, will continue to sell.
What can Apple do?
There are multiple ways Apple can address the situation in. First, it can appeal the ITC’s decision and seek a stay of the order. Second, the company recently told Bloomberg that it is developing a software update that will change the way Apple Watch measures and reports oxygen saturation. Further, it is submitting a software workaround to the customs agency.
Lastly, it can approach a settlement and licensing agreement with Masimo. However, that seems unlikely at this point considering the brand is already working on making changes to the watch itself.